Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Quality Creep in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 29, 2010

Here is a story, the genesis of my hair problems, and the much more important bigger issue of quality creep in China, but first let me go back to that fateful day a month ago…
Here i sit at the Chinese ‘hair salon’, I am stretching that term to its widest possible usage, and being quite magnanimous in so doing. but anyway, here i sit on a hot august day in Beijing. I need a haircut, my head looks like a two year old Chinese made sofa, crap sticking out all over my wavy curly locks in total disarray making me look like the unibomber.
So I need a haircut, and badly. Tomorrow I have a big business meeting and want to go into it looking like a human, and not a subspecies thereof, so i wait.
As I wait, i get pissed, not pissed at waiting per se, all though I hate to wait. But pissed at myself and this place, this freaking hair salon. I hearken back to the days when i first came here, when i was a new customer and as is usual with the Chinese (spoiler alert), they love to suck you in, to get your business, they spare no expense in doing so. When I first arrived they would wind that little waterproof cape around my ample midsection and never giggle at how it made me look like a blue sausage.. I was never want for drink, at the merest smacking of my lips i was offered the finest chalices filled to the brim with the most refreshing H20 china has to offer. If I had not eaten, a small vixen would be placed at my beck and call. She would feed me grapes as if I were the king of Siam, shoot them directly into my gaping maw and coo softly into my ear while giving me a free massage..at the slightest sign of perspiration the little vixen would pout her lips and daub at it with the finest silken cloth…. ah that was then and I was a newbie, a neophyte, a new customer, new money…that was then…

Today I sit in this Beijing furnace awaiting my ‘hair stylist’ to do his thing, to cut my ample locks. I have been told it would only be 5 minutes, that was 63 minutes ago. needless to say, I’m pretty pissed now.
I feel thirsty, clear my throat, shuffle my feet, the tiny little women who once catered to my every need, now offer me the respect reserved for a growth or a lesion, something that is to be avoided at all costs. Upon arrival to this salon an hour earlier, one of the men whipped the plastic cape at me and chuckled as it struggled with wrapping it around my ample belly which at that moment was jutting out making me look like Ignatius J. Reilly in Confederacy of Dunces . Having accomplished that task I was ushered/pushed to the rear of the building, under the hottest lamp in the place.I was shown 5 fingers and told to wait. I reached for a magazine and my hand was smacked, it was in Chinese and they knew I didnt read Chinese, the guy hefted the book and placed it next to the owner who scowled at me. To my left was the water cooler and rather than risk sure dehydration i hazarded a grasp for a cup and some liquid refreshment, the magazine nazi hurried over again, shoved my hand away and grabbed a cup from the trash then lumbered to the sink poured in some water hurried past and shoved the cup in my face. Slurping it like a wilder beast in the Sahara, I glared at him, he didnt care, I was now an old customer, they neednt worry more about me.
And then it hit me, this is China.
Back to now and reality…
The story is telling in so far as this really is China and this is what the book Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler is all about. The book is great and just to let you know its only about 300 pages and in each page, he summarizes the good and bad of being in China, thus making this blog redundant, but I digress. In summary the book talks about how China is made or geared towards luring in customers and they excel at it. They offer us tax incentives, low set up costs, low ‘beta product costs’ have the KTV’s which allow the foreign men to rent body parts by the hour, they use English names so we dont have to figure out how to pronounce Xiao, they give us tax breaks, they will bend over backwards to get our business, to get that one new customer, and quite honestly, they may be the best in the world at doing so….
The problem is that you then experience what they call “quality creep”. What this is, is a Chinese phenomenon of lowering the level of service or quality of goods that you receive from them as time goes on- thus the analogy of my hair cutting story.In the beginning you get the platinum treatment and products, in the end you get the shaft. To them, its all about the money and the here and now, the future will take care of itself, after all, if they can make just a little more cash, they can buy citizenship to Canada, or Australia or the USA, so tomorrow is a long ways away. Consider them like the charming drunk who convinces your sister, cousin etc. to marry them, he dotes on them hand and foot, enshrines them in Roses and Chocolates then once married he can be found in a drunken stupor on the kitchen floor, or worse yet, the front lawn or the porch, embarrassing the whole family…yeah… let those images sink in…(and if you can relate, then a bout of ACOA counseling may be in order)
So, in China they do the dance, convince you, get you to commit and then its too hard or inconvenient to pull out, so you stay, after all you have sunk in several millions of US dollars so how do you tell your boss you fouled up? China has a great business model..
So there I sat, tepid toxic tap water in my hands, rings of sweat beading under my mars and back, huddled in the corner like a skid row bum… I thought of the book Poorly Made in China, allowed the guy to wash my hair and then informed them that no I didnt need a hair cut today, I was looking for a new stylist as I was leaving a saw another newbie, he had the look, he was quickly ushered into a chair that was to be mine, they swarmed upon him, massaged his shoulders, his face was blissful,,,, I smirked and kept on walking… oh if he only knew……..

2 Responses to “Quality Creep in China”

  1. Jimmy said

    I totally know where you’re coming from! XD

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