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  • My name is Zhen Cheng.

  • In 2001, I started an appliance repair shop.

  • In the beginning,

  • I just wanted to be a decent person and run an honest business.

  • I didn't want to rip anyone off.

  • I felt that it would bother my conscience.

  • But after being busy for a time,

  • the money I earned was enough to cover family expenses, but not any savings.

  • Sometimes my monthly income was no better than an average worker,

  • and so my wife often gave me a hard time about that.

  • We depend on trade for money,

  • but when it's time to get money from customers you only think of them.

  • If you won't ask for more money from them,

  • who's going to put money in your pocket?

  • Hey, Cheng,

  • you've got a lot of really great skills, you can fix things,

  • but it's your fault if you're not making much.

  • Now, I'm telling you

  • people always have money inside of their pockets.

  • And if you rob them, then that's illegal.

  • But if you find a way for them to voluntarily hand over their money,

  • that's called being skillful and smart.

  • You fix things with your skill,

  • you should understand your "skill" and how to apply it.

  • "A man without a second income will never get rich."

  • We live in the age of money;

  • you can do anything with enough cash.

  • Money doesn't solve everything, but without any, you'll solve nothing.

  • That's right.

  • People without a skill have a hard time scraping by.

  • You have a skill.

  • Why not apply yourself and make more money?

  • You're too set in your ways.

  • Jiaming, nudge him in the right direction.

  • I contemplated my wife's advice and my brother-in-law's "brilliant" idea.

  • They really had a point!

  • I was skilled but not making more money.

  • Was I just good for nothing?

  • But I was still dead set against ripping off customers,

  • because my conscience would never get past that.

  • There was an electronics repair shop run by Mr. Qian near my store.

  • He didn't have much of a grasp on repairs

  • and could only fix very simple problems,

  • but he always placed huge ads in front of his shop.

  • The ads said, "We fix all kinds of appliances; our skills are top notch."

  • It all seemed very impressive.

  • In this manner, many people had been fooled by him.

  • As he worked, he handled the easy stuff on his own.

  • But the tough jobs he sent to other repair shops,

  • making a tidy profit as a middleman.

  • He made a lot of extra income doing this.

  • One time, Mr. Qian and I were eating in a small restaurant.

  • We chatted about how to be successful in business.

  • Cheng, you and I both have repair shops,

  • but I'm making more than you.

  • And do you know why that is?

  • If the TV's high voltage connector cap was burned out,

  • how much would you charge to replace it?

  • That's an easy one. Twenty or thirty yuan would be enough.

  • Twenty or thirty yuan?

  • You can't do business that way!

  • No wonder you're not making more money.

  • I see you're a good guy, so I'll be honest with you.

  • For this sort of problem,

  • I'll swap out the entire high voltage assembly.

  • But the high voltage assembly is fine. (I'll swap it out anyway.)

  • It's not necessary! (I'll swap it out!)

  • If you don't swap out some parts,

  • how are you going to charge more money?

  • If you swap them out,

  • you can charge an extra tens or hundreds of yuan.

  • This trick goes a lot further than just technical skill, you know?

  • It is just a diversion.

  • Customers don't know our skill. They'll never know.

  • It's up to you to decide if you want them to pay you more.

  • This is a quick way to earn money,

  • but isn't it ripping off our customers?

  • I can't have that on my conscience!

  • Conscience?

  • How much will you get for a pound of conscience?

  • No one talks about conscience now.

  • Will conscience fill your belly?

  • Can you spend it like money?

  • You know, Zhen Cheng, you're not seeing the ways of the world.

  • Ours is a cash society.

  • "Money is everything."

  • Everyone focuses on making money.

  • The communists even believe this now,

  • "No matter if it's a cat white or black,

  • as long as it catches mice, it's a good cat."

  • So whoever's earning money is therefore worth their salt.

  • If you can't make any money,

  • being a good person won't get you anywhere.

  • No one will respect you.

  • Without money, everything is more difficult.

  • But with it, you just say the word,

  • everyone is more than happy to help.

  • So what do you think, am I right?

  • You're right!

  • After hearing Mr. Qian's "enlightening" views,

  • I thought deeply about it.

  • This is the type of world we live in now.

  • People run all kinds of scams to make a quick buck,

  • and no one talks about integrity.

  • What good would it do if I were the only honest one?

  • What's more,

  • my being honest in pursuing my business has not been advantageous.

  • People who are in the same business as me are living a good life.

  • Their families all live comfortably, eat well, and wear nice clothes.

  • It seems I have been too set in my ways.

  • I have to start thinking of ways to make more money,

  • to make life better for my family.

  • Okay, Mr. Qian,

  • one day I'll drop by your place and see how you do it.

  • From that point on,

  • I began to study the "success" others had experienced in my line of work.

  • I had my misgivings,

  • but in order to make more money, I couldn't dwell on so many things.

  • I just had to bite the bullet and put "theory" into practice.

  • One day, a customer came in to have an appliance repaired,

  • and when I took apart the piece that wasn't working,

  • I also opened up some parts that were working fine.

  • I did this in order to misdirect the customer

  • and to make her think that "So many things were wrong with it."

  • This way, I could use that as an excuse to charge her more.

  • The old saying "Guilty consciences make men cowards" is completely true.

  • At first I was nervous, my heart was beating very fast,

  • and I was worried that the customer would see through me.

  • I thought:

  • If she figures out that I've pulled such a stunt, and exposes it on the spot,

  • where would I hide my face?

  • I'd have to crawl to a little hole.

  • Customers don't know our skill. They'll never know.

  • It's up to you to decide if you want them to pay you more.

  • I forced myself to stay cool.

  • After I swapped out the "bad" parts, I plugged the device in and tested it.

  • It worked fine.

  • When the customer asked me how much for the repair,

  • I thought to myself: I can't be as soft-hearted as I was before.

  • And then, with hardened heart, I charged 50% more than before.

  • After saying that, I thought to myself:

  • Will she complain that I asked for so much money?

  • If she haggled over the price,

  • I'd give her all the reasons why the price went up.

  • If that didn't work, I'd give her a discount.

  • I never thought the customer would say nothing

  • and just hand the money over to me.

  • Only after the customer had carried away the appliance

  • could I finally let out a sigh of relief.

  • I realized that my face and back were covered in sweat.

  • The first time cheating a customer, I felt an indescribable sense of unease.

  • But when I saw that I had made more money,

  • that feeling of unease was replaced with the joy of "success."

  • From then on,

  • I thought of every possible tactic to pull the wool over my customers' eyes,

  • to get more money from them.

  • At first, even though I felt some blame in my conscience,

  • I nonetheless quietly urged myself onward:

  • "A small mind makes not a gentleman

  • and a great man must be ruthless at times."

  • If I want to earn more money, I would have to use strategy.

  • Besides, everyone does this.

  • One more wouldn't make a difference.

  • Over time, with the "enthusiastic" help from others in my line of work,

  • along with my own "hard work,"

  • my "skill" and "technique" in earning money became more and more refined.

  • I learned how to read people and make adjustments to my "technique" on the fly.

  • Depending on the type of customer I saw,

  • I would employ various "techniques."

  • If they looked like they were rich,

  • then I would flatter them.