I Regret Not Telling My Hair Stylist That Her Service Was Poor

One and a half hours late. Came in carelessly eating. Brought her daughter along. Best weave I’ve ever gotten. Worst service I’ve ever experienced.

And yet, I said nothing. Nothing to the stylist that I loved to death, but finally had it up to here with in regard to her poor service.

The plan was to speak up after she didn’t attempt to offer a discount for her tardiness. But nothing came out of my mouth. Not because I was afraid of her, I was afraid of criticizing her. Why? Because… she’s Black.

I didn’t want to feel like I wasn’t supporting “one of my own.” Am I the only one who’s ever felt like this?

Since then, though, I’ve wondered if my withheld constructive criticism would have been an opportunity for her to step up her game and possibly build an even bigger and better business like the one she constantly talked about having. Maybe, maybe not.

But I will say this: I felt guilty as hell about feeling upset at her service that morning. I didn’t like the fact that I wanted to tell her something not so positive about my salon experiences (yes, this happened multiple times).

Yet, the real question is: where did this guilt come from?

At any other “non-black” business or service that hasn’t offered acceptable results, l’ve had no problem offering a piece of my mind and have even demanded discounts when I felt the poor service warranted them. But the guilt I felt as I looked at her, knowing that she knew her service was terrible, kept me from doing the one thing that may have actually helped her down the line.

Word of mouth is usually how many businesses grow, especially small businesses. Stylists, especially Black ones, already don’t get the applause they deserve for the impact they have on women in general, but more importantly, women in the Black community. Think about how one of the best feelings in the world is after leaving the salon with your hair freshly slayed. Or, the release we get from having a much-needed conversation with our stylists, who sometimes feel like therapists too. We need our stylists, whether they’re in an upscale salon or inside of a home basement. They matter like hell. But, sometimes the Black salon can be one we walk into with excitement and walk out of with frustration. Not all of them, of course. But in my personal experience, more often than not I’ve found myself pleased with my hair but discouraged to patron again because of the service. And let me tell how scared I am to write this because the last thing I want to do is look down on our people. But something’s gotta give.

From watching customers come in after and leave before you (sometimes due to your stylist over-booking for the extra money) to tardiness, I’ve experienced the worst end of the Black hair salon stick a few times too many.

Of course, there are Black stylists who offer their clients top notch service day in and out all over the world. I can never ignore the Leona Wilsons and Amoy Couture’s of the Black salon world who are constantly raising the hair salon experience bar. Bless them, always.

However, I couldn’t shake the frustration I felt with my former stylist who just couldn’t seem to get it together.

Ironically, her weave was the best one I had gotten thus far. Her work, impeccable. After my visit, it only took a day for compliments to pour in from strangers who also asked for her information. But, I never offered it. And no, I wasn’t hating on her or trying to block her shine. I really want to see all my Brown girls win. But my goodness, I would feel so terrible sending people to a stylist who I knew would have them frustrated even if I never had to see any of them again.

Had her service has been on par, she would have automatically had at least 3 new clients. That may not sound like much, but to a stylist, it means something.

But let’s get back to the guilt that I’m wondering if any other Black women (or women of color) feel when our very owns’ service or business mannerisms aren’t acceptable. I spoke with a friend of mine who assured me I wasn’t crazy and that many of us just don’t want to hurt our #BlackWomenInBusiness. We also don’t want to come off as mean or catty or seem as though our critiques are coming from a please of jealousy. And why do we think that those receiving our criticism may think we’re offering it from these places? Well, because of society and the divide it’s tried to create between women, especially Black women. After my friend broke it down like that, it all made sense to me. The guilt I felt came from the fear of my stylist thinking that I didn’t support her or want her to do well.

Sigh.

I also think I was raised to accept that the reality of visiting the Black hair salon meant you’d pretty much be there all day and that complaining about it now is pointless.

We as a people still joke about this all the damn time and even shut down Twitter with our #BlackSalonProblems meme-a-thon.

But that ish’ isn’t so funny when you’re actually in the salon from 11am until 5pm, hungry and cursing under your breath as you watch every other customer come and go while you’ve been trapped under the dryer forever. Plus, I pay a good amount of money for my salon visits as most of us do. I really want and expect good customer service.

At this point, it’s been a few months since my experience and I can say that I’ve wanted to reach out and politely let her know how I felt from our last appointment. But I’ll be honest, I probably won’t. On one hand, I think its’ just too late and on the other, I still don’t really have it in me. It makes me terribly uncomfortable even thinking about saying something.

I can only hope that one day she’ll pull it together.

I do want to know what you all would do. Leave a comment below if you’ve had a similar experience and share the way you handled it.

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9 Comments

  • I’ve done much of nothing. I told my stylist I hate her shampoo girl and the next I came I needed her to wash and blow dry my hair. That next time came and I reminded her and she must’ve forgot because her heavy handed very rough not properly trained shampoo girl was in my head again. Just to add to the hours of sitting and waiting my experience starts off bad bcus im soaked from the water and with a headache. Thank God im natural and don’t have to come every two wks. I’ve actually tried another stylist and i like her. I don’t know how to tell someone to get their act together if they weren’t concerned with my first complaint.

    • Wow, this is interesting. It’s very hard to tell someone that their service isn’t the best. It good that you found a new stylist to go to. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Thank you for this beautifully written article. I am a hairstylist and completely understand both sides of the coin. However, we as black stylists need to work harder to change what our clients have grown accustomed to. Long gone are the days of the women who could sit in a salon all day!! Good help is def hard to find so I can have the volume I want because I don’t have the supporting staff. Instead of making my clients suffer I changed my business model.
    I think personal accountability is what will set you apart. As a stylist and a business owner if I know I’m not up to par I take responsibility. I also encourage clients to come to me with complaints. I don’t know if they always do but I’ve had a few. I’m not perfect. Complaints are hard to hear but doing what you can to make it right helps. Tell your stylist nicely how you feel! Help her better herself!

    • Hi Kimberly,

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment. I’m happy that a stylist such as yourself offered some insight to the Black salon experience. I think that we all want to really see our community of business owners grow and I hope that this article would never offend, but encourage us to do better as clients and stylists.

      xo, Melanie

  • I can totally relate to your experience. I spent almost an entire Saturday at the hair salon back in April and I haven’t been back since. She did an excellent job doing my weave, but the experience was absolutely horrible. To make matters worse, I ended up spending hundreds of dollars which I felt wasn’t really worth it (even though I was satisfied with my hair). If I’m going to be paying SO much money (money which I work DAMN hard for) I expect to not only leave the salon happy with my hairdo, but also happy with the overall customer service experience. We all work hard and want our money’s worth for what we pay for. I shouldn’t have to spend an entire day just to get my hair done. Either schedule your appointments properly so that your clients aren’t there all day, or just hire more talented staff. On top of the long waiting, I watched my hairstylist be rude to one of her staff and also roll her eyes at a customer who complained about the long wait. That’s NOT good customer service and people don’t want to pay for that regardless of how talented you are. I was so unhappy and uncomfortable that I probably won’t ever go back there again, which is unfortunate because she is really talented at what she does.

  • Hi, Krystle-

    Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your experience. I’m still in shock of how many women have experienced this alongside me. One of the things I’ve been talking to stylists about is the lack of business prep that they usually get at cosmetology school. This is something I never considered, but, nonetheless, we still want and deserve top notch service. Of course not all Black stylists offer poor service at all. It just sucks when the one you really want to give your money to doesn’t offer the service that will make you come back.

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