When clients walk through the door with their children in tow, do you cringe with disappointment or welcome them with open arms? Depending on your salon’s policy on children and the mood of your business, they can be a blessing… or a nightmare.
You’re a busy nail technician with a full book and walk-ins to boot. You’ve created a space for yourself where you can work efficiently and quietly. In walks one of your clients with her two young children in tow. You cringe because you know they aren’t well-behaved and their mother — your client — is constantly getting up to keep them in check. Does this scenario seem all too familiar? Because of situations like these, the decision whether to allow children in the salon has been a back-and-forth battle for many nail technicians.
Whether you welcome any child into your salon, restrict it only to those who are well-behaved, or prohibit children altogether, everyone’s goal is to have a quiet, relaxing atmosphere. But what happens when an unruly child upsets your salon’s environment? And most important, what liability do you risk incurring when you allow children?
No Children, Please
Some salons address the issue of children in the salon by simply disallowing them. “We have a sign posted next to the reception desk that says: ‘Attention clients! We cannot babysit while you tan or get your nails done. Please make other arrangements.’ I feel strongly that a salon is not a place for children,” says Michelle McKinn-Iriat of Tanicure Salon in Bakersfield, Calif.
Jo Laki, owner of Jo’s Naughty Nails in Hamlin, Pa., prefers for safety and insurance purposes that children do not come into the salon unless the child is a client. For this reason, the salon has two signs posted that read, “Due to safety considerations and limited space, children are welcome only if having services,” says Laki. “One sign is at the front door and one sign is at the front desk. Younger children especially cannot sit without touching everything in sight and there are dangerous chemicals, sharp implements, and hot paraffin around the salon. Besides, this is a time for the client to get away from her husband and kids.”
Well-Behaved Children Only
At Just Nails in Madison, Wis., children are always welcome. “We really don’t mind children in our salon,” says owner Annette Sather. “We don’t have a big problem with children because of the way we handle them. The child must stay with the parent. If a child is misbehaving, we have a manager or assistant go over to the mother and introduce herself. The manager says, ‘It looks like your little one needs some attention. Let me help you.’ We tell the mom that we are going to take the child out of the salon to calm her down and we do.”
Sather says that the mother always feels uncomfortable when this happens. “Invariably, the mom never brings the child back after that,” she says. For this reason, few parents bring their children to the salon. Mothers get the message that it’s a quiet place to go and relax. Sometimes, Sather says, children spin around in the chairs and in general make a nuisance of themselves. The receptionist then says to the mom, “May I put your child in the lobby?” “We put them in a corner of the lobby surrounded by small coffee tables with a TV and VCR,” says Sather.
“We prefer that children stay at home,” says Tracey Stadamire of Un-4-Gettable Nails in Portland, Ore. “If they behave, that’s one thing; if they don’t, they drive us crazy. People come here to relax, not to listen to someone else’s children.”
“I welcome well-behaved child-ren,” says Cheryl Haita of Breezes Day Spa & Tanning in West Allis, Wis. “When people come here, they don’t want a bunch of screaming children around. I have a sign posted in my waiting area that says children must be well-behaved and well-attended. About 65% of my clients come alone, and I think the sign makes a difference. I have children myself so I do welcome them, but the parents have got to be conscientious about watching them.”
Haita provides coloring books, a pad of paper, and markers. She even promises to paint the girls’ nails if they’re well-behaved.
Come On In!
A few salons not only welcome children, but offer to take care of them while clients are getting services. At Adam Broderick Salon & Spa in Ridgefield, Conn., full-time childcare is available.
“We offer full-time childcare at our salon,” says owner Adam Broderick. “Our childcare room, which is separate from the adult room, is done in bright, primary colors. There is a child-size haircutting station in the room so a child can get a haircut while the mother gets pampered, and we provide videos, child-size tables and chairs, sit-down games, books, and organized activities for children.” The childcare room is done up with zoo animals painted on the walls and filled with plenty of toys.
“We are very busy here. Childcare is busy here. Ridgefield is a family town,” says Broderick.
The salon has a childcare provider on site from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Clients pay $6 per hour for the first child and $3 an hour for other children. If the services total more than $150, childcare is free. The salon gets anywhere from 10 to 25 children a day, and a child is usually in the day care room for one to four hours a day, says Broderick.
The salon has provided childcare since it opened in September 1992. “Mothers love it and children love it,” says Broderick. “Having childcare results in a lot fewer missed appointments. If a mother calls in and says her babysitter has cancelled, we tell her she can bring the kids in to the salon.”
“Having children in your salon of course means that you are at greater risk of liability,” says Chris Jackson of Sportinginsurance.com, an online insurance specialist that caters to salons and spas. “There are many hazards in a salon such as chemicals, implements, and wet surfaces. The typical business owner’s insurance policy may not provide coverage for children because it is not considered normal to have children in a salon.”
If a client’s child grabs a pair of scissors and hurts herself, then the scissors could constitute an “attractive nuisance” that could be used in litigation, even though the scissors may be essential to the salon’s operation, according to Jackson.
Laki believes the salon is a hazard-ous environment for children. “There are so many dangerous appliances in our salon,” she says.
A salon that operates a full-time childcare facility has somewhat re-lieved the issue of attractive nuisance, according to Jackson. That salon is less likely to incur liability. However, an owner’s insurance plan may require an additional endorsement to insure the day care operation against liability.” The important thing is full disclosure,” says Jackson. “A salon is a salon, not a day care center. The salon owner must fully disclose a substantive issue such as a childcare operation.”
Jackson says posting signs deline-ating acceptable child behavior in the salon is certainly a good idea, although it isn’t full protection against a lawsuit. “An attorney could still press for negligence,” says Jackson, “But the salon owner could say, ‘We gave full disclosure to this individual. She was advised of her responsibilities as a parent.”
To Allow or Not To Allow
“Common sense is the best policy for salon owners regarding children in their salons,” says Jackson. “Is the number of children in your salon ‘normal,’ or is it excessive? Talk to your insurance agent to be sure you are adequately insured.”
It’s also just plain common sense to see to it that parents control their children in the salon, no matter how you have to handle this. “We tell our clients nicely that if their children do not behave, they have to leave,” says Haita.
“It’s ultimately the duty of the par-ents to take care of and watch their children,” says Jackson, “but salon owners need to have a written proce-dure in place that states that all staff members have been instructed on when and how to step in should a situation occur that could endanger a child on the salon premises.”
So, should you allow children in your salon? That is something you need to decide upfront. If you prohibit children from entering your salon altogether, remember that you may be inviting more missed appointments and more than a few irritated parents. But if you decide to welcome children, send out a clear, posted and verbal message to parents and children about what kinds of behavior you will and won’t tolerate.
Shari Finger, owner of Finger’s Nail Studio in W. Dundee, Ill., recommends taking a survey of your clients to see where they stand on the issue. “You can use the information you gather to defend whatever decision you make,” she says. “Clients will also feel as if they were part of your salon’s policy making.”
Provide entertainment for the children such as coloring books and markers, children’s books, and a VCR and children’s movies. Most important, talk to your insurance agent to find out if you are adequately insured. Fewer cancelled appointments and content parents are just some of the advantages of providing a safe and quiet environment for children, which in the end means peace of mind for you.