CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Recently, while dining with friends, the conversation turned to the people in our lives whom we couldn't live without. Naturally, at the top of everyone's list were family and friends.
When one friend mentioned she would include her beautician, others agreed. She joked that she panics when her hairdresser goes out of town for any length of time. "I don't rest until I know that she is back on local terra firma."
How apropos, because the next evening I received this e-mail from a reader:
Dear Pam: How do you tell the person who has done your hair for umpteen years that you have decided to go to a different beautician -- who happens to work in the same salon? What is the etiquette of "beauty shop breakup"? -- Parting Ways
Dear Parting: How do you "split ends"? This is an interesting question. For some, parting ways with their beautician can be very distressing, but switching to someone working within the same salon creates a double conundrum. In fact, in an article in the Los Angeles Times, Marianne Dougherty, editor of American Salon Magazine, said that doing this is like dating your ex-husband's brother.
To answer this question, I turned to local salon owners and beauticians for their wisdom and expertise. Here are their suggestions on how to handle not only this sticky situation, but how to move on to another salon or hairdresser in general:
- "Throw the ball back into the hairdresser's court by saying something like 'I also like the way so-and-so styles hair. Would you mind if I made an appointment with them?' While the stylist may not like this, a response such as, 'That would be fine, and we'll still be able to keep in touch when you are in the salon,' would certainly help him or her appear extremely professional."
- "Just don't make another appointment with that person. However, if it is someone whom you have been going to for some time, then informing them of your intention is the polite thing to do. Even though it may be uncomfortable, honesty is the best policy. It will also help to avoid awkward moments when entering the salon, or if you happen to run into each other on the street, grocery store, etc."
- "Try the old breakup line 'It's not you, it's me,' and be sure to thank the hairdresser for their past service. Keep in mind that most beauticians are a forgiving bunch. If you want to "reunite" after the breakup, then own up to your indiscretion. Explain that you didn't find what you thought you would, and that you would like to come back."
- "Handle it with TLC. Maybe write a nice thank-you note to let the hairdresser know you appreciate his or her past service. Explain what you liked, but that it is time for a change."
One experienced beautician said that after 18 years in the business, she has come to expect this every so often. "It probably bothers the client more than the beautician," she said. In the long run it is best for both parties. "The less said, the best said." If a client lets her know that they would like to go to someone within the same salon or elsewhere, she will try to recommend a stylist who may be a better fit for them.
While numerous hairdressers did not appear rattled by the question, some wanted the opportunity to fix the problem with the client before they bid farewell. Many said that they are perplexed when a client of several years just doesn't show up again. "Why did they move on? It is very frustrating to lose a client and not know why," said one.
In her book "Dump 'Em: How to Break Up With Anyone from Your Best Friend to Your Hairdresser (HarperCollins), Joydene Speyer offers these tips:
- Acknowledge your discomfort:
- Identify the issues you've been having with your hair. "As you know, I haven't been wild about _____________ these past few months."
- Send the message. "We've tried a number of things to make this work, but I'm still not getting the results I was hoping for. This is difficult to say, but it's time for me to check out another hairdresser."
- Allow your hairdresser to respond. Some might let their egos come into play (not your problem!), others might ask for another chance. Think twice. If you decide to give her one more shot, make it clear that you mean one more haircut, period. The best-case scenario is that your hairdresser will support your decision. You might be surprised by how many hairstylists will be OK with you leaving. Most genuinely want you to be happy.
- Thank her for everything.
Still unsure? Speyer proposes sending flowers and including a note that says something along the lines of: