‘Salon Chair-Hopping’ Should Be Okay

About five years ago, I worked in one of Atlanta’s most popular salons at the time. The owner was talented and had a huge clientele. My station was right next to hers, where I learned a lot – from the good and the bad.

One of her clients was one of Atlanta’s top television news anchors. Unbeknown to me, for several weeks this woman watched my work and my decorum with my clients every time she came into the salon from the owner’s chair.

One day, she stopped me near the bathroom and told me that she admired my talent at styling and cutting hair and my professionalism. She noticed that I serviced my clients with respect and they were in and out of the salon in a timely fashion.

I was flattered. Then she hit me with a bombshell: She wanted to switch from the owner of the salon to me.

I was excited and nervous at the same time – excited about the opportunity, nervous about how the owner would respond.

Now, this should have been a rather easy thing to do. As a paying client, you have every right to have your hair done by whomever you like. It is your right.

But, as was the case I experienced, it was so much unnecessary drama. I first explained to the client that she MUST have a conversation with her stylist. The client did the right thing – she told the owner that she wanted to make a stylist change and had identified who that person would be to execute it.

The owner asked, “Who is it?” When told she wanted to switch to me, someone who worked in her salon, she lost it. I was accused of “stealing” her client and immediately kicked out of her salon.

I was disappointed. I considered the owner a friend and was surprised she went to such an extreme because a client made a choice that she had every right to make.

I learned a lot from that situation, first and foremost that a client is your client only when she’s in your chair. That’s it. She has every right to go wherever she desires, and stylists have to respect that.

That news anchor – who continues to be serviced by me all these years later – did the right and mature thing. She approached the stylist about her concerns and let her know why she was moving on to someone else.

No matter how talented you are as a stylist, you just might not be right for everyone who comes to you. I have built an enormous clientele over the years. But there have been some ladies that were not totally pleased with my work. You can try your hardest, but as a stylist you will not be able to please everyone. You have to accept that. And you have to accept when you see “your client” in someone else’s chair. Again, it’s her right.

Get What You Deserve: Salon Etiquette, the Column

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At my salon, Like The River, I have actually encouraged women I have serviced to try another stylist who might have an expertise in what she desires. I explained why a move would benefit her and then I introduced her to the stylist to initiate the change.

That eliminates any awkwardness that the client might feel. We all have experienced being in someone else’s chair wishing we were in another stylist’s chair. But we were so mindful of hurting feelings that we stayed where we didn’t really want to be.

That has to stop.

The best way for a client switching stylists in the same salon requires maturity and understanding on both parties. First, the client has to have a tough but necessary conversation with the stylist. It should go something like this:

“I really appreciate your work with me and my hair. Thank you. But I have been thinking about a change. I want to do something different and I want to give (fill in the blank) a try. I’m hoping you will introduce us so there can be a smooth transition.”

At that point, it is the stylist’s professional obligation to give her blessings and assist her. It might not be easy, but it is the clients’ right to come and go as she sees fit.

So, the stylist’s response should go something like this:

“I’m sorry you aren’t happy, but I’m grateful for having the chance to service you. And thank you for being up front with me. (Fill in the blank) is very nice and talented and I’ll be glad to introduce you. And if she has any questions about your, hair I will help her any way I can. “

Of course, as a client, sometimes you might not feel it’s necessary to explain anything when you switch stylists. You’re a paying customer and it’s your right. It’s not the best approach, but you can move on as you see fit without being made to feel uncomfortable by the original stylist.

I have had clients end up in someone else’s chair. To make sure they do not feel awkward, I go over to them, smile and speak to them, easing their discomfort.

It’s a delicate balance that has to be managed with maturity and professionalism – on both sides. But if approached the right way, which is upfront and with tact, the switch should be anything but an awkward experience.

Najah Aziz is the owner of Like The River The Salon in Atlanta, which has been ranked the No. 1 salon in Atlanta for two straight years—and one of the top 100 salons in America by AOL.com. www.liketheriver.


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