So, we had Monday night off because it was a Beauty U Staff Development Day, which means tonight, Miss Stacy and Miss Theresa have a long list of new rules and reminders for us:
When you greet a client, always make eye contact.
And say your name and their name.
And give them a double handshake, where you tenderly — dare I say, reverently? — cup their one hand in both of your own.
And the biggest deal: Nobody, but nobody, is allowed to know in advance what clients we’ve been assigned, or when they’re coming in.
Stay with me.
Up until tonight, when we arrived at Beauty U, we would clock in, go to the classroom, and look at the night’s appointment book, writ large on the flat screen TV monitor that is hooked up to the main computer. The appointment book program is basically a big Excel sheet with the names of the senior students running along the top and the hours of the day down the side, with each appointment plugged in accordingly.
Then we would pow-wow with Miss Stacy and say things like, “Oh can I do the cellulite wrap that was assigned to Brooke, because that’s on my Jeans Pass list this week?” or “Wow, I have a really bad headache, does anyone else feel like doing that Brazilian instead of me?” Or sometimes Miss Stacy might say, “Stephanie doesn’t have any eyebrow signatures yet, so let’s have her do that eyebrow wax at 8:30.” Then, once the schedule has been worked out to everyone’s satisfaction, we’d go off and start setting up for clients.
It wasn’t a perfect system. Sometimes you’d feel a little peer-pressured into trading away a service you really wanted to do, or taking on something you’d rather not. Sometimes it enabled Service Hogs, where people who are really gung-ho about getting their signatures would push to do more, and people who are a little more wimpy polite would end up with not enough to do. One student, who has been working hard to build up her own base of regulars, and manages to upsell every one of them to the high-end facials, would generally find a way to get out of doing the more mundane European facials that bore everyone to tears.
Realizing this, Miss Stacy instituted a rotation a few weeks ago where she wrote our names in alphabetical order on the white board and just assigned out all the services that way, giving each of us a check as we took a client, and then starting over at the top of the list when everyone had their turn. That seemed fair to me, and still allowed for the occasional “oh hey, can I trade you this facial for that lip wax?” kind of bartering that is so essential in the never-ending quest to collect Jeans Passes. (You don’t even know. Some weeks, they are our whole world.)
But now, those days are done. The list has been erased from the white board and is now kept by Iris, who is the receptionist up at the front desk. She, and only she, has the power to decide who does what service.
We’re not allowed to see the list.
Miss Stacy is not allowed to see the list.
In fact, the word on the street is Mr. G told the staff that if any teacher asks to see the list, she will be fired on the spot.
We’re allowed to know that there are, say, three European facials, one salt scrub, and a lip wax coming in tonight. As a class, we get everything set up for those treatments. Then we wait for the clients to arrive, at which point, Iris hands the assignment sheets off to Miss Stacy who comes back and tags us, Oprah style: “And YOU get a facial! And YOU get a facial! And YOU get a lip wax!”
Why the secrecy? It’s all rather unclear. Miss Stacy says, “Mr G had smoke coming out of his ears about this,” and the only explanation they received is that he doesn’t want people being skipped “because they’re slow, or because they haven’t gotten good at that service yet or because of the color of their skin.”
Now I’m only the messenger (of the messenger) here. I have not personally witnessed or heard tell of any racial profiling when it comes to client assignments. I haven’t even seen a teacher pass someone over in a “hey she needs more practice with highlights on their mannequin before I give her a human head” kind of way. But I’m deducing that there have been some doings of this kind afoot.
In which case, instituting a school-wide policy designed to prevent miscellaneous prejudice seems wise. And if you’re going to have a new policy like that, you’re going to need some dire consequences (like firing teachers) to ensure it gets implemented. That’s all making a certain kind of sense.
Things that make less sense include the fact that Iris (the receptionist) doesn’t get invited to the Staff Development Day. So she walks in for her shift tonight and nearly has a nervous breakdown when all of these new responsibilities are dumped on her with nary an explanation or a pay raise. It’s also harder to prepare for your client if you don’t know who she is and what she wants done. We’re supposed to input painstakingly detailed summaries in the computer’s client files at the end of every treatment, so the next person who works on that client can get her whole life story. Now there’s no time to go read those summaries, so you run the risk of asking “is this your first facial?” to a regular who comes in every three weeks.
But what I think I’m most weirded out about is the way it strips our teachers of their authority over the clinic. Why can’t Mr. G trust his staff to distribute client assignments fairly, using their best judgment and making their own game-time decisions, perhaps rearranging things now and then to better suit the needs and talents of the students they know better than he does?
Of course, if a teacher has been abusing this power and discriminating against students, she needs to leave. But what’s up with a management style that assumes such behavior would be the norm?
[Image: The newly top-secret appointment book software looks a lot like this one, from Salon Iris.]