Pay-per-service model makes comeback

Customers are increasingly realizing how buying a prepaid card can end up as paying money for nothing

By Yang Zekun | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-03 08:34
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Residents work out in a public gym at a community in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, on Jan 16, last year. ZHU JIPENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

However, he was told that the stylist providing the 68-yuan service was on leave, leaving only the 108-yuan and higher price options, which he accepted reluctantly.

While he was getting his haircut, Luo asked the stylist what was different about the three differently-priced haircuts.

He was told that the differences were merely nominal. It was all about who cuts the hair, the "store director", "chief hairstylist", or the "store manager".

He ultimately found out that the quality of service was similar across the board.

When it was time to pay, after a persistent sales pitch and assurances that his card would be valid across all city branches of the brand and he would receive priority service and discount as a card-holder, he bought himself a 5,000-yuan prepaid card.

Reasons for abandoning it

Luo has visited a few hair salons by now and is familiar with the pattern: salespersons greeting you, staff communicating over walkie-talkie headsets and looking for opportunities to push prepaid cards or expensive services.

Another feature common to these, often "flashy", salons is the absence of the lowest-tier hairstylist. Once Luo visited another branch of the branded salon he had bought the prepaid card from and asked for the cheapest haircut. He was once again told that the lowest-tier hairstylist was not available that day and was referred to a higher-priced hairstylist.

Frustrated, he argued that at least one hairstylist for each tier listed should be available.

Otherwise, customers were unnecessarily being forced to upgrade or waste a trip. After his complaint, the store manager apologized and he was provided the service at the lowest price.

On the second day of the second lunar month, known as Dragon Raising Head Day in China — a day in which people have haircuts in the belief that it brings good luck — Luo went early to a salon, expecting priority service as a card-holder.

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