Local barbershops on the sidewalks are a common practice in Vietnam, whose customers are usually the working class, university students, or people with a low income because these places do not boast more than a small mirror hung on the wall, a chair, and barbers’ most fundamental equipment.
However, Nguyen Minh Vuong’s barber’s, known as a “street salon” by locals, provides high-quality service with well-trained employees and a welcoming, professional attitude at no cost.
According to locals, this is an ideal hair salon.
Everyone is a dear customer
In the shade of a big tree in front of Quang Minh Pagoda in Lien Chieu District, Da Nang, a major city in central Vietnam, 24-year-old barber Vuong and his employees were cutting and trimming the hair on a sunny afternoon.
It was already noon and the sun seemed nearly unbearable, in front of Quang Minh Pagoda both the customers and barbers were sweating under the intense heat.
Despite the heat, a group of young barbers in orange uniforms were smiling and talking to customers without showing the slightest sign of tiredness.
Vuong was enthusiastically talking to his customer, a motorbike taxi driver, about everything he could have thought of to make him as comfortable as possible.
The customer with a barber’s cape on started sweating as the heat became more intense.
The young barber quickly signaled for the assistant to provide the customers with wet towels to wipe their sweat.
Having finished the haircut, as usual, the barber placed a mirror behind the customers so that they could see how their haircut looked on the back of their head, before asking if any adjustments were necessary.
From the morning to noon, Vuong counted around 60 customers who came by.
It was apparent that the customer chairs were rarely left unoccupied.
During the high time, clients even line up to wait so the group of nine barbers barely have time to rest and work almost nonstop throughout the day.
According to Vuong, mornings are usually slower as most people have to work so only children with parents, students or motorbike taxi drivers without customers drop by.
Afternoons are usually a lot busier as this is the time most people have a spare moment for a haircut.
Therefore, even though the group was standing behind the tree to avoid the harsh sunlight, they still had many customers.
“Usually it costs me around 50,000VND [US$2.2], which sometimes is all I make in a day,” GrabBike driver Nguyen Tinh Anh, 22, said cheerily to express his appreciation for the free service.
“Here I not only get a free haircut, but the barbers are young and experienced so they know what I like.”
Giving without expecting anything in return
“I decided to provide the free haircuts in this area because it is located near a bus station, universities, and industrial zones so there are many workers, university students, and employees who are in need of our service,” Vuong said, expressing his desire to reach as many people as possible with his street salon.
As he saw on television several free barbers and hairdressers in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, he was fond of the idea and thought that there is no financial investment necessary as he already owns all the equipment needed, the young man said.
Vuong proposed the idea to his employees and was glad to receive their support.
“Everyone enthusiastically responded to the proposal,” he recalled.
“On the days we provide free haircuts, everyone is present at six in the morning,” Vuong said, indicating his staff’s important role in the good deed.
The young man himself owns a separate “Vuong Barber Shop,” located on Tran Cao Van Street in Da Nang, offering quality service for a fee.
Every other week, this “Vuong Barber Shop” is closed for one full day while all of the professionally trained employees and the owner himself will be at their familiar spot before the Quang Minh Pagoda, cutting and trimming hair for free.
Even though the street salon has only been in place for four months, it has already become a familiar barber’s shop for many workers, motorbike taxi drivers, and college students in Da Nang.
Many passers-by have noticed the charitable work of the group of young barbers and started contributing beverages, fruit, and other things to encourage Vuong’s team.
Huynh Anh Vu, a 24-year-old barber with five years of experience, has joined the street salon initiative from the very beginning.
Vuong pays more attention to his employees’ attitude at the street salon than he does at his own barber’s, Vu said.
The young owner always reminds the employees that providing free service is more difficult than when customers pay for it, as it is challenging to make them feel as comfortable.
“The word ‘free’ implies a lot of pressure,” Vuong said.
“Hence, the barbers need to be welcoming, enthusiastic and attentive so that everyone coming by is as comfortable as a customer is.”
Vuong makes sure his employees always welcome the customers properly, thank them whole-heartedly, and express eagerness to see the customers next time before they leave.
Moreover, the young man with a golden heart strongly opposes his employees posting pictures and information on social media.
The action might be misunderstood as a way to promote the “Vuong Barber Shop” image or his own, the man explained.
Vuong added that promoting the free service will only upset customers, and the initiative will no longer hold its meaning.
According to Vu, most barbers participating are young and do not have a lot of opportunities to contribute to society.
As a result, they appreciate their employer’s biweekly street salon, for it is a precious chance for them to do something for others through small actions.
Despite being called a “salon,” this hairdresser’s only consists of several plastic chairs for customers, a sign saying “free haircuts,” and a box of necessary equipment.
Next to it is iced tea, a common Vietnamese drink, and fruits for the customers.
However, to poor workers or students, this is already an ideal “hair salon” as it is always welcoming while providing the best possible quality and service.
Customers always seem happy and pleased with the quality and employees’ attitude, consideration and carefulness while giving gratis haircuts.