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We Canadians care a lot about our hair. Seriously, a lot. Recent estimates show that we spend about $1.6 BILLION on products and salon services annually. So, whether you’ve had the same style for the last 20 years, or you change your colour with each passing season, you likely have a stylist that you’re very loyal to. But, what happens when your love affair goes south as a result of a botched cut or colour? We decided to investigate the relationship between stylist and client to help us all navigate the sometimes-murky waters of salon etiquette.

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Most of us would never think twice about returning a shirt that didn’t look as flattering on us when we tried it on at home, but is that an acceptable way to respond to a less than stellar haircut? We asked stylists across the country, and here’s what they said:

Yes, BUT…

Toronto’s April Maloney works at the famed Brennen Demelo Studio and says, “yes, but let the stylist try to correct the problem first. If the client is not happy with the second or multiple attempts to try to fix it, then offer them a refund.”

Chris Greene has worked his magic on clients in Halifax, Toronto, and now at Mêche Salon in Beverly Hills, but his philosophy on refunds remains the same: “I think the client should first come back in and talk with the stylist and see if they can fix the problem before it gets to a refund stage,” he says. “It’s all about good and clear communication, right from the start. Bring pictures and always make sure you and your stylist are on the same page, to prevent things like this from happening.”

Saskatoon-based pro colourist and educator Kassy Moen Froehlich says a refund is rarely an option for her clients (except for rare cases of irreparable damage), but that’s because she makes a point to guide her clients to make the best choices for their hair. “I would say 90 per cent of hair colour re-dos have nothing to do with colour formulation or technique. Most re-dos happen right at the beginning of the appointment during the consultation! It’s at that time that the stylist and their guest come to an agreement on what is going to happen during the service,” she tells us. “That’s when timing, price, maintenance and REALISTIC end results are determined. For example, if a guest has dark brunette hair and is wanting to go blond, it’s the stylists job to make it clear how many appointments may be needed to achieve that particular level of blond.”

What if you get what you asked for but HATE it?

So, what about those situations where we desperately wanted Victoria Beckham‘s long bob, only to discover after our stylist created the perfect replica on our head that there’s nothing ‘Posh’ about it…because it doesn’t suit our face shape? We got exactly what we asked for, but ended up hating it. Do we still have to pay full price?

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The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer from Chris Green explains why: “If you give the client exactly what they ask for and then they decide they don’t like the look on themselves, that is not the stylist’s problem. That’s not about your work, but more about the client’s own feelings about the look they chose. At this point the client should have to pay full price if they would like to change what has been done to their hair. Not to sound harsh, but you can’t order a Big Mac, eat the whole thing and then ask for a McChicken instead, for free!

Dartmouth, NS stylist Cailean Canning agrees: “I always try to give my clients exactly what they ask for. When they leave loving it, and then return asking for something different, they will need to pay the difference for the changes we make. For example: if you ask for partial foils and then decide later you would prefer a full head, you will have to pay the difference when you come back.”

No one wants to see you cry

The last thing any stylist wants is for their client to end up in tears in their chair, which is why clear communication and photos (always, always, bring photos – from all angles, if possible) are essential. Stylists typically depend on referrals, so they will do everything they can to make you happy. They would almost always rather give you a free spin in the chair than lose you as a client altogether. This doesn’t mean you should take your relationship with your stylist for granted, though.

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A little can go a long way when you are asking for a re-do. Tipping on these free services is definitely welcomed, after all, they’re losing an opportunity to fit in a paying client. But, going a little bit further might just get you an added bonus, as Toronto’s Erica MacDonald found out: “I brought my guy a Starbucks latte and he was quite happy with me. My hair is super straight and there were a few flaws in the cut. He could see them when I walked in and he fixed it and gave me a credit for a free blow out.”

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Ultimately, you are free to ask for a refund, but you may or may not get it. Being courteous and reasonable will always get you further than yelling profanities. Stylists are people, too, and they too have had bad haircuts and can appreciate how much your hair means to you. If you’re not sure how to handle your next appointment, take a second and think: “what would Erica do?”

It might be the difference between tears and an unexpected perk.