Years ago, I worked part-time at Foxconn, but not as an employee of Foxconn itself, but at a Dairy Queen restaurant inside the park.
During this time, I came into contact with many Foxconn employees and visited some places in the park. Let me share some of my impressions of it.
This park is located in a certain district of Shenzhen and occupies a large area. There are dedicated shuttle buses inside, similar to public bus routes outside. You can swipe your card to get on wherever you want to go. The park has complete facilities, including sports fields, supermarkets, restaurants, and more. It is said that there are tens of thousands of employees here, and with these supporting facilities, it is like a small society.
At that time, smartphones were not popular yet, and I was still using a keypad phone. However, almost every commuter on the shuttle bus held a full-screen smartphone, and the majority of them were iPhones. It was said that their salaries were average, but as long as they were willing to work overtime, earning tens of thousands of yuan was not uncommon. Inside the steady bus, everyone was looking down at their phones, with white earphones plugged in, and their trendy hairstyles swaying slightly as the bus moved forward. Whenever the bus arrived at a stop, a group of people would get off without even lifting their heads—they were familiar with this place and could judge their destination without using their eyes or ears.
As I worked at Dairy Queen, I discovered that they were not the trendy people shown on TV. They were tired, lifeless, and seemed like machines. During meal times, a large group of people who didn't like eating at the cafeteria would come to Dairy Queen to order food. Their expressions while waiting in line were no different from those on the bus—they would lower their heads and stare at their screens, mechanically taking steps forward to wait for their orders, like robots waiting to be fed batteries. They usually ordered fixed-price combo meals, which I considered expensive, but it seemed normal to them.
Indifferent, arrogant, fashionable, and wealthy—these were my initial impressions of the employees in the park.
Soon after, a series of suicide incidents occurred at Foxconn. Afterwards, it seemed like overnight, safety nets were installed on the outer walls of all the buildings in the park, several meters high from the ground, extending outwards from the walls surrounding the buildings. This was to catch anyone attempting to jump.
Afterwards, from conversations with some employees, I learned that Foxconn had canceled overtime work and overtime pay. I heard that this measure caused a lot of public anger because without overtime pay, the meaning of working at Foxconn was lost for them.
After some time, there were fewer customers at the restaurant, and the once crowded lobby where people had to line up became empty and cold.
Once, I found a lost notebook on a table and tried to find the owner's contact information to return it. Unexpectedly, I found detailed records of some work processes inside, followed by daily reminders that were updated almost every day, along with notes on areas for improvement. I thought this must have been a person full of hope. As I flipped through the pages, the records became simpler and eventually disappeared, only two months after the enthusiastic beginning. In the end, I couldn't find any contact information, and the notebook was left on a storage cabinet. Sometimes I wonder if it was not lost but intentionally left there as a memorial to the shattered hope.
There was another person who left a deep impression on me. I didn't know him, and I didn't even know what kind of work he did. All I knew was that he often lay on a wooden table behind the restaurant. It was a long corridor, and at the end of the corridor was a garbage dump. The garbage generated by nearby shops would usually be taken through this corridor to be dumped. Every time I went to work in the morning, my colleague and I would push a cart full of garbage through the corridor, and we would always see him, wearing a white long-sleeved shirt, lying on the table, sound asleep. His body was half bent, and a black full-screen smartphone lay quietly in the hollow of his chest, just like him. The sounds we made passing by never woke him up, and after going back and forth several times, he remained in the same bent position without moving. If it weren't for the occasional sound of his breathing, I would have thought it was a corpse lying there. From beginning to end, I never knew what he did, why he lay there, whether he had a home or a bed.
Shortly after, my part-time job ended, and I left Dairy Queen and the Foxconn park. Those questions were buried in my heart along with my departure.
It wasn't until recently, when ByteDance canceled the "996" work schedule and I saw some people complaining about the loss of overtime pay, that these memories suddenly came to mind.