Challenging Clients and the Lessons They Teach
Challenging Clients and the Lessons They Teach

Salon owners share the stories of their most annoying, crazy and ridiculous clients, including what those experiences have taught their teams. (Client names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Social Rants
“We have one guest, ‘Susie’ who did not like the haircut she received by one of our young stylists, and would not let it go. Our policy at Headlines is 100% guarantee and we do this by asking, ‘What is it we can do to make things better?’ Most of the time we redo our work to the guest’s satisfaction, but sometimes we just refund them, and that’s what we did in this case.

Nevertheless, Susie decided to go on a local network, Next Door, and her rant when viral with almost 400 comments about her ‘too short’ curly hair. After letting it go for a couple of days, I decided to share my side of the story. I explained our 100% guarantee and how we had refunded Susie, I shared we have been in the community for 34 years and see more than 1,700 guests a month, I explained that we are closed every Monday for advanced training, and I invited the Next Door community to visit Headlines’ Yelp page and read our other 572 reviews. But mostly, I explained that we are human and we make mistakes. 

The feedback from the community has been incredible. Many kind words were shared, a few wrote lovely reviews on Yelp,  I received flowers from two guests and Next Door sent us a ‘Neighborhood Favorite’ badge. So, I guess you can say we turned a bad situation into some great free publicity.”—Gayle Fulbright, Headlines the Salon, Encinitas, CA

Color Challenge
“The client we all remember most is someone who we finally asked to sign an agreement that she would never return. When she booked her first visit, she was looking for a retouch on her blue fashion color underneath, but once she got in, she decided she wanted a more dimensional color with blues, greens and purples, as well as a trim.  Her stylist said she only had enough time to do what she was originally booked for, but after the service, the client escaped to the bathroom, found another stylist and told her how unhappy she was with her hair, her cut and the color.  

I offered for her to come back in—we refunded half her service and agreed to correct her hair for free. When she came in, we had her sign a consent form, we took a before photo and had her agree to the expected outcome. As our stylist was lightening, she then started down the path of asking for more highlights throughout, and then she asked which color line we were using. We didn’t have all the colors in the line she wanted, so we were planning to use colors from two lines. She then complained, so I printed out another consent form, and told her, ‘This is what we agree on today, this is sounding to me like a liability and that you are looking to get another free service out of us. Since we have the lightener on, we will agree to get you to a blonde, but we will not be messing around with the fashion color. She then agreed she was ok with the fashion colors that we had in stock, let our stylist do his job and she left and never came back!
“Overall these experiences are there to help us grow and evolve, because of these challenging customers we have leveled up our client consultations.”—Fallene Wells, Let ‘Em Have It Salon, Denver, Colorado

Challenging Clients and the Lessons They Teach
Challenging Clients and the Lessons They Teach

Coat Conundrum 
“We had a woman who claimed ‘someone’ stole her coat from our coat closet during her service. When we asked her for the color and brand of her coat, she couldn’t remember. We invited her into the coat closet to look through all the coats and she kept insisting that it had been stolen. She left in a rage and called the police. When the police arrived, the woman suddenly remembered the color of her coat and found it in the closet, hanging where it had been the entire time. She had caused a huge and very unnecessary scene on a very busy day in our salon and screamed at our front desk team and manager.
“As a result, we designed a new system for handing coats. We created little tags, and each stylist has three hangers with his/her name and photo. Now, when a coat is left, we can usually identify who left it by a process of elimination.” –Ashley Hougue, Andreas Hogue Salon, Vernon Hills, IL

Let Me Help You Cut My Hair
“A guest I’ll call Monica was a few minutes late for her first appointment and promptly told me she would expect an extended amount of time for her service. She showed me many photos from magazines and kept talking about this shelf she wanted cut into her hair. I was only allowed to use certain products—no brushes and minimal styling with the diffuser. She expected to be dry cut after her style and she’d pick up random sections of hair and tell me to cut it. When I walked her up to the front desk, she prebooked her next appointment, to my dismay. About three hours later she walked in to show me how it had dried and what I needed to realize for her next appointment. 

“She was 30 minutes late for the next appointment, and by the time she walked in, I was working on my next guest and the front desk team tried to reschedule her. She was so adamant she must speak to me, she sat waiting almost two hours. She insisted she needed to be booked for two haircut times (90 minutes) for her cut, then another haircut time two weeks later to adjust said haircut, and she was willing to pay for the time. She would never try anything but Rosemary Mint shampoo because she was worried that the shampoo and conditioner would enter the mucus membranes of her eyes and destroy her brain. 

“We continued that way for more than a year. I always would be handed small or large sections and told to point cut them—I prayed she never told people where she got her hair cut. At some point, we began doing demi-root touchup. That meant I began seeing her every two weeks. She then wanted highlights/balayage but again we ended up having challenges around lightening her hair. It spiraled from there and I patiently tried to fire her as a client, but she refused. Finally, I had to escort her out and send her certified mail and emails to let her know she was no longer welcome. I know where she went for her next salon, and they only allowed her there for a year before firing her. I had stuck it out for six years, but enough was enough!”—Sarah McGee, Thirty Hair in Columbia, Maryland

Challenging Clients and the Lessons They Teach
Challenging Clients and the Lessons They Teach

OD, Oh No!
“The thought, ’This ambulance can’t arrive soon enough,’ kept running through my mind. Seconds seemed like minutes, and minutes hours. What started as a standard Saturday had turned into chaos. The client hadn’t seemed quite right during the consultation. Her speech was slurred, and she was all over the place about what she wanted. She slouched down in the chair during her highlights, and she was having difficulty keeping her head up. When I inquired if she was alright, she said she was just tired. I couldn’t tell if the booze smell was fresh or a day old, but figured, ‘Who am I to judge?’

“After about six foils, I noticed some foamy liquid seeping from the sides of her mouth. This time when I asked if she was OK, there was no verbal response. Instead, she completely fell out of the chair, ending up in a fetal position at its base. For a hot second, the naïve me wondered if she was having an allergic reaction, but clearly something much more was going on than a little day drinking. I tried to prop her up against the footrest of the chair, the foam began exiting her mouth at an alarming rate, and there was a foul smell. 

“’Call 9-1-1' I screamed to the nearest employee in sight. My assistant helped me get her to the couch, and a client had an ear to the phone giving the operator the salon address. I checked for a pulse and breathing and thought about what I’d learned in last year’s CPR class. Soon, two EMT saviors appeared. They took over, placed the client on a gurney and wheeled her out to the ambulance. The ambulance stayed in our parking lot for 60 minutes and we all feared the worst, but then one of the EMTs approached me as I was cleaning blood off the floor to tell me the client’s blood sugar had crashed on top of an opioid overdose, but she would be fine. 

"The next day the client called and ranted, ‘You left bleach in my hair and fried it off!’ There was no apology, no thank you for possibly saving her life. All she wanted to know was when she could schedule an appointment to fix her highlights.”—Jenny Carricato, Jenny’s Salon, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 

Defining Charlotte
“Using the word annoying to describe Charlotte would be like using the word scary to describe Mike Tyson. Her idiosyncrasies would cause most hairdressers to develop a sudden interest in becoming a dog walker. She’s an interesting combination of willingness, neurosis, kindness, fear, control issues, insecurities, beauty, gall, transparancy and amnesia. 

"First, Charlotte loves to consult. She wants to hear what you would do each time she comes in, yet drowning in an inch of water from the bottom of a glass is more likely that Charlotte agreeing to your vision. Second, what transpires next feels like a 40-minute dissertation on why you should be able to highlight her regrowth beginning at her brain and ending perfectly at each individual highlight that exists from the last time you did this dance. Third, Charlotte always disappears into the bathroom where she meticulously inspects her hairline and part. She emerges with her magnetic southern charm, smiles and asks for the hand mirror. For the next several minutes she painstakingly details each of your blunders. 

"My team has learned more about themselves because of Charlotte than many realize. She’s taught us to be kind to people. Make them feel important and good about themselves. Take responsibility for asking for what you want. Be willing to invest in building relationships. Be loyal to the people who help maintain the things you care most about. Be willing to pay for what you want. Don’t apologize for it, and don’t accept anything less. Charlotte has forced us to look in the mirror and deliver on all that we promise, and she does it every single time she comes in. 

"Charlotte has had 172 appointments and 332 services equaling $22,529.50 and bough 105 products equaling $2,806.11. She seen 19 hairdressers, and had 57 adjustment services (redos) since we opened in 2005. We did once suggest to Cheryl that she book her adjustment service at the same time she books her next appointment.
“Is Charlotte annoying? Is Mike Tyson scary? I’ll leave it for others to decide I’m just grateful they’ve both hung around long enough for me to learn something about myself.”—Bryan Nunes, Blo, Raleigh, North Carolina

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