Thursday, May 7, 2015

Consuming Beauty

A break from our usual mindless blathering about the pretty in makeup and beauty products today.

I read a New York Times article about the inner workings of the New York City nail salon industry.  If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend it.  It's a sobering read.  (NYT article)  (Part 2 of series) (the NYS Governor's response)

It's been years since I've been into a nail salon to get my nails done, but those salons are absolutely ubiquitous here in New York City and popping in for services is accessible and easy.  I work in Manhattan, and even in a very upscale part of the city, it is surprising how inexpensive the services are.  I often walk by signs for "mani + pedi" deals for $25.  That's a lot of work for so little money.

When I was in my twenties and finally first went for a manicure at a local place, I was intimidated by the rituals of receiving the service.  It has a secret code of privilege that I wasn't in the know about.  Everyone seems to speak a shorthand that I wasn't 100% sure what they were saying.  The whole, pick a color, submit to filing, trimming, lotion rubbing and brief hand-massaging, followed by the paying (mentally calculating the tip) and all the while being cognizant of the correct way to hold your hand and holding out a finger to be polished into something pretty.  But it ended up easy enough to learn the ritual and nice enough to enjoy a polished set of nails that is way beyond the skill set of what I can manage on my own.

Aside from learning the hows of receiving a manicure or pedicure, I experienced a great deal of personal discomfort being on the receiving end of these ministrations.  I am Korean American, and first generation (or 1.5 gen) immigrant.  The cultural norm of respect for elders is very deeply ingrained in me.  Having an older Korean woman seated lower than me giving me a pedicure felt deeply strange and counter to the way I would normally interact with an older woman.

Another observation was just how intrusive the interaction with the manicurist was in another way.  I think more than what I saw in her interactions with non-Korean clients, I was often asked some very personal questions.  Some were innocuous kinds, like what kind of work I did, but many of the questions were my age, if I lived in the (affluent Manhattan) neighborhood, if my boyfriend was caucasian (?!), and what my income was.  I learned much later in my life (even as an ethnic Korean, I lacked deep understanding of the culture), that in meeting new people, Koreans will often ask personal questions to establish relative rank vs. the other person.  When I lived in Korea, a common question was which school one graduated from among other similar questions.

At some point, I stopped going in to get my nails done.  Part of the reason was expense.  Why pay $20 for a service when I can buy my own bottle of fancy pants polish for the same price?  Part of it was my discomfort in these interactions, especially with other Koreans.  Stop asking me these weird questions!  Of course, that one time when the salon owner pulled me aside conspiratorially and offered the "extra special bikini wax" and the benefits of it, I thought she was coming on to me, but figured out a bit later it was a Brazilian wax she offered as it was coming into vogue.  No one said Belly is a smooth operator in interpersonal interaction or very bright!

I did notice some years down the road, that more salons had manicurists from other countries than Korea.  Many spoke very little English with only just enough to render service to the customer.  And it did rattle in my brain just how inexpensive the prices are.

In reading the article, everything clicked into place more clearly in my mind.  I am proud of the Korean immigrant work ethic and focus on education.  It propelled many children of these hard working immigrants into success in life.  My parents left careers in Korea, both educated at SNU, and started small businesses.  In many ways, I am also proud of the many Korean business owners operating these nail salons successfully. 

While I'm sure not every single salon owner displays all the illegal (and immoral) behavior cited in the article, that a whole industry exists in my city that takes advantage of a very vulnerable immigrant class is completely abhorrent to me.  Examples in the article about how non-Korean workers are treated as second class and the abuses in pay to all workers really upset me.  I think the world we live in often has people with vulnerabilities being victimized.  The nail salon small business industry is just an example of many in this city, in this world.  I think it just cuts close to the bone here because of my own pride in my ethnic heritage complicates my own feelings.  Hmm, and as a person of many privileges, I feel all sorts of guilt and sadness.  I am not always logical, you know.

I am not trying to be holier than thou.  (Perhaps we have a salon worker or owner as a reader here?)  But it does make me reevaluate the nature of mindless beauty consumption.  While getting my nails done in a pretty Essie color (Mademoiselle was a long favorite, you know) was a happy mindless treat for a long time, maybe I can't be the same any longer.  There are lots of other similar issues, aren't there and not necessarily makeup or beauty related?

I think, I hope, very small awareness, and very small changes can have a significant impact on me.  As I think about consuming beauty to an excess, which as we know I do in aces, maybe learning more and being more thoughtful can make changes for me.  Pan knows I am an excessive makeup consumer at heart, but maybe I can think about things differently than I have been with greater awareness for the larger world.

The end of this round of Belly Linting.

39 comments :

  1. Hi Belly!
    Thanks for sharing the article (haven't read it yet, but will do so right after this) and your thoughts, which as always are interesting. Personally, the only time I've ever gotten a manicure was for my
    wedding. My nails are usually in too short a state to justify paying for
    a manicure (plus my stash of nailpolishes for someone who has painted
    her nails only twice in the past year is again ridiculous). The manicurists in Singapore aren't as intrusive in terms of personal quizzes, but I've never really felt comfortable with the whole holding hands with a stranger for half an hour.

    I've just spent the morning going through my ridiculously sized stash pulling out products to be binned as they are well past their expiry date. I lost count of the number of high end foundations that were in most cases still 90% full but being all at least 3 years old, I knew they had to go (these included Suqqu, Burberry, Guerlain, Maquillage, Paul & Joe etc). Such a grotesque waste of money, and I feel awful that I wasn't able to use up more of these but at the same time, there's only so much foundation that one can go through in a year while wanting to try almost everything being launched in the name of science *ahem* and being a beauty blogger. I'm trying to be more restrained for this year, which is helped by having to travel and move house quite frequently, but everytime I'm in Sephora/Ulta/Walgreens or even the supermarket, I invariably wander over to the beauty aisle and start scoping out the action. Excessive consumption is almost inevitable in the culture that we live in, and especially for bona fide MUAers like us, but I guess we can all make more effort to be more thoughtful in our purchases. It's never too late to start. Good luck to us all!

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  2. Thank you for posting the article - really interesting and so sad. My office (though not me personally) does a lot of work with wage claims and labor code violations, especially with undocumented immigrants. I wonder if any of our clients work at nail salons.

    Most of the nail salons in SoCal are Vietnamese owned - around 80%. Apparently the actress Tippi Hedren helped some Vietnamese refugees (post-Vietnam war) get started, and it's taken off from there (article here: http://laist.com/2015/05/06/tippi_hedren_nail_salon.php). I have no idea if the situation is better for the workers here, though.



    I struggle a lot with trying to figure out how to live by my ethics. I buy fast-fashion clothing, even though I know that the garment workers are exploited. I buy food from factory farms, even though I know that they cause a lot of harm (and farmworkers are seriously exploited as well). I work for a nonprofit and make around 30% of what I could make at a private firm, so in some sense I feel like I have the right to buy the cheap & less-ethical version of whatever, but I'm not sure that feeling would actually hold up if I took a closer look at it. I could certainly prioritize my spending differently, but I think it would negatively affect my quality of life. But maybe it wouldn't! It's hard stuff.

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  3. Thank you. I find nail salons and the whole thing unnecessary and a questionable ritual at best. The smell of acetone, glues and fumes is enough to give me a migraine, I see workers with masks at one place by me. This can't be good for anybody's health. Do it yourself at home and get 5-free nail polish, or fancy-pants as you say. I've gone exactly twice in my life and I hate the cuticle murder so I said, never again. Check this out in case you want to read further, it turned my stomach...http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phillip-martin/nail-salons-and-human-tra_b_669076.html

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  4. Thank you for linking the article, I haven't heard about this issue before - but I often wondered why manicures and pedicures were so inexpensive in NYC. I used to have a nail membership at a spa in Bellevue (before we moved), and the average cost of a manicure was about $30-40, and $60-80 for a pedicure, not including the tip. My nail tech at the spa was Korean as well, but to be honest, I sincerely doubt she was ever subjected to such horrid working conditions or prejudice. She spoke English fluently, was warm and friendly, and seemed genuinely happy about ther job. I really liked Liz! We had some good chats to pass the time :)

    Since moving to NYC, I've been doing my nails myself; I just figured I was actually quite good at it, and I could save the expense that way and get some use out of my dozens of bottles of nail polish. After reading the article, I will continue to do so - and I'm questioning getting any beauty stuff done professionally now, maybe except haircuts :) Again, thank you for sharing, Belly! <3

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  5. Good luck, Iris! I've been struggling with similar thoughts for at least two years now, and I have to say I'm now doing much better at buying less and using up more from my stash. However, I do sometimes find it difficult to think of stuff to post on the blog ;)

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  6. hi Monika,
    your blog inspires me, especially the KonMari posts! I used to justify the excessive hauling by thinking that I'd review it on the blog, but after having a baby, my rate of writing product reviews went to zero so I don't have that excuse anymore. But at least I no longer chase after the limited edition products of the moment, like I used to. MAC hasn't gotten any of my money in months - ha!

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  7. Iris & Monika! Thank you both for writing in.
    It's very easy to justify excessive consumption with the "well, I am a beauty blogger" excuse. I'm glad that there is more openness in our community to more fully recognize and think and talk about it.
    There is also something to be said, that since we all have an audience and do not write soley for other bloggers and only for ourselves, what we write and what we encourage have an impact on our readers (our fellow consumers). It makes me think more and more about the purpose of this blog. While it remains personal and not commercial, and while I focus on things I truly delight in and want to share with my readers, it becomes unintentially, yet another vehicle to encourage mindless consumption. Aiee!
    I don't ever think I can do Konmari! I just don't have it in me. I am a true maximalist and take a great deal of pleasure in the ownership, use and aquisition process. :D Now how to reconcile THAT with the very large stash I have (and this silly little blog I run) is the connumdrum!

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  8. (you can post FOTDs ALLL day long, and I would be happy to read your blog five-ever!)

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  9. :D I'm much happier and more comfortable being by myself in a dark room never talking (nevermind holding hands) with people!

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  10. I saw in the NYT article that the # of open investigations each year by the city of various labor violations is shockingly low. Troubling and sad that many immigrants wouldn't even know that there are services like the ones at your firm that can help them fight for their rights.
    I DID read that article! I'm sure there are many many many examples of local NY salons that own businesses with the right level of adherence to laws and regulations, and with respect to their labor force. It's that the population that is the victim is so vulnerable to abuse that it seems that the abuse is so intolerably rampant. (and theirs the migrant workers that work at our local organic farms, garment workers, restaurant workers, home healthcare workers, etc etc etc. It's complicated)
    I'm trying to think small and be small. Gonna just think and act with more awareness of the things around my beauty consumptions. Maybe that will help me change in a meaningful way in other areas of my free-wheelin', consumerist life.

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  11. You know what, I just took some FOTD shots yesterday. You're onto something here :D

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  12. I got my nails done with the acrylic one time 30 years ago. That was the last time. Feels heavy and fake. The Vietnamese worker did not ask me heavy question. Ny nails are yuk and short from biting them. Nervous habit.
    Still would never do it again. I wear clear nail polish just for strength.

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  13. Belly, thank you for that thought provoking read. I did not know about this situation and while I have never had a manicure in my life and don't ever plan to, the issue of exploitation in the nail salon and other industries as well is sobering and a sad statement about us in general as human beings. I try to do my best to be responsible and have downsized my consumption, but I know it is exponentially more than my parent's generation or my grandparent's. Marie Kondo's book has helped me to be more aware of what I have, which in turn has helped me reduce consumption. Age has also helped...as I get older, I don't want to squander my precious time taking care of excess inventory and I relish minimalism and simplicity more and more.

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  14. Le Genou de ClaireMay 8, 2015 at 1:46 AM

    I'm glad you post this, Belly. This actually reminds me of an encounter I had a long time ago with a friend of mine who is a first-generation Vietnamese immigrant. A group of us from work went for mani/pedi, at a place here in Seattle (it is actually somewhat of a "reputable" chain, even won the "Best Cheap Mani/Pedi of Seattle" in Seattle Mag). I happened to be seated next to her and the minute she sat down, the questions that came from the manicurists were, "Where are you from (as in ethnicity -- obviously she speaks fluent English)? What do you do (as in profession)? Do you have a husband? etc." I was flabbergasted, not knowing whether those were jokes or real! She and I made numerous eye-rolls throughout the conversation, but my friend later on revealed to me that this was not an isolated incidence.

    That was confirmed, later on, when I came across someone who works for yet another trendy mani/pedi/polish-now-branching-to-other-makeup-items brand that originates from Seattle -- she works in the corporate and she explained the whole mani/pedi industry and that, truly, if one were to pay the worker at least minimum wage + their due tip, a full manicure/pedicure would actually cost 3-4 times the price I paid at the said-cheap-place.

    And then of course the dilemma of whether or not I would go to the said place again, knowing that if I don't, those girls won't have likelihood of even getting a way out, but if I do, I am supporting a possibly-unethical business (again, I'm not implying if the business is truly unethical, but the stark difference in price just can't help to make one think).

    Sure, there are moms/pops businesses who own the place (maybe the one Monika mentioned below), work by themselves (or with their daughters/cousins), etc. In fact, a fellow parent at my son's preschool is such a person -- DH and the Tod himself get their regular haircut from her salon. It is hard for me to justify going to a $35 toddler haircut place just so he can sit on one of them mechanical-truck-iPad-holder when I can go to this experienced, hard-working mom who gave a meticulous, yet super-quick haircut on a wiggly preschooler for $10. When I find a business like this, I practically spread the word to anyone I know who have children.

    I maybe am a neurotic, but I do think about this all the time, especially now that I have a child. What kind of world will he live in the future? Is it a world full of waste? (speaking of waste, I had a real nightmare of an ocean chock-full of garbage, and the image at google alone scares me to death -- this is how neurotic I AM!! lol). I can talk on and on about this in other industries, not just beauty or fashion. Food, for example, is even more pervasive and devilish, but we still have to eat, don't we? Anything we consume comes with a price, sometimes a very steep price that reaches beyond our own pocket/spare change (let's be honest here, me included, when we are talking about cosmetics/beauty spending, we *are* talking about spending the amount of money that won't make/break our livelihood). I really, truly think the antidote to this is mindfulness -- until we can all be self-sufficient. And maybe.. just maybe, you'll be on the KonMari wagon sooner than later :-D

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  15. I'm with you, especially your last paragraph.

    I've never gotten a manicure (not practical with my hobbies), but I give into the pretty beauty stuffs. I buy clothes from big chain stores. I eat food from factory farms.

    I don't feel good about it, but it can be pretty hard to work around it...

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  16. I hardly ever frequent nail salons and when I did the few times, I just kept my head down and read my book. I guess having a bitchy resting face helps - they think I'm arrogant and fierce anyway. Hahaha!
    Ah, I think you already know my thoughts on hoarding beauty stuff, and my conflict with it. I still buy things I know I'll love, but it's definitely less than before. Sooner or later, when I run out of things to write for the blog, I'll be happy to just be a reader :-)

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  17. Lyn (Cheap As F*ck)May 8, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    Thanks for posting about this. I hope that something changes as a result of the NYT investigation. I don't usually go to nail salons myself, since I enjoy doing my own nails (and don't particularly like strangers touching me). I thought about sending a friend who gets frequent mani-pedis this article, but it occurred to me that while she might express some disapproval when she read it, she probably doesn't particularly care in the long run. That thought made me sad - not for myself, but to think that probably the majority of people, myself included, can pretty easily brush aside suspicions that other people might be suffering for our convenience. Especially if it seems unclear what we can personally do to change things. Going without manicures is easy for me, but what about other things that I can't afford to buy from local, artisan, fair trade, etc., sources? It's worth more reflection for sure.

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  18. Thank you suefreh for writing in! I hate to write off the necessity of a whole ritual, since I am a beauty blogger. :) I only speak for NY (although not for all new yorkers ofc), but hyper-extensive grooming is very normal and expected here. Getting weekly manicures, blow outs of hair, all manner of waxing & plucking (GAH! all that maintenance) is a big thing here. There IS or can be something very nice about the pampering experience, but obviously from these articles, the price of consuming beauty can be high and at the expense of vulnerable populations.
    Have you also read pt 2. of the NYT article (linked at the top of the post now)? With huffpo, with these NYT articles, I hope it brings a greater and wider acknowledgement on the price of beauty. And I hope this will help spur the right level of regulatory revision to laws OR stricter enforcement of the industry. Of course, when businesses close because more savvy customers no longer go in, in addition to the owners, these workers will suffer as well. None of these issues or their potential solves are simple and clear cut.
    Please write in again!

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  19. :(( apparently it IS so cheap in such a big expensive city because the workers pay for this luxury. Who knows what goes in the background of any business?
    I don't get my nails done anymore, but if I DID, I would be in a tizzy right now trying to figure out what I should do. Good thing I've had years of (badly) painting my own nails that I can do them myself.

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  20. I'm too vain for just clear nail polish. I also used to be a chronic nail biter. Painting nails as a kid is what got me over the nail biting!!
    It's unfortunate that I am also too lazy to polish my nails very often and too greedy to own a reasonable number of bottles of polish!
    I am a mess!

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  21. *cries* as I get older, the more I like to OWN stuff. :) I wish the idea of streamlining had appeal for me, but it doesn't. It used to be that things like physicial space constraints put the kibosh on getting more and more and more!
    Ah, I think it is the very nature of human shortcomings. People with power exploit those with less power and means. In addition to the terrible conditions these workers face, what the heck is the state & city doing with monitoring?!

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  22. Neurotic! :DD Have you also heard that the little teeny beads used in cosmetics for exfoliation end up in our waterways (and in the fish)? This world! Woe! I do think that our times now is not necessarily any worse (or certainly more evil) than we were in the past. In the same way that The Jungle (Upton Sinclair) brought awareness of the meat packing industry and spurred on laws & regulation, these articles might provide a similar impetus for the nail industry. Thing that burns me is that laws DO exist. Why are they not enforced and with weighty consequences for these abusive business owners?!
    That invasive question thing is multi-faceted: there is the measuring up to understand relative class, there is the full-on and friendly curiosity when encountering someone of the same ethnicity, a feeling of unrealistic closeness with a stranger because of the shared background. I just don't want to be asked what kind of Brazillian wax experience I prefer and would like to stop being asked what my bra size is. ;)

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  23. I think that weird invasive question thing is partly a byproduct of encountering someone of a shared ethnicity in another country. :) and then there's the Korean "where am I versus you in class, rank in society, economics, etc" thing layered on top of it.
    I had a good laugh one day when I took my daughter to the restroom in a restaurant. A woman that was eating at a nearby table was also there and then she approached me and asked my background, did the bow, etc etc. It IS very nice seeing a friendly face in a foreign land. :-)
    I dunno about you, Lil, I have a backlog a MILE long of products never shown on this blog. (you, too?) blogs live on forever so we can review all those things! and then we run. :D

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  24. *flails arms* I don't like people or being with people in general, so I hear ya!
    Why do you think she wouldn't care in the long run? I think this article specifically covers the salons in NYC, do you think the situation can be similar where you are?
    I think the nature of modern consumerism (based on industrial practices) make it awfully hard to make "perfect" choices in everything. Also where individuals have extreme price sensitivity (which is most of us), it is very hard to not buy from discount chains, factory farms, etc. In an ideal world, regardless of bank balance, we all have the option of being conscientious consumers. A pipedream.
    And like you, doing my own nails is easy peasy. Those are the little things to do (although big for these manicurists toiling away in NYC). I think it's wonderful that issues like this are coming to the forefront of society consciousness so that change and enforcement CAN happen.

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  25. This was... really sobering. I haven't gotten my nails done in ages, because I can do them myself, but I used to wonder how they made money... There are about five salons near me and they all have days when manicures and pedicures are $25/$28. I'm kind of speechless because how has this gone unchecked for so long? I really don't understand. It's horrible. I feel like I shouldn't go to another salon until this gets fixed...

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  26. I will say, after skimming some of the comments, that I wish a general response of "This is because women are vapid and shallow and stupid and need pretty nails" would just GO AWAY. FAR AWAY. I guess the question is, if manicures because less of a cheap thrill, would the number of women getting them decrease to the point where this number of salons is unsustainable? Either way, these women need actual living wages. And *something* that will fix these horrific health problems.

    And I can't believe that 3-free nail polishes aren't, in fact, 3-free. I wish the NY Times had named names.

    Thank you for linking this and providing a space for discussion... I will definitely read the rest of the comments as soon as I have a chance <3

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  27. (Argh, by "the comments" I meant the NYT comments, not the ones here! Just wanted to clarify.)

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  28. When it comes to oppression, race, class, and gender often intersect, which is perfectly demonstrated in this article. Everything affordable that we enjoy usually comes at a human or environmental cost, but if we can't radically change our consumption habits overnight, being mindful is a good start!


    I like mani-pedis because I like being taken care of by competent professionals, but I try to research salons as much as I can. It's how I found this two-person business, and it's probably the most comfortable I've been when it comes to getting my nails done. Which isn't often, because I'm lazy and grubby. One thing I now do after reading testimonials of people in the service industry online, however, is to always leave a cash tip. A hair salon I used to go to recently lost all their staff including the directors and senior stylists (all Japanese) because they were treated execrably by the salon owner, who, among other business owner crimes, stole all the credit card tips. But this has a happy ending--the employees who left started their own salon, but this is also because they have far more agency by dint of their race, education and visa status compared to the vulnerable new arrivals profiled in the NYT article. (Intersectionality!) When I tip these days, it's always in cash, and almost never based on the standard of service that I receive. I wish every worker was paid a higher living wage though, even if it means that things get more expensive for me and I have to cut back on certain luxuries.

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  29. More power to Belly.....for bringing topics like this.....keeping the posts interesting and letting us have some opinions even if at times they may be far fetched and won't screen our comments because the opinions may slightly off than her beliefs. I have made comments in two blogs and that blogger did not post them. They were not off in anyway, just my opinion about the products. No bad language. Belly, thanks for letting me feel comfortable about posting so I would return to read more of your blogs and your friends' comments.

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  30. Lyn (Cheap As F*ck)May 9, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    I think it's one of those things where it's easy enough for a person to justify to themselves because they don't know FOR SURE that their salon is exploitative, or they don't feel empowered or motivated to help, etc. I definitely know we can't make perfect choices, but I think for a lot of people that means ignoring the problems entirely, because they aren't personally affected. I am not letting myself off the hook here either (it's just that getting manicures isn't one of my personal indulgences).
    I don't know what the situation is like where I live. The services cost a little bit more, but not a whole lot. All the information I have for my region is anecdotal, but it's good to at least be thinking about it.
    Thanks for the conversation!

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  31. Le Genou de ClaireMay 10, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    Laws do exist for most of the things we do nowadays, barring loopholes and such. In the case of the nail salons, I doubt that enforcement agency have the means necessary to crack down this thing when they have bigger fish to fry (which jurisdiction is it anyway? DEA? probably not, FBI? perhaps not, local agency? well they have their hands full esp in NYC don't they?, etc. etc.). Regardless, I think the article pointed out to things we can do, which is the bottom line. Like so many debates out there (gun, school, wages, etc. etc.), I sometimes feel tired waiting for things to change from the top-down (which is probably never..) but if there is something that I personally can do, I'd do it wholeheartedly, as I'm sure many of us are eager.

    The waxy-thing? LOL I don't know how you handled it, but that must have been BEYOND awkward!

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  32. I read the NYT comments, too (and the Facebook comments). The anti-woman and anti-immigrant comments that spew are pretty hateful. Intolerance seems to wait until the right opportunity to show its face presents itself, it seems.






    Oh! Adele, do you get the edit function underneath your comment? :D That's a perk of Disqus to go back and edit. LOVE THIS COMMENT THING!

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  33. I remember a lot of older articles about the abuse of restaurant workers and learned the pay tip in cash thing then, too.




    Generally, I feel a bit overwhelmed with a sense of indecision because whether it's getting a manicure, buying an organic strawberry grown where farm workers are abused, or buying a mass produced garment, every decision is fraught with consequence. That's why I'm thinking my own awareness will influence my spending decision. Hard to say what that impact will be though. (Am very weak)




    Speaking of luxuries, I am reminded that our constant pursuit of value & cheap pricing drives stress in every industry to cater to us and force costs down. A big factor of total cost is labor. It WOULD be a challenge to start telling myself (and everyone else) to start paying MOAR and MOAR for services and goods.

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  34. :) We can't be frivolous every moment of our day, can we? Even in a silly space such as in this blog. Thank you for participating in our discussion. I truly value each of our viewpoints (even those that don't conform to my own). I believe the dialogue with my readers is always respectful and I hope it encourages active, happy, thoughtful participation.

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  35. It's interesting because I had the opposite reaction regarding the focus on Koreans. I absolutely believe that many made their racial prejudices readily apparent and it's just a part of the huuuuuuge issue that traditional Koreans carry regarding hierarchy, class and privileges. I'm disgusted and ashamed of those who exploit others and drive them to various states of poverty for their own gain. I haven't gone to a salon or spa for manicures in about 5 years, and I feel the same way as you about having a grown human being kneel before me to smooth my roughened feet because I can't be bothered to do the job myself on certain days. I may indulge myself at a nice spa now and then as opportunities arise, but I am definitely never crossing the door of a cheapie nail salon ever again. Lately I too am intensely aware of the price for accessible and affordable goods that we pay coming at a high cost to lives far removed from our daily living. I don't know what the answers are or what exactly to do about it except to make small, deliberate choices when enough information is provided for me to make a choice. Thanks for writing about it! I hadn't had the time to read the articles until now and it's always nice to discuss the issues instead just consuming the headlines and forgetting about them eventually.

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  36. It's been a while since I last got a mani pedi. But those services from where I am is cheap. And I can't believe how it didn't occur to me that this could mean a lot of things. And not just with nail salons. Same goes for other beauty services, I think.

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  37. Gov. Cuomo just responded with an emergency task force to enforce these labor violations.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/11/nyregion/cuomo-orders-emergency-measures-to-protect-workers-at-nail-salons.html?_r=0
    I'm glad to see the state government enforcing rules that are actually already on the books. Without giving any excuse to the culpability of the business owners, I think the state should be held also lacking full failing to check, investigate and enforce laws. Lots of big fish out there, but this also strikes me as a critical area to improve for these immigrant workers.
    Me, I'm just glad I let most personal grooming go so that I can happily and in an hirsute manner, wave my craggly nails in solidarity with these workers. Umm.. yes, not a good solution.

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  38. Hi Liz! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I was gratified to see that the NYS Governor (Cuomo) responded quickly with an emergency task force to expedite resolution to these wage theft issues. I also noted in the NYT article comments that many were upset at the comments by the Governor and his counsel that they "can not wait to address the problem." Many were upset that only with the highlight by the newpaper and the outrage expressed by the public, were the public officials spurred to just DOING THEIR JOBS of enforcing existing laws. I am in that camp.
    But to your other point regarding Korean tendencies, I saw a comment in another article which expressed it so much better than I can, that what is nationalistic pride taken to hateful extremes become racism and xenophobia which provides a fertile ground for treating other people terribly. I agree with this, too. But then I don't think all people of Korean origins are that way even though I've observed this. While living in Korea recently, even as a person of obvious Korean heritage, I was treated as an outsider because I had emigrated out of there. I think other cultures have tendency to foibles like this one in Korea. I find it troubling that the ire of the public is directed to K-As and have in some cases shown racist viewpoints against those K-As. I don't condone that either.
    I dunno, I am a big mess of conflicting emotions about this whole thing anyway.

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  39. Hi Rae! Service industry workers already working for very low wages, and those with illegal immigrant status are easy victims for abuse. It's very upsetting to see it perpetrated by those in my own ethnic community here.

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