Three years ago, our family returned from four years in China where we were treated to the best hair salon experiences I’ve ever had in my life. No one cuts and styles like the Chinese. No one. They are freaking masters. Not only that, the 20-minute head massages, the speed, the precision, the customer service and professionalism is mind-bogglingly good. And not only that – you pay between $5 and $15 for the privilege. You heard it right.
Of course, no one’s perfect, and the Chinese are yet to master lightening, but if you’re okay to take care of that yourself, your hair will have the most incredible experience of its crowning glory life. That is, if you are willing to travel to China.
Maybe this superlative hair experience spoiled me. Maybe, when I came home to Australia and failed to find a salon that even came up to a Chinese salon’s bootstraps, I was expecting far too much. Or maybe, just maybe, Australian hair salons suck.
Let me outline my salon experiences since coming home. Most have been experienced in a different salon.
Requested: 10 foils and trim. Production time: 3.5 hours. Run late by: 1.5 hours. Details: my ear chewed off about how the stylist smoked all the way through her pregnancy and her daughter was FINE. Result: negligible trim, zebra stripe colour, starting one inch from my scalp, and a headache caused from clenching my jaw to stop myself lambasting this idiot about her pregnancy.
Requested: hair cut, 4 inches off. Production time: 2 hours. Run late by: 1.25 hours. Details: more inane chatter, despite constant attempt to bury head in book, anxiety from being told, repeatedly, that my hair should be salon-coloured not home-coloured and that I need to buy $120 worth of salon hair products to get rid of appalling hair condition, post-haste. Result: average cut, blow dried well to cover averageness, which is uncovered the moment I wash it. Spend next 8 months with hair in ponytail.
Requested: half head of foils, blow dry. Production time: 5 hours. Run late by: 2 hours. Details: told by senior stylist, who I expressly booked, that she could no longer do my hair, and told me newbie junior would do it instead. Panicking, I said No – I wanted her. Whole salon get shirty and put on cat’s bum mouths because I don’t want junior and will wait for senior stylist. Result: long wait, blow dry average but colour actually pretty good. Alas, feel black banned for being ‘difficult’ (despite being very nice about it) so don’t go back.
Requested: hair cut to just below ears. Production time: 2 hours. Run late by: 1.25 hours, mainly due to interruptions by other staff and clients. Details: nice little chat with stylist who then let me read! Wahoo! Result: lop-sided cut that I went home and ‘fixed’ with kitchen scissors over bathroom sink because was too scared to say something to stylist lest I be perceived as ‘difficult’ and get the cat’s bum mouth I received at the last salon. Cried for a week. Didn’t go to another salon for 18 months.
Requested: full head Nordic Blonde foils, trim, blowdry. Production time: 4.5 hours. Run late by: 2.5 hours. Details: rang salon, desperate for special hair for big event. Expressed my fear over awful experiences with bad colour, cuts, blowdrying and running late. Requested senior stylist. Told senior stylist not available any time before event. Was recommended a less-senior stylist, spoke to stylist on phone, expressed my fear over awful experiences with bad colour, cuts, blowdrying and running late. Stylist reassured, reassured, reassured and PROMISED. I believed. Result: nice trim, gorgeous blowdry, but rat brown hair not anywhere in colour wheel vicinity of ‘Nordic Blonde’ despite several, very tentative ‘comments’ expressing fear over colour she was applying. So horrified at end colour, stylist said she would re-do, but not before making every excuse under the sun about why the colour had turned out wrong, including blaming the colour my hair was when I arrived (it was easily-bleached blonde, not jet black or fire engine red, for Christ’s sake). Could not have hair redone in time for special event. Cried for three days.
Requested: repair of rat brown mess. Production time: 2 hours. Run late by: 0 hours. Details: no one else in salon, and stylist aware of her major cock-up, so got exactly what I had originally asked for. She also chatted briefly and then let me read. Result: very happy client.
Experience Seven (final)
Requested: 10 foils, blowdry for big event. Production time: 0 hours, 1 hour wait time. Details: arrived at salon on time, was shown to seat. Was completely ignored for an hour, including by my stylist. Risking being seen as ‘difficult’, asked stylist if we would run terribly late. Stylist said no, she would get me done on time, despite only have 45 mins left to do 2 hours’ worth of work. Stylist went extra slow with other client, then proceeded to not only take her to the counter to pay (when several other employees were available to do that) but had a nice little chat at counter with client, while I waited some more. Upon finally returning to me, completely avoided eye contact, cleaned up her space and walked away. No ‘sorry’, no ‘be with you soon’, no ‘cup of tea?’. Nothing. Result: I walked out.
Experience for my Children
My son: twelve appalling, mis-shapen, dodgy, ugly haircuts that a two year old with a pair of sheep shears could have outdone. Three ‘acceptable’ cuts. One outstanding cut by Rachel, Hairhouse Warehouse, Canberra Centre.
My daughter: one negligible (ie: looks no different) trim, two layering attempts that looked like someone had taken a pair of garden shears and hacked a hole out of the back of her hair, one ‘acceptable’ cut.
Now, let me preface all of this complaining with the fact that I’m never anything less than polite, respectful and kind to any service staff, including salon stylists. I am far from ‘difficult’ and I appreciate there are many difficult salon clients (have seen them with my own eyes), which can make salon staff ‘antsy’. The thing that bothers me most about these experiences is that I HAVE been a lovely customer and I’m still treated like shit/receive sub-standard service and poor results.
But the thing that has really tipped me over the edge with this entire hair thing, is that I am not alone. Since whinging about my lot to my friends on facebook, I have been literally inundated with horror story after horror story, from both men and women. In fact, my horror stories pale in comparison to what some people have not only gone through but consistently gone through at salons. My oh my, the floodgates opened and lo – the hair horrors did flow. On and on and on, the flow went, leaving me to wonder if my solid line-up of dodgy salon experiences are pretty much industry standard. Is it just a coincidence that most people I know have just happened to have the same ongoing drama??
What about you, have you had a dodgy salon experience? Is there such thing as a consistently good outcome for the heads of Australian women? Because if there is, I’ve yet to find it and am desperate to hear about it. Do we really need to pay a week’s rent to get our hair even half way well-represented, and is that even any guarantee that we’ll leave with salon-gorgeous hair? I’ve paid for cheap cuts, I’ve paid for expensive cuts, and in my experience, the extra money seems to count for nothing. The results have all been the same. Average to very bad.
For those salon owners and stylists turning puce at reading this, please note I’m not out to get anyone and am only reporting on the facts, as I have experienced them. I’m sorry, but this is all I know. If you feel you can give me a pleasant, consistent, timely and well-executed salon experience here in Canberra, I will post about your business right there on AWO – to hundreds of thousands of potential clients. And anyone else who can recommend a brilliant salon, who does right by their clients in every way, please leave a comment here and tell us about them.
We need to spread the word. It seems I’m far from alone in the quest to find a consistent, professional hair experience.