"Tabatha’s Salon Takeover": Lessons Learned

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 2 2011 3:55 PM

"Tabatha’s Salon Takeover": Lessons Learned

Each week on Tabatha's Salon Takeover , severely coiffed stylist and educator Tabatha Coffey commandeersa struggling salon and drags the business and its staff usually kicking andcursing from tragic to chic. Her interventions cover the aesthetic (new equipment,freshened paint jobs), the therapeutic (intense group counseling) and thetechnical (mini-training sessions), but the most entertaining part of the show isthe initial inspection. As Coffey watches hidden camera footage and examines thephysical space, she discovers all manner of hair-matted sins, ranging from theunseemly to the downright unsanitary.


Tabatha's Salon Takeover doesn't just reform salons, though italso educates viewers. Here are five lessons from the show that salon customersshould commit to memory:

1. Poor customer service isn't justannoying it may be a sign that your haircut will be poor, as well.

As a salon'sfinancial situation grows bleak, customer service often goes out the window.Many of Coffey's clients have no receptionist, and, in the rare case that theydo, she is often foundeating a burrito instead of answering the phone. At the veryleast, you should expect to be greeted pleasantly (on the phone or in person)and offered a chair upon your arrival. If you aren't, go elsewhere. A menu with prices should also be readilyavailable.

Meanwhile, servicegimmicks such as accostingclients with an unwanted spray-tan or providing booze (see lesson No. 2) aredeployed not only to drive up profits for a poorly run business, but also todistract from the mediocre quality of the basic cut and styling. Coffey findstime and again that great stylists will not stay very long at poorly run or gimmicky salons-chances are you probably don't want who's left.

2. No food or drink should be presenton the salon floor except for water, coffee or tea.

No one wants tosmell reheated massaman curry mixed with cumber-melon shampoo while she'sgetting her hair washed. Unfortunately, Coffey often encounters food on thesalon floor and rightly chastises its consumer; you should, too. Aside from beingbad manners, public eating may also indicate that the break room is too filthyto use, a situation that should bring into question the cleanliness of the restof the space.

Also, while it'sexpected that staff should offer clients a beverage while they wait, be wary ofsalons that offer alcohol (unless you're a member of a bridal party and handeda glass of champagne). Free-flowing booze probably means that as Coffey oftenfinds the employees have been drinkingbehind the scenes all day .

3. If the salon staff do not take careof their space, they are unlikely to take good care of you.

Coffey is oftenhard on décor she finds tacky, such as theinfamous "dance for discounts" stripper pole in season 3. This is, perhaps,a matter of taste, but the physical state of a salon does tell you a lot aboutthe service you can expect to receive. If chairs are tatty, stations disorderlyor product poorly displayed, you may want to reconsider your patronage.

4. If the manager is not an experiencedstylist and junior stylists haven't had a class in the past six months (you canpolitely ask), go elsewhere.

Coffey isfrequently disturbed to learn that her project salon is being managed by aperson whoknows nothing about cutting hair . This would be a bit like deciding to opena French restaurant without knowing how to braise a lamb shank: Unless themanager is incredibly good and has truly expert talent, the venture is probablydoomed. For starters, even if the stylists are great, being managed by someonewho doesn't know what they're talking about breeds dysfunction, unhappiness,and unprofessionalism. It also probably means that the less-experiencedstylists are not receiving much continuing education in their trade not the best recipe for stellar work.

5. If you feel something has gonewrong, ask for a refund and never rebook.

Getting a badhaircut is kind of like sitting through a bad theater performance: You mightrecognize that it's not going well early on, but etiquette prevents you fromleaving (at least until intermission). In a haircut, there is usually no escapeuntil it's too late. The most egregious and surprisingly common offenses thatCoffey observes are bleeding color treatments, the use of dirty implements(hairy brushes, stained towels), and even scaldingfacial wax . And that list doesn't even begin to address failures of basictechnique. 

If you findyourself trying to hide your new haircut in shame on the way home, there aretwo ways to get revenge. Confrontational types can certainly demand a refund;while you may not get your money back, most salons will offer free correctivework (usually with an advanced stylist) and future discounts. The less directclient should simply never return to the salon. While one lost customer may notseem like much in the big scheme of things, many salons depend on word-of-mouthrecommendations and Yelp reviews. Be brutal. As Tabatha's Salon Takeover consistently demonstrates, the loss ofbusiness can hurt the salon as much the botched hairdo hurt you.


Still from Tabatha's Salon Takeover courtesy of BravoTV.com.


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