Tag Archives: Tip Jar

[Tip Jar] Client Nineteen is Ready for Her Beach Vacation (And I Really Need a Nap)

Client Nineteen comes in for a full leg and bikini wax. Because of the new rules, we never know who we’re getting or when, so when Miss Marci comes back with the clipboard and says, “Virginia, you’re up!” I am in the midst of having my own legs and bikini zone waxed by Brooke and Tammy. Irony, I know.

But this far along, we’re basically a well-oiled machine, so Brooke pats the now-hairless parts of me with the aloe oil we use to calm things down afterwards, and then she and Tammy clean up and cut me a pile of new waxing strips while I get dressed and go greet Nineteen.

I really like her at first. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Customer Cult, In Class, Tip Jar, Waxing, week 36

[Tip Jar] In Which You Discuss Amongst Yourselves

There are a lot of Tip Jar stories that I haven’t told you, either because they seem kind of run of the mill (yet another European facial on yet another middle-aged lady for yet another $5 tip) or because I’m just not quite sure how to explain the encounter or what conclusion we can draw. I’m solving all these problems by giving you this (not at all chronological) list of some of the latest, with the salient facts, but not much else. It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure day, only you can Draw Your Own Conclusions instead.

  • Client Twelve: Is a middle-aged woman with red hair, who comes in for a European facial. I leave her to change and step back in a few minutes later. “Don’t be alarmed — I took my hair off!” she says cheerfully, now wearing the kind of black nylon head wrap I usually associated with a more shall we say urban aesthetic? Tips me $6. Comes back three weeks later for a salt scrub where she tips me $10.
  • Client Thirteen: Tells me she has MS when I ask if she has any health conditions that might contraindicate an eyebrow wax. We agree that’s not really relevant here and proceed. She’s very sweet and gushes over what I do to her brows; “They’ve never looked this great!” I like her a lot. No tip.
  • Client Fourteen: Comes in for a cellulite wrap and spends the whole time telling me about how she volunteers with her church and was called to adopt two children from Ethiopia. Plus she needs to lose weight. Is a size zero. Tips $10.
  • Client Fifteen: Is a very old and deaf man who has come in while his daughter gets a haircut. She asks me to trim his brows. They are crazy old man brows. I do my best. She tips me $3.
  • Client Sixteen: Is an Italian man who has come in for a haircut and wants his brows trimmed. He is very nervous that I not “make him look like girl.” I do my best. He doesn’t tip.
  • Client Seventeen: Turns out to be the daughter of Client Seven, how about that? And here I learn a lesson about assumptions, because while Seven painstakingly tipped me $3 for a heck of a lot of work, Seventeen tips $10 for a European Facial and eyebrow wax, and spends the whole night telling me about her yacht club membership, her son’s fancy private school, and how, when she goes on cruises, she packs her own booze in Listerine bottles so she doesn’t have to pay cruise ship bar prices. The next night, Seventeen comes back with Seven, who tells me all about her latest diet while I give her a European. This time I get $4.
  • Client Eighteen: Comes in with her daughter for European Facials. Are perfectly lovely and enthusiastic and tip Meg and I each $5. After we wave them off, Meg says, “Why can’t they all be like that?” And we go for doughnuts.

Oh and on the subject of tipping: A lot of you have asked me what’s considered an appropriate tip, from the esthetician’s perspective. I’m sure it varies place to place, but at Beauty U, we hope for 20 percent, so $5 on a $25 European Facial. If we get more ($10 tips are not unheard of!), we are completely jazzed. If we get less, we complain.

And if you have a coupon, or the service itself is discounted in some way, it is classy to still tip based off the regular price, especially if you’re in a setting where workers are really tip-dependent. At Beauty U, we don’t get paid anything else and in fact are paying gobs of money for the privilege of working on you. At many “discount” salons, workers are paid a pretty low day rate on the assumption that they’ll make it up in tips. I don’t think that’s happening.

Tip Jar Total: $138-ish. Which keeps me in Diet Coke and Mac Snack Wraps during break. And that’s about all.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Body Treatments, Customer Cult, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, Waxing, week 33

[Tip Jar] Client Nine Brings Her Parents

Client Nine is a tiny girl with big eyebrows.

When I go out to the reception area to get her, she jumps right up when I call her name. And the woman sitting next to her says to me, “Don’t worry, she’s been here tons of times.”

“Great,” I say. It honestly takes me a minute to put it all together. “Come on back, Nine.”

And then Nine turns to that woman. “Mom? You’re coming, right?”

And then to the man sitting on her other side. “Dad? Do you want to come too?”

Then I realize that Nine is very, very young. Thirteen, her mother tells me. And I am going to wax her eyebrows with both of her parents watching.

First stop, Miss Stacy. Because technically speaking, the minimum age for a waxing service is 16. (I’m not actually sure if that’s a Beauty U rule, or a state board rule, or a general industry standard, but I’ll dig into it and report back.) But Miss Stacy says as long as a parent or guardian is present, it’s okay.

At this point, I’m sort of assuming that Nine is the one wanting her eyebrows waxed, because she’s read about it in magazines or her older friends are doing it, or whatever. She is not one of those 13-year-olds who looks 20. In fact, she looks maybe 11. But I always looked young too, and I get that sometimes that means you desperately want to look older, when older equals cooler.

So Nine gets comfy in the waxing chair and I take a look. Yes, she has the kind of unibrow that happens when you also have lots of dark curly hair. It’s there, but not so thick you’d stop on the street or anything. Then again, it’s clear this isn’t her first waxing job. I explain that I’m just going to clean it up a teensy bit.

“We were also wondering,” says Nine’s mom. “Do you think it’s time for her to start waxing her lip?”

I blink. I know there’s a semi-annual media blitz about tweens getting crazy spa services (see here and also here) but this is my first up close and personal encounter with it. I’ve never heard the mother of a middle schooler suggest a lip waxing before.

Also, Nine doesn’t have any lip hair. I swear to God. This is not some hormones-out-of-whack or unfortunate-genetic-tendency super hairy kid. She’s got the same amount of lip hair as me, which is to say, basically none unless you look really hard in certain lights. Plus she has that perfectly soft, smooth skin of a child who has always worn sunscreen and has yet to experience her first pimple. The thought of putting hot wax on that makes me cringe.

“She really doesn’t have anything to wax,” I say. Which is hard, because what I want to say is, are you effing crazy? But, you know, customer service and what not. “Plus, with lip waxing, we’re learning that once you start it, you really have to keep on doing it and I’m not sure she wants to take that on right now.”

(By the way, this is true. I had a moment of “oh God, my lip hair” a few weeks back, and while everyone at Beauty U claims up, down and sideways that waxing makes the majority of your hair grow back finer, both Miss Stacy and Miss Marci were adamant that I shouldn’t wax what is really just some peach fuzz because with lips, the hair does become more noticeable when it grows back. How is this possible? I have no idea. Hair removal is so often more art than science.)

“She is only thirteen,” says Nine’s mom. “I guess we should wait a little longer.”

Yeah, or never do it.

And then Nine pipes up. “See, Dad? I told you I didn’t need my lip done.”

I’m sorry.


Nine’s Dad comes over to take a look. “Okay, okay, we’ll wait.”

Let’s be clear: This father seemed like a reasonable guy. He wears glasses and a crumpled button-down, and has been sort of hanging back, highly aware that he’s a stranger in a strange spa-land. He didn’t pound his fist and insist that I go ahead with the lip wax. He didn’t call his daughter ugly (while I was there).

I’m just saying: This father suggested his thirteen-year-old daughter get a lip wax. That she in no way needs.

Thankfully, no one pushes the issue any further, possibly because I’m putting out all the “I will not wax your child’s lip if you pay me in rubies” vibes that I can muster. We proceed with the brow wax after I call Miss Stacy over for reinforcement. She traces Nine’s eyebrows with her finger, which is just what we do to kind of feel how the hair goes, but today it’s somehow very sweet, like, it’s okay, we won’t let them hurt you.

“Just clean up the middle,” Miss Stacy tells me. “We don’t want to do anything more because we want her to look her age.”

Nine looks distinctly relieved.

“Last time, the girls did under her brows too,” urges Nine’s mom.

Miss Stacy repeats what is going to become our mantra: “We want her to look her age.”

So I clean up the middle. Nine is used to waxing and barely flinches, but every few minutes she says, “Mom?” Like to check that her mother is still here with her. Which tells me that she’s more nervous than she’s letting on. And makes me sad because um, yes, her mother is here. Her mother and father are the reason we’re all here.

I also do tweeze a very few hairs from underneath, because I realize, upon closer inspection, that whomever waxed the arch into Nine’s brows last time, did a crap job and they’re growing back unevenly. I try to even things out, not because I want her to have some kind of Anastasia Brow Studio arch, but because I’m hating that someone already screwed up her fine-before-we-got-our-hands-on-them brows and, in case you missed it, She’s. Only. Thirteen.

When I finish, the unibrow is gone, but Nine’s brows are still full and natural. Miss Susannah wanders over, confused. “Don’t you need to wax the underneath?” she says.

Miss Stacy and I both attempt to convey all of the above via a furious, whispered “Lookherage!” I’m not sure Miss Susannah gets it, but she stays quiet after that.

Mom and Dad peer in to check the results. “Ohhhh! SO much better!” says Mom to Nine. Dad is nodding. “Don’t you think it looks so much better that way? I just wish it didn’t grow back so fast!”

“Okay,” says Nine.

I can’t help myself. I turn to Nine and say all in a rush, “You’re gorgeous just the way you are, and having thick brows means amazing hair and amazing eyelashes and this is a very good thing.”

“Okay,” says Nine.

But then something great happens. Mom turns to Dad and says, “Honey, why don’t you let them clean up your eyebrows too?” Maybe the woman (whose own brows are completely tweezed and possibly dyed) is just super anti-brow hair. Or maybe she’s annoyed that he’s been pushing hair removal on their daughter and wants to give him a taste of his own medicine. I have no idea. What I do know is a minute later, the father who told his daughter to get rid of her non-existent lip hair is sitting in my waxing chair.

I promise, I’m a professional. I don’t make his brows look crazy or burn him with the wax or anything. If I maybe pull a little up instead of parallel to the skin, because maybe a sloppy ripping technique makes it sting a little bit more, well, you know, who can say? It all happens so fast.

After they leave, Miss Stacy tells me that Mom is “a peel junkie,” who comes in for spa services all the time. “I really don’t think Nine cares about her eyebrows,” she says. “I think they make her do it.” I tell her about the whole lip wax question and we’re in firm agreement: It’s one thing to clean up a kid’s unibrow because maybe she’s getting picked on at school. But giving her a super-styled arch, zeroing in on lip hair that nobody else can even see, and telling her that the way we make her look is “so much better” than the way she looked before — I mean, no. Obviously not.

But here’s the thing: Nine’s parents aren’t the type of Real Housewives folk that you’d expect to be spa servicing up their child. They look their very middle age, he in khakis, she coming straight from work in some kind of scrubs. And, obviously, they love their daughter. So once I step back from the experience, I’m not even mad at them.

What I’m mad about is just how normal they seem.

And also, how normal the whole experience seems to them.

Tip: $5 (for two $8 eyebrow waxes.)

Tip Jar Total: $60

[By the by: I feel compelled to report that these tallies are actually a bit off base. In real Beauty U time (16 hours a week, with 1-2 clients most nights) I’m now up to way more than nine clients, and thus, more than $60 in tips. But not every client story is all that post-worthy. So I’m going to do a round-up post soon, just to get us caught up on a more accurate tip jar total and such. In case you’ve been wondering about all of that.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Customer Cult, In Class, Tip Jar, week 28

[Tip Jar] Client Eight is Fine the Way She Is. So I Try to Sell her a $50 Facial.

Jill Glindermann, winner of the Sun Girl Quest at Suttons Beach, 1953

Client Eight is a shy 16-year-old girl with a small bit of acne around her hairline. (Hair products, people. Hair products.) I ask if she has any concerns about her skin and she immediately starts talking about her break-outs: “I hate them! They never go away! They look so bad!”

Under the magnifying lamp, they do look huge. (Because it’s a mag lamp. But sometimes I forget that. Like when I discover that what a client thinks are blackheads are actually hairs — this happens more often than you’d expect. Not to give you something to be paranoid about. Except I think I just did.)

Plus we’ve been getting the upselling talk. Yes again. If we don’t write down that we tried to upsell a service on the client’s form, then Miss Susan highlights that part of the form and passes it back to whichever teacher is listed at the top as our coach.

I’m not too clear on what “getting highlighted” really means, but Miss Stacey makes it abundantly clear that she does not want it to happen to her. So I suggest our fancy acne fighting facial. Eight asks the price (it’s $50) and then there is an awkward pause while she contemplates paying double what she was expecting.

“It’s totally up to you,” I say, beating a hasty retreat.”The European is also a great facial!” It’s really not. But I’m not about to take a kid’s babysitting money to dodge a yellow marker bullet.

Miss Stacey hears me mention the acne facial and swoops through the curtain to study Eight’s skin. “She definitely doesn’t need that facial,” she says. Miss Stacey is never one to mince words. “It will make her break out even more. Don’t do it.”

Humbled, I perform the regular European facial and make sure to give Nine lots of compliments about her pretty eyes and cute earrings. Because now I’m terrified that I’ve made her more insecure about her (TINY when not under a magnifying lamp! And no, you can’t see those blackhead hairs either in real life!) breakouts than she already was. Plus I’m the schmuck who tried to make money off a minor. With a treatment that would make her “problem” worse.


When I fill out my form, I write that I tried to upsell Eight to the acne fighting facial and she refused. And to be honest, I’m giving Miss Stacey big points for preventing me from upselling a useless (even harmful) service. (I’m subtracting a point for diplomacy, but that’s really between me and my ego.)

But it’s a tricky dance we’re doing.

Because I have to try to upsell something so we don’t get in trouble later. Except some clients don’t need anything more advanced (read: expensive) to solve their problem (read: insecurity). And suggesting something completely unrelated (“by the way, did you know we cut hair here?” or “hey, how about a mud wrap?”) is just transparently pushy.

“You have to write something,” says Miss Stacey, when I ask her about it later. “Otherwise we get highlighted.”

I think that might be code for a new way to use my favorite Beauty U rule: Make Stuff Up.

Tip: $7 (on the $25 European Facial. So I guess she doesn’t hate me.)

Tip Jar Total: $55

[Photo: “Jill Glindermann, winner of the Sun Girl Quest at Suttons Beach, 1953,” via Flickr because she looks like she’s liking what she sees in that mirror and because I am obsessed with old-time-y “bathing beauty” photos.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 27

[Tip Jar] Seven, Back for a Salt Scrub.

So, remember Client Seven, the 70-year-old lady getting her first facial, despite (or perhaps because of) a host of medical problems including fake knees and high blood pressure?

Well, I must have done something right, because tonight she’s back.

Her daughter has booked them both in for salt scrubs, but failed to show up — something about Seven’s grandson and a meeting with the principal, which doesn’t sound good. “She was supposed to treat me, but I guess I’ll have to treat myself,” says Seven.

She says she’s had a salt scrub before, at a spa in Vegas. But I still make sure we go over the contraindication list pretty carefully, because I’m remembering those fake knees. “They’ll be fine, just not too much pressure,” says Seven. I leave her to get undressed, not surprised when she says she’d rather wear her own underwear than the disposable paper thong we’re supposed to offer clients. (I hate wearing those things and I’m not 70.)

When I come back in — well. I’m going to contradict all sorts of things I’ve written on this blog before, but here it is:

Seven is not pretty.

She’s the kind of overweight where her feet have ballooned up, so her toes are scrunched in sideways on themselves. Her legs have thick, angry scars from her knee surgery. And gravity has done its job most everywhere else.

I have to will myself to touch her.

And of course, intellectually, I’m furious about it. If age and weight are the two great enemies of our unattainable ideal of female beauty, then obviously, Seven has lost on both fronts. Does that mean she no longer deserves to relax, to enjoy the warmth of human touch, to feel good? Of course not. It was an unrealistic standard in the first place. Her body is just as valuable and valid as my own or anyone else’s. If anything, she deserves more respect, because her body has accomplished so much more. (Seeing as I’ve yet to bear a child, have my knees replaced, or go to Vegas.)

And yet. Maybe it’s because that’s just not the way we value women, and that value system is more deeply ingrained in me than I’d like to admit. Maybe it’s because sideways-scrunched toes freak me out. But this salt scrub (my first on a paying client) is difficult. I’ve enjoyed doing body treatments on my classmates (a fairly diverse range of sizes) because they seemed empowering, a way to celebrate a woman’s body without making it about fixing some flaw. But a salt scrub is supposed to make your skin smooth and glowing. People like to have them done before a beach vacation or a hot date. And at first, all I can think is, when is Seven planning to get into a bathing suit and why?

I get myself over it, though. I scrub up both her legs and get into my flow (though yes, I’m grateful that we don’t include feet in this service) and when it’s time to say, “Would you like your breasts included in this service?” I don’t blink when Seven says “yes.” I move in the figure eight pattern that we learned, keeping the towel in place and my eyes averted, and hoping that conveys “I respect your privacy” not “I’m afraid to look at you.” I really don’t want to give Seven reason to feel bad about herself.

When we’re finished and I’ve walked her to the shower, Seven does something that surprises me. She strips off her towel and her underwear, revealing a stained Depends pad, shoves the towel at me and hops into the shower. I dart out, closing the door as quickly as I can, and I remember how last time, she stripped off in front of me without blinking an eye. Maybe she’s just that comfortable with her body. Maybe she’s the type of person who overcompensates when they’re uncomfortable, and would rather just act like she’s okay than wait for me to guide her into the shower and have her pass the towel back, which is how we’ve been trained to do it so the client never actually has to be completely naked in front of us.

But when she’s dressed and heading out to pay, Seven makes a point to tell me that I unclasped the wrong part of her charm bracelet when I took it off for her at the beginning of the service. I apologize and ask if she wants help doing it back up.

“Why would I want you to do that?” she says in a suddenly harsh voice. “You don’t know how I like my jewelry. Just give it back right now.”

I do, feeling like the maid who’s been caught in the silver drawer. And it occurs to me that there’s another option: Maybe she’s fine being naked in front of me because she’s paying to be fine with it; she’s not supposed to have to worry about what someone in a service position thinks of her.

It’s probably a combination of all these things. When you try to work money into the youth/beauty hierarchy, the math gets tricky. Seven probably feels the power of her position as The Paying Customer and the insecurity of her body all at the same time.

She tips me $5 on a $34 service. And she’s the first client who doesn’t fold up the money first. Instead she lays the five dollar bill flat down on the counter between us and I’m the one who quickly folds it up and tucks it away.

Tip Jar Total = $48


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Beauty U, Body Treatments, In Class, Tip Jar, week 24

[Tip Jar] Seven is Not About the Money.

Three Dollar Tip Photo

Seven is the first client that I have to worry I might kill.

She’s 70 and she’s never had a facial before. We ask every client to fill out a consultation form, letting us know any contraindications for their service, like blood pressure medication, asthma, diabetes, and so on. There are a whole slew of reasons why a spa service could be problematic with one of those things, but it usually boils down to either steam (makes them sick) or bleeding (more prone to it).

Seven checks practically every box. I lead her back to our curtained area and show her how the spa wrap works, and she starts undressing before I can even close the curtain. I don’t mind — old women in their bras don’t really faze me — but I feel instantly protective of her, because I’m worried she doesn’t realize the door is open and everyone out on the salon floor can peek in. When she gets the robe on, she looks at the bed doubtfully. “You want me to get in that?” she says.

I’m doing the Spa Voice, which is a kind of super smile-y, impersonal, hushed tone we all adopt when we’re talking to clients. “Absolutely, go on and get under the covers and I’ll be right in,” I call.

“This bed is kinda small,” she replies.

When I come in, she’s sitting on top of the covers. “Should I lie down?”

I decide it’s probably easier to just tuck her in, so I start to pull back the blanket and guide her legs underneath. They don’t move.

“Those are my second knees,” says Seven cheerfully. “They don’t work as well as the first pair.”

We get her settled and I dive in to the facial. Seven doesn’t quite understand the lie back and enjoy it part. “What’s this now?” she asks every time I touch her face. Then she tells me how, at her job, her boss brings his dog in even though she’s allergic. “So I’m always having trouble breathing,” she explains.

She sounds like she’s having trouble breathing now, but when I ask if the steam is too much, she says it feels good. Through the curtain we can hear Seven’s friend, who is receiving a body treatment from Meg, start to snore. That gives Seven more of the idea, and as I move into the massage, she falls asleep too. On the one hand, I’m relieved because it’s actually very hard to give a facial when somebody is talking — you can’t exactly “flow with your hands” as Miss Jenny would say, when their jaw is moving.

On the other hand, as she starts to snore, Seven also starts to wheeze. The kind of scary death rattle wheeze where the person sort of stops breathing, just for a second, just long enough for you to worry that something has gone very wrong.

But don’t you worry, she doesn’t die. Instead, she wakes up when I finish and begins laboriously pulling herself off the bed before I’ve even managed to slip out the curtain. Maybe once you’re 70 and have asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and fake knees, privacy just isn’t so much of a concern. You’ve had to get used to doctors poking at you, so some esthetics student getting a peek is just more white noise.

As she leaves, Seven pulls open her big, black leather purse and painstakingly picks out three singles for me. I admit, I’m disappointed. She was a lot more work than the average facial, and tipped just a little over ten percent. It barely covers the McDonald’s Snack Wraps that Meg and I run to grab for our 8 pm dinner after we see them off.

On the other hand, I think price is the main draw for Beauty U’s clientele. And a senior citizen who still works part-time for a guy with a smelly dog probably needs affordable skin care. So I end up feeling good about this one. Very “it’s not about the money.” I make things up when I fill out her client form, claiming to have offered our fancy anti-aging facial even though I didn’t because I could tell this lady wouldn’t want to spend another $25 on a fancy facial and would have felt pressured if I pushed it. (This is quite contrary to Beauty U lore, by the way. “Never presuppose what your client can or can’t afford! If you make them want it, they will find a way!” screams the PowerPoint.)

So I’m feeling very Zen about the whole night, Snack Wrap notwithstanding. Except Meg’s client forgot to tip at all, so she pays for her dinner out of quarters she scrounged up from her couch.

Because it also is about the money. So there’s that.

[Photo via my iPhone.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, Customer Cult, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 22

[Tip Jar] Five and Six are Different Kinds of Difficult

Photo of ten dollar bill, folded up.

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.]

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Customer Cult, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 21

[Tip Jar] Just Saying No to Peels with Client Four

Tip Jar: Where you get the back story on every tip I make at Beauty U.

five dollars photo

Now that there’s only one senior student left in Beauty U’s night program, all bets are officially off on that whole “juniors can’t work on clients until they finish book work” business. Per this helpful commenter, I ask Miss Stacy if the spa will just book less clients until we’re done with Milady’s (about four more weeks, people!) and she rolls her eyes. “You would think, but don’t count on it,” she says.

Cut to tonight: We’re supposed to be reading the chapter on waxing, but Sue is rushed off her feet with facials and waxing appointments. To make it fair, Miss Stacy sets up a rotation of us four juniors (Stephanie, Blanche, me, Meg) so we step out of the classroom in order and nobody ends up feeling like they’re missing the most. Our names are written up on the white board, and whenever we take a client, we’re supposed to erase ourselves from the top of the list and rewrite our names at the bottom.

So. Four* is a middle-aged Indian woman who has been coming to Beauty U for haircuts by the cosmetology students and just got referred over to the spa (way to upsell, Cos Girls). I give her the second facial she’s ever received in her life. I’ll be honest, she’s got some troubled skin. Breakouts and redness on her cheeks, dry patches around her nose, and a few dark spots that she absolutely hates. “What can I do to fix these?” she asks. “Should I try a glycolic peel?”

I pause. I hate glycolic peels. I also hate telling people — especially women of color like Four — that they should try to lighten their brown spots. So, stalling for time, I ask, “What are you using on your skin now?”

“Nothing,” says Four. “Just water and sometimes Vaseline if I feel dry.”

Bullet. Dodged.

“Okay, let’s start with the basics,” I say. “You should be using a cleanser, toner and moisturizer at home every day. Otherwise, no matter what we do here in the spa, your skin won’t sustain the results. I’d rather get you started on a good home care regimen than dive into one of our most intense treatments. You might find you don’t need to do anything that drastic.”

I mean, if Miss Jenny were still with us, I think she might have cried. This is a word-perfect Esthetician Speech. And Four eats it right up. We do the facial, and as we walk out, she asks me to show her the products she should buy for home use. I sell her a cleanser and a toner on the spot, and she would have bought a moisturizer too, except we’re out of stock. As she checks out, she asks, “Are you sure I can’t do glycolic?”

“Very sure,” I say. “But if you want to upgrade your next service, you might consider our anti-aging facial. It brightens and lifts and everyone loves it.”

She does consider. And books the anti-aging facial, which costs twice as much as the standard European facial. And tips me $5 (20% of her $25 fee). And leaves with a huge smile on her face.

On the one hand, I’m severely glad it was me giving Four her facial, because somebody else might well have signed her on up for the Battery Acid Deluxe Treatment. And when you don’t even wash your face at home, that’s kind of like scheduling a gastric bypass without trying the whole “eat less, move more” approach first.

On the other hand, I have no idea if the home care products will work for Four, or if the fancier anti-aging facial will give her any results. I don’t even know if she needs results, or if she should just work on making peace with the fact that her skin has a lot more shades of brown in it than some people.

I don’t feel good about playing into her insecurities. And I notice even though she smiles, she never quite looks me in the eye.

Current Tip Total = $25

*I’ve decided to dispense with changing names for all the clients and am just going to number them. Let me know if you hate it and I’ll go get a baby name book or something.


[Photo from over here, thank you random interweb.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Chemical Peels, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 19

[Tip Jar] Client #3 Likes Me; She Really Likes Me.

Photo of a ten dollar bill

I’ve decided to start a new blog category called “Tip Jar,” where we’ll track how much I make in tips working on clients at Beauty U. And because tips make up such a significant portion of the average salon worker’s income and because they are so entirely subjective and at the whim of the client, we’ll also spend some time exploring what went into each tip — or lack of tip, if/when that happens.

First, let’s get caught up to speed:

Client #1 = $5 on a $25 European Facial.

Client #2 = $5 on a $22 Hand & Foot Paraffin Dip. I actually performed this the same night that Miss Susan came in to tell us that the junior students aren’t allowed to work on real clients anymore. Samantha was waiting on a friend getting her hair styled by one of the cosmetology seniors and decided to pop into the spa for a little pampering in the meantime. The senior girls were already booked solid, so Miss Stacy drafted Meg and I to handle her. (Meg gave her a facial after I paraffined her up.)

So now, Client #3. Yes, the irony continues — despite the “crackdown,” us junior students have been called on to do services almost every night this week. Tonight it happens as I’m doing some last-minute cramming for our big Milady’s Chapter 4 anatomy test; Margo arrives with her friend Denise for a 7 PM facial. Denise has an appointment; Margo does not. But Beauty U has a “walk-ins welcome” policy, so the Powers That Be decide my test-taking can wait.

I like Margo right away because she compliments my shoes as we walk over from reception, which opens up a nice bit of girl bonding over spring flats. She’s a little chattier than Jody, though once we get going with the steam and massage, she drifts off to dreamland while I work. Which, I realize, I really don’t mind now. At first it felt strange to be responsible for someone else’s relaxation while you feel anything but relaxed yourself. But now that I’m getting into a better groove with my facials, I’ve started to enjoy the quiet rhythm of the thing. It creates a space for me to tune out my surroundings and think my own thoughts, just as the client is doing.

Maybe that sounds bad. There’s surely a school of thought that says I should be slavishly devoted to my client at all times, thinking about her every pore. But in this case, at least, it pays off. Margo slips me $10 as I walk her out — a 50 percent tip on her $20 facial! — and tells me that she feels “invigorated and relaxed at the same time.” And she books two more facials before she leaves.

I’m feeling so confident that I take a swing at upselling, telling Margo and Denise that they might consider trying a more expensive facial next time that everyone swears up down and sideways offers tremendous anti-aging benefits.

It’s a little awkward, because they’re chatting about where to go for dinner, and I have to sort of interject with a “I just wanted to mention, before you go…” And I wonder if they’re both thinking “Okay, here comes the sales pitch.” Which makes me feel bad. Margo and I have been bonding over shoes! Now I’m about to tell her to spend more than twice as much the next time she comes to Beauty U.

But we have to get a teacher to sign off on a form saying we tried to upsell something after every single client, so I persevere — and when I say “anti-aging,” they both perk right up.

“How much is that one?” Margo asks.

“Well, it’s $55 here,” I say. “Which is a lot more than the standard European, but I promise, once you get it, you won’t want to go back. The results are amazing. Also that’s still way cheaper than what you’d pay at a regular spa.”

I mean, I pretty much hate myself now.

“Okay, we’ll think about it!” says Denise. “Anti-aging. That’s just what we need!”

I can’t make myself push any harder. It’s just creepy. So I tell them to have a great night and head back to the classroom. There’s no time left for a break — it’s already almost 9 PM, and I have an hour-long anatomy test to take, plus laundry to finish and a facial station to clean.

But I’ve also got ten bucks in my apron pocket. So there’s that.

Current Tip Total: $20

[iPhone photo by me. Careful folding up on the Hamilton by Margo. By the way, all three of these tips came folded the exact same way; what is it about tipping that makes us want to make our money as little as possible?]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 17