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Who's at fault?

When I first started as a receptionist at Just Hair, I knew next to nothing about the beauty industry. Over the last decade I have been able to listen and observe not only the stylists around me, but the clients as well. These observations, as well as my personal experiences with our clientele, is what inspired me to start this blog!

Something that has been beyond frustrating is when a client calls and/or sits in the chair, says exactly what they want, even using the correct terminology, yet has a meltdown when all is said and done. I am sure this happens more frequently than any stylist cares to admit, so I thought, "Let's educate the public!"

First, I am fully aware that each situation varies, and not all instances are solely the fault of one side or the other. As a manager, now owner, of a large salon, I have had many conversations with my stylists about the consultation process. I tell my stylists to ask the same question in a few different ways, just to make sure they are getting a consistent answer! If a stylist takes what you are saying at face value, never clarifying exactly what you have in mind, that may be a red flag... A skilled service provider should always clarify!

Communication is a huge part of everything we do on a day-to-day basis, regardless of occupation, location, age, etc. As a client, you may view your stylist as the expert, and depending on the salon of your choice, this would be a safe assumption. However, stylists are NOT mind readers! To a certain degree, they may be able to “see” what you will look like after the service is complete, but it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for them to know how YOU are going to feel about the change. Even after doing your hair for 10 years, and remembering each time you mentioned how much you dislike the service you have just asked for, your stylist is behind the chair to give you the service you have asked for, to the best of their ability. During the consult, the stylist will inform you whether what you are asking for is achievable, always making the integrity of your hair their top priority. The conclusion of the consult will vary, but there are a couple major outcomes that can lead to complete devastation in the end…

The first is when a stylist explains that what the client is asking for can’t be done in just one appointment. They tell their client that they will get them as close as they can, but there will need to be a second, maybe a third appointment to achieve the ultimate results. From here I can only speculate what the client thinks they are being told, based on the situations I’ve had to navigate over the years.

I’m not sure if the client is thinking, “They said they would get me as close as possible, so I’m sure it will pretty much look like what I asked for…” or perhaps they were so set on getting their hair done that at that moment, they are willing to take whatever they can get.

Occasionally a client in fact fully understands what they are being told, avoiding any fall back in the end, but too many times there is anger and tears. Many clients tend to ask for the impossible. Even with virgin hair, there are a surprising number of things that can cause a color service to either turn disastrous, or simply not fit in the “normal” results. There is a reason we have waivers to read and sign, and it isn’t just to not get sued!

For example, if you’ve box colored your hair burgundy for 5 years and only stopped a year ago, please tell your stylist! You may not be able to see the red, but unless you shaved your head, it’s still there. Well water and regular swimming in chlorinated pools can greatly affect the way a color turns out. Hormones and medications play a big factor as well. I encourage you to do your research, especially if you plan on getting color soon. I can’t stress enough that if you omit something that has the potential to affect your service, the results could literally cost you your hair.

Another occurrence that has an almost identical reaction is when a client doesn’t like what THEY asked for. For example, if you confidently ask for a low light, but do not understand that it will end up darkening your hair, and complain because you wanted to be platinum, why should that be the fault of the hair stylist that just spent 3 hours on your hair? The stylists do appreciate when you are confident in what you are asking for, but please make sure you have done your research beforehand.

I tell my stylists to under promise and overdeliver. However, even with telling their clients that they will get them as close as possible without compromising their hair, there are times clients will still feel disappointed and let down. I think that clients often have an image in their mind of what they are expecting to look like, and if that image doesn’t come to fruition, regardless of how clear it was relayed before the service began, there is a sense of betrayal. (If you have personally experienced this, I would love to hear your story!)

The fact is that regardless of your feelings AFTER the fact, your stylist still deserves every bit of what they have charged you. The cost of a service is not just about the end result. It is about the entire process, beginning to end. The time, the product, the difficulty and above all else, the expertise of the service provider. Hair can be so unpredictable that stylists are forced to problem solve throughout your appointment. You are also paying for their skills in chemistry, color theory and problem solving, just to name a few. The top stylists are people that are highly intelligent and have a skill set that not everyone can learn. It is never, “Just a trim.” If it was that easy, you wouldn’t have to go to a salon to get it done.

Some people are reasonable and understand that stylists are not magical beings that can wave a wand and give you perfect hair. Others feel like they asked for something specific, didn’t get it and should get all their money back, including tip, AND get it fixed for free. Salon staff completely understand feeling disappointed when your color doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, or when you have been blonde for 5 years and the dark color you asked for makes you feel like you aren’t “YOU”. Rather than appreciating the care and expertise of the stylist, some clients demand to speak with a manager, refusing to pay for something they didn’t want. This small group of people will start to nitpick every “flaw”, sometimes actually exaggerating events to the point of telling full on lies. I do not understand why people just cannot admit that they don’t like what THEY chose, and just ask what can be done!? There are salons that would choose to charge full price to alter what they were just asked to do, and they would have every right to make that choice, but there are also salons that feel empathy for the client and choose to help them by discounting the “fix”.

We are not money hungry, unreasonable and cruel people! If someone was completely honest and just said, “I know I asked for lowlights, but I really hate the way it looks on my hair. Is there anything we can do to lighten it up again?”, we would help! We would greatly discount the service and get them back in as soon as we could. Quite literally, 90% of the time I discount a service for a client when we are fixing a different salon’s work! Unfortunately, the client that lied has now damaged her reputation with our salon, and sadly will have to move on to another unsuspecting stylist to do her hair.

Basically, if the consultation was thorough and a clear understanding was apparent, then when a stylist spent 3 hours lightening your hair, and they have gotten you 3 hours closer to your goal. The fact is, every other salon would have ended up at the same place, unless they made the decision to push it. In that case, they may have gotten you to where you wanted to be, but they probably also gave you slimy hair that breaks off every time you brush it!

Sadly, in 2019, clients have the power to destroy everything you have worked for in an instant. Yelp, Google, and the many other business review sites have given these people the power to get what they want. As a new owner, I am terrified of being destroyed by a disgruntled client. 10 years ago, if I KNEW without a doubt that we were not at fault, I would explain why we would not be refunding money, or redoing the service, and it would be over. Now I hear all manner of reasons and excuses, some so preposterous that it takes everything in me to stay professional and not lose my cool. There is so much more stretching of the truth, and many times even full on lies. The rating system has definitely helped our small business grow, but it has also been used as a tool for blackmail!

Recently a client came in and purchased a purple clenditioner. The brand we carry is amazingly vibrant and long lasting. Two days later she came back in and told our receptionist that she thought she was buying the platinum and that she assumed the purple would just tone her hair. She had most definitely turned her hair purple, and she asked for an appointment with the stylist she saw last to get her back to blonde.

When the appointment day arrived, the client asked for lowlights and platinum. Even after her stylist explained what adding a lowlight would do, she insisted she wanted to add a lowlight for more dimension. When the appointment concluded, it was clear she was unhappy. The next day when the client called, the said her hair was “brown” after she asked for platinum, and she threatened to write a bad review if the owner or manager didn’t call her immediately. When I arrived at the salon 25 minutes later, the client was already in the chair of one of my managers, telling her that the stylist from the night before dropped color on her head, FORCING her to get lowlights!

If any stylists are reading this, you know that statement is preposterous! Why would a darker color even be near the client’s head if she hadn’t asked for it?! Why isn’t there evidence of the color being dropped on her hair, or did the stylist just happen to drop the color in a perfect weaved line? I immediately knew two things for certain: the client was lying, and I was going to have to fix this color to save our salon from a negative review.

A week later, the client came in for her appointment and admitted to the stylist doing the service that she had in fact asked for lowlights because her previous stylist had done them. In the end, the client was happy with what was done to get the low light toned down, but had she just been honest throughout the process, we could had avoided the wasted time, unnecessary stress, and hurt feelings.

The moral of the blog is this; Unless a stylist absolutely destroys your hair, or didn’t listen to you seemingly at all, resulting in a color that is no where near what you were asking for, your stylist spent hours of their time working on your hair. To demand a refund, especially when it may not be your stylist’s mistake, is unfair and unreasonable. At my salon, we will fix anything that you dislike about your hair, whether our fault or not, at a discounted rate, sometimes even for free. Please, just don’t lie! Please, do not invent problems so that you can get something different done on your hair due to not liking what you asked for, or leaving out imperative information just because you are worried you can’t get what you want if you tell the truth! And PLEASE do not jump on social media to ruin the reputation of hard-working individuals when they have done everything they possibly can to get you exactly what you asked for!

Thank you for your time! Hopefully my next entry, about the star rating system and how frustrating it is when someone gives a business one star, won’t take me 6 months to complete!

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