On Wednesdays, most of the students at Beauty U sit through their weekly dose of Scott’s Beauty Business Sense, except for a handful of seniors and those of us who abstained. In theory, that means Beauty U doesn’t take many clients on Wednesdays and us abstainers are supposed to work through the People Skills curriculum, where we learn the Make Stuff Up rule, and other fun facts.
Reality of course, can be quite different.
Client Five comes in for a European Facial while her acne-riddled teenage daughter gets our fancier acne-fighting facial from Sue. She’s funny and charming and asks a lot of questions about what products I think she should use, and what other services she might want to try. All in all, a breeze.
I walk her out and immediately jump into Client Six, who has been waiting impatiently for twenty minutes. (She thought her facial was scheduled for 7 PM, Beauty U marked her down for 7:15, and Five was five minutes late on top of that.) Miss Stacy rushes to set me up (grabbing products, refilling the steamer, etc) while I go out to smooth ruffled feathers. We’re told that it’s important to have clients fill out a consultation form at each visit, so we can know if they’ve added any medications, developed any allergies, or have any other issues that impact the way we do the facial. “But I filled that form out last time,” says Six. “Don’t you guys have a computer? Why do I have to do it all over again?”
Fair point. (We do have a computer, but students aren’t allowed to use it.) I smile and say not to worry about the form, then try to cover most of the same ground in casual conversation while she settles in. Very quickly I realize that unlike most of the clients I’ve worked on so far, Six is someone who doesn’t relax easily. When the steam starts unfurling over her face, she gets a coughing fit. When I apply the enzyme peel, she wants to know why it tingles so much. When I remove her mask with a hot towel and accidentally dab her in the eye, she sits up, pressing her palms into her eye sockets like I’ve blinded her.
It’s all a bit much. But it nets me a 20 percent tip ($5 on a $25 facial), and as I walk her out, Six asks if she can book me next time, all smiles.
It’s almost 8:30 PM and I haven’t had dinner yet, so I hop in my car and run over to Subway, wolfing down my sandwich with one hand as I drive back. (Ever since The Crackdown, Miss Stacy has been keeping a close eye on whether our breaks take longer than the allotted 15 minutes.)
When I get back to the classroom, I find Sue storming around.
“That bitch was on some meds or something!” she says as I come in. I think she must be talking about uptight Six, who was maybe rude to the receptionist or something on the way out. But no — it’s Client Five.
As Sue tells it: When she gave Five Jr, age 14, the acne-fighting facial, she also happened to mention that she also reps cosmetics and skin care products for one of those major brands of direct-marketing cosmetics, and they have a cleanser that might really clear up Five Jr.’s problem. Five Jr. thought that sounded like a grand plan, and wrote down her email and cell phone number so Sue could follow-up later. Sue dispatched her to check-out and ran to have a cigarette. When she came back in, Five was waiting angrily at the receptionist’s desk, wanting to know where Sue gets off trying to “hack your products on my kid.”
On the one hand, I don’t blame Five for being annoyed that Sue took Five Jr.’s contact info without getting mom’s permission. And the fact that Sue mumbled “she should mind her own business” within earshot of Five sure didn’t help matters.
On the other hand, when Five asked me what products I recommended, she mentioned that she was eager to pick some out for her daughter, too. I even gave Sue a little pre-sell help, by showing Five the acne-fighting line we carry at Beauty U. Plus, a lot of Beauty U students rep for Avon, Mary Kay and other direct marketing companies, and there’s a kind of unspoken agreement between students and teachers that it’s okay if they occasionally let that be known to the clients, as long as they also direct them to Beauty U’s own retail lines. (I have no idea if Mr. G is on board with that, though.)
But here’s what frustrates me about the whole situation: Instead of honing in on where Sue went wrong (taking a 14-year-old’s cell phone number without parental permission), Miss Stacy says she had to write Sue up because “the customer is always right.” Which pretty much makes Sue explode. “How can she be right if I didn’t do anything wrong?!” she yells, slamming out of the classroom into the spa, where the rest of us are now folding laundry and trying to pretend we’re not listening.
Miss Susan intervenes and Sue is sent home early, swearing like a sailor the whole time. “Now she’ll hate me,” says Miss Stacy. “But I did what I had to do.”
It bothers me that nobody tries to explain Sue’s mostly-honest mistake to her — to, you know, teach her how to become a better esthetician. Of course they can’t explain why Sue was in the wrong, because that would mean acknowledging that they’ve been wrong too, by letting these parking lot sales slide so often. So instead, they tell her off and write her up, which results in Sue (a 30-year-old mom who is training to be an esthetician so she can stop working as a bartender and not have to spend nights away from her nine-year-old, asthmatic son) behaving like an angsty teenager towards the parents who give her an unreasonably strict curfew.
And what makes me feel even weirder: After Sue leaves, Five pops back into the spa. She’s been here the whole time, waiting for her other daughter to finish up a hair appointment. “I didn’t forget about you!” she says brightly, tucking a ten-dollar bill into my apron pocket as if nothing ever happened. “Thank you so much, it was wonderful.”
I’m not sure if she means to tip so well (a $10 tip isn’t unheard of for the European — I think some clients over-tip because they know we don’t get paid at Beauty U and the facial is already so cheap) or if she deliberately gives me Sue’s tip as well as my own.
[Photo from my iPhone.]