Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What a $6 haircut looks like

 The barbershops on the Tsinghua University campus offer haircuts for 10 yuan, about $1.75.

Last year I had a couple of bad experiences at $1.75 each and decided to splurge by going off campus to one of the fancy hair-styling salons.

For 55 yuan, about $9, a young woman did an excellent job of giving a light trim that made the bushy mess neat and manageable.

So I decided to go back. When I arrived, the 20 or so workers were doing calisthenics led by an energetic supervisor. She called and they responded, apparently with inspiring slogans. "Treat customers well," I suppose they were saying. Or maybe, "Work fast."

Never read emails during haircut

Ever impulsive and impatient, I went to the place next door, whose hair cutters evidently had finished their daily exercise and group cheers.

They showed me a price list I didn't understand, except that the cheapest option was 38 yuan, about $6. I chose that one. I showed the young man I wanted about half an inch off all the way around. He held thumb and forefinger about half an inch apart to show he understood.

So I began reading emails on my iPhone, and when I looked up, the hair on the top was gone. Then he went after the sides and skinned me. He gave me the haircut that all his friends have.

What we had here was a failure to communicate. At the outset I had told him, wo bu shuo zhongwen. I don't speak Chinese. And he said, bu shuo yingyu. I don't speak English. So we were even.

My Dad used to say that the only difference between a good haircut and a bad one is a couple of days. In this case, it could be a couple of weeks before it grows back. My hair hasn't been this short since I was 17.

Hair stylists do group exercises, with call and response, led by the supervisor, center.

Some services and products are very cheap here. After I was done getting clipped, I found that my bicycle had a flat tire. I took it to our favorite bike guy near the south gate of the campus. The tire was cracked, the tube had a hole in it. In the 10 minutes while I waited he replaced both as well as the basket on the front, which had developed two big holes.

Total price, 55 yuan, about $9. Pretty good deal.

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