When we find a place to get a quality manicure for cheap, we're all over it. And, while we obviously always tip our manicurist, paying less overall usually makes the experience so much more enjoyable. That is, until we read this report in The Guardian that many nail salons in the U.K. are actually fronts for human trafficking rings, and the women who work there are enslaved. So, that cheap price? Yeah, it's probably because no one there is actually getting paid to paint your nails. Suddenly it all sounds so not worth it — to put it mildly.
The Guardian's article, which reports on a paywalled story from the Sunday Times, says that the women victimized are mainly from Vietnam: "Industry insiders estimate that there are 100,000 Vietnamese manicurists working in the UK, despite only 29,000 Vietnamese-born migrants officially being registered in census data." They are forced to "paint nails by day and work in prostitution by night." Many of the women are children. While social services has attempted to take many of them in, the report states that "90% will be tracked down by their traffickers and disappear from care."
Lest we think this issue is unique to the U.K., Jezebel points out that "human trafficking rings fronting as nail salons have been discovered in Boston; Springfield, CT; East Orange, NJ; Salem, VA; York, PA; and San Jose, CA — and all of this over the course of the past year." Though we don't want to do anything that would deprive legitimate businesses and manicurists of hard-earned money, it does make us feel hesitant to go to our usual cheap mani spot. What if the women working there aren't there by choice?
It's hard to imagine that we wouldn't be able to instinctively sense such a bad situation if we walked into it, but as these statistics show, the strategy of hiding slaves in plain sight seems to be disturbingly effective. It's an important reminder that nothing comes without a cost — if something is cheap, there's probably something else being sacrificed to make it so. In some cases, it's quality. In this case, it's women's lives. (The Guardian)
photo: via the guardian.