Inside massage parlors: Prisons in hell - 1 August 2012 - ENGLISH - 4 -STUDY BY MR. DANG THANH TAM
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Main » 2012 » Tháng 8 » 1 » Inside massage parlors: Prisons in hell
8:20 PM
Inside massage parlors: Prisons in hell
At large massage parlors in Ho Chi Minh City, masseuses, or "massage girls” as they are commonly known to the clientele, often work 12 hours a day and rent houses by themselves. In the neighboring provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong, these young women are required to stay on the premise, day and night, "fed and caged” in cramped rooms.
Inside the four tall walls with barbed wires on top, food and daily necessities and other services are provided by the owners at exorbitant prices.

On our first working day at the parlor TN in Binh Duong, a male manager named Hung took us along a long and narrow corridor to a room in the back.

It is a dimly-lit room of around 30 square meters for nearly 40 young female masseuses of the parlor. Here is the place for them to eat, sleep and entertain themselves.

Several girls in blue uniform were sitting on the floor, their backs hunched over their dinner. Some carefully made-up faces turned to look at us indifferently. In one corner, blankets and mats were put together in a messy pile. Dozens of baskets containing soap, shampoo, and medicated oil were placed next to one another.

As part of the verbal agreement with the owner, I would work for him without salary and in return would be given free food and accommodation.

But as I soon found out, I had to pay the owner VND100,000 (US$5) a week for the two meals he provided a day at 9:00 and 17:00.

Routine dishes are rice, and soup and braised fish.

That day, several young girls looked at the dishes placed before them and shook their heads in protest, "It’s fish again, always fish.”

Nga, a team leader sitting next to them, glared and shouted them down, "Stop complaining, you want good food? Order and pay for your own food.”

To order some food through the owner’s relatives, employees have to pay a much higher price than they would normally pay outside.

A young girl gave me her advice, "Should you be permitted to go out, buy all the necessities you need for a long period of time, otherwise the owner will charge you an exorbitant price every time you want to buy something from outside.”

"I’ve just paid VND150,000 for a lipstick that is worth only VND100,000,” she added.

Work usually finished at 2:00 in the morning and all the girls, called "massage technicians” by the owner, join hands to clean up the massage rooms for the next day and then clean their sleeping quarters.

There is not enough room for all the forty of them to get a comfortable sleep in a small room; many take their pillows and blankets outside to sleep on the corridor.

At another massage parlor with ten massage rooms but hiring only four masseuses, the owner forces her employees to work around the clock.

"If the police come to investigate, just say you work here 8 hours a day,” she told us.

Most parlors let the masseuses know they have more customers waiting for their services and need to finish their work quickly by having the manager stand outside the glass door and snap his fingers.

Buying a ticket, a customer can be ‘served’ up to 45 or 60 minutes but skillful masseuses can make male customers "satisfied” within 10 minutes or more.

Within an hour, a young and nice-looking girl Thi received three men and got VND500,000 in tips.

"It’s mainly to make erotic massage by hand or to provide a mouth job here. I know it’s shameful, but I have to put up with it because the money is good,” Thi said.

Despite poor living conditions and the shame and exploitation from the owners, most young girls from poor and remote provinces are willing to accept the job, knowing they can earn as much as VND30 million (US$1,500) a month – ten or fifteen times more than the salary of an untrained factory worker.

massage ky 2

Masseuses relax themselves during free time in their room in different ways: lying on the floor, making-up, sending mesages to beloved ones, or chatting one another (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

Exploitation

At the massage parlor L on Su Van Hanh Street in Ho Chi Minh City, the owner named Thu asked a new employee to sign a contract with a salary rate of VND40,000 a day.

In reality, the women working there receive nothing except tips from the clients and even have to pay for many things like uniform, food, room, and fake certificates.

"The salary mentioned in the contract is just to make it appear legal to the authorities,” Thu explained.

At the massage parlor B, the owner signed a contract with me, agreeing to hire me for seven days only (to avoid paying taxes), working eight hours a day, for VND1.7 million.

It turned out that not only did I receive no salary from her but have to give her a cut of VND40,000 for each customer I served.

At the parlor L, a new employee pays the employer VND50,000 a day and an experienced masseuse pays VND1 million a month.

In addition, an employee also pays VND400,000 for laundry costs, another VND300,000 to the cashier, and VND600,000 for instant noodles (whether she eats it or not).

Dignity is a luxury few massage employees can afford to keep inside these places.

A manager at the TN parlor firmly announced that, "Here we are willing to let 10 masseuses go just to keep a client. You should always remember that, girls.”

As a result, the women swallow up their pride and bury their dignity just to keep their job and to avoid being fined by the owner.

A masseuse has to pay VND1 million in fine should a client complains about her to the manager.

Once a month, they are allowed to leave the premise for six hours. Anyone returning late is fined VND200,000. Anyone leaving the room without turning off the fan is also fined VND200,000.

To apply for a day off, they have to pay a VND1.5 million deposit.

Trang, a worker at the TN parlor, said the conditions have improved recently.

"Previously, we were banned from using mobile phones. Any violation will result in having our phone seized and we have to pay VND1 million if we want to get it back,” she added.

According to Trang, the net income a massage worker earns from her tips is around VND18 million a month, after deductions for all the fines and costs.
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