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July 1, 2011

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Salon with 'hostage' customer shut down

A HAIR salon has been shut down after it charged a customer hundreds of times more than he expected, then held him "hostage" in a darkened room until his girlfriend brought cash.

A Shanghai Daily investigation has found similar practices are widespread in the city, as salon staff try to boost their salaries by browbeating customers into buying membership cards.

In the latest case, the customer, surnamed Zhao, complained on popular forum that Haohan Hairdressing in Putuo District raised the price for a haircut from 15 yuan (US$2.3) to 880 yuan after "applying various hair potions."

It also demanded 3,000 yuan for a membership card that would entitle him to discounts. When he refused, Zhao said he was dragged into a back room. The curtains were drawn and men claiming to be gangsters were posted outside as guards.

Zhao was finally freed by the salon after his girlfriend arrived and paid 1,000 yuan.

An official with the Haohan Hairdressing Chain Stores Co said yesterday that they had fired the manager of the branch involved and promised to return Zhao's money.

An investigation into the salon by the industrial and commercial bureau in the Yichuan area revealed that the store was last year fined 4,000 yuan for overcharging customers and forcing them to apply for membership cards.

And media reports said the salon charged a customer 15,000 yuan for a simple haircut earlier this year.

Zhang Wei, an official with the bureau, said the current pay system of local hair salons was to blame for overcharging.

He said hair stylists usually receive very low salaries. Often, a hairdresser receives only 10 to 20 percent of the money paid by customers.

To make extra money, some stylists sell membership cards and hair products or engage in scams.

Zhang's view was echoed by industry insiders.

Hu Yingming, 27, director at Dynamics Hair Salon on Sanquan Road in Baoshan District, told Shanghai Daily that many local hair salons adopt a "knockout system" to stimulate sale performances.

Under the system, employees with the worst sales performance or who fail to meet targets are fired.

"It has made them more like salesmen, making a living from sales skills rather than stylist skills," said Hu.

Zhang suggested that local residents should report any experiences of overcharging by salons to their local industry and commerce bureau.


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