Tips on Good Salon Etiquette for Clients

My last two blog posts have been about finding a good salon, and tips on what to look for in a stylist. Sooo I’ve been really dragging my feet about this last post, but after much input from stylists from several salons(not just mine) and questions from clients.. I am reluctantly posting this. The reason I am cautious about putting this out there is simply because in my industry, I’m conservative. Meaning, my approach. There are many nuances about our industry that one of those wack-a-doo stylists might talk about openly( we all know what “type” of stylist I’m referring too), but I’m the type that believes in keeping that behind- the- scene salon stuff in the back room, tucked safely away from the rest of the world.

 Before I continue, for those of you who do not know me, let me explain a bit about my views on my specific career. As a stylist, I have been around many others like, and Unlike me. I expect professionalism in my salon and great customer service from my stylists, assistants and receptionists. If a stylists smokes, ( it often comes with our artsy,angst type of industry) I expect them to wash hands, and mist & mint up, before the next client. Even if a client is unrealistic, I expect smiles in the explanation. If there is a mix up on our end on scheduling, I comp services.  I really believe we go above and beyond for clients because at the end of the day they are paying us!  However,  In my 17 years(yikes) since being a stylist, and 12 years since owning a salon, I feel the need to put this out there because of things I have seen and done in this industry. I have worked location events( thanklessly),  sick with the flu- while I had a 102 degree fever .  I have witnessed stylists who have undergone immense family & personal tragedy, while maintaining composure and grace beyond their years. Myself and others have worked huge and pregnant,  long hours on our feet , right up until the day before they deliver, then come back a mere 5 weeks later. The salon industry can seem very glamorous at times, and it can be- but there is another side as well. Here is a short list of things to try to do to make your overall salon experience, and your relationship with your stylist better.

  1. Speak up, voice your desires- but please don’t micromanage!  There is nothing worse than when a client keeps running fingers through their hair, while I’m trying to work! I’m trying to stay on schedule, so I can HOPEFULLY see my kids before bedtime. We don’t work bank hours. Often salon hours are counterproductive to our families schedules, so please be considerate if your appointment is late in the day. Firing away a thousand different directives on how I should or should not be coloring your hair, or being overly excitable about what you hate is stressful! If you are this type of client, do us both a favor and book your appointment earlier in the day ,when I’m freshly caffeinated. Input is great, but freaking out just freaks me out.
  2. Hold Still.  Not only is it frustrating when a client keeps moving around, or keeps turning to watch themselves in a mirror, but your hindering me from completing the work your paying me to do!  The worst is when a client will not keep their head in a specific place so that I may properly highlight the hair!  If this is you- you are literally messing up what I’m charging you for. Maybe not enough that you can tell, but seriously I’m 5’3 on a good day. I cannot reach the top of your head. We understand your 3 hour appointment might be tedious for you, but we do this day after day, year after year. Aside from the fact that I would JUMP at the chance to sit still and tap my tablet fora couple of hours, I’m trying to save my back for my career.  So please oblige me for awhile. If your truly uncomfortable, let me know. But unless you really are, please hold your head in the position I keep returning it too. I’m doing this for a reason! I tell clients what and why I’m doing it before hand- so please, use your listening ears!   Also, unless you’re a soft talker, I can hear you while your head is down so you don’t have to keep twisting to look at me while you talk. Unless my blow dryer is on, then I can’t hear anything. During the blow dry,  lets just not talk so I don’t have to do that stupid head nod and pretend I can hear you.
  3. Tell us about yourself. Communicate, politely  Be part of the consultation if its your first time. We need to know you so we can give you what you want AND whats right for your life. But please, be realistic. Don’t expect a set of $1000 extensions for $300 with no at home care. Or expect to go from all over black to blonde hair color in a day. Be realistic about prices, and expectations for your hair.
  4.  Give us notice. If you need to cancel or reschedule and your a regular client, we generally know you and understand. It is acceptable to cancel because you have the flu- but NOT if your hungover. If your a new client and want to cancel or reschedule, gives us ample notice. I recently implemented a new salon policy. If your a new client, and your planning on booking  services over $100, be prepared to put down a deposit. Recently I had someone call on a Thursday and  booked 5 hair and makeup services with two of our stylists for that Saturday. We called on Friday, the day before, to confirm for the next day.  The client verbally confirmed they would be there, and gushed about how excited they were. Then Saturday- no show with no call or email. Needless to say the names of that booking made our salon black list, yes we have one.Not only is it extremely rude and inconsiderate, but literally wastes our time and the salons money. Hence, our new policy for all new clients.
  5. Tip. Really you should. People always ask me about this and Like a robot I always say” Tips are appreciated but never expected”. And that’s true, BUT clients always ask me as I’m walking away from the front desk, when my mind is on other stuff. Plus, how awkward.

Here’s the real 411 on tipping…

People often ask if I , as the owner,accept tips .. well here’s the deal. I meant what I said. I don’t expect it. If someone does, I’m  flattered.   Magazine articles can be confusing for people. I often read “salon etiquette”  pieces in fashion magazines laying around my salon. They are clearly not written by someone in our industry. I’m not sure where the notion came from that you shouldn’t tip the owner. When I was a baby spice working for Mario, I noticed he never took tips. I thought that was so classy. He also drove a Mercedes, owned 15 salons, and charged $200 a haircut in Chicago and $175 when he was in KC, and that was in 1996.  I know many salon owners in the KC area, and  to this day that type of stylist is an exception in our industry. Stylists like this( Sally Hershberger, Beth Minardi, Frederick Fekkai) are titans in our industry. The “3%” if you will.. and often in larger metro areas like NYC. Perhaps that is why Mario has no more salons in KC.  The point is, I’m not running a Vegas casino here. It’s a 6 person hair salon with an assistant and receptionist on payroll. The cost of doing business is quite high.  General overhead and small business health insurance is also way up. That, along with trying to keep service prices fair in these tough economical times, means many salons are seeing that net profits are actually down from ten years ago.  We do realize that the service itself may be a splurge, and that perhaps its not feasible to tip on a $130 service every 6 weeks.

Owners aside, at least tip the stylists.  Maybe I’m being taboo here, but someone has to say it. Statistically speaking, unless you’re male, or Italian, or both, you’re probably not a great tipper anyways, and its ok.  Unless you’ve worked in the service industry, most people don’t know this.  However, giving something extra shows your appreciation. And it should be cash. Please don’t make your stylist pay 4% in credit card fees on the 15% you just gave her. Or make the owner try to come up with a way to pay the stylist  a tip that you just gave her on a card or check, without eating it in taxes. I know our society has become cashless, but if your planning on tipping in the salon- make an effort to bring some cash.

As stylists, We want to be good at what we do and we want to please YOU, our clients. I hope I haven’t stepped on any toes, or offended anyone. Good salons, good stylists and good clients, they all go hand in hand. Follow the tips in posts 1 & 2 to find a great salon. After you find that salon, and get a good stylist, be a good client! Not only is the pay off a symbiotic working relationship, you will also have great hair! Which is the whole reason you came in the first place! It’s a fragile eco- system that you are part of. Please, don’t disturb or unsettle it. The pay off is a relationship that can not only be very rewarding, but also span a lifetime.