Like the DMV, Las Vegas, and high school, beauty salons have the power to bring the ugly out of almost anyone — which is ironic, because one would assume the goal of going to such a place is to be not-ugly. I worked in a salon as a teenager, through college and, when that $120,000 piece of paper failed me for what would be the first of a bajillion times, after college. I am well-versed in the desperate diva behavior that goes down in a salon. That’s not to say all clients are bad eggs — the good ones are just as memorable as the disastrous ones. Now that I’m seemingly out of the trenches, I have to tell y’all the things that salon owners, receptionists, and stylists will always remember about you, for better or worse.
1. They will remember if you try to bargain with the stylist for a better price. Despite all of the glaring similarities, a hair salon is not a used car lot. The only time you should ask for special consideration is when you’re about to leave the salon looking like an extra from a Kid ‘n Play movie — otherwise, it’s inappropriate. An employee doesn’t have the clearance to rearrange the pricing structure of a business that doesn’t belong to them, and an independent stylist who rents a chair charges you what allows them to pay bills and buy products to use on your hair and like, eat and stuff. If a salon is out of your price point, find another one. (Seriously — if you’re in desperate need of a cheap-o hair fix, sign up to be a hair model for a beauty school or give the free section of Craigslist a peek.)
2. They will remember you if you’re famous. I mean, it’s really exciting when famous heads come through! The staff basically spends the rest of the day googling the famous person and gushing, “She’s sooo down to earth, hope she comes back!” even if the famous person is kind of average in every way possible.
3. They will remember you if you’re going through some major hair trauma. I’m not talking baby-bangs-gone-wrong trauma, I’m talking “I let my boyfriend’s ex bleach my hair and now it’s falling out in clumps” trauma. This is the kind of gratifying work a stylist lives for — not that they’re happy your head looks like it’s been smoking meth in a trailer for the last week, but nursing your hair back to health is a serious undertaking that requires a stylist to problem-solve in ways that a perm just doesn’t.
4. They will remember you if you cancel an appointment at the last minute. The idea of an appointment is that it is your special time. And not showing up for your special time means someone else is gypped out of special time they could’ve had. So here’s a block of time wherein money was supposed to be made, but is now just a two-hour window for the stylist to sit around picking lint out of her navel. That’s unfair. If your income were dependent on people sticking to their word and showing up when they said they would, you would understand how this is unfair.
5. They will remember when you argue about a cancellation fee you previously agreed to. In order to counteract the unfairness that is canceling an appointment at the last minute, some salons will charge a cancellation fee that requires the client to leave a credit card number when booking an appointment. You should not cancel your appointment and then try to argue your way out of paying the cancellation fee. No one goes through the arduous task of taking a credit card number over the phone just to be like, “Wait, JK! That cancellation fee business was just for funsies, we’re perfectly fine with not making any money today.” Of course, there are exceptions for otherwise loyal clients: death, car accidents, some more death… but just remember one thing: cancellation fees don’t exist to punish you. They exist because people need to get paid.
6. They will remember you if you’re fun. One good client can brighten an otherwise bleak day. My personal favorites are the ones who get dinner-party drunk and loudly recite juicy stories about people I’ll never meet. Miss y’all!
7. They will remember you if something goes wrong. When hair goes wrong, things get dark pretty quickly. A botched haircut or a heinous dye job are fun for no one. Stylists are more sensitive to these accidents than you’d think — their portfolio is your head. You are a walking advertisement for their work. Even if you’re the most egregious client on the planet, they will not feel good about mucking up your hair. (Best practice for avoiding this is to tell your stylist about any hair-skeletons you have in the closet — Chia Pet perm and all. If they have suggestions or reservations about what you want, try to listen to them.)
8. They will remember you if you’re a bad tipper. It’s hard to forget someone who leaves a 10% tip on a two hour service.
9. They will remember you if you’re a good tipper. You are like black opal, rare and beautiful. May your service improve with every visit.
10. They will remember you if you’re loyal. A loyal client — one who considers the time and feelings of the people they trust with their hair, one who recommends the salon to friends, one who rolls with the punches without getting all Real Housewives when something goes awry — can get away with tipping modestly or canceling in the case of an emergency or getting upset when their hair is two shades shy of how they wanted it. They can get away with it because the salon staff knows a client is loyal to the salon and its workers because they care, and any outlandish behavior is a result of being human, not evil. We’re all human. Just remember that the next time someone trims your hair a bit too short, K?