06.10.07

Continued Education and the Rural/Urban Divide

Posted in Barbershop, Fujian, Society at 9:38 am by Benjamin Ross

There were several interesting comments relating to continued education on my last post. I began responding to them in comment form, but when the comment began taking up an entire page, I decided this topic was worthy of a new post.

Ty from Ireland sums things up by saying:

It is incorrect to say that college entrance exam is the only way to receive higher education in China. There is a system called GaoZiKao, higher education through self learning. You could, if you work hard enough and possess the capability, get a degree after passing a number of exams on different subjects. The system has been there for years. Having said that, it is very hard for someone to finish a degree in that way because you have to work in the meantime to make a living.

I have known several Chinese people who have completed such programs, especially the zi kao. What I have noticed (and again I am making a generalization on 1.3 billion people based on my own observations) is that typically the people who enroll in these kinds of programs are urban residents. Here in Fuzhou, almost all kids get into high school, and generally speaking, they are expected to get into college as well. Not being accepted into college will often define a city resident as an underachiever. This is quite different in rural areas, where being accepted to college is comparatively less common and still quite an accomplishment. When I was teaching in Fuqing, most of my students were from rural areas, and were the first person in their family ever to receive education past high school.

Most of my coworkers in the barbershop come from the same backgrounds as my students in Fuqing, except the did not study hard enough to get into college. In fact, with the exception of only two or three little brothers, most of them did not even get accepted into high school either, thus ending their formal educations at the age of 16.

If a student from Fuzhou does not get into college, it can be a little bit of an embarrassment for the family, not to mention a limit on future opportunities. Because of this, parents will often insist that their child take time off to complete programs such as zi kao or night classes, to further their education.

With rural residents it is not so easy. For starters, there is the economic factor. Most rural families are not nearly as wealthy as those from cities, and need their children to immediately begin working as soon as they have reached the terminal point in their education. If their children test well enough to get into college, they will often borrow money from family members in order to pay for their child’s tuition. In a family which is predominantly uneducated, having a child who can enter college, is like an investment, which if it pays off, will benefit the entire family. However, if the child does not get accepted into college (or an equivalent vocational program i.e. 大专) they usually set off for work, like the little brothers and sisters in the barber shop. Once they begin working, continued education often becomes impractical.

In the case of the barber shop, the little brothers and sisters each put in over 70 hour work weeks. As Ty mentions, it would be virtually impossible for them to enroll in any kind of continuing education program, and expect to have enough time to study enough to do reasonably well. This not even mentioning obtaining the money to pay for the training.

I have pondered how much studying could be accomplished during the excessive down time we have in the barber shop. While you might not be able to attain any certifications, there still is certainly an enormous amount of room for personal improvement. After only a few weeks of informal exchanges, Adamum is now able to correctly pronounce a decent collection of English greetings and swears, and I can now do the same in the Fuzhou dialect. It wouldn’t be too far off to posit that if I were to work in the shop for a full year, Adamum would be speaking fluent English, and I would be doing most of my communication in Fuzhou hua. I brought up this topic of studying to Chen Lin (a little brother) once and he responded with a sarcastic smile “Study? The reason we all work here is because we hate studying and we aren’t good at it. If I was good at studying I would have finished high school.” So there you go.


 

06.08.07

Last Day on the Job

Posted in Barbershop at 1:46 pm by Benjamin Ross

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After a long month at the barbershop, I have finally ended my tenure as a 学徒. I say “long” out of habit, because in actuality the month went quite fast. When I first began this project I was viewing the month-long tenure as somewhat of a test. I would never have admitted this on the blog, but I was not 100% sure I could make it all the way. Neither were my co-workers, who I could tell for the first week were all thinking “Well, he’s here today, but I will give it a 50/50 chance he shows up tomorrow.”

Truth be told, on my last day I did not want to leave. Granted, I had only worked for a month, and I was reminded several times by co-workers that had I stayed for a year, I would have certainly hated my job. But in the end, I ended up enjoying my coworkers and lifestyle more than I ever could have imagined. With each passing day the eleven hours came and went faster and faster. Making new friends, and enjoying my work day were not reasons I decided to do this project, but they were nice, unexpected, bonuses.

When I first began this project, one of my goals was to understand what the life of a Chinese worker is like. As much as I enjoyed my month at the barber shop, I wish I could say the same for my coworkers. As Westerners, we are often shocked and appalled when we hear of the long hours Chinese workers work and the low salaries which they are paid. However, most Chinese service workers come from the countryside. Their families have been living agrarian lifestyles for centuries, the long hours and low salary of a city job are actually an improvement on their previous lifestyles.

What I found the most discouraging from a humanistic perspective was that with the possible exception of Jiang who gets creative pleasure out of designing hairstyles, I can honestly say that nobody in the barber shop likes their job. Even Mr. Zheng, if presented with the right opportunity, would leave the industry if he could. There is an overwhelming sense of lack of self-actualization, and many of my coworkers view their job as pointless, literally.

A final picture with Mr. Zheng and the masters: front row left ro right: Cheng Qing, me, Jiang. back row left to right: Guang Tou, Mr. Zheng, Xiao Wang, Adamum

Throughout high school and college I worked many mundane part-time jobs which would be comparable to working in a barber shop in China. When talking to the full time employees (mostly adults who did not go to college) I never remember feeling the sense of disparity towards their jobs that the workers do in my barber shop in China.

So why do they stay? A quick answer would be that the hair industry is the best they can do. None of my colleagues have a college education. To my knowledge, only two of them have high school certificates. The rest only finished middle school. China has very few continued education opportunities. The only way to go to college is to pass the entrance exam at the end of high school. There are no night classes, no correspondence courses, and no DeVry. Failure to pass the college entrance exam (or the high school entrance exam for that matter) will almost certainly lead to a life in the working class.

Every single worker in the barber shop comes from the countryside. Most of them came to Fuzhou around the time they would have been graduating high school. They begin work as a little brother or little sister with hope of one day becoming a master, and after that possibly opening their own store. They do not have the capital nor the time to work on ventures outside the industry. Even a move within the same industry is difficult. Two of the masters at my shop had previously opened their own shops, but both failed, and after a considerable loss of capital, they had to return to working for somebody else.

Mr. Zheng is one of the rare success stories. On my last day in the barbershop, he told me he wanted to take me on a bike ride. As we rode through busy Fuzhou streets dodging motorcycles and buses Mr. Zheng turned to me and said, “You know Ben, I am trying to move away from cutting hair. Right now I am not taking any new customers, and the only people whose hair I cut are those whom I have cut for a long time.”

“So are you thinking about doing something else?” I asked.

“Well sort of. Eventually I want nothing to do with hair cuts anymore. I want to focus less on hair, and more on management. I want to take you somewhere so you can have a look,” he said.

After a dash through downtown, we ended up at another barber shop. This, I correctly assumed, was Mr. Zheng’s other shop that I had heard about from my coworkers, one in which he was only a shareholder, and did no manual work. As I walked in the new shop I was impressed. A month ago, I had barely been able to tell the difference between Chinese barber shops, but now I could decipher that this new shop had made vast improvements over our own, and all the services were priced the same as ours. The interior design was red and white with a modern theme, the barber chairs were newer and more comfortable, and all of the hair washing beds were located in a back room (no, not that kind of back room!) providing a darker, quieter, and more relaxing hair washing atmosphere than that of our shop. They also had a small break room where employees could store their belongings and grab a quick bowl of instant noodles. As Mr. Zheng showed me the break room, one of the shop’s little sisters brought us each glasses of lemonade, a much needed upgrade from the hot water in plastic cups at our shop. But what impressed me more than anything was the waiting area. In our shop, the waiting area consists of two tables placed in the middle of the shop. In the new shop, the waiting area was a slightly elevated area located off to one of the corners. It was surrounded by stones and live plants, and included cushy sitting chairs. The was also a computer, where customers (or idle employees) could play games, check their e-mail, or QQ all throughout the day.

“What do you think?” Mr. Zheng finally asked.

I did not know how to respond. This shop was clearly a big step up from ours. I did not want to sound as if I thought this store was so much better than our own, since Mr. Zheng’s only role was as an investor, whereas our shop he has built from the ground up.

“It’s really nice. I like the computer and the break room,” I told him.

“Yeah,” Mr. Zheng nodded. I could see he thought the same things about the shop in comparison to his as I did. It was an awkward moment, as the look on his face was not that of one who has just recently achieved a proud accomplishment.

We sat in the cushy chairs as Mr. Zheng introduced me to the managers and masters at the new shop. We chatted, ate peaches and drank lemonade for a few minutes, and then Mr. Zheng told me it was time to go.

On the bike ride back I asked about the business in his new shop.

“Is the new shop making money?” I asked.

“No, not at all.” Mr. Zheng said shaking his head.

“What is the problem?” I inquired.

“Not enough customers around here.”

From his body language, I could tell he had said enough. The frustration rang clear. Mr. Zheng is one of the hardest working managers I have ever worked under. He is intelligent, has excellent people skills, and knows more about hair than anybody I have ever met in my life. Yet even for him, it may be nearly impossible to realize his dream of not cutting hair. He has only a middle school education, and has been working in salons since he was 18. He has reached now the pinnacle of the barber shop world by becoming the boss of his own shop, but is now finding it difficult to achieve the ultimate goal of a service worker—leave the service industry. If the new store ultimately fails, chances are Mr. Zheng will just continue his life as the boss of our shop, working as both a manager and as a master. With the difficulties Mr. Zheng is having moving up and out of the working class, one can only imagine how difficult it must be for the workers who are not as driven as he is.

As several commenters have pointed out, the biggest difference between me and the other workers is that at the end of the month I will leave and have the option of choosing a completely different career path. For the my coworkers, their choices are simple. They can either try to keep moving up the barbershop ladder, with hopes of if not changing careers, at least increasing their incomes. They can switch industries and start back over from the beginning. Or they could return back to their hometowns and work barber shop jobs with even less pay and opportunity.

While I would be lying if I claimed I had truly experienced the life of a Chinese worker, I can honestly say that I feel more in tuned with the hardships and joys that they face on a daily basis. As the hours ticked down, I began to get a bit nostalgic about my life for the past month. I knew I would remain friends with my coworkers, but it would not be the same as spending 11 hours with them every day. After cleanup, we all went out to play pool and then sing karaoke. I topped off the sleeping in the dorm for an evening. The next morning I woke up and I was no longer an employee of the barber shop.

For the past two days, I missed the barber shop. I have gone into the barbershop both days to visit, and share some pictures I had taken with my coworkers. It was admittedly a little weird to be wearing shorts, and not be wearing my work apron, and to see hair on the floor and not rush to sweep it up. As I was sitting one of the tables with Cheng Qing and Adam when a customer came in. In instinctively shouted out “huang yin guang lin” before I could remind myself I was no longer an employee. I guess some things are hard to change.

A lot of readers are probably wondering what will happen of this blog now that my month as a xiao di is over. One of the biggest limitations of this blog the past month was that I only had a couple hours every day to write about my thoughts at the barber shop. Therefore there have been many happenings and ideas which have yet to be blogged in their entirety. I plan to use the next few weeks as sort of “clean-up” time to share some of these thoughts, and hopefully spark some more discussion. My parents will be coming to China for their first time from June 12 – June 26, so during that time my blog will be on a bit of a hiatus of sorts, although I do plan to make updates when I can. After that I hope to have a better idea of where I will be for the next few months, and if my time schedule and work commitments will allow any further projects like the barbershop experience. I want to thank everybody who has been keeping up with this blog for the past month, those who have given support, and those who have offered constructive criticism. But most of all, to Mr. Zheng and the other employees for giving me this chance to begin with. This is by no means the end of line, so keep on reading in the coming weeks for more barber shop banter, but for now just in case you missed it the first time….

欢迎下次光临请慢走!

For later posts pertaining to the barbershop click here.

 

06.05.07

My First Official Wash!

Posted in Barbershop at 3:04 am by Benjamin Ross

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About a week ago I realized I was approaching crunch time to finish my training. The training period takes between 2 weeks and 2 months depending on the how fast the trainee learns and it was my hope to at very least get it done within 1 month. So for the past week, I have been pushing up my training schedule. The trouble is that training is done on coworkers, and there are only so many heads that can be washed. When you add to the equation that the little brothers and sisters are not allowed to receive complimentary hair washes when they are on the clock, and that the workers strictly adhere to the “one wash every other day” provision, it leaves me with only three or four heads to wash per day, tops. My massage training, on the other hand, does not suffer from such limitations, and thus has progressed much faster than my hair washing.

The Chinese word for “hair wash” is actually “head wash” and the further I get in my training, the more this terminology makes sense. Going to a Chinese barbershop for a hair wash often leaves the customers with much more than a clean scalp, as our services also include a head massage, neck massage, back tweak, and a face wash.

The hair wash all takes place lying down on a bed with the head resting in a sink. First the hair is rinsed, washed with shampoo, rinsed, washed a second time, and then rinsed again. The most critical aspect of the washing is the hand technique which in Chinese is called 抓 (zhua1) meaning “grasp” or “grab.” The 抓ing must all be done following a strict pattern which ensures that every part of the scalp is properly scratched. As a side note I now find myself 抓ing my own hair every night in the shower.

After the hair is washed twice, we add conditioner. Rather than 抓 the hair once more, we do a scalp massage with the conditioner intact. Following the scalp massage, we massage the forehead and the temples. I was a little uncomfortable doing this on other males at first, but after a few days overcame my reserves. Once the forehead is completely massaged, we move on to the neck massage, done while the customer is still lying down, and then the back tweak which requires us to reach down under the customer’s shirt and push upward along their spine propping them a few inches off of the bed. After the back tweak we apply facial ointment, and then use the water jets to funnel a stream of water over the customer’s face. Next the customer’s hair is wrapped up into a little towel turban, and they are shuttled over to a barber chair for the back massage.

The back massage consists of several motions, which can be altered based on the preference of the little brother or the customer. After the massage, the customer is led over to a master who dries and styles their hair. The whole service takes 35 minutes. All this for the low cost of 12 RMB (about $1.50 US)….article continues below

Up until today I had only given head washes to fellow employees and few massages to customers on a request-only basis. However today I hit a major milestone as I did my first full service on a paying customer, when a woman specifically requested the foreigner for her wash/massage. Although I was a little nervous, I was able to complete the full head wash and massage without any major screw ups. Afterwards, Mr. Zheng insisted on paying me the 4 RMB (50 cents) I was owed as my take performing the service. (The normal rate is 2.5, but you earn an extra 1.5 if you are specifically requested).

As you might imagine, seeing a 6 foot white guy wearing an apron and working as a little brother is a hot conversation piece among customers at the shop. Generally speaking, the customers think I have a few loose screws when they first hear what I am doing, but a good 5 minute conversation with either myself or another employee can usually convince them of my sanity. Once this done, their responses have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive of my endeavor. There are those, however, which remain skeptical. My second day on the job, I had one woman try to convince me that I was wasting my time in a barbershop. “It is silly for you to work here. You could easily find a job in a coffee house or an upscale Western style restaurant. That would be a much better experience for you.”

Then there is the financial aspect. Although this does not apply to everybody, there certainly is a sizable percentage of the Fuzhou population who simply cannot comprehend why a guy like me would work a job for one month without pay when I could be making so much more money teaching English. “There are so many options for a foreigner like you in Fuzhou. You could work for a foreign company, teach English classes, make lots of money. Working in a barbershop will not get you anywhere.” I have heard several comments like this, and they all end with “working in a barbershop…” as if I have decided to take this up as a future career path. This of course after I have already explained my reason for doing this by using my catch phrase 我想体验生活 (I just want to experience the life).

Finally there are the opportunist customers who simply look at me as an omniscient representative of the United States, available to teach their children English, or answer any questions pertaining to immigration, learning English, or obtaining an American green card. I had one woman who detained me for an hour asking me question after question about American insurance companies and the social security system.

With my month almost finished, I at least know that I will be able to finish my tenure as a legitimate little brother. Hopefully I will have a few more chances to wash heads tomorrow, but that depends on Mr. Zheng, who maintains he will still keep me on a request only basis. By the way, my ever evolving hair style had a new development today, as one of the little brothers busted out the straightening iron and some wax. This may be a new look for me. Enjoy.

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06.04.07

The Final Stretch: Just 2 More Days

Posted in Announcements, Barbershop at 1:17 am by Benjamin Ross

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I have received several e-mails and comments the past two days wondering if my stint at the barber shop is over. This probably needs a little bit of explanation. I originally started working on May 2. After two days I had an unexpected personal situation that needed tending to, requiring me to take three days off, hence the break in the blog around that same time. When I went back to work I wanted to ensure I would work a full month, so I decided to elongate my tenure to June 5. I was a little concerned that this might in some ways devaluate my little experiment. Interestingly enough, when I talked to Mr. Zheng about this, he informed me that there is a special allotment of time for these kinds of unexpected situations called 事假 (shi4 jia1), and that under normal circumstances I would not have been fired. Nonetheless, I still wanted to make sure I worked an even 28 days (3 days are for vacation time), hence June 5 will be my last day.

When I first began this project I thought it would be a relief to finally be finished. I anticipated learning a lot from this endeavor, but I knew at the end I would be ready to leave. After 26 days on the job, I can honestly say that I am beginning to dread that final day. For much of this, I have my coworkers to thank. It is amazing how well you can get to know people when you are stuck in the same room as them 11 hours a day for a month, and I look forward to continuing my friendships with them long after this project is over.

In terms of my life, I have found my self surprisingly acclimated to this lifestyle. With each passing day, the 11 hours go faster and faster. Today I took my final half day of vacation time, arriving at 5 pm. Before I knew it, it was clean up time, and I was on my way home. That all being said, I still have not worked in the barbershop long enough for the boredom factor to truly kick in. As I have been told by several coworkers “You are having fun now, but if you worked here for a year, you would hate it.” This is probably true.

There is still a lot more to write about, so after the 5th, I plan to continue blogging about the barber shop, and hopefully going into more depth on some of the topics which were discussed earlier. Thanks to everybody who has been following along, and wish me luck for my last two days.

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06.03.07

Barber Shop Poll: Best Hair…谁的头发最酷?

Posted in Barbershop at 2:37 pm by Benjamin Ross

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This past month I have discussed many serious topics on this blog. Unfortunately one topic has been carelessly left out of the discussion and that is “Which of the little brothers has the best hair?” I have narrowed it down to six finalists, and I will let you, the readers, decide.

Xiao Fang
Xiao Lei
Xiao Long
Johnny
Carrottop
Ben

[poll=2]

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Target Marketing to Fuzhou’s ‘Other’ Barbershop Employees

Posted in Barbershop at 12:43 pm by Benjamin Ross

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The dormitory in which most of the barbershop employees live is located in a residential community just a block away from the shop. The community has small mom and pop, restaurants, and a playground for children. They also have one of those ‘other’ barbershops…the kind which has the red light, and the pretty girls standing by the door, and where they don’t actually cut any hair.

Every day when we walk to the dormitory for dinner I pass this other barbershop. These kinds of establishments are quite commonplace in China, but what I found more interesting are the billboard advertisements strategically placed directly in front of the barbershop door.

 

You probably wouldn’t guess it by looking at the woman in this picture, but this is a sign for a “pain-free abortion.” The cost is 300 RMB (approx $40 USD). Maybe it is just me, but the message I get from this sign is “Yippeee!!! Abortion can be fun!!!”

 

You don’t need to read Chinese to figure out the meaning of this one. It’s Fuzhou’s latest 3000 kuai boob job. My Chinese friends often reafirm to me that “China is not as open sexually as the United States.” While this blanket statement certainly has some truth to it, one would be hard pressed to find such advertisements (not to mention the “barber shops” ) in American residential areas where the inhabitants are primarily families with small children. China sure has progressed from the old days of Socialism.…now they’re even selectively marketing to prostitutes!

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06.02.07

The End of the Month Meeting…with Special Guest Speaker Benjamin Ross!

Posted in Barbershop at 11:30 am by Benjamin Ross

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After another eleven hour workday last night, it was finally time for my big debut as a Chinese motivational speaker. At around 10:30 all of the employees who had worked the early shift and had already gone home returned to the shop. When the final customer left, we set up chairs in the middle of the room, closed the doors, and cranked the AC. It was time for our month-end wrap up meeting. Being that this was my first month in the shop, it was the first of these meetings I had attended, but the third meeting in total so far this month.

Shhh…the meeting is about to begin. Johnny (right) is already asleep.

The masters, managers, and all of us little brothers and sisters sat facing the front of the shop, with Mr. Zheng across from us. For the first order of business, Mr. Zheng went through the financial information of the shop, how many hair cuts given, how many heads washed, how many products sold, etc.

“This month has been bad, very bad, worse than average. We need to improve, or else…you know.” he said. I’m not sure if it really was that bad, or if this is Mr. Zheng’s motivational technique…I’m leaning towards the latter.

After detailing the store’s performance, he went on to discuss the track records of the little brothers and sisters. “Each of you has performance goals. Some of you have reached them, while others have not…Xiao Long, Xiao Lei, Xiao Xia, Xiao Fang, and Carrottop, come up front. You all owe me 30 push ups. Xiao Fang, you owe me 50. I don’t need to go into detail why you owe more, everybody already knows.” The three little brothers and one little sister got down on the ground, and to the amusement of the rest of the staff, finished their push ups. As Xiao Fang struggled to reach 50, Mr. Zheng got down on the ground as well, to give him a few motivational push ups of his own.

Mr. Zheng looks on as the little brothers complete their obligatory month end push-ups.

The next order of business was to address what we call 坐班 (zuo4 ban1). Because little brothers and sisters are paid on a per-job basis, a queue is set up by which they attend to incoming customers. Whoever is next in line has to sit in a chair next to the door, or 坐班, and wait for the next customer arrive.

“When you 坐班, you need to stand up straight, not like this, this, or this.” Mr. Zheng said demonstrating exaggerated versions of various slouching positions. “And starting tomorrow, there will be a new rule. If I catch anybody playing with their cell phone while doing 坐班 they will be fined…5 RMB for the first infraction, 10 RMB for the second infraction. You have all this time to play games and send messages, but I do ask that while you 坐班 the cell phone stays in your pocket

Next on the agenda was the issue of sleeping. “I notice many of you come into work tired. You need to make sure you get enough sleep every night,” Mr. Zheng proclaimed with authority. “I do not want to see any more of you sleeping in the barber chairs. If you want to take a nap, go behind the washing beds. That is ok, but the barber chairs are public space, all the customers can see you. What kind of impression does this give? One more thing, if you want to sleep, you need to limit your nap to 30 minutes, and from tomorrow on, you need to let one of the managers know first…and only one nap per day.” It is interesting to note that this is the first job I have ever worked where sleeping, albeit with some restrictions, is sanctioned on the job.

“Next we would like to invite a special guest to speak with us. Our American friend has been working with us for almost a month now. He sees with his own eyes what happens every day in this shop. I want him to talk to you about his own opinions on our service.”

The day before, Mr. Zheng had asked me to prepare a twenty minute speech about service in American barber shops, and how our service can be improved in our shop. I had been nervously preparing my speech all day. I wasn’t sure exactly what Mr. Zheng wanted me to talk about, and when I had asked him for more details his response was 我说越多你越糊涂, in other words, “The more I tell you, the more you will get confused.”

The speech was bad. I’m not a terrible public speaker, but anybody who’s seen me speak in public probably knows why I like writing so much. Add to this that the speech was in Chinese, hastily prepared, and on a topic which I am less familiar than the people to whom I am speaking, and, well you get the idea.

I focused my speech around the neighborhood atmosphere in American barbershops, using my barber Marlon as an example. Here are some excerpts.

“Every time I see Marlon, he asks about me, my job, and my brothers. He makes me feel like he really cares. Maybe he really likes me. Maybe he hates me. But I would never know because he always makes me feel like his friend.” I figured that would be analytical enough.

I continued on, “When you talk to customers, you need to be natural. In a perfect situation you will be happy everyday and will like every customer, but we know this is impossible. Even if you are not feeling well, or you do not like the customer, you need to make the customer feel like you are happy to see them. After all you should be happy to see them. If they were not there you would not be making any money.”

My diatribe went on, “Finally, you need to really know your customer, and remember details. The past three years I have been in China. Every summer I go back home and get a haircut from Marlon. He always remembers me, and recalls what I was doing last time I came for a cut. ‘How is China?’ ‘Are you still teaching at the university?’ ‘Do you still like the food?’ This makes me feel like I am seeing an old friend, rather than just the guy who is cutting my hair.”

My speech continued for several more awkward minutes, much to the amusement of my colleagues, who had been unaware I was going to be the guest lecturer. I didn’t time it, but I would imagine my 20 minute speech clocked in at just under 7 minutes. I don’t think it made any lasting impressions on anyone, but at least now I can add “Chinese motivational barbershop speaker” to my ever growing resume.

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06.01.07

An orange goatee…to match the blonde highlights

Posted in Barbershop at 11:41 am by Benjamin Ross

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In terms of abilities and knowledge as it relates to hair, I am at the very bottom of the barber shop employee food chain. One area however in which my knowledge is frequently consulted is facial hair. Other than Adamum who is abnormally hairy for a Chinese guy, I am the only worker who can grow a substantial beard. Because of this, Adamum, and several of the other barbers with less facial hair have been consulting me on various styles of goatees and moustaches to go with their funky haircuts. Being that I am the latest experimental guinea pig in the shop, it was also decided it would be in the best interests of all if I were to dye my goatee. Originally, the plan was to dye it blonde to match my highlights, but it ended up coming out a shade of bright orange. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

The chief architect behind my goatee coloration was Guang Tou (fake name), one of our barbers who proudly sports the shop’s only soul patch.
Here’s the “before” shot. I thought the Elvis/Elmer Fud lip slant technique would accentuate my spikey highlights.
The “during” shot…There aren’t many sensations in life stranger than having hair dye applied to your chin.
and the finished product…enough to make even a Chinese mother proud.

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