Many a year ago I closed my shop, packed my belongings, and headed to the big city. But before I did, I made sure to find another tech in town to refer my clients to.
I didn't have a referral relationship with another local nail tech at that point, so I wasn't sure who to refer my clients to. I finally found someone who actually offered the same services I did (gels, pink-and-whites, etc. — very few salons in town offered more than traditional acrylic with polish at that point) and actually disinfected her implements. I couldn't promise my clients that her personality was going to be a good fit, or that they'd like her work as much as mine, I just needed to know they'd be in safe hands. If it didn't work out, well, there's only so much I can do, right?
I didn't stay gone long. Long story, of course, but about a year later I was back in my original zip code, opening up a new studio salon and sending out "I'll understand if you don't come back but I hope you do" cards to all my old clients.
And several of them came back. (Whew!)
Several of my clients did go to the tech I'd referred them to before I left. Some of them stayed with her for a while, but almost universally, I heard the same story from them and it's the reason they all left her eventually:
They were afraid to accept an offer of a cup of coffee or a glass of water.
The salon boasted a very nice retail area. The owners put a lot of effort — and money — into not just retailing salon-related things like products and implements, but ran a full-on gift emporium filled with all sorts of nifty one-of-a-kind items that really made you want to spend more money than you'd budgeted every time you visited the salon! Which is, after all, the point of retailing. Right?
But everything was for sale. A bottle of water had a price tag on it. A cappuccino? $3. Iced tea? We have this fancy tea from the darkest corners of the lost continent of Atlantis — only $5.
Everyone who'd gone to the salon admitted that they genuinely liked the people there, and genuinely liked the tech's work, but ultimately, they never knew if accepting an offer for a beverage or a snack would come with an additional charge.
This over-zealous approach to retailing ultimately lost this salon a lot of clients because people simply didn't want to come off as rude, cheap, or poor by having to constantly ask "depends, what does it cost?"
It's OK to give some things away. A glass of water, a cup of coffee. Little acts of hospitality create an atmosphere of safety, comfort, and trust between a customer and a business. And making your guests feel like guests who are welcome and appreciated means they keep coming back, which is much more profitable than upselling a $3 bottle of water.