Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow
June 6, 2010 1:12 PM   Subscribe

My stylist wounded my ear. What should I do about it?

I was getting my hair cut yesterday when my stylist, who seemed tired and distracted, slipped and snipped my ear with her scissors. It didn't hurt at first, but my ear was bleeding pretty heavily. Clearly panicking, she apologized profusely, ran to get band-aids, bandaged my ear and then apologized some more, reassuring me that not only was this haircut free, I would be guaranteed "free haircuts for life" from her.

For the rest of the time we spent together, she was obviously freaked out. Since it didn't seem to hurt much and I know that ears are prone to bleed heavily even when they're lightly nicked, I made light of the situation, trying to set her at ease. When I left, of course I did not pay for the haircut, but feeling bad for her, I left her a $20 tip at the front desk.

When I got home, I realized that the cut was worse than I thought. See pictures (warning: these are gross) here and, after I showered and washed all the blood off, here. A med student friend told me it looked like she had cut to the cartilage and that I might want to consider stitches since a good bit of skin was missing and it will take a long time to grow back. A pharmacist reassured me that as long as I keep it clean it should heal up on its own. Either way, whereas before I was ready to laugh it off, now I'm kind of pissed. This thing hurts, it's inconvenient because I sleep on my side, and it's a pain in the ass to keep cleaning it and re-bandaging it.

I'm considering getting a doctor's opinion about what to do medically, and I'd like your opinions on that, but I'd also like your advice on what I should do about my stylist and the salon she works at. I don't want to get her in trouble, but if I end up requiring stitches, should I get the salon (or her) to pony up for my co-pay? Or should I take her seriously about the "free haircuts for life" thing? Is it ethical for me to approach her for multiple free haircuts in exchange for my pain and suffering? Is it even plausible that an employee of a corporate salon would be able to offer such a thing? Should I approach her management or should I keep it between us? Is this something I should address legally? (I'm not inclined to do so.) What would you do?

For what it's worth, I believe her when she says she's never done this before and I am pretty damn sure she will never do it again. Thanks for your advice MeFi.
posted by Lieber Frau to Health & Fitness (37 answers total)
She made a mistake, but if it's going to cause you pain and cost you money, then something could be worked out between you and this stylist. This could very well mean free heaircuts for life. It could mean getting a lawyer. It's your call. If it were me I'd see if it starts to heal and go from there. If it heals pretty well, I'd chalk it up to a horrendous mistake and maybe go to another stylist. Even that might be extreme. It seems like a one off..
posted by marimeko at 1:18 PM on June 6, 2010

Put yourself in her place and treat her the way you would want to be treated. Most questions like this can be answered that way.

If your insurance will cover it, then what is gained by going after her or the business. If you can't handle the copay, then asking her to cover it would be appropriate, if she can't/won't then you could ask the business.
posted by HuronBob at 1:18 PM on June 6, 2010 [24 favorites]

If you want the opinion of another med student.... (IANAD etc...)

The before looks gruesome, and seeing that much blood can be very scary. And if you're at all concerned, it's a good idea to see a doctor.

But from the second pic, it looks like a small (.5 cm?) nick. Admittedly, I can't judge depth too well, but from what little I see it doesn't look like she went deep enough to hit cartilage. Also, anecdotal reports from friends seem to indicate that wounds to ear cartilage tend to hurt.

If it was my ear, I'd probably freak out, then wash it off, put some bacitracin or neosporin on it, loosely cover it with a small piece of gauze and make up a good story about the pirate battle I was just in. "Arrrr, you should see the other guy!"
posted by ladypants at 1:29 PM on June 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

I would recommend seeking a free consultation with a lawyer to determine a few things:

1. What is the statute of limitations on any claim you might have? In other words, how long do you have to decide what to do?

2. What is the likelihood that you would be able to get more compensation via legal process than by simply letting your insurance take care of it? For example (all numbers completely hypothetical): suppose your insurance pays $1000 in medical bills. Then suppose you sue and win, say, $1500. Your insurance has the right to take $1000 of that $1500 to recover its costs, leaving you with only $500. In a typical contingency fee arrangement, your lawyer would take 1/3rd of the award, or $500 in this case, leaving you with no more money than you had when you started and minus a lot of wasted time and animosity with your stylist. So you'll want to figure out just how likely or even possible it is that a lawsuit or settlement would gain you anything.

A competent personal injury attorney should definitely be able to answer the first question quickly and for free. He or she should also be able to give you a reasonable sense of the answer to the second question as well.
posted by jedicus at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2010

On second thought, everything I said above, but definitely see a doctor. It will put your mind at ease, and the doctor can give you stitches if you need them. In the mean time, keep doing what you're doing - keeping it clean etc. It sounds like you've been doing a good job taking care of your ear.
posted by ladypants at 1:34 PM on June 6, 2010

She made a mistake. I do agree with HuronBob, I bet right now she's afraid she's going to get fired if you go to her boss. However, you can still talk to her if just to make yourself feel better or to get the salon to cover some of your costs, or get a couple free haircuts for pain and suffering. What more to do depends on how much is this bothering you. From the amount you write it is definitely bothering you, and you need to do something to resolve it, so what kind of action is going to make you feel better?

From your pictures I think having a doctor determine whether you need stitches is a good idea, minimize scarring. Even if they say no, it's worth it. Generally my rule is that if I think I need to see a doctor then I should go.
posted by scazza at 1:35 PM on June 6, 2010

Sorry this happened to you; I always wonder how often this happens with stylists! From the photo it doesn't look like the sort of thing that can be, or needs to be, stitched. Clean it daily (gently) and apply some bacitracin and you should be fine. If you do have complications with healing or get an infection, you definitely should be compensated by the salon, so it's probably worth letting management know now that this happened, just in case.

As far as the free haircuts thing...I would just go to a different salon, to be honest.
posted by tetralix at 1:41 PM on June 6, 2010

In my opinion, free haircuts for life is a non-starter. She wants to make it right and you should let her do that, but after some time has passed - six months, a year? - continuing to ask for free haircuts is likely to create strain in your relationship, since your appearance will be a reminder of The Incident, and every free haircut you collect is another signal that you haven't yet forgiven her. To prevent resentment you'll probably just tip her really big, which means the whole exercise is pointless.

Recouping any medical expenses is fine and reasonable. Beyond that, you don't necessarily have to press the matter, especially if you feel this was a fluke and not indicative of some kind of incompetence that needs to be exposed. Either you're wounded and you feel you are owed damages, in which case you can settle for a monetary amount and find a new stylist; or, you're willing to put it past you, in which case you can forgive your stylist and stay with her, maintaining and perhaps strengthening the relationship you already have.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:43 PM on June 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

Is it possible you could just forgive her? I understand your irritation and anger at the situation, but as long as you're not permanently disfigured, perhaps forgiveness is the most human route.
posted by madred at 1:43 PM on June 6, 2010 [29 favorites]

[Aside: If you want to sleep on that side of your head at night, lay a neck pillow on your bed and sleep with your ear in the opening. I've done this after getting my ears pierced and when I get earaches.]
posted by deadcrow at 1:46 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

My hair is cut with a straight razor, and years ago my stylist nicked my ear. It looked just like your first photo before I cleaned it, and just like your second one after washing off the blood. I put some Neosporin and a band-aid on it, and it was fine. I paid for that haircut, and paid for all subsequent haircuts.

I do remember that I assured my hairdresser that I didn't have any blood-borne diseases, as I would guess that they get cuts on their own hands pretty frequently, and there was quite a bit of blood to clean up. I didn't want him to have to worry. Ears are amazing: Lots of blood, but little feeling in them.

My thinking was/is: People are human, and they make mistakes. I wasn't really injured -- an ear piercing hurt worse and went through my ear instead of nicking it. Some days, I make mistakes, too.
posted by Houstonian at 1:49 PM on June 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

You know, IANAD, but the only thing that might be a bit of a concern is if it gets infected. The issue is that you can't really see the cut clearly, but redness, swelling and/or oozing would be the presenting signs of a skin infection. Especially if you notice worsening in the next 24-48 hours, you need to see a doctor. And as the above poster suggested, neosporin and/or bacitracin are your friends.

Perhaps you could also find out the cost of the doctor visit and ask her to pay for that, even if in kind. If the visit is $200, and haircuts are $50 a pop, you can ask for that. That sort of thing seems more fair to me.
posted by anitanita at 2:05 PM on June 6, 2010

I've had ear nicks too. It happens. If she cut the cartilage or you need stitches, I would let the stylist know. But, I would not get a lawyer and not sue. It is your call. If you have health insurance and it is covered, I would let it go. If you have to pay, let the stylist know. You could ruin her life if she gets fired. Of course if she is a serial ear-nicker, you might be doing society a favor. I am of the "shit happens, stay calm and carry on" school.
posted by fifilaru at 2:15 PM on June 6, 2010

Most often, liability insurance includes a modest "medical pay" coverage that will pay out of pocket expenses, without requiring a lawsuit or proof of fault. This is the kind of thing that that coverage is made for.
posted by megatherium at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2010

You should know that most salons have liability insurance for just such a thing. You should absolutely go see a doctor, pay your co-pay, and keep the receipt. Especially given your description of your stylist's freakout, it seems unlikely that she is bloodborn pathogen certified and properly cleaned and dressed your wound. Go soon - ASAP - because if you get an infection, your cartilage could collapse, or worse. I've seen infected cartilage, and it can get nasty. I don't mean to scare you, but seriously, go to a doctor.

Then, after seeing your doctor, go to the salon, and talk to the owner. Let them know that you understand that accidents happen, but this accident has cost you blood, skin, and money. Bring in photos, the co-pay receipt, and a medical opinion written by your doctor, and ask them to reimburse you for your medical bills.

If you tell them that you don't intend to sue, but would like remuneration for your medical bills, they will likely cut you a check on the spot. Their liability insurance covers this.
posted by juniperesque at 2:32 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you get stitches and your insurance finds out how it happened, they may want to go after the business for what they paid out, but they also might not. Honestly, I wouldn't make a stink about it if you have health insurance, other than maybe asking to be compensated for your copay. Keep in mind that if you ask for any compensation, you will have to stop going to that hairstylist because then shit will be awkward.
People who are suggesting suing are maybe getting a little out of hand. Not to mention that even if you did, unless she's a really high-dollar stylist or the beauty shop has an employer relationship to the her and she doesn't just rent a chair or whatever, you probably won't get much money out of her.
posted by ishotjr at 2:36 PM on June 6, 2010

*meaning if you sue for more than just your actual costs, and try to get some kind of other damages.
posted by ishotjr at 2:37 PM on June 6, 2010

IANAD, IANYD, etc, etc. As a former firefighter/EMT, I can say two things. The photos look like very superficial cut (although I am sure it hurts a lot) and, after 24 hours it is very unlikely that sutures would be indicated. I notice that you have had your ears pierced. The injury to your earlobe in either case has been about the same although, because of the way the cut angled across the surface if the skin, it bled more than the puncture wound that a piercing really is.

I would do as others have said and keep it clean, use a good antibiotic ointment and watch for infection.

Now, about the stylist. Does she do a good job on your hair? If this hadn't happened would you continue to see her? If the answers were yes, do nothing more than return to her next time and reassure her that everything turned out OK. Accept an offer for one more free cut, but then no more. Enough is enough. If you can't forgive her for this mistake, do not return to her. Small mistakes (and in the scheme of things this is one) are not the basis of a windfall for anyone, nor are they the reason to harbor hard feelings.
posted by Old Geezer at 2:42 PM on June 6, 2010 [12 favorites]

I would go to the doctor and if it is okay from a medical point of view, I would let it drop and get a new stylist.

I am not a hairdresser and this is all based on my observations as a recipient of haircuts, but I cannot imagine that a) they make enough money to make any sort of legal action meaningful and b) her boss would not immediately fire her and just get a new person in there. If you like this person even a little, that would be kind of a harsh thing.
posted by winna at 2:47 PM on June 6, 2010

Do note that if you (ever) think you might need siches, most docs won't do it after 12 hours since they don't want to seal up any accumulated nasties in there. Urgent care places (not ERs) are good for this type of thing on the weekends. If you think you need medical help with this, there's no good reason to wait.

If it were me, I would probably ask for her help with any actual expenses (like a copay if you get checked out), trying not to get the salon involved, and do my best to take a few big deep breaths and accept that shit happens. Sorry about your ear- what happened sucks.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:52 PM on June 6, 2010

Is it even plausible that an employee of a corporate salon would be able to offer such a thing?

They could be free for you but she could pay for them. Corporate wouldn't care as long as somebody paid.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2010

I would see your GP ASAP about woundcare.

In order to avoid scarring / infection:

- you may need the wound professionally cleaned and dressed.
- you may need stitches
- you may need antibiotics

I would ask the hairdresser to reimburse you for any out of pocket costs for seeing the GP.

Then, I would ask friends whose haircuts you admire for recommendations to a new hairdresser.

I would never consider sueing, unless the GP told me I was likely to suffer hearing loss (which it certainly doesn't sound like will be the case).

I would also never, ever go back to a hairdresser who had injured me like this.

I would calmly and politely tell the salon manager why I was not coming back - not to get the stylist fired, but to make sure that all the salon staff get basic safety training in the hopes that this doesn't happen again. You have an ethical duty to your stylist's future customers.
posted by Year of meteors at 3:04 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I disagree with all the people saying get a new stylist - if you are happy this was an unfortunate accident and are generally happy with the stylist why change?

These things happen. I had a stylist once nick the side of my neck cutting my bob when I moved unexpectedly. The look on her face in the mirror was priceless, whilst she was waiting to see if I would blow up or not. This was somebody with at least 20 years experience, who gave me beautiful haircuts and it never occurred to me not to go back to her.

It is inevitable that people using things like very sharp scissors/razors/hot straightening irons near your skin will sometimes end up hurting you inadvertendly, not because they are incompetent but because they are human and misjudged things, failed to anticipate your sudden movement or were slightly distracted for one reason or another. Have you never cut your finger chopping up veg? By all means ask to have any actual costs re-imbursed but if it all heals nicely over the next few days I'd personally just forget about it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:43 PM on June 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

I agree with what most people have said about seeing a doctor, recouping any out-of-pocket costs and not suing. Unless she is absolutely the most amazing hairdresser you've ever had, I would not go back to her. She may never cut your (or anyone else's) ear again, but you will always be nervous around her and vice versa. Getting your hair cut should not be a nerve-wracking experience.
posted by desjardins at 3:55 PM on June 6, 2010

I definitely think her boss needs to know, and I'd find a new stylist.

Last time I took my 10 year old for a haircut the stylist nicked his ear. He freaked out - he is fascinated/terrified by the sight of blood. I had to fill out a form, and of course she apologised profusely. I was more distracted by keeping my kid calm than anything - and after the fact, it hit me that it was pretty crap that I still had to pay for the haircut - though I didn't tip, ha, which isn't very proactive, but ah well. It was a chain, and about a month later I got a letter from corporate basically saying that they were sorry and concerned and it would never happen again, couched in all that disclaimery legalese that doesn't ever quite take responsibility. It was more annoying than anything else, because it's not like the boy liked haircuts before, and this didn't help. We'll definitely never go back there, and I still wish I'd at the very least refused to pay for the haircut. But personally, I don't think it's reasonable to expect much more than that.
posted by lemniskate at 4:01 PM on June 6, 2010

I've been getting great cuts from my stylist for 15 years, and she's never drawn blood. So that's one point. Which is to say, regardless of her energy level, yours completely f*cked up, and ineptitude needs to be factored in.

But if my stylist did cut me? I would totally forgive her.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:03 PM on June 6, 2010

Please do not sue this woman or the business she works at. You got a cut on your ear. That's scary! and serious! But it is not a life threatening injury. Feel free to attempt to gain recompense for any medical expenses, but beyond that you're looking at ruining one or more peoples livelihoods over a small injury to a non-essential part of your body.
posted by GilloD at 4:29 PM on June 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you didn't get stabbed in the chest or anything. You got a tiny boo boo. Punishing or taking advantage of people for the innocent mistakes they make is really not cool. She's probably panicking, and suffering a lot more distress about her future than you are about your ear.

Take the free haircut. If she's a good stylist, keep going. If she's a bad one, go elsewhere.

Lawyering up? Jesus, no. WTF?
posted by klanawa at 4:39 PM on June 6, 2010 [13 favorites]

This is simply a combination of things other people have said, but I'll go for it anyways. FWIW, I have had my ear sliced multiple times, though never quite that bad. That's what I get for having random people cut my hair for the past 8 years, none of them paid.

My rule of thumb for questionable injuries is to see how they change over a couple of days. If it gets better for 48-72 hours, I wouldn't worry too much. Hell, you're getting close to 36 hours now.
As to the stylist, please don't get a lawyer and sue this person. Hell, I personally wouldn't even tell the salon. It's much easier for me to live with "possibly aided and abetted serial non-threatening ear cutter" than "screwed over a person's job history/credit/etc. because they made a more or less trivial mistake." If the cost of any medical treatment becomes non-trivial, I would contact her and ask her to pay (in cash or barter, if you'll let her do your hair again).
posted by yeoldefortran at 4:49 PM on June 6, 2010

You got a botched haircut on the worst day of this woman's professional life. One day, you're going to ruin someone's wedding photos, or overwrite their ecommerce database, or cook them a meal that gives them botulism, or whatever the worst case scenario looks like in your particular line of business.

Humans are fallable. I encourage you to treat her as you would want to be treated in the same circumstances. "There but for the grace of god" and all that.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:16 PM on June 6, 2010 [9 favorites]

Came here to say what klanawa said.

Lawyering up? Jesus, no. WTF?

Leaving satisfied.
posted by liquado at 7:08 PM on June 6, 2010

Clarifying one point. When I asked about the possibility of seeing a lawyer, I didn't mean "Should I seek punitive damages through a court of law?". I meant "Is there any reason I should see a lawyer in case this needs to be documented for insurance purposes or some other reason I might not be thinking of right now?"

I realize my stylist is only human, and this was a mistake. I'm not interested in punishing her.
posted by Lieber Frau at 7:20 PM on June 6, 2010

Then just let it go.
posted by gjc at 7:26 PM on June 6, 2010

If you have health insurance then you don't have to worry - scrapes, cuts and trauma are covered by every policy I've ever encountered. No need to see a lawyer.

On the off chance that you don't have insurance, and are hoping to be compensated by the salon's insurance for paying a doctor out of pocket, I would say see a doctor first and ask questions later. The doctor can document the injury in case you need to do any legal wrangling.

But I don't think you need to do any legal wrangling. If you don't have insurance, you can go to a doctor, clinic or hospital that will see you on a sliding scale. If you let me know where you are, I can probably find a good place for you. (I know several good places in NYC.)
posted by ladypants at 7:40 PM on June 6, 2010

My new mantra in the case of other people's mistakes is What Would Armando Galarraga Do?
posted by scody at 8:36 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Go to a doctor. Next time you go in, let her know you saw a doctor and that it is healing/healed up fine, and that you appreciated the offer of "free haircuts for life," but how about just doing X amount of haircuts. Enjoy a few free haircuts, and then resume your normal relationship with her.
posted by studioaudience at 11:23 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

A hairdresser at the mall nicked my ear when I was 7. She apologized profusely and gave me $4 in arcade tokens (a minor fortune at that age). I started to wish that more stylists would cause me to bleed.

It appears to be a non-rare occurrence.
posted by yeti at 2:35 PM on June 7, 2010

« Older Is Neil Worth It This Time Around?   |   Great list of independent publishers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.