I ask out of shear politeness
October 20, 2014 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I have a few questions about hair salon etiquette...

I love having a new haircut, but have always hated the experience of getting it cut. A large part of this is some of the gray areas of etiquette that I'm hoping you can clear up for me:

1.) Is it rude to hop stylists when going to a small- to medium- sized salon? (Say, a place that employs anywhere from three to thirty stylists.) For instance, if I see someone a couple of times and decide they're not right for me, can I request someone else the next time I call without seeming like a total jerk?

2.) Is it rude to decline the requisite massage that so many places do these days? As bizarre as this may seem, I loathe massages.

3.) Is it rude to not enthusiastically pursue small talk the whole time? For instance, I will chat when the stylist seems chatty, but I don't go crazy trying to keep a conversation going, and often end the session in silence as he/she blow-dries my hair.

4.) Tipping: how does it work? It's easy at a place where they allow you to add a tip onto your credit card bill, but several of the places I've been to lately do not allow this. Do I just discreetly slip a bill to the stylist and/or shampooist after they've finished with me?

5.) I had to cancel the night before a long-awaited hair appointment at a salon I've been wanting to go to for ages. (Car broke down on the freeway about 90 miles from home.) I haven't tried to schedule another appointment as I worry they might hate me there. Am I being overly paranoid?

(I hope it's okay to mush these several questions together under the umbrella of a single question.)
posted by whistle pig to Human Relations (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1)Fine to change, previous stylist should be professional enough not to be rude.
2)You're the customer, not rude to decline.
3)You don't have to talk, I think stylists are likewise gauging your chattiness, just trying to be nice.
4)Yep, slip them a bill or ask the person checking you out what to do.
5)They probably schedule hundreds of appointments a week. Don't worry about it.
posted by momus_window at 6:35 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it rude to not enthusiastically pursue small talk the whole time?

No, I don't talk to anyone besides the pleasantries until I've known them awhile.

Tipping: how does it work?

If it's the kind of place where you pay the receptionist up front (and not your stylist), you can pay her with credit card and then separately give the her a bill with instructions to give it to your stylist. Or, if your cut was $32, give her two twenties and tell her to give the change to your stylist.

I haven't tried to schedule another appointment as I worry they might hate me there. Am I being overly paranoid?

Did you call or just not show up? If you called, then it's no big deal unless it's a repeated behavior.
posted by desjardins at 6:36 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

My own .02 from being a person with hair who goes to a salon:

1) No. It can be awkward, but this happens. A lot. Any decent salon will not make you feel weird about it.

2) No. You might offer a little white lie about an injury or something that makes you not want to get your neck massaged to avoid a long explanation about not wanting massages. But no, definitely not rude to say "no" to this. It's a service - not a requirement.

3) No. I'm sort of the same way. I figure stylists are often glad for a little quiet time.

4) I'm not sure - I've always added it to the credit card bill or given extra cash at the end to the counter person with instructions that it was for my stylist.

5) Don't worry about it. If they had a strict "missed appointment policy" you would know about it. If not, just forget about it.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:38 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

1. No. They're professionals, it shouldn't be an issue.

2. I decline all the time. "no thanks, massage isn't my thing."

3. Not always. I had a stylist who didn't like to talk. Husbunny sleeps through his haircuts. They usually pick up what you're putting down. Also, they may PREFER you not chit chat, because it's hard to be on all the time.

4. You usually know what the haircut will cost, so have the tip ready to go. As they hand you off to the cashier, hand them the tip and say, "thank you, I love my 'do!"

5. You are being paranoid. It's not a problem. There was probably someone who was DYING to be worked in. Just reschedule.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:39 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my experience:

1. No--if you're not happy with your cut/color/style, a good stylist won't mind. They want you to be happy!

When you call to make an appointment, just let the receptionist know, like "Kitt hasn't worked out for me the last few times. Is there someone who does great work with curly hair/super long hair/feathered layers?"

2. No--just say something like, "I'm not feeling like a massage today." You don't have to elaborate.

3. No. I like talking with my stylists, because I've been seeing them for quite some time. But if I'm not in the mood, I tell them: "I'm going to keep it quiet today--I had a long night/I just don't feel up to it/I haven't had my coffee yet."

4. Most salons will have little envelopes where you can put your tip and then write the stylist's name on the envelope. The front desk will hold them for you, or you can walk back and give it to your stylist. I think most stylists appreciate cash.

5. Just call them and see. Chances are everyone is entitled to one cancellation without being put on some sort of naughty list. I wouldn't even mention the first cancellation.

The thing about salons is: It's all about you. At least, it should be. A good stylist at a good salon will be focused on making you feel good and look good. They'll keep notes about your preferences, what was done last time, your specific color formulations, and other details.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:39 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I experience a lot of the same awkwardness! They are probably used to people hopping stylists. It does feel a little weird because there is kind of a social feeling to the relationship but I am sure they would rather keep you as a client. The tips thing, yes, you'll have to arm yourself with the right bills. And cancelling an appointment? Hey you didn't just not show up.

The only one I think there are varying opinions with is the chatting. I have friends who work on their laptops while getting their color done. I go through emails on my phone. My stylist is nice; I know a lot about her and we catch up but I don't want to talk the whole time. Everyone is different of course but I don't think most stylists want to talk all day long; it must be exhausting.
posted by BibiRose at 6:43 AM on October 20, 2014

1.)Rude? no Awkward? Maybe, but unlikely to bother the stylist past the 1st time.

2.) No, it's part of the service, so you can decline.

3.) TBH, like others have said, the stylist probably welcomes the quietness. Asking the same questions for a days worth of customers can be tiring

4.) I usually just say, can you give €x to [insert name] when paying at the front desk

5.) If you called then they won't hate you. If you didn't call and it's the first time it happened then they prob don't remember you. If you have done either of these several time then you may have a name in the salon since it's not nice to be messed around
posted by MarvinJ at 6:47 AM on October 20, 2014

Even if both of you were the chatty type, it's hard to keep a conversation going with a blow drier in your ear anyway. So that part I extra double wouldn't worry about.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:15 AM on October 20, 2014

You are the client, they are a business. You can hop around all you want. You can sit quietly if you want. You can request no massage. It's all okay. Some stylists prefer not talking, it gives them a little break. If it isn't easy to tip, then don't. They will figure it out eventually. I usually have a $5 bill handy for my shampoo lady and I don't tip my stylist because she owns the salon. I've had to add the tip to my credit card before, no big deal. I've also forgotten to tip (oops) and they still treat me well. Salons have many clients who cancel for lots of reasons, they won't hold it against you. Also, know that if you are as big of a pain in the butt as you imagine yourself to be, they will stop booking you. You will call and ask for an appointment and nothing will be available for 3 months. So, I think you are fine. Take a load off, it's not as bad as you think. :)
posted by myselfasme at 7:31 AM on October 20, 2014

1. This shouldn't be a problem. As others have said, they're professionals. If someone wants to be unprofessional and complain about this, that is not your problem and not the sort of place I'd want to give my hard-earned cash to.

2. Nah, decline away. They'd be happy enough not to have to do it. You wouldn't be the first.

3. This isn't rude. My hairstylist and I get along like a house on fire and there is zero silence as she cuts and styles my hair. But we have known each other for eight years and share a lot of mutual friends. I have noticed that there is significantly less conversation between some of the other stylists and clients and that seems fine too. They'd probably be relieved to not have to make small talk.

4. Just tip cash directly to the stylist if a tip line on the credit card/debit machine isn't an option.

5. There's a wait list at my salon, so a cancellation the day before wouldn't be a big deal. No shows are a bigger deal because they lose out on a client for that time period. Not sure about the salon I go to but my massage therapist has a "get out of jail free" card for one missed appointment. After that, you pay for the missed appointment. If they blacklisted everyone who missed a single appointment, they'd probably alienate a lot of clients.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:45 AM on October 20, 2014

I have similar feelings of anxiety regarding hair salons, as well as a few hairstylist friends. I've asked them the same question before about whether it's rude to not be chatty or further still, outright ask in some way not to have to chat.

They both told me that it was quite fine, they adjust to their clients demeanour as necessary and don't hold it against them.

(For my part, I still find it a little awkward to just seem to ignore the efforts of someone trying to small talk me, so after running it by those two stylist friends, i've taken to bringing a book with me and asking at the beginning of the session 'Pardon me, would you mind if I read while you worked?'

If they're a particularly intimidating/forbidding stylist in some way, I might add 'I'm trying to finish it in time for my book club' and that seems to smooth the way.

Perhaps something like that might make it easier for you to ask for no chatting?)
posted by pseudonymph at 9:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm not surprised to find that I was overthinking everything.
posted by whistle pig at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2014

Glad you found some answers. My wife owns and works in a salon, so I have a bit of third-party experience with this.

1. Switching stylists - not a big deal. When people call in for an appointment, they are asked if they have a request. Feel free to tell them you saw "Susan" last time, and she did a great job, you're just looking to change it up. They will gladly switch you, and any decent salon will let the previous stylist know.

2. Massages are a big part of the "new" salon experience. By all means decline if you'd like, and the entire point of good customer service is to handle those situations with grace and ease.

3. Stylists deal with people of all levels of talk through the day. I'm sort of like you - perfectly fine to continue a conversation during a haircut, but I won't go out of my way to keep talking either. The ability to read someone's comfort level is a big part of working in a salon, and adapting to that.

4. Tip by credit card, tip by cash to the stylist, or tip cash to the receptionist for the stylist / shampoo. They have systems in place to handle all of the above without question. FYI, places who don't have a tip line on CC receipts are likely trying to get tips in cash - those are easier for employees to keep without reporting for tax purposes. Not saying you should judge them or the salon poorly, but that's the reason. Also, the conventional wisdom for any business is "don't tip the owner." My wife has a handful of clients who follow that, but most tip her anyway (some know she's the owner, some don't). She doesn't take it personally when people don't tip for that reason, but doesn't refuse the tip either. I personally tip regardless of the person being an owner - they performed a service, and that's why I tip.

5. You called to cancel - trust me, no-shows are the annoyance to a salon, not a cancellation. They don't even remotely care, either filled the spot with a walk-in or called someone who was waiting for an appointment on that day or time. If you want to schedule another appointment there, go right ahead. They will be happy to take your business. Now, if you make two or three appointments and miss them without calling, that's when a salon will put a note in the system about it.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

01) not sure, my initial reaction would also to be just never going back there because of the awkwardness potential, so I feel fairly good about seeing everyone saying it's not a big deal

02) nah, it's always okay to set physical boundaries

03) not at all, sometimes I fall asleep, sometimes I chat, sometimes I read.

04) I pay at the front with my visa and then go back through the salon to cash tip the shampoo lady, my stylist, and whoever did my blowout.

05) you are definitely overthinking! cancellations are normal and acceptable, and I doubt anyone would even remember if you called back for another appointment.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:50 AM on October 20, 2014

Hi! I'm a hairdresser. Here's what I think, which'll echo much of the above:

Feel free to see the stylist or colorist that best suits you. Til you find that person, feel free to hop around. Don't feel weird if a previous stylist smiles at you, says hello, etc.

I hate massages, too! No, seriously, the more you speak up about your preferences, the happier I feel that I'm meeting a need.

Some clients are far chattier than others. When I'm doing something complex or loud, I actually prefer quiet, so I can concentrate. If you also prefer quiet, feel welcome to look at a magazine, close your eyes, etc. It might be comforting to know that when the dryer's on, it's incredibly hard to hear you, anyway -- we're standing behind you, with a loud thing, and your voice is traveling away. It can be frustrating to try to converse under those conditions.

For cash tips, some places have little envelopes where you can leave them. Put your name on the envelope! Otherwise, you can just shake your stylist's hand or give her a hug or a high-five or whatever and hand her a folded bill. She'll be graceful about it. If you've had services from an assistant, you can either find that assistant and do the same or else give the desk or stylist a separate bill and specify who it's for. In higher-end salons here in NYC, the assistants are licensed cosmetologists and the full stylists generally share a percentage of the day's tips, anyway.

Your salon doesn't hate you! No worries! Stuff happens to everyone. People who chronically cancel or who are always late? Well, that's different.

Happy hair!
posted by houseofdanie at 11:25 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

1.) It might be awkward if it's someone you see regularly, but if it's someone who has seen you twice, they probably don't remember you.

2.) Not rude, my salon offers a facial and makeup touchup, both of which I decline because I don't care for the smell of Aveda stuff.

3.) I think this is a totally normal thing, especially since you can't hear anything when blow drying.

4.) Most places I've been to that have cash tipping have little envelopes at the front desk that you can leave the tip in. Otherwise, just go back and give the cash to the stylist. I much prefer the little envelopes.

5.) They probably don't remember you.
posted by echo0720 at 7:23 PM on October 20, 2014

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