Kate Allen
November 21, 2013 2:00 pm

I hate that I’m writing this column. I know it’s a very touchy subject, so I want to start this post by saying that at least for me and the team at my salon, we value anyone walking through our doors. Whether you are in for a $25 Happy Hour polish change and glass of champagne or a $300 cut and color with a master stylist, you will be treated like royalty. In fact, we believe in that concept so much that it’s the first of our values in our team playbook that each technician agrees to follow.

But recently, I’ve received an overwhelming request from hairdressers (who will rename anonymous) to write a guideline for the proper etiquette for using a coupon (Living Social, Groupon, Amazon Local Deal) for a beauty service. And though it’s a very uncomfortable subject to speak on, I do believe that it is crucially important. For hairdressers and customers. Because it can make or break the relationship from either end using a coupon incorrectly or with an insensitive approach. But used respectfully on both ends, it can be the beginning of a great relationship for both. So, let’s all check our past experiences, biases and egos at the door and discuss this oddly sensitive topic. Ready?

Do: Read The Fine Print

Blowdry bars, massage parlors, and nail salons all put out deals for a specific reason. Either they want to fill their chairs when the salon is typically slow (whether that be a day of the week or a season), they want to promote a new service added to their menu or they just have some newer technicians that need to start building a clientele. Whatever the reason, there is always a calculated one. And because of this, you have to follow the rules. If your Groupon says that you must call 24 hours in advance to book an appointment, it’s usually because only certain technicians are eligible for that deal and you must book with them. And chances are your Groupon also says that you must present your deal at the beginning of a service. Pulling out your deal after a haircut with a top master stylist that you had to book two weeks in advance to get in with? That just doesn’t fly. It usually ends up being a bummer for the guest (who ends up having to pay full price) and for the business (who usually ends up having to deal with an upset customer) when it could have just been avoided in the first place.

Do: Accept No When Management Won’t Make An Exception

A common occurrence when I run a deal for my salon is that large parties will try to redeem a deal for each person who attended the party. So, a guest will contact me to schedule an event and I will get an event contract from them, holding their reservation. The event will come and seven ladies will show up and get their makeup, hair, and nails done and have a few drinks at the bar. When the party is over, they will head up to the front desk and proceed to hand over seven deals to check out. Cue the madness. I’ve been yelled at, cussed at and threatened for not honoring deals in this scenario. Clearly, these ladies haven’t read the guide on salon etiquette. Even when their deal clearly states that it must be referenced when booking appointments and turned in at the beginning of the service, that groups of more than two cannot use deals for their party, and that only specific technicians are eligible for the deal. Grown women who are respected in their fields and social circles are suddenly disrespectful and catty while speaking with me. Now, how fair is it to go around all of these rules that I’ve asked to be followed and then yell at me in my salon when I tell you that I can’t break them? Please, before you cause a scene, recognize that you are the one that broke the rules. And asking me to go around them and throwing a tantrum when I don’t is just embarrassing you.

Do: Tip Appropriately

When a salon runs a promotion, no one sees money from it. And that’s fine because we’ve signed up for that. But just to give you a little bit of understanding: we already have to discount our services 50% or more to run the deal and on top of that, the company we ran our deal through will take up to 60% of what we bring in. Meaning that if we sell a blowdry deal for half off what we typically charge ($20), our deal company will take $12 of that, leaving $8 to divvy up between salon and staff member. We’ve been lucky in my salon that the majority of our promotional clients usually end up tipping well and becoming regular customers. But on the occasion when a stylist has spent an hour perfecting someone’s hair on a busy day (and only seeing $3-4 for the service) and that guest walks out without leaving a tip (or leaving $2), I believe that’s just in poor taste. Your stylist is taking care of you, so take care of her. She’s discounted her services and is willing to take virtually no money in order to give you the chance to sit in her chair. So, if you had a great experience, tip her the recommended 10-20% on the full value of the service.

Don’t: Lie About Why You’re In The Salon

Promotional deals are great for so many different reasons. They allow those on a budget to receive a $150 massage for $50. They allow you to try a service or new salon without the risk of spending hundreds of dollars to do so in case you don’t love it. And for hairdressers, they allow us the chance to book fresh faces to sit in our chairs. Your hairstylist (or masseuse or nail tech) has discounted her services almost entirely with the only reason being the chance to see a new customer. She values the opportunity to open up her chair to new guests so much that she’s willing to do a service for a just a few dollars on a slower day.

In light of this, please be honest with your hairdresser. If you are only in the salon because you want to have a new experience, then tell her. If you plan to never come back and this was simply just a treat, tell her. If you have recently moved and are looking for a new hairdresser, tell her. When we run promotions, we understand that there will be those guests who just want to try us out and don’t have plans to come back once that color is truly going to cost $200. And that’s totally fine because that’s what we’ve signed up for in running a deal. But our main goal is to see some retention and if we know you live in Texas and don’t plan on coming back to Denver anytime soon, we probably won’t push for you to come back. It’s not that you won’t get amazing treatment, it’s just that we will be realistic when speaking with you about a return visit.

So, I’m curious. Hairdressers, do you agree? What scenarios have you run into? And for those who have used a promotion here or there, what have you found that helps or hurts the process?

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