Horror Clients – Do These Real Life Salon Owner Stories Ring a Bell for You?

Every salon has at least one – a grumpy, horror client

There’s a widely-held and often-quoted fantasy in business that holds “The Customer is Always Right.”

Of course, it’s nonsense. If you own a salon, or work in one, there’s a better than even chance you’ve got at least one ‘project’ client; the one whose mere appearance in the salon is enough to send shivers down your spine. The one who scares small children, makes grown men shake in their boots, the one who complains, disputes, argues, walks out without paying, never turns up on time, if she shows up at all….

Recently we ran a short competition on our Facebook fan page – the best ‘horror client’ story got a free Android mobile phone app built for their salon. And the stories came in from all over the world, all of them proof that anybody working in a service industry like hair & beauty needs industrial-strength thick skin and, uh… ‘brass balls’.

Brisbane salon owner Michelle wrote that after putting up with one particularly nasty woman for six years, she finally plucked up the courage to ‘sack’ the client.

“She was always rude to us and the other clients. She used to spit her coffee at us if it didn’t taste right or if the cookies that day weren’t right. She would make fun of our make-up and clothes. If another client was in her ‘usual’ seat she would walk over to them and say something. Always asked the apprentice if she was pregnant. Every time we did her hair she was never happy (however she kept coming back for 6 years!) I was stressed for the entire day when I knew she was coming in, she came late to every appointment, and one day she rang to make another appointment and I told her we were booked out, so she asked for another day and I said we were booked out forever. It was the best feeling when I broke up with her.”

For another salon owner, Joanne, it was a client who just refused to go away, no matter how many times it was made crystal clear she wasn’t wanted…

“I had a client that was a reject from someone else (no doubt). I had her color card (shades EQ) and followed it to the T. She would not let me cut her hair , as she did not trust me so she said. When I would blow dry her she would randomly pull the cape off and say ‘we’re done!’ To top it off she had this wild Janice Joplin hair, it was grey and a real mess. She needed a deep conditioner, which I repeatedly recommended. I even sent her home with a few vials for free. She really needed about 6 inches cut off, but would not let me, because she was afraid of not being able to tie her hair up…. I told her ‘you don’t need 20 inches of one length hair to be able to tie it up’.
She was just never happy…she would always e-mail after her appt. and complain. I would re-do her, this went on for about 6-8 months. Her 50th birthday was coming up in 4 months and she had some idea of a coming out party, and she wanted her hair like Oprah’s Curley do. Honestly, the woman needed to lose 60 pounds, put some make- up on. I too was stressed when I saw her name in the book. I finally divorced her, by e-mailing her and saying that I was not the best stylist for her hair, as we were not able to understand each other. I could recommend another salon that used her colour line. I gave her 2 weeks notice, she had the audacity to say that she would not be able to find a new salon in 2 weeks, so she would come one more time to me! I couldn’t believe it! Would you still come to me after I told you I don’t want to see you anymore? She did finally hit the road and I never saw her again. Life’s to short to have people bring you down.”

For California salon owner Lia Alden, it was the abusive client who was obviously ‘a bit sauced’ every time she came in:

“I had a long time client that constantly cancelled on me at the last minute, no showed and other things to that manner. (Oh and she was constantly a bit sauced when she would come in).

“One time she cancelled her appointment for the next day and so since it was an open appointment someone else booked their appt. in that spot. I actually felt a lot better knowing that the appointment time went to someone who wouldn’t cancel again and went forward with my day. Anyhow, she called back later that day and said she wanted the appointment time that she cancelled back again.

Our receptionist at that time told her it was already booked. And obviously she threw a temper tantrum and insisted she get the appointment back!!! Again the receptionist told her it was impossible but if anything changed she would call her back. About 15 mins later she called again and continued to throw a fit, again she was given the same answer. Still again about 1 hour later she calls back – now the receptionist is getting frustrated, but I’m with a client and the receptionist continues to give her the same answer.

The client insists that I call her and settle this. Anyhow, I am booked until late that night and can’t get back to her until late… So of course, she calls back one more time about 15 mins before I’m done for the day. She starts screaming and cussing and insists that I leave my client and ‘fix’ things…..HERE IS THE CATCHER…. the receptionist thinks that she’s hung up the phone and she starts venting about the woman. She is telling someone else and about her yelling and cussing and being drunk all the time and saying how crazy she always was…at that time I was off and finally sat down for the first time that day and heard the story in its entirety from the receptionist. I was at the front desk hearing the story when my client comes stumbling into the salon….

She is obviously drunk and she is PISSED OFF. She said that the last time she called the salon she was actually on her way over to the salon to talk to me because I never called her back. But also what we didn’t know is that our receptionist didn’t hang up the phone and she had been sitting in our lobby’s bar listening to the entire conversation my staff was having about her. She was so mad she could barely even speak. Needless to say I just stood there with my jaw open!! I couldn’t believe what happened and why it WAS happening.

She was foaming at the mouth mad!!! She walked back out to get in her car and sped off. Normally I would be upset about the situation but she was so mean and nasty that we all just started laughing so bad that we started crying….
She was definitely NOT right in this situation!!”

Drunks are one thing. Thieves are another. And age is no barrier. For Bathurst NSW salon owner Belinda, it was a light-fingered pensioner who complained bitterly after her hair colour mysteriously went darker after she left the salon.

“Four weeks after the customer called to complain that her blonde hair had turned brown she called to make another appointment for a hair colour. I was again confused! Could this be the same client. We discussed on the phone that she only wanted the regrowth done and a trim so I quoted her on this and she complained about the price. She was given a pensioner discount which meant she would be paying $45 for her regrowth and $30 for a cut to this she replied that she did not need a cut only a trim. I then explained that they both take the same amount of time because we are cutting the same amount of hair. She was not entirely happy with this reasoning but booked in anyway.

All the staff were warned and told of prior experiences with this customer and we agreed that we would not go darker than a level 8. The customer arrived smiling and friendly the consult went fine the senior stylist checked the colour with me and then applied. As I walked around the corner I noticed the client was now having a full colour.

I checked with the stylist that she quoted on this service as it was not in the original quote. The stylist placed her hands on the clients shoulder and said ” yes we discussed this didn’t we” client nodded. I made the client a cuppa and she smiled and said ” thank you dear” as old people do. About 45 min later while I was around the other side of the salon my apprentice started laughing and said to me ” she got her money back ” I had no idea what she was talking about and then she said ” that’s how she is getting her free colour, she has done a runner “.

Apparently the woman had told us that she had parked in a 2 hour parking zone and had to go and move her car so with our cape and towel around her shoulders she took her handbag and walked out of our salon. I was dumbfound. I called my husband to ask him what I should do nothing like this had ever happened before. 30 min later I tried calling the client on her home and mobile numbers but she did not answer so I called the police to ask their advice. At first they said they could not do much as these sort of clients don’t give the right address and phone details. When I told the officer that I had the correct details they informed me that they would call the client and suggest that she return my belongings ( cape and towel) and pay for my services before I make a formal complaint.

About 2 hours after the client walked out of my salon to move her car she waltzes back into the salon with a towel places it in the reception desk and said “I’m here to pay for my colour” so I tried to charge her for the full colour that she had but she refused as she did not ask for a full colour ” your stylist done that all by herself without asking me” by this stage I was over it so I charged her the price that we originally quoted. When I asked her for my cape she was highly offended and stated ” what do you take me for a thief! I did not take your cape” to this I replied “well you did leave here over 2 hours ago to move your car and you left with a towel and a cape and without paying, you have returned our towel paid you your services but there is still the matter of a cape so yes I guess that is what I’m saying” with this she stormed from the salon. I called the police to let them know that she had returned and I would not be following it up. I was shaken but relieved that the situation was finally over it had been a stressful day, but alas it was not so. 2 hours later I was called to the phone ‘IT WAS HER AGAIN. ” I have just had a message from senior Sargent …… From Bathurst police station making slanderous accusations regarding me. I wish to inform you that I have family who are higher up in the police force than your senior Sargent…. And I will be taking this further”. My response was “well I have signed witness statements from all my clients today regarding your behaviour so you take it as far as you like” and with that I hung up. It goes without saying that this client will not be welcome In our salon again.”

But perhaps the prize should go to Tracey in Launceston, Tasmania, and a one-time client who was obviously in for a good time, not a long time:

 “We don’t have many complainers but we have our fair share of nut jobs! Only last week one of my seniors had a lady booked for a Brazilian Wax and Brow Shape. The therapist did her Brazzy first then her brows. Whilst doing her brows the client put her hand down her pants and put a ‘smile on her face’ (polite way of saying you know what) complete with wriggles and groans. WTF is wrong with some people!!!! Needless to say we won’t be rebooking this freak! We laugh about it now but it nearly made my senior puke when she realized (too late) what the client was up to.”

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About The Author

Greg Milner

Greg Milner, CEO & Founder, Worldwide Salon Marketing. Greg is a writer, marketing consultant, direct response advertising expert and former TV producer. Since founding WSM in 2004, he's coached and guided more than 4,000 salons & spas all over the world in all aspects of marketing, both online and offline. The tools and templates he and his team have developed are used by salons & spas on every continent. He is the author of the industry-standard direct response marketing manual, Simple Salon Marketing, and the e-book Rich Salon Owner.