My four daughters introduced me to the world of mani-pedis. I grew up in the hippy Pacific NW, so pampering was non-existent in my world. Then…my girls began to get married, and the rest is history. Hanging out with daughters, relaxing and enjoying a little spoiling has grown on me.
As is my usual nature, I enjoy chatting with our foreign manicurists. We talk about their journey to the States, about their families and how they are making a living and adjusting in their new environment. Some have been in our area for many years, while others expressed recent entry. I normally don’t probe too much, but, most are eager to chat as much as I am. Conversation is often a lot of fun.
Most of the salons we enjoy have happy and friendly staff. There have been a few occasions where the staff is less conversant, maybe due to language, or just shyness. But, this has been rare. Often another staff member will interpret for the one with less English. One shop I’ve enjoyed is owned and operated by an older husband/wife team. The husband actually shares the work doing both manicures and pedicures! Another favorite spot is one with a bit more personal attention. Light drinks are offered, internet and friendly uniformed dark haired women willing to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable. Friendly smiles and basic conversation.
On one occasion, I was met with a surprisingly different experience. Greeted with smiles (always smiles) by a young girl, introducing herself as Amy. She would be doing my manicure. Amy initiated our conversation, asking about my family, my work, and other general questions. Very pleasant, cheerful and friendly. Yet, when I turned the questions back to her, suddenly she became quiet. I realized an older woman at the next table was speaking to her – and, not in English. The girls face became sullen and she didn’t speak to me for the rest of the 30 minutes it took to complete my manicure.
I was irritated. I didn’t understand what the issues were, but what I did observe was the whole pleasantries of our conversation abruptly ended. Upon paying for my services, my little gal was cheerful again and oh, I wish I knew where she was today.
These experiences I chalked up to the uniqueness of each business. Every salon is, of course, different in how they’re managed. But, most carry an overall appearance of cleanliness and effort to following health protocol.
Because my experiences have been generally good experiences, this isn’t the case as reported recently in the Times, The Price of Nice Nails. A hidden reality is revealed, linking these types of spa-salons to today’s issues of exploitation and unethical business practices. And, it’s not “over there.” It’s right here within our own borders.
In this particular article, the issue is focused on the growing industry of manicure salons. New York has the largest population of manicure salons in the nation. Therefore, one would tend to think in our little city on the west coast, we wouldn’t have the same concerns. This would be a tragic and dangerously naive conclusion. Portland, Oregon is among the highest hit cities for human trafficking in the nation [another story for another time].
Learn the difference between trafficking and exploitation
Call your state’s department of labor or the National Human Trafficking hotline with your concerns.
How much are you paying, and how much of that is actually paid for your service? Ask the owner.
Visiting with your server can reveal more of her/his work environment.
Language barriers can also lead to misrepresentation
As in the case of our visit to some local salons, there hovers the question: Why did I feel awkward?
I observed a small amount of this kind of exploitation being lived while in Asia.
The signs are sadly all too similar here.
Click on the Starfish link in the side bar to learn more about global involvement to end human trafficking.