Today, I dropped $210 at the nail salon. I got a manicure, a pedicure and some waxing; nothing out of the ordinary. So why did I spend so much money? Well, it went something like this.
I have been going to the same nail salon for quite some time. The salon is located in the Marina, literally feet away from yachts and expensive sail boats. The clientele there is high-end, generally consisting of rich, bored housewives, or power women in business, sporting huge diamond rings, Prada bags, designer clothes and, well, you get the picture.
I usually deal with the same girls. There is Tammy, a sweet 25-year old girl, who’s twin sister, Michele, also works there, and Mary, a woman my age, but who looks as if she is in her 20s. These girls are always super nice, sweet and upbeat; and of course, they do an amazing job, to the point that most people think my nails are fake. But, I digress.
So today, a third girl, Amanda, did my pedicure. Being a super curious woman, I always strike up conversations with them. I know that Mary’s husband doesn’t work and that Mary is supporting him and her two kids on her nail salon salary. I know that Tammy is 25, gay, and recently got her heart broken by another girl, who decided she wanted to be with guys after all. But what I didn’t know were the things, these girls casually told me, after I asked a few questions. I could write a long article about that alone, but I am going to get to the gist of it.
It turns out that Tammy’s twin is married to a man who lives in Vietnam. She can’t bring him here, because it costs $18,000 per person to get into the States and she doesn’t make that. It also turns out that she has blood cancer and will have to return to Vietnam when things get bad, because she can’t afford being treated here. This girl is 25! Tammy told me that this is the reason her sister can’t work as fast as other girls, because sometimes she doesn’t feel too well and needs to take breaks.
So I gently probed a little more and asked if they are getting paid at the salon. In my foolish naivety I thought they’d make an hourly wage. It turns out that they make commission; namely 50%. The average manicure is $15. Tammy had made $35 today. When I arrived she had been there for 10 hours. Yes, these girls sometimes make $3 to $4 an hour! And you know what, there was no complaining, no whining, no sadness, she merely spoke matter-of-factly in her sweet voice. I just sat there and listened.
I then asked if she doesn’t make tips. And the girls told me that a lot of returning customers never bother to tip them. These rich, affluent, wealthy women cannot be bothered to leave a tip for a girl who just spent 2 hours doing a fancy nail job on them. This disgusted me deeply. Yes, I have met my fair share of people who do extremely well and who are the biggest misers you’d ever meet. But when you start putting it in relations to something like this, it just made my jaw drop. Yes, these women will walk out, thank them and tell them that they’ll see them next time.
I felt like getting up in the midst of the salon and screaming “you better tip these girls, because they don’t make any money and you have it!” I mean, I have spent more in a day then some of these girls make in a week. It made me feel ashamed. I get whiny over stupid things sometimes. There is stuff I just take for granted; and here are girls, catering to my every whim, while not being able to afford proper health care for cancer, and working 12 hour days for less money than I can spend at a dinner.
Oh, and Tammy told me that she cried last night, because she went out for dinner and realized that her money was gone. She had lost the wages for an entire day, which was $75. She thinks it was her younger brother who stole it, but she didn’t want to say anything, because she didn’t want to cause waves with her family and spoil the family dinner.
I had nothing to say after that, but just stared in awe. I walked out, gave each of them a $20 tip and I’m now contemplating starting a fund raiser for Tammy’s sister, for her cancer treatment. I think I’m going to keep my mouth shut for a while and not complain, because I just realized how good I have it. When I am rich, these are the places where I will just randomly drop my money. For the time being, they’ll get $20 tips from now on!
*hangs head in shame*