The Baolou International Beauty Salon in the city of Zhengzhou, China, has finally been closed by authorities. The salon had apparently been terrorizing local residents, who cited a number of incidents in which unsuspecting hair-growers had been vastly overcharged for haircuts and were then held hostage until they agreed to pay the exorbitant fee. This seems to have gone on for at least six months.
The last straw for Baolou International, which despite its name probably does not attract that many international clients, was an incident in which two college students had expected to pay the advertised rate, 38 yuan apiece. That would have equalled a reasonable $10.84 for both haircuts. Instead, they were eventually presented with a slightly larger bill, for 12,000 yuan ($1,700). Although, to be fair, this did include a wash and blow-dry.
When the students couldn’t pay, they were not allowed to leave, and were reduced to trying to borrow money from strangers and classmates in order to appease the evil stylists. "After borrowing from 16 people," the Beijing News reported, "the two were only able to come up with 9,800 yuan, and it wasn’t until after 10 pm that they were allowed to leave the hair salon."
It was not clear why no one called police to report the hostage crisis, or for that matter how the salon got away with this for at least several months. One report said that the salon charged one customer 4,776 yuan for a haircut last September, and charged another one 5,670 yuan last December. That customer, though, had opted for the 68-yuan cut to begin with, so he or she clearly had yuan to burn.
According to one report, nearly 100 citizens showed up to witness the closing of the salon, applauding the end of its reign of terror. The Xinhua News Agency later reported that officials had fined the salon the maximum 500,000 yuan ($71,225), which comes out to 13,157 haircuts (at the advertised rate).