A few days ago, Eric Philips from WSB-TV in Atlanta reported on a nail client who was charged an extra five dollars for her service because of her weight. You can read the news story and view the original news report here.
Kim Tran, the salon’s manager, told the reporter that it wasn’t about discrimination and that their pedicure chairs can’t hold more than 200 pounds, leading to expensive repairs if the chair is damaged due to weight exceeding the maximum capacity. Michelle Fonville, the nail client, was not told about the overcharge until after payment.
This story has lit up the message boards, has surfaced on major news channels, social networking sites, and forums, and has lead to negative comments on popular review sites like Yelp, all of which will most likely hurt Tran’s business.
What can you do to avoid a situation like this? Here are a few ideas to think about.
Pedicure chairs are sturdier than you’d think. Phuong Le, general manager of LC Corp., says he has never heard of a case like this before. “The average pedicure chair holds a weight of around 300 pounds,” says Le. The maximum capacity listed in a pedicure chair’s owner’s manual is a safe estimate to help prevent legal actions against pedicure spa chair manufacturers in case the listed maximum capacity was compromised. This means chairs can hold a little more weight than listed without damage. Make sure you read the owner’s manual for weight limits and for other important information regarding maintenance and sanitation.
Your clients should be your highest priority, and that includes everyone who walks through that salon door. If for some reason you feel that someone should not be serviced, whether it be for medical reasons or due to their weight, they should be pulled aside, away from other clients, and then informed of the reasons why they can’t be serviced as politely as possible. Under special circumstances for clients who may be overweight, Le suggests to “tell them the specific weight capacity of the chair and let them decide whether or not it would be safe for them. Never tell someone they are overweight or too big to sit in a chair.”
NAILS editor Hannah Lee says, “It’s your responsibility to offer an alternative to service all clients — including larger clients or those with disabilities.” Read her take on this story here. She has also posted a great article on tending to plus-size clients.
Don’t hide your charges. If you feel the need to charge someone extra because you may need to use extra products or spend a little longer on certain problem areas, inform your clients ahead of time or right before beginning the process. Then let your client decide whether or not they want to continue with the service. It would be difficult to retain a client who is upset by paying more than she intended for, and it may be difficult for your business if your angry client decided to share her story with others. It is not OK to charge someone extra based on their appearance or their weight.
If you feel the need to hide certain charges, you may need to reevaluate your prices because you might not be charging enough for your services. The price should take into account the cost of your products and expenses, including the wear and tear of your salon furniture.
Update your nail techs about your salon’s policies. Tran told the reporter she would not have taken Fonville as a client in the first place had she been there when Fonville entered the salon (although there are better choice words to use in this case). Consider having a group meeting with your fellow nail techs to discuss the best practices within your salon so that policies are enforced uniformly within your salon. Also, clearly post your salon policies in the waiting room or near the reception desk for your clients.
It’s all about respect, respect for your clients and respect for yourself. Tran’s story shows us how costly it can be with little to no communication. If nothing else, I hope you take to heart the best practices to help your clients feel comfortable and secure within your salon. Lessons learned for one salon.