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19 September 2011 / leggypeggy

Always agree on a price FIRST

Poor John getting an outrageously expensive haircut in Kashgar.

Whether we’re taking a taxi, buying lunch from a roadside stall or purchasing any other kind of good or service—we both know it’s absolutely essential to agree on a price FIRST. When we’re travelling, we accept that we’re going to be ripped off to some extent, but by establishing the price first, we agree to an amount we can live with.

Although this rule is imprinted on our brains, we miss it every now and then.

In Kashgar in western China, Poor John decided it was time for a haircut. In his perfect world, haircuts should cost no more than $2 and the barber should not speak unless he has to ask what type of cut is required. We’d seen plenty of snazzy unisex salons run by hairdressers in tight jeans, spangly tops and modern hairdos, but he rejected all those as being too upmarket and probably too expensive. Then he saw a hole in the wall barbershop on the edge of the huge market. It had, literally, holes in the wall, paint peeling, rickety chairs, filthy towels and was packed with locals—all signs of a decent cut at a rock-bottom price.

When we went in, Poor John tried to establish a price—’how much’ he asked a few times, but before anyone would say anything, he was railroaded into a chair. In no time, his hair was being washed (he admitted the rinse water ran very dirty) and the scissors appeared. In addition to the barber, there were two young boys, perhaps his sons. One of the babies—seriously, he looked about 14—was snipping away at Poor John.

I didn’t worry too much about the final price. Quite few people left while I sat there, and no one seemed to pay more than 10 yuan for a cut or a shave.

So imagine our surprise and outrage when the boss decided our bill was 100 yuan! I don’t get angry and upset often, but I was furious and momentarily speechless. Then I called him every clean name in the book—thief, robber, cheat, liar, evil, nasty and all the other choice ones that came to mind.

I wanted to call the police. I wanted to torch the shop (not that a fire would have affected the appearance much). We should have shoved 25 yuan in the boss’ face and stormed out, but when I’m so overwhelmed by someone’s complete audacity, I don’t always act sensibly. So we handed over 100 yuan and stormed out.

Of course, all this was over about $16—or less than the price of most men’s haircuts in Australia. But that’s not the point. He was so clearly gloating over his cleverness. NO other customers were left in the shop and he thought it was so funny to completely bilk the tourists, and not be caught in the act by any countrymen (OTHER locals often try to make sure you don’t get cheated). It was such a colossal cheat that I am sure some evil will befall him and he it will dawn on him that it was because of his thieving ways towards us. In fact, I’m sure the ‘you’ll be sorry’ I shouted as we left is still ringing in his ears.


Leave a Comment
  1. Sy S. NYC / Sep 19 2011 4:45 pm


    I know it is hard to decide what is right and what you have to accept….. who knows, this shop might have some of his bad guy friends rough up John in an alleyway if he did not get what he wanted.
    Being that you are the foreigner, you have to be cautious. When you have the time you can read all about the problems in India (at food dot com) with cheating people, including the police extorting money. Also, I think Singapore is one of the few countries in Asia where you can be fairly certain of the people being honest… and also in Japan, now that I think about it.

    Aside- I go to NYC’s Chinatown for haircuts…. $8 + $2 tip = $10! In the more upscale barber shops it would be about $15-25+ US Dollars.

    Sy S.


  2. Derrick / Nov 14 2011 5:26 am

    I cut my own, have done a short back and shine for years now, I wash it with a face cloth

    As I asked a barber once,
    How much for a haircut ?
    $25, he said
    How much for a shave ?
    $5 he said
    Shave my head, AND he did 🙂


    • leggypeggy / Nov 14 2011 11:45 am

      That’s a classic. My laugh for the rest of the day. Thanks! 🙂


      • Derrick / Nov 14 2011 11:50 am

        Many, many years ago, I noticed I was getting a bit thin on top,

        I said to George (my barber)

        ‘I’m losing my hair, I need something to keep it in’

        HE gave me a brown paper bag !!!!!!



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