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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A man gets a haircut from a street barber in Beijing on April 24. WANG JING/CHINA DAILY

Just before the start of this year, 33-year-old Luo Jing finally used up the balance on his over 5,000-yuan ($690) hair salon prepaid card and decided never to recharge the card again.

These prepaid cards often cost several thousand yuan, but the hairstylists' skills are often just about average, nowhere near the tall claims they make while selling the cards.

There are enough reasons now to regulate the prepaid card market, as these cards are often sold after making tall claims with no corresponding increase in service quality, coupled with the constant risk of such establishments shutting down even before all the customers who were sold the cards have made use of what they paid for, or customers going elsewhere for the service with money left on the card.

Many young people such as Luo are now tired of salespersons trying to sell them prepaid cards for hair and beauty salons and/or gyms. They are abandoning such prepaid cards in favor of a more direct pay-per-service model.

Luo, who is from Jiangsu province, has been living in Beijing since graduating from university about 10 years ago.

He works for an internet company in Beijing and earns a decent monthly income.

In May 2022, he once went for a haircut to a branded salon near his apartment in Chaoyang district.

On entering the newly decorated salon, the staff members immediately stood up to welcome him.

They then began selling him the prepaid service packages they had, offering 30 percent off all services if he bought a 3,000-yuan card and 50 percent off for a 5,000-yuan card.

Luo ignored their offers, stating he just wanted the cheapest service they offered — a 68-yuan hair wash and haircut.

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