This entry is more of a personal and less of an educational entry.This is the first time I am speaking publicly about my personal experiences at these businesses. This is all from my perspective.
Since moving to New York nearly 6 years ago I’ve had a problem finding a salon that are both friendly and professionally efficient. The last two salons I had worked at in Michigan totaled 8 years so the fact that I have now been at 6 salons in 6 years is beginning to be frustrating. The number one problem is craziness in management. It’s absurd here!
The first salon I worked at was Rare in Tribecca. I worked there for about two months before I was fired from my first job ever for “Not being a good fit for the team.” The story goes as this. They were very much a young and tight knit group when I started. They hired me to assist and train for a few months before I was told I’d get a chair. I hadn’t assisted in a long time but the opportunity to work with the owner Ruth and learn from her was too good to pass up. She was and is brilliant. I got to bring in as many models as I wanted, got to go on photo shoots and learned a fountain of new techniques and perfected my craft. That part of it was great. The problem lied in the other staff. The color specialist was 6 years younger than my and had about half the experience that I had and I felt like she found that threatening. Numerous time I tried to talk to her and be nice to her only to get back snotty comments which I just blew off. One day she was at the front desk on Myspace and I walked up and said, “oooh, I’m telling.” In a joking manner. I mean, come on! I was close to thirty. I’m long past the day of tattling and I was just making a joke. She scowled at me then looked away. About an our later she asked to speak to me outside. The conversation went something like “I’m your superior here and you need to respect me.” I was blown away. I assured her I had no disrespectful intentions and I was just joking around. I was fired two days later.
The next salon I worked at was Wayne Tomas Salon. The salon had been open for a year and was bright and shiny and empty. They had ample space for stylists yet they only had 3 employees. Upon working for this place I immediately felt under their thumb. If we didn’t have clients we were required to stand in front of the salon and pass out our business cards. If you’ve ever tried to pass anything out on the street in New York you understand how humiliating this can be. They also had an insane dress code that were listed on the document I had to sign when I started called the “Policies and Procedures”. Still new to New York I agreed to only wear white, black, grey or blue shirt and black or grey skirts or pants. They also had a very strict no socializing with the clients policy. Being a hairstylist new to the city I felt like socializing in a big part of building my clientele. Clients invite me to see their plays, shows, bands ect. One day I had a client that was in town and in a touring band from Finland. He invited not only I but the entire staff to come see the show and put us on the guest list. I did not ask him but he didn’t know anyone here and the show was for a big magazine so I thought it’d be a great way to network. The next day I received a call from the salon that they were giving me a week off to review the policies and procedures and think about what I’d done wrong. They also notified me this was also because I wore a red belt one day that week and red was not one of their official salon colors. (Yet my hair was candy apple red from the moment they hired me.) I used that week to find another job and when I showed up after that week 3 minutes late dues to construction on my train they said “You obviously need to take today off to and get it together.” To which I replied, “No, I quit.” The few months I worked there I kept hearing of all these people that used to work there and from what I gathered they had a lot of people quit after a short time. Should have been a big red flag.
The next place I worked at was Enve in the lower east side. I was at Enve for 2 years. I became friends with the owner. We worked closely together as she was only a cutter so I just did color there and all my haircuts on the side. It worked well there for a while until I started discovering some erratic behavior from her. She wouldn’t order color so I had a really hard time formulating some days for lack of product. She wouldn’t anwser the phone and clients made appointments by e-mail. Sometimes she wouldn’t return e-mails for a few days. I lost quite a few clients from that and all the while she started blaming me. The last straw for me was when I didn’t get a paycheck for 3 weeks. I called to let her know I needed to come in and get my check and of course had to leave a message. When I showed up she told me she didn’t have any money and her phone was dead. I mean, how are clients going to book an appointment if you don’t answer. When I told her I was leaving she admitted to me that she stopped caring. Although this was painfully obvious it was nice to hear her admit it. So we parted ways.
Then there was Pimps and Pinups. *sigh* Where to begin. I was so excited to start working there being as they were a vintage inspired salon. I started there in October a few years ago. The salon had 8 chairs and opened with a staff of 4 stylists. We were all very excited and started off doing press for the New York Post. We all did a before and after model and there was a spread done. A few weeks into being open they notified us of all these additional fees they were going to charge us. The first stylist then left. By December the recession hit and the doom set in. It was terrible. 3 stylists, the manager, and a receptionist working 6 days a week 10 hours a day in an empty salon. We would all sit around the entire day and only 1 client would come in. We were all extremely depressed. I wondered if I’d have to move back to Michigan because it didn’t seem to be better anywhere else either. By the spring the owners in London were concerned and one of them came over to foresee what the problem was immediately blaming the staff. As the snow melted we got a little busy. By this point I was the go-to person for press and we were doing tons of it. I was getting interviewed and doing models from different blogs and web sites. I was doing the managers and staff of local hotels. The send out press releases promoting me as their vintage hair expert. I was finally at a place I though believed in me. They were cutting corners as much as they could though and ever expense was gone through with a fine tooth comb. This was about the time they sent their “spy” from London who would be the first link in my downfall. The receptionist they sent over was going to take over the color ordering duties which was something I did just to help out the manager since he didn’t know color. I made a very easy to follow chart based on what we had used. They agreed to let me use a few colors from different lines since my red-heads were picky and the colors were brighter and better. One day a very good client of mine had shown up and we didn’t have her color. You can’t make red. She had ordered a babysitter and had come from uptown. When I said to the receptionist we needed to send someone out she snapped back at me, “Well, how much color do you need?” “Two tubes” I replied. (The client have very thick curly hair and I needed to pull the color all the way through her ends) “Two tubes! That’s absurd! Do they know you use that much color!?! I’m going to tell London! They’re going to be so upset you use that much!” All the while my client is sitting upstairs. I was advocating for my client and said we can discuss that later but the receptionist pressed on until I finally snapped. “This is how I was trained. I’ve been doing hair for over 10 years. Are you, as a receptionist, going to sit there and tell me I don’t know how to do my job? I have a client up there waiting. Go get the color!” Now, in hindsight I may have handled that different. But I got really sick of hearing, “In London they do this… or that…” The brilliant woman I trained under once said something very profound to me. “There are many roads that lead to Rome”. After a few more months they hired a cocky 26 year old. Immediately this girl was a snotty know it all. She never said hello in the morning and was generally just cold. During this whole time they went through stylist after stylist. Hiring and firing, hiring and firing. I was the only remaining original employee. Since the color incident I started to feel a coldness. There began to have secretive meetings behind closed door. My clients would be in other peoples chairs. Then the other owner came for his first real visit since the salon had been open. By the time he left the 26 year old stylist was made creative director and my career sabotaged. She would bark power hungry orders at the entire staff. Everyone hated being there. There was a general awful feeling in the salon when she was there. Then I fell down the stairs. I was carrying a handful of towels and slipped and cracked my head on the drop ceiling. I sat in the break room until my hands started to shake and my eye turned purple. Around the time I almost threw up I got scared and grabbed my stuff announcing that I was going to the hospital. After sitting in the emergency room for several hours and them determining I had a concussion they sent me on my way with a note for several days off. My depth perception was off for a good week. (something I realized several days later when I tried to twirl baton for a show at the slipper room and kept dropping it). When I returned to work the creative director and I had a blow out because she was mad she had to come in and do my clients and one of them was unhappy. Not my fault. A few weeks later I was notified I was going to be fired so I just quit. Up until the week I was going to be let go I remained doing all of their high priority clients. It still baffles me as to how much that place used me.
After the Pimps and Pinups devastation I decided I was too traumatized to work for another salon so I went freelance. The haunting of Pimps and Pinups continued as several of my clients were confirmed at Pimps and when they showed they’d say “Michelle’s not here anymore, but we have someone better.” Or they would just tell them I wasn’t there and hang up. I lost a lot of people around this time too because of another set of lay-offs in what seemed like every industry. I got by this taking care of the clients that remained and working as a trainer for a company that makes hair styling tools.
By the beginning of December I realized I needed to get back into a salon and get serious about writing my book. I picked up 3 days a week at Shampoo Avenue B. It was fine at first but was cramped. Every day I would come in I’d have to search the salon for who had used my clippers, brushes, diffuser, blow dryer… My stuff would be scattered. One day I woke up with a fever of 102 and the assured me no one could do my clients and they couldn’t be rescheduled. I went in and worked an 8 hour day with a fever. (something I hate doing since I feel I can’t give 100%). There was one other incident that I’m not proud of but completely out of my control. I got new upstairs neighbors and their partying had become a problem. Finally at 6:30 am the quieted down and I was able to doze off until my cat, Fred, decided he wanted attention. Every Time I’d fall back asleep Fred would be there pawing at my face and meowing. And I slept completely through my alarm. When I woke up 20 minutes after I had to be to work I called immediately. I jumped up and got to work in 30 minutes. Record time. I assured the owner this was out of my character and thought we smoothed it over until the rumors started. Another stylist informed me that he was telling the other stylists I was a “pathological liar”. This was something that hurt me to the very core of who I am. I pride myself on being honorable. Almost to a fault and have often been described as blunt or harsh by my peers. I just don’t have the energy to mince words. Nor do I feel it’s necessary. I sat with the owner and discussed this with him stating, “I you feel that way about me then you have no respect for me. If you have no respect for me and still want me to work here then you are using me and I can’t work for another salon where I feel I am just used as a tool to make you money.” He agreed to wipe the slate clean and start over. My next day of work there was snow everywhere. Traffic on the bridge was at a stand still and I sat on the Brooklyn side of the bridge in a car for 35 minutes. At 34 years old I am never purposefully late. New York is an unpredictable place. So alas, I was 15 minutes late and subsequently fired the end of the day.
So this brings me to now. Trying to find a salon not owned by the complacent, lazy, petty, drama filled or egotistical. I feel as though my efforts to find such a place can be compared to the search for a yeti, or Nessie. Or this journey could be comparable to finding other intelligent life in the universe. Please let there be other intelligent life out there in the salon-iverse!