Should you allow children in your salon? What are the dangers inherent in doing so and have you trained your staff to respond to problem situations?
Do you welcome any child into your salon, or do you restrict your welcome to those who are well-behaved? Do you prohibit children altogether? How do you handle unruly children in the salon so that you maintain the; quiet, relaxing atmosphere a salon must provide? 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 signs throughout the salon that say, ‘Please leave your children at home,’” says Lisa Eggers, manager of Color My Nails in Midvale, Utah. “I do think the signs have a big influence. We don’t have a lot of children coming in.”
Pamela McNair, owner of Gadabout Hair, Skin, Nail & Day Spas in Tucson, Ariz., 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 by appointment only,” says McNair. “One sign is at the front door and one sign is at the front desk. We; would probably have more children in the salon if we didn’t have the signs.”
Well-Behaved Children Only
At Gene; Juarez Salons in Washington, children are always welcome. “We do let children come into our salons,” says Lori Davis, general manager for the six salons. “We don’t leave a big problem with children because of the way we handle them. The child must stay with the parent. If a child won’t stop crying, we have a manager or an 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 morn that we are going to take the child out of the salon and we do.”
Davis says that the mother always feels uncomfortable when this happens. “Invariably, the mom never brings the child back after that,” Davis 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, Davis 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 and give them colors and coloring books. We don’t go too far. If you have too many fun things available, you may be encouraging clients to firing in children.” Davis says the salon is seriously considering making child care available full-time. “Our new salon is going to be a day spa and we have the space for it,” she adds.
“We prefer that children stay at home,” says Rosie Michel, owner of Jay D. Matthews Total Salon in Fenton, Mich. “If they behave, that’s one thing; if they don’t, they drive us nuts. People come here to relax, not to listen to someone else’s children.”
“I welcome well-behaved children,” says Anne Herson, owner of Beautiful Nails in Gaithersburg, Md. “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 70% of my clients come alone, and I think the sign makes a difference. I have five children myself and I was a customer of this salon for 10 years before I bought it. So I do welcome children, but the parents have got to be conscientious about watching them.”
Herson provides coloring books, a pad of paper, and colored markers. She even has a toy manicure set that she says really settles the children down. It contains tweezers, files, and a set of red and a set of pink small fake nails.
With Open Arms
A few salons that have the space have opened up child care rooms and offer child care all day long. “We offer full-time child care at our salon,” says Liz Marchese, manager of Adam Broderick Image Group, a complete day spa in Ridgefield, Conn. “Our child care 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 mother gets pampered), and we provide videos, lots of toys, child-size tables and chairs, sit-down games, books, and organized activities for the children.” Marchese says the salon is planning on adding 2,000-3,000 square feet soon and will expand the child care room. “It will be painted with zoo animals all over it,” Marchese adds enthusiastically. “We are very busy here. Child care is busy here. Ridgefield is a family town.”
The salon has a child care provider on site from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Clients pay $5 per hour for the first child and $2.50 an hour for other children. The salon gets anywhere; from eight to 20 children a day, and a child is in the day care room for one to four hours a day, according to Marchese.
The salon has provided child care since it opened in September 1992. “Mothers love it and children love it,” Marchese says. “Having child care results in a lot fewer missed appointments. If a mother calls in and says her babysitter has cancelled, we tell her we have child care” When asked whether employees of the salon may use the child care, Marchese said that they may use it in a pinch, but not for the entire day. “In a jam, earn massage therapists have used it.” she says.
Allen Edwards Kids Salem in Woodland Hills, Calif., as is evident from the salon’s name, is set up for kids and then some. The salon welcomes both child clients and friends and siblings of clients, says salon manager Rachel Loew. “If a friend or sibling of a client comes in, we have a video arcade set up in the back, and we provide coloring books, toys, and a snack machine with healthy snacks in it,” Loew explains. “We are very busy and we have no time to entertain the children.” When asked how the salon handles an out-of-control child that the parent cannot or will not discipline, Loew says a stall member will say to the child, “Honey, that’s a little dangerous,” or “That’s not a good idea.” “Our salon is totally geared toward children,” says Loew. “Our scissors are kept above the children’s reach and we do not use curling irons.”
“You are at greater risk of liability if there are children in your salon,” says Bill Prouty, who is insurance advisor to the Nails Industry Association and who has 25 years experience in the insurance industry. “In general, a business is not geared to the care of children. The typical business owner’s insurance policy (the BOP plan) may or may not provide coverage for children because it is not considered “normal” to have children in a salon.
“In the salon, there are many hazards: There are issues of chemicals, of a child being underfoot, of tripping and falling,” says Prouty, adding that one issue in the law is a thing called “attractive nuisance.” If a client’s child grabs a pair of scissors and hurts himself, 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 Prouty.
McNair believes the salon is a hazardous environment for children. “There are so many dangerous appliances in our salon,” says McNair. “And we even have steps children can slip on.”
a salon that operates a full-time child care facility has somewhat relieved the issue of attractive nuisance, according to Prouty. That salon is less likely to incur liability However, a BOP plan may or may not require an additional endorsement to insure the child care operation against liability. “The important thing is full disclosure,” Prouty says. “A salon is a salon, not a child care operation. The salon owner must fully disclose a substantive issue such as a child care operation.”
Prouty says posting signs delineating 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 Prouty, “but the salon owner could say, ‘We gave full disclosure to this individual. She was advised of her responsibilities as a parent.’”
Employ Common Sense
“Common sense is the best policy for salon owners regarding children in their salons,” says Prouty. “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 go home,” says Michel.
“There is a duty under the law for parents to take care of and protect their children,” says Prouty, “but salon owners need to have a written procedure in place that states that all staff members have been instructed on when and how to step in should a situation occur that could be endangering a child on the salon premises. You’d better have your employees trained and have that training documented. Most salon owners don’t have such a policy.”
To allow or not to allow? That is the question salon owners need to answer up front. If you prohibit children from entering your salon altogether, remember that you may be inviting more missed appointments and more than a few disgruntled parents along with your peace of mind. But if you welcome children wholeheartedly, send out a clear, posted and verbal message to parents and to children about what kinds of behavior you will and will not tolerate. Train your staff in how to handle difficult situations that may arise and document this training. Provide entertainment for the children such as coloring books and markers, children’s books, a VCR and children’s movies, and, if possible, a few quiet toys. Talk to your insurance agent to find out if you are adequately insured. The advantages of providing a safe and quiet environment for children include fewer cancelled appointments and contented children and parents.