Last week, the New York Times ran an investigative report about the inner workings of nail salons in the New York/New Jersey area. We’ve all benefitted from these sanctuaries where we can walk in without an appointment, be seated and experience a good quality manicure at an incredibly low price. While manicures used to be an indulgence for the affluent, these salons have enabled us to make it a weekly activity – especially for professional women who need to look “polished.”
But, now that I know what is involved in keeping the prices so low – it makes me feel guilty about patronizing them. How about you? Where do you stand on the nail salon debate? While we all enjoy a good set of nails, can we really indulge the salon’s practices of providing below minimum wage labor and poor living conditions for their employees? The article revealed that most manicurists work for free or have to actually pay their employers during their training period. This can last from several months to a year.
Newer immigrants that are desperate for an opportunity live in small, crowded apartments with a mattress on the floor and a mere curtain as a room divider from the many other “trainees” also living there. It’s a warehousing approach and is often the only opportunity young, largely female immigrants have for a ticket out of their own poverty stricken country to the USA. Knowing this, where do you stand on the nail salon debate?
I equate it to the incredibly attractive prices of clothing and accessories found ant Old Navy or The Gap. Its great style for not slot of money. However, do you wonder how they make this possible? Many investigative reports reveal they use factories in third world countries who often employ child labor and pay practically no wages. Does this type of business model make you feel guilty for patronizing these stores?
Shouldn’t these employers be forced to pay a fair wage? If a manicure cost $25 instead of $10 would it prevent you from getting one? Or would it mean you get one less often? In true capitalism, competition is good. However, unfair competitors, who don’t play by the rules, ruin it for the business environment and for the economy. If nail salon owners paid fair wages their employees would have more money to buy goods and services, therefore improving the economy. By keeping these employees “working poor” we deny them the true American Dream for our own selfish need to have nice nails at a cheap price. Giulty as charged!