Did I handle this hair coloring fiasco appropriately?
February 27, 2018 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I went to a professional hair salon for a hair color. After botching the color, two stylists promised they would do everything they could to get it to the color that I asked for. I paid the first time plus a generous tip, did not pay the second time (and was not asked to), and they tried to charge me the third time but I walked out without paying again after a long argument. Did I handle this situation appropriately considering the entire context?

I had several positive appointments with a stylist, we’ll call her Bridget, who highlighted my dirty blonde hair. Recently I decided to try going a natural auburn red. Think Jessica Chastain, Sophie Turner, or even Isla Fisher. Sophie in particular because she is a blonde that went to a pretty auburn, so I knew that color change was possible out of a bottle. So I texted Bridget with pictures of my hair and pictures of their hair and asked: "Would you be comfortable attempting this hair color? If not it's totally fine." She said she would love to do this and set up an appointment.

The morning of the appointment, Bridget texted me to say she was sick. I could either reschedule the following week or could switch to another colorist—we'll call her Rachel. Now I was a little nervous about jumping to a new stylist. But I also wanted to keep my original appointment time. I asked Bridget point blank: "I don't know Rachel. Are you sure this color change is something she can handle?" Bridget replied: "Rachel is fantastic! She will do a great job."

And so that afternoon I went in to become a redhead. Needless to say, Rachel ruined my hair. Despite going through pictures and making a plan and talking about don'ts (specifically NO "candy red" and NO "maroon" hair), she went ahead and put 6R fill and 6RK on top. The swatches show this is candy red maroon hair all over. I expressed concern as she brushed on the liquid and she assured me that it would turn out the color I wanted. Of course, as she dried the hair, it was straight up bright purpley-red. Rachel promised to do whatever was necessary to fix it and to get in touch after the first wash. I paid in full plus a generous tip with the assurance that this was going to be fixed.

After the first wash and even brighter color, I texted Rachel saying we needed to fix this now. She didn’t respond for roughly 24 hours. So I texted Bridget and said, we need to talk about this and get the owner of the salon, we’ll call her April, involved in this mess. I'm not sure that April was ever looped in, but Bridget scheduled an appointment for me the next day with her to correct the hair.

During the appointment we discussed what went wrong. I even asked if there was some better way I could have communicated with Rachel. Bridget said I had done what I could, and that Rachel shouldn't have used the colors she did and maybe Rachel was spacey because her cat had just died. Bridget seemed confident that she could fix my hair and did a bleach wash and a new color. She said, "you will walk out of here with the color you asked for!"

This time the color wasn't purple but it was RED as in The Little Mermaid red. I very clearly stated that this color did not meet expectations. Bridget said that of course I would not be charged for the correction, and that after a couple of weeks she would try again. In the meantime, I texted her several times with pictures of my hair to keep her updated on the progress. About a month later when the red had faded as much as it was going to fade, I asked: "When can we finally get this to the color I asked for?" And we set up an appointment.

Third time’s the charm…or so I thought. Somehow she gave me Little Mermaid hair all over again with a dash of Pippi Longstocking. I declined styling or a trim and thanked her for her time. "It's clear to me at this point that you've done what you could, but we're just not going to achieve the right color, so I won't ask you to spend any more time on this."

And then, as I'm walking out, she tells me to wait while she totals up the service. Totals up the service? I thought it was EXTREMELY clear that we were fixing Botch #1 and Botch #2. I was doing them a favor by walking out with Botch #3 and offering to live with it. I mean, what was I supposed to do with this hair color? The first two botch jobs had not faded naturally at all (they went a sort of pink). Now I have a head full of RED RED RED hair that won't fade well and won't bleach out to my natural color. Either I accept looking like a freak, or I spend hundreds to thousands at a new salon, or I cover it all with a dark brown I don't like and have to constantly dye my light regrowth, or I chop all my hair off.

April, the salon owner, was there and passed the buck back to Bridget. She rents out booths to these hair girls and apparently leaves it at that. She asked where the color correction contract was. Which apparently is a thing that covers their butts but that neither stylist had me sign. So then I'm talking to Bridget about what we can do and she's offering to discount the service but clearly still expects me to pay for this hot mess.

I say: "I don't want to be confrontational about this, but there are two things that can happen here. Either you comp the service that I already understood was the continuation of an attempt to fix a previous mistake—and you keep my business but we don't touch this particular red hair again. Or I pay you whatever you think you are owed, but you lose my business and I post a clear and honest review of the salon including pictures of my hair. I like you and in the past I think you've done a fine job, but this is simply not a hair color that I would ever agree to purchase."

It went on back and forth about this for a while, to the point where she started to blame my hair for the color saying "your hair is weird and no one could achieve the color you wanted," but finally said that she would prefer the comped service over the poor review.

I still feel so icky about this situation. But I don't see a win-win scenario here. If I had caved and paid, eventually I would have demanded a refund or posted a poor review. But now I've lost a positive business relationship with a stylist that I liked, and can't ever go back to that salon. Should I have done something differently? Was I too harsh or not harsh enough?
posted by ticktickatick to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The final link is a pic of Sophie Turner?

Standing up for yourself always feels weird, even when you are used to it. They are 3,000% in the wrong. You lost more than them, none of those results are acceptable auburn.

What color did you start out with? What is your base color? What other recent chemical treatments did you have before the initial appointment to dye your hair red?

If you do not get asked those questions by the next stylist, don't let them correct it. You need an actual professional colorist now.
posted by jbenben at 3:14 PM on February 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

Nobody should ever have to pay to have a stylist correct a color mistake. You may have lost the positive relationship with Bridget, but not because of anything you did. If you still think it's a good idea to go back to Bridget, contact her privately and ask how she feels about your coming back. If you don't get an enthusiastic, "I'd be very happy about it," find someone else. (Really, I know how hard it is to find someone new.)
posted by wryly at 3:15 PM on February 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

Holy wow they messed up that colour. And your hair is so long, too, so the ends look a little fried from all the bleaching. Good on ya for documenting the steps. I think you were more than reasonable and frankly if I wanted "natural auburn" and got those results I would be tempted to take them to court to pay for the fix (at a high end salon). Definitely don't go back to that place! I even think it would be reasonable to ask for a full refund for the first time they coloured it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:31 PM on February 27, 2018 [15 favorites]

Agreed that you feel icky because standing up for yourself is hard. You were absolutely right not to expect to pay for this disaster. I don't know what you should have done differently, if anything. (Maybe have listened to your gut and not gone to Rachel in the first place? Assuming your gut was speaking up...)

I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by purple_bird at 3:32 PM on February 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

There is no way in hell I would pay three times for hair that makes you so unhappy. I wouldn't even pay once. You were very clear in your brief of what you wanted it to look like, they were very clear in assuring you they could do it, then in promising to correct it. Instead they probably damaged it by processing it so often at they should be paying you for destroying your hair, not the other way around. You have handled the whole thing impeccably.

At this point I would refuse to pay and go elsewhere because they're so bad at their jobs and unprofessional there's no way I'd let them near my hair again. Comping you is the very least they can do considering you now have to pay another hairdresser AGAIN to fix their mistakes.

If your hair was so weird and impossible to colour, why did the hairdresser assure you that she could do it? Either she's incompetent at assessing hair that can be coloured or she's incompetent at actually colouring but either way, she didn't do her job and should be accepting blame for turning you into Ariel.
posted by Jubey at 3:33 PM on February 27, 2018 [22 favorites]

I think you handled yourself fine under the circumstances. None of these attempts look remotely natural, much less even near the hue you came in wanting. You have blonde hair. If they can't take you from natural blonde to a subdued, natural red look like Sophie Turner then they don't know what they're doing. The only thing I'd say is that I personally wouldn't have gone back in for a third time. I'd have cut my losses (terrible pun, sorry) at that point and put out the call to friends to get me to one of their trusted colorists ASAP. Sorry about this; hope it's not going to impact your professionally, or something, in the short term. Hair is so personal. You did the right thing.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 3:36 PM on February 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

Photo #3 could not POSSIBLY be further from Sophie Turner and there is no way in fucking hell you should have paid for that. You did exactly right and I admire your ability to stick to your totally righteous guns.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:44 PM on February 27, 2018 [28 favorites]

Yes, you handled this totally appropriately, and I seriously cannot believe how badly they screwed up. I have dirty blonde hair and I've achieved better results with $5 box dye from CVS. And I am not good at hair. A professional should know better, especially when you went to so much effort to be clear about what you wanted. They're lucky you paid once, and it's outrageous that they would ask you to pay for either of the "fixes".
posted by goodbyewaffles at 3:47 PM on February 27, 2018 [13 favorites]

I think I see all the ways they went wrong. You are a light brown/blonde, right?

There's a demi permanent super easy toner I like to use when I fuck up my color called U Color Umberto Beverly Hills. It smells great and you can get it at beauty supply stores or on Amazon. You shampoo it in and it fixes everything like magic.

Back when you had lighter natural hair, I would have recommended the 8.40 Color to get you to Sophie Turner, but those days have left us. THIS IS OK. THIS IS STILL FIXABLE. Were I you today, I would apply this toner every few weeks as the red washed out to get me to something natural.

If you're still this red, you could try the 7.0 or the 8.0 to tone out the brassiness. Or just keep toning it every few weeks with the 8.40 until the other red washes out more. The 6.0 looked interesting, but it will probably leave you closer to dark brown. But it fades fast. You can keep tweaking it until it washes out to the right shade.

You could have your hair stripped and corrected, but it will be very damaged. As it is you need 3" to 5" trimmed off the ends. I would keep putting mild toner to counteract the fakey red instead of stripping it all away, but you do what makes sense...

WAIT! Just call Umberto on the phone and email them pics of your color journey. They will tell you EXACTLY what to do. My guesses were 6.0, 7.0, 8.0, and or 8.40 for final color. Let me know what they recommend!

The good news is red fades fast. Try the U color. Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 3:48 PM on February 27, 2018 [29 favorites]

I support you on not paying. I suspect the damage was fully done the first time when Rachel put the 6R on your blonde hair. From what I've learned conferring with my stylist (have been dying my hair for decades), your desired color was probably more in the range of a coppery 8 mixed with a 9 or 10 blonde close to your dirty blonde color. A 6 is so dark! I get colors in the 6 and 7 range and I consider my hair fairly dark (medium dark brown.)

She also applied the color so unsubtley - no highlights, or balayage. It doesn't look natural at all. WTF was she thinking?

Once that dark maroon was on there, I don't think there was much they could do to lighten it and make it more copper and they should not have claimed that they could. I'm not sure how persistent red is, but I have been getting part of my hair bleached out and dyed blue, and when we do touch ups, the bleach removes my natural color easily but can't fully remove the blue hair dye. I suspect even a full bleaching, which would kill your hair, would still have left it a pink color, which isn't the base you want for a sunny copper color.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:53 PM on February 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh God no--you don't need to worry about handling it differently. They should be paying you, or at least thanking their lucky stars you graciously haven't yet insisted that they do.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:01 PM on February 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

I would have strangled them with my bare hands so I think you did fine. I've had copper colored hair for years and I am a natural brunette, it is no problem for a good stylist. That is a total hack job.

I will say that I've had so many problem with hair color that I won't go anywhere that the owner doesn't work on my hair ever again.

Also look up "bleach shampoo", you can get most of the color out at home. Stripping won't work, I guarantee it but bleach shampoo and Oleaplex plus a trim should get you back to a workable base color to re-dye it with minimal damage. ANY stylist should know that
posted by fshgrl at 5:11 PM on February 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Seconding Olaplex 3 for your hair going forward, if you're not using it already. The shipping from the site is very fast and it really works to keep colored hair strong and soft.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:37 PM on February 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Some observations:

1. What’s the number one reason to go to a professional rather than spending 1/20th as much on box dye at home? Professionals always warn you that you’ll get nightmare results if you DIY your haircolor, and then you’ll need a pro to correct it anyway. Could you have landed further off the mark if you’d gone to the drugstore, blindfolded and high, and dyed your own hair with whatever you picked out?

2. The salon promised how many times that they could deliver the results you wanted? And they have yet to deliver one satisfactory attempt? But you’re already out the money for one service and they tried to shake you down for two?

3. Both stylists over-promised and under-delivered, more than once, and then the owner played dumb, and now they’re insisting your hair is to blame? Please tell me the salon’s name is Look What You Made Me Do, Inc.

4. Your fear of going back there ever again is well-founded — not because you damaged a great business relationship, but because no one involved is good at their job.

5. You would still be well within your rights to leave a negative review — other customers have a right to know. Did you ultimately communicate with April in writing? It sounds like the most recent discussion was in person, but it would be wise to get all of this in an email thread.

Hairstylists have it rough, I know, and cat death absolutely is a tragedy, but none of this was your fault (nor your hair’s).

Give them one more chance in writing to apologize for the miserable treatment; if you really want to play hardball, ask them to refund the first bill, too, because you would HATE to have to dispute the charges with your credit card company. If they try to discuss it over the phone/other channels, insist that they reply in-line. If they still won’t cooperate, go nuclear with your reviews.

There’s nothing they could do at this point to regain your trust/loyalty anyway, so please don’t feel obliged to negotiate that point. As my mother always said, some people should never be allowed behind your back with access to sharp objects.

Good luck. Give them hell.
posted by armeowda at 5:38 PM on February 27, 2018 [10 favorites]

Been there. Done that. One even gave me streaks of a colour I did not ask for to "surprise me." You did nothing wrong. Just because confrontation feels horrifying, it doesn't make you wrong.

You asked for a certain colour. You didn't get that colour. They made excuses and tried to blame your hair. They should own it. You are a customer. You let them know what colour you wanted. You didn't get that colour. That is all there is to it. You go to alter your appearance that you want, period.

Redying so many times in such a short amount of time makes damage, and you will most likely have to lop the dry ends, and maybe go short to start again, and they would have to know it.

They may not invite you to their next birthday party, but I'd be too scared to see what would be in that loot bag. Go easy on yourself. Being assertive doesn't make you bad. Good luck with your hair.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:41 PM on February 27, 2018 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Here are my sweet hot roots she didn't bother to blend this last time either. Gosh I feel like an idiot for paying the first time.
posted by ticktickatick at 7:24 PM on February 27, 2018

Oooh! The color in that pic is workable towards your goal! Make sure you send that to the Umberto team to get a recommendation. The U Color will blend your roots. Good luck!

PS - this is why I do my own color. you are not stupid, they are.
posted by jbenben at 7:57 PM on February 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

No, you were correct in how you handled it.

To give you background on the current, horrifying state of the salon system, it's true that in most scenarios the owner rents stations to the stylists with no responsibility for the quality of their work, and that peer to peer recommendations come with no guarantee for the quality of work.

That said, your original stylist never should have offfered to correct it if she could not, indeed, correct it.

The good news is that, in spite of the grounds you were negotiating with in the moment, you don't actually have to return to the original stylist again.

She shouldn't refer a peer if she isn't confident about the quality of work. The color change you were seeking was not difficult and could have been achieved with minimal damage.

The fact that she asked for payment for the third non-correction shows she doesn't have good judgement. I wouldn't trust her with any further work.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:52 PM on February 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Holy shit. This is what happens when you let your girlfriends dye your hair during freshman year in college, I can' t believe a professional did this. Yeah, I think you were absolutely in the right to not pay for either fix. Things just got worse and worse.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:00 AM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think from your point of view, what you did was reasonable. You are not responsible for the insanely shitty system of how hairstylists are paid.

From Bridget's point of view, she has done possibly 6 or more hours of work (which meant she passed on paying clients for that time) for free, for a mistake that was not hers. In addition, she had to spend her own money to pay the salon the rental fee for her chair. With the 2 appointments, Bridget may have lost hundreds of dollars of her own money. She shouldn't have recommended her friend and the owner (who is truly responsible) should have paid for the corrections.

The only thing you could have done to deal with this structural unfairness would be to threaten April with the bad review, and insisted she comp or pay Bridget for the time she spent trying to fix the mistake of another stylist that April vouches for by keeping her in the salon.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 1:31 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

You would have got better results with a box job from a drug store. I wouldn't have even paid for the first one. On the rare occassions that I have got my dye job from a salon, they've always shown me the swatches first and got my approval before putting it on my hair.
You did nothing wrong
posted by missmagenta at 1:38 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think you were too nice. No way in hell would I have offered them the option of any payment at all for treatment #3. In fact, I would've asked for my money back from treatment #1. You didn't get the service you asked for (AND you're going to have to spend a lot of money elsewhere to fix it!)
posted by sunflower16 at 1:40 AM on February 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Just joining the pile-on here to also assure you that you handled this correctly. By paying for the lousy job the first time with the expectation of a fix, you took the ethical high ground. You paid once. You were under no obligation to pay further. In fact, I'm shocked the woman who botched it the first time didn't offer to perform an immediate correction or pay to send you to the salon of your choice to get it fixed.
My stylist once goofed on my hair color, and she wouldn't let me leave the salon until she fixed it - and then she comped everything on that visit as part of her apology for putting me through it all.

Incidentally, you have lovely hair. I'm sorry the color didn't work out for you at all, and I have no idea how it works with your skin tone. Color's a very personal preference, but from what I can see, I hope for you that it is just wrong as in not your choice, and not that it looks bad on you.

Years ago, in a fit of economy, I allowed my sister to trim my hair for me. I have long straight hair, and it was just a trim, so she couldn't botch that, right? Well, she did, and spectacularly so. At work the next day, as word spread, people I didn't even know were coming down from the uppers floors to get a look at it. That's my most painful botched hair memory - especially since, as I have long hair, after the trim and the resulting cut/fix, it took the better part of a year to get it back to how I usually have it.
posted by Lunaloon at 6:33 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a blonde with copper hair (and I've been light auburn in the past) using box dye, and I am just MYSTIFIED at they were doing. The color you actually wanted is...just...not difficult. No, you should not feel bad about refusing to pay for their very weird attempts at correction.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

See all the above comments. Just want to support you in your assertive handling of this.
(although I wouldn't have paid for the first color, let alone gave her a tip--you're a nicer person!)
posted by BlueHorse at 9:16 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the way you handled this situation was appropriate, and I think the salon should not have tried to charge you for the third attempt. But I do wonder one thing-- how did you verbally describe the color you wanted to the substitute stylist? Did you start out by saying "auburn"? Technically, auburn hair is medium-to-dark brownish-red hair. It seems from the celebrity examples you shared that what you actually wanted was a color that is more usually described as light auburn, auburn-blonde, or light copper-colored red hair.

This in no way excuses the outcome you had-- color terms are not precise, which is why stylists show swatches or pictures; what color you truly wanted should have been abundantly clear to the substitute stylist once you went over pictures with her, and if it wasn't, she should have asked more questions before she got started. Besides, that first color you wound up is definitely maroon not auburn, and does not resemble any natural red hair color despite your being very clear that you wanted a natural color. The only reason I bring it up the auburn v. light auburn / copper distinction is that it may help your communication with your next stylist if you specify from the start, and keep repeating, that you want light auburn hair.
posted by BlueJae at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2018

Adding to the echo chamber - you did nothing wrong.

I had almost exactly this happen to me, I showed my trusted, longstanding hairstylist a picture of what I wanted, asked if she thought it could be done with my hair, she said sure, it was a disaster. I ended up with crispy, brittle, breaking hair that was 2 inches long in spots. She tried to fix it for free, it was better but still nothing like what I wanted. And as much as I liked her, and the work she did OTHER than The Disaster, I never went back.

I would get recommendations for another stylist, or if you really liked Bridget, do as suggested and ask her how she would feel about you going back. For me, the degree to which my disaster was COMPLETELY not what I wanted, gave me the ick about that stylist, and I just didn't trust her anymore. I mean...I showed her a picture, and she did NOTHING LIKE what I showed her. Which is what happened to you, MORE THAN ONCE. Now since Bridget didn't cause the initial screw-up, I can see you might want to go back to her, but...

You weren't in the wrong at all, I love the wording you used, it was fair and reasonable and much less confrontational that I probably would have been.
posted by biscotti at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2018

The only thing I would change is that reviews are not punishment or reward for good service, and shouldn't be threatened.
posted by wnissen at 10:56 AM on March 1, 2018

Response by poster: This in no way excuses the outcome you had-- color terms are not precise, which is why stylists show swatches or pictures; what color you truly wanted should have been abundantly clear to the substitute stylist once you went over pictures with her, and if it wasn't, she should have asked more questions before she got started. Besides, that first color you wound up is definitely maroon not auburn, and does not resemble any natural red hair color despite your being very clear that you wanted a natural color. The only reason I bring it up the auburn v. light auburn / copper distinction is that it may help your communication with your next stylist if you specify from the start, and keep repeating, that you want light auburn hair.

All good points. Both Bridget and Rachel called it "copper" colored hair, so I think they got it and just could not execute it. I live in an area saturated with blondes, and on further reflection I don't believe that either of these stylists had actually dyed anyone's hair any shade of red before, ever. The most I got out of Rachel for why she dyed my hair maroon was that she "was afraid it would come out too orange." Yes, well, copper is a type of orange...

The only thing I would change is that reviews are not punishment or reward for good service, and shouldn't be threatened.

I stated that I would make public my experience at a place of business. Whether that occurs through word of mouth, or flyers, or the newspaper, or on Google.com, that is my right and I can remind a place of business that their actions may influence a customer one way or the other. The definition of the word "threaten" includes hostility, and I do not believe I was hostile in my wording or in my demeanor. Your comment reminds me of eBay's feedback policy—however that is their particular setup in their microcosm of trade. In typical society I don't think it is considered hostile to mention the possibility of bad press.

Besides, if my hair was a "beautiful shade of red" that is "trending right now" as they were claiming, having pictures posted online of my gorgeous hair was hardly a threat.
posted by ticktickatick at 4:26 PM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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