Last week, my friend Chris got her hair cut. It did not go the way she was hoping. At all.
"I am not sure I can fully explain the horror of the haircut once it was dry," she wrote. "But I cried. I cried and held up the front choppy section of my hair and asked what this was supposed to be. It looks like I am growing out really thick bangs, you know the kind that people have when they have a mullett. Oh God,that is exactly what it looks like. It looks like I am growing out a mullet."
Ironically, the day before, I had had my hair cut and colored, and as with Chris, it did not turn out the way I was hoping. My color was more red than brown, my roots were a different color from the ends, and the back was crooked. I needed a do-over, and fast. But what's the etiquette? Could I just call the salon and ask for another appointment? Would I need to pay for the second service? Tip the stylist again? Should I go back to the first stylist or find someone new?
I decided to ask an expert; I spoke with Sheba Nemerovski and Susan Flaga, co-owners of Sparrow Hair in Chicago. Both say not to hesitate returning to the salon if you're not happy. "I always always tell my clients, especially new ones and especially ones who I can sense are not completely thrilled, not to hesitate to call me if they get home and feel they can't live with their cut or color," Nemerovski told me. "Sometimes there is a miscommunication, sometimes color looks different under different lights, whatever the cause, it's often hard to tell whether you like your cut and color when you are sitting in the chair."
But Flaga suggests caution, saying, "no two stylists are alike, and calling back for a change may truly offend your stylist." Choose carefully, she says. "The most important thing is to find someone that you can feel comfortable communicating with. You could technically have the best stylist in the world, but if they don't share your sensibilities in any way, they won't be right for you." Of course, if your stylist isn't a good fit, it means you are less likely to get the service you want in the first place, and more likely to wind up needing a do-over.
Sheba Nemerovski cuts Susan Getgood's hair. No do-over needed.
How can you know if your stylist will be open to criticism? "One way to establish good communication with any stylist," suggests Flaga, "would be to directly ask them how they would respond to any of these situations. Even the most freaky primadonna-stylist might appreciate a little direct questioning about how they respond to requests for change."
What if you leave the salon and then realize you don't love your hair? Nemerovski says that's fine. "You need to get home, see the color in different lighting, style the cut yourself, sleep on it, wash it maybe once or twice, before you can really tell if you like it or not," she says. "I would always rather be given the opportunity to fix it and have you be happy, then to have you go somewhere else." Stylists are business people, after all, and they don't want to lose your business -- most will go out of their way to make your cut or color right again.
Loralee Choate watches as Susan Flaga transforms her color.
So what do you do if you need a do-over? Call the salon as soon as possible; be specific about what exactly isn't right about your cut or color, but keep your cool. It won't help to yell or cry, even though you might feel like doing both. If you need to, make a list of things you would like the stylist to fix and take that with you to your appointment. It's important that you communicate clearly with your stylist in order to prevent a second mishap. And if you really don't think your stylist is listening, find a new stylist. Fast.
Finally, here's the million dollar question: if you return to the salon for a do-over, do you need to tip the stylist again? Nemerovski says it's your callt. "The few times I've had to redo a client they have tipped," she says, "but it's by no means required." She adds, "Of course it goes without saying there are no charges for redos." When I went in for my do-over, my stylist fixed my color (she even called in the salon owner for a consultation, to be sure it would turn out exactly the way I wanted) and recut the back. She was incredibly nice about the whole thing, and I did end up tipping her again; my do-over took an entire appointment slot out of her day, and I appreciated that she made everything right.
What if you're returning to the salon not because the stylist made a mistake but because you did? You thought it would be cool to be a blonde but now that you've got the highlights, you hate them and you want your hair dyed back to its original color, just as an example. In that case, there's no free redo; call the salon, be honest about your reaction, and make another appointment. You'll need to pay for this one, though.
Have you ever had to ask for a re-do? How did it go? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share?
Susan Wagner writes about pragmatic fashion at The Working Closet and chic suburban living at Friday Playdate. She took the photos for this piece during the 2009 BlogHer conference in Chicago, at Sparrow Hair.