Subpar Service


For many women, regardless of economic standing, a bi-weekly visit to the salon or spa is the single escape we have from the reality of our hectic everyday schedules. That mound of homework waiting on your desk is the least of your worries while you’re getting your calves oiled down and massaged in the pedicure chair. Helping Mike Junior with his science fair project completely escapes you while your head is full of foils that will soon reveal new honey highlights. And the electricity bill that’s due tomorrow is the very last thing on your mind as that cloth strip nearly rips the melanin out of your bikini line—ouch!

Whether its a new ‘do, mani/pedi, brief massage, or wax, beauty services are a therapeutic ritual that we eagerly look forward to at the end of each pay period. Our stylists become stand-in girlfriends and confidants, getting us through personal situations just as they get us through bad hair days. They keep us looking our best and feeling even better, and to show them our gratitude—we tip accordingly.

Tipping Standards, According to CNN Money*

  • Hairdresser: 15-20% (Unlike in previous years, it’s now acceptable to tip an owner rendering services, unless otherwise noted.)
  • Shampoo Person: $2
  • Manicurist: 15%
  • Spa Service (massage, facial, etc.): 15-20%

* These figures are an average suggestion, and subject to your own personal discretion.

But every so often you have an ill experience that leaves you wanting to run out of the salon in a rage, barely paying the bill—let alone leaving a penny more of your hard-earned coins. So what do you do? To tip or not to tip? Now, unless the circumstances are extremely extenuating, I am a firm believer that a tip is in order upon completion of any service. I understand that those who rely on tips are making a very minimal—if any—hourly wage. So I’d be hard-pressed to justify not leaving them anything for over an hour’s worth of labor. But if you do happen to have a negative experience, be it a rude stylist, bad cut, or over-extended wait-time, you have a couple different options.

How to Deal With Bad Service

Request Another Stylist: If you have an inkling at the on-set of your appointment that things are headed downhill (due to attitude, communication barriers, etc), politely request another person to complete your service. Though the original person may not be too happy with this decision, you’ll be glad you followed your instinct and opted for a better person to get you glammed-up.

Ask for a Re-Do: If you’ve held out through the appointment, only to find out that you were not completely satisfied with the results, don’t hesitate to ask for a re-do. If you find that the color is not dark enough, cut not short enough, roots not straight enough—politely let them know. Explain what your initial expectations were in contrast to the result you received, and the stylist should be more than willing to correct the issue. Be sure to request such fixes immediately, though; don’t wait two weeks to decide that your hair was not styled properly and expect them to feel that it’s their fault by that time.

Tip Less: In the case of an extended wait, frequent breaks, or a subpar styling job, you may simply opt to tip less than the norm. As always, I recommend being courteous and respectful, and briefly explaining (via note or otherwise) how they may have improved the experience for further reference. Do not, however, punish the person rendering your service for something they specifically had no control over. For example, during my brief stint as a waitress, I once had a guest leave a nasty note on the back of a receipt that said, more or less, “You would’ve gotten this [measly*] $5 if that hostess wasn’t so damn rude in making me wait [during peak business hours for a whack ‘ol salad and Coke that I could’ve stayed my evil ass in the house for*].” Gee, thanks lady. [*My two-cents, lol]

Speak to a Manager: Sometimes you simply have to call on a person with more control. If you are completely dissatisfied with the service, ask the receptionist if you can speak with a manager or business owner. Pull them aside, out of the salon if need be, and fully voice your concerns in a calm, yet serious, tone. Make it clear that the experience could very well discourage you and friends from revisiting the establishment, and that you’d hate for them to lose business or credibility due to one avoidable mishap. Most often, when given sincerely and respectfully, complaints to the higher-ups will result in discounted future services, or even a full refund.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. To avoid awkward exchanges, revisits to the salon, or lengthy discussions with upper management, try the following suggestions, beforehand.

Tips to Making the Most Out of Your Salon Service:

Make an Appointment, and Honor It: The last thing you want to be is that girl who tries to sneak a walk-in and wonders why she gets thrown to the newbie and receives so-so service. Story of my life in the nail salon, since a pedi is usually the cure to a unexpectedly stressful day. To avoid feeling like the guinea pig during your day of pampering, make an appointment and get to it on time to ensure that your go-to person doesn’t get backed up and throw you to the wolves. If you’re not sure who to choose, call (or come in) well in advance to find out who’s specialties best suit your specific needs. You don’t want to find out the hard way that the person you selected is not comfortable with short hair, can’t do nail art to save their life, or has never applied a relaxer. Uh-oh!

Know What You Want: It’s very hard for a person to perfect the look you’re going for if you have no idea what it is.¬†Granted, we don’t always know how to verbalize exactly what it is that we’re going for, nor do we always know what’s best for us. But it certainly helps to bring pictures as a point of reference for the professional. Be able to point out what you do and don’t like in each picture, and they will likely be able to mesh the good things to reach a great final product.

Keep Distractions to a Minimum: It’s quite easy to miss an error in your service if you’re too busy running your mouth on the phone (telling the whole salon your business, at that) or trying to figure out where your toddler ran off to (she’s wiggled her entire body into the vending machine by now). Pay attention to what’s going on, especially in the beginning of your cut, manicure, or what have you. Make sure that they’re doing exactly what you requested before it’s too late and the error is irreversible.<

Feel free to share any bad salon experiences you’ve had, and how you handled them.

– Chelsea Smith

Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter