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How To Know You’re At The Wrong Salon

I was talking to a new client the other day, and she said she had been going to the same “shop” and seeing the same hairstylist for more than a decade. She did not feel like it was the right place for her, but she continued to go, like a routine.

Finally, at the behest of a co-worker, she ventured from her usual. And she said when she walked through the doors of my salon, Like The River The Salon in Atlanta, she knew she had done herself wrong for so many years.

Through our conversation, I learned that she did as many clients do: settle for the uncomfortable instead of seeking the best.

And it made me think – there’s really a short checklist that clients can go through to determine if they are spending their time and money at the wrong salon. I say wrong because it’s easier to identify the wrong place for you than the right place

So, here we go. You’re at the wrong salon if. . .

  • Your mere presence is not appreciated. When you walk through the door, you should be greeted with a “hello” and a smile. A great hair experience should begin with you feeling a sense of appreciation that you are there. So many times we have people representing us at the reception desk that wear attitudes and frustration on their faces. But when you are coming to a place to spend your money, you should feel welcomed, not like you’re an inconvenience.

We offer and provide drinks – water, juice, hot tea, coffee and on Friday afternoons a special little something-something – chocolates and pastries. It’s a way of showing appreciation and helping to let clients know we are glad they are there.

Sometimes that feeling of appreciation should start before you even get there. When you call the salon, the person on the other end must be upbeat and helpful and not impatient and rude. If you leave a message after business hours, that call should be returned promptly. When it rings during the day, it should be answered.  Period.

And throughout your visit other stylists and staff – not just your own – should smile at and greet you – a way to show that we’re glad you are here. In the end, it should be a place you would be comfortable coming, even if you were not being serviced.

  • You call the place to get your hair done a “shop.” There is a difference between a “shop” and a “salon.” At a shop, you tend to feel like you’re at a nightclub or some other rowdy place with the local radio station blaring “Bees In a Trap” and other party songs.

A salon makes you feel like you’re at a spa. The music is trendy and upbeat but smooth and comforting. Of course, this is a philosophical position. I just believe you’re at the wrong salon when you cannot find it peaceful and calm because too much of our everyday lives are filled with work, kids and other responsibilities that a client should show up at her salon and almost breathe a sigh of relief when she enters the space.

It should be a place she would be proud to bring her mother or close friend to show off and not a place of inappropriate conversation or somewhere where you are harassed by outside solicitors trying to sell you perfume or handbags or slices of cake.

The other part that distinguishes a salon from a shop is the overall environment. You’re in the wrong salon is the place is dusty and trash is on the floor or the bathrooms are despicable.

If you’re like me, a bathroom should be spotless and kept fresh. It should be a showcase of the salon because we have our very private moments there. We like to burn candles throughout our salon and especially in the bathroom to advance that spa feel.

  • You leave the salon unhappy with your hair. That is a big and common problem – women pay for hair services then get home and have to “fix” it themselves. Not good.

If your stylist does not have the talent or willingness to learn how to execute what you desire, then you’re at the wrong salon. She should be on the cutting edge of trendy styles that compliment your face and your lifestyle. She cannot get into a rut because she’s been doing hair since high school and after 15 years just going through the motions and not being creative with your look.

You should see in your stylist an enthusiasm about her job, an excitement about enhancing your beauty. And every so often you should hear from her that she will not be available on a particular day because she’s attending one of the hair shows or taking a class in cutting or coloring.

I paid for celebrity stylist Keith Campbell to come from New York to Atlanta to give an all-day class on cutting to my staff. It was inspiring. But a few of my stylists were not so excited; they assumed because they had been in the business for so long they did not need someone to show them how to do their job. Well, they were in the wrong salon; I eventually got rid of them.

What if your doctor decided he didn’t need to learn about new advances in medicine and did not read industry magazines or go to physician conferences? Get my point? I serviced a salon owner last week and when I asked her if she attended the hair shows – which have classes on every aspect of the business – she said, “No. I know I need to but I just haven’t.”

Again, not good. So, it is important to ask your stylist about what she does for continuing education. If she does not have an answer of substance, you very well could be at the wrong salon, which means you should seek the right salon.

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

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