April 3, 2007

Fooled again by Retail Discount Demons

Way back in 200? My friends in San Francisco staged a Super Cuts hair intervention. It was after the disastrous haircut now forever known as Bowling Ball with Fringe. The woman hadn’t wanted to do it, she protested, but I insisted.

Hairdresser: “No, I can’t, I can’t.”
Amy: “Yes, its fine, I know it’s what I want.”
Hairdresser: “It will look bad. You won’t like it.”
Amy: “I will like it. Don’t worry.”

30 minutes later I walked into Starbucks to meet up with Stephen and I smiled shyly as I displayed the new haircut which was frankly, horrible. Stephen, always the good sport aka diplomat, told me how cute it looked. Unconvinced I spent the next several months keeping it under a baseball cap. Five years later he tells me that it really was the worst haircut.

I learned my lesson and never again went to Super Cuts despite the price.

Now that I’m in the UK everything looks so posh and hip that I can’t tell what salons are the British equivalents of Super Cuts. Well, now I’ve found out the hard way – with bad highlights. Previous to last week I’ve had my hair highlighted twice already in the UK and the outcomes were really quite spectacular. Very professional. But being the bargain shopper that I am I of course had to go to a new flashy place which offered me a 30% discount coupon. Oh how easily our demons speak to us.

The first clue that this wasn’t going to be good was when the receptionist turned out to be my “stylist” or should I say “technician”. She is probably a year out of high school or whatever the British equivalent is. Now this should have alerted me to run fast, but now, like being in the doctor’s office and feeling really confused I was a dear in headlights obeying Vanessa the reception’s every command.

We talked about what I wanted agreeing that she would do a “T” section (front and top areas), blending the highlights naturally and subtly with my existing color and blending it to the ends. Something felt wrong. She never showed me any color samples as stylists had in the past. But I was easily distracted by the free granola bar, cookie and peppermint tea placed in front of me on a tray much like first class air travel. Demons be gone, I am so weak.

She applied the mystery color and then placed me under the heat lamp. Dutifully she checked under the foil that was cooking my hair to check progress and seemed pleased. After 20 minutes she brought me upstairs to the sink and had little-miss-pre-teen-assistant rinse my hair and “apply the treatment” for which I was charged a whopping 22 pounds without forewarning. Washed, treated, shampooed and ruff-dried I departed the salon after an hour and a half of processing and returned home. All seemed OK although I was still not feeling like it was a very professional experience, yet I still couldn’t articulate my concern.

A few hours later I looked in the mirror and noticed that the color was nice on top but in the layers it was more like a checkerboard - here and there. I’m not talking long strips of blonde but rather squares. Then I noticed that the front, near my hairline, was downright funky. The little wisps started with my regular color for about half an inch and then suddenly went blonde. This was very not good. The more I looked through my hair the more strangeness I found.

I returned the next day and showed receptionist B my hair and she stepped back in horror.
Amy: “See, I think it isn’t correct.”
Receptionist B: “Oh my yes, I am sorry. Oh so sorry.”
Amy: “I need to get it fixed.”
Receptionist B: “Yes, of course. Vanessa will fix it.”

Not the dreaded Vanessa yet again. I didn’t have time to come back for several days to have the highlights fixed so for the entire weekend I thought about how to deal with Vanessa and her sorry little error that was unfortunately on my head. I decided to take the “learn from your errors” route and not get upset but rather see it as a training opportunity for her. I had to give her the chance to make it good since I’m certain she intended to do her best.

Tonight I returned to test my fate with repairs. Vanessa was not happy to see me. She hid in the corner while Receptionist C sat me down in the chair of destiny. But Vanessa bucked it up and came over to see what she could do for me. I very politely told her how much I liked the color on the top portion of the highlights (good managers start with positive feedback). Then I revealed the patchwork of her handiwork. Vanessa was not sorry. She said that that was a T section and if I wanted something else it would be a full head. I plainly showed her all the errors of her ways and over and over she said that that was how it was supposed to look.

Amy: “See, over in this area it is just a block of color that starts about centimetre from my hairline and ends abruptly after about three more centimetres while my hairline goes on for several more.”
Vanessa: “Yes, that’s how it works.”
Amy: “I thought it was supposed to blend with my ends.”
Vanessa: “No.”
Amy: “How about these around my face?”
Vanessa: “They are small wispy pieces that can’t fit into the foil. Okay, fine, I’ll ‘fix’ them for you.”

Well now I felt stupid as well as a bit scared. Was she going to fix them or “fix” them? I noticed that since the initial appointment she had added magenta to her hair. Was that my destiny?

Vanessa quickly put some goo and foil in my hair and again cooked me up. I just knew it wasn’t going to be OK since again we hadn’t talked about color. She came down to check the progress now apologizing for her errors and saying that she would offer me a “treatment” at no charge. Was this an admission of error? Demons of free please free me.

Cleaned, treated, shampooed and ruff dried once again, I now looked critically at the highlight improvements or should we say adjustments. Just as I had expected, now I have shocking blonde highlights that frame my face, except, yet again, for the first half centimetre. The patchwork in the underparts is gone as I now have white streaks. She asked what I thought and I dutifully said “just fine” as I planned my escape.

At the till she offered me a coupon for 30% of my next color. This reminded me so much of when I had an oil change on my college car and the technicians forgot to remove the old gasket. The filter fell off, the oil leaked out and the piston went through the engine killing the car while me and three fellow students attempted to get home for spring break. After that incident I had also been offered a coupon for a discount on my next oil change. Too bad I no longer had a car.

Demons I see, embrace and dare you to take my hair away. I am wiser to your ways. I take your coupon and dump it in the trash. I gleefully eat your free dry granola bar, drink your peppermint in a tall white porcelain mug that reminds me of first class tea and laugh in your face. As soon as this disaster grows out I will not be fooled again.

Too bad I’m too cheap to get it fixed.

Photos from various blogs.