Man on the Street: Street-Side Phone Accessory Seller

By Sky Gidge, November 16, 2017

0 0

Man on the Street is a regular series where we talk to someone doing an everyday job, in order to gain insight into the lives of normal Chinese people.

On a recent Monday night, Chuan Ran proves himself resourceful. A middle-aged woman is hesitating – will the phone cases Ran sells really fit her friend’s iPhone?

Ran spots us standing near his small, tent-based shop and borrows my phone – slipping it from case to snug-fitting case until the woman settles on a mauve number, bedazzled with a sparkling angel wing. My phone comes back.

Ran is a low-level phone accessory seller and provider of the tiemo service, as the sign hanging above the tent-opening advertises. Directly translated, tiemo reads ‘stick to membrane.’ Rather than street-side biology, the service is a blast of compressed air to clean a phone’s screen before a screen protector is deftly applied – a vexing task for most of us, but performed at ad hoc stations across China for around RMB10.  

Many – or most – street-side tiemo operate with the ebb of city management, setting up in underpasses or on footbridges and ready to pack up their foldout tables and knock off phone cables when local ‘enforcers’ get wise. 

But in a country obsessed with covering everything from hotel tables to home computers in protective foil, demand for tiemo outweighs the risk of doing business. 

Ran is a step above that – though he eludes to a time when things were not so ‘orderly’ – now paying about RMB1,500 monthly to rent a space in a Shenzhen neighborhood where tiemo is regulated. 

Ran’s workday starts around 3pm and lasts until about 11pm when business slows. When not hawking his wares, Ran sits behind his laptop watching Chinese television shows, surrounded on three sides with a rainbow of phone cases and other goods, most purchased wholesale at an electronics market a 10-minute ride away. 
So it’s a surprise when Ran says sales are not a big moneymaker for him – tiemo, he tells us, are what people really pay for.

Monthly salary: RMB3,000
Days per week: 7  
Hours per day: 10

To read more Man on the Street click here.

more news

Man on the Street: Guangzhou Taxi Driver

Life is harder with ride-hailing apps...

Man on the Street: Recycling Scavenger

A day in the life of a dumpster diver.

Man on the Street: Public Washroom Attendant

Of mice and the men's room.

Man on the Street: Eel Monger

Xie has spent 10 long years hawking his slithering charges, all of which are farmed in Guangdong.

Man on the Street: Dumpling Maker

Meet the Dongbei man who gave up a career of high adventure on China's highways for a life of dumpling-house domesticity.

Man on the Street: Meat-Selling Shifu

Carnivore's comrade feeds China's growing cities.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Shanghai With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.