Today has been one of the most bizarre days in my career... starting with totally not recognizing my first client — whom I have known since she was 11, over 10 years ago. Seriously, she was over half an hour early for her appointment, sitting in the "ugly purple chair" in the hallway outside my door (the chair belongs to the neighboring massage therapist and I keep promising to replace it with a comely park bench...eventually) when I stepped off the elevator.
I saw the young woman sitting in the chair, but assumed she was waiting for said massage therapist — seeing as how A) she looked nothing like my client and B) I was not expecting my client for another half hour. So when she followed me into the salon as I unlocked the door, I couldn't help but squint at her and most indelicately inquire, "Ummm, who are you?" At which point she said, "Maggie? Are you serious?" in a most familiar voice and I was absolutely mortified that I actually, honestly did not recognize her!
Fortunately, she just laughed at me.
Once we got past the awkward reintroductions, we set about re-creating the design from the photo she brought me, which involved sculpting 3-D Hello Kitties and cupcakes.
In the midst of trying to find a suitable acrylic color to use for the base of the cupcake, a lovely and very classy-looking young woman walked into the salon. The first thing she said was, "Do you do nails here?"
Which seemed odd as I was rather obviously doing nails and the sign on the door rather clearly states that this is a nail salon. But I hear all kinds of strange things when people pop in unexpectedly, so I said in my most cheerful and professional voice that, yes, I do nails.
Then she asked me what kind of nails I do here.
This is not the first time I've been asked this. I find it a bizarre question and I'm never quite sure of how to answer. I mean, I guess people want to know if I do acrylic, or gel, or rockstar, or natural nails... but since she'd already mentioned she came in because she smelled the acrylic (which I found slightly insulting, as most people insist they don't smell my products in the hallway), I figured she already knew I did acrylic nails. So, despite my inclination to offer several sarcastic answers, I merely said — still all cheerful and professional — that I do all types of nails and I pointed out my photo albums and brochures. I suggested that she take a brochure, which has all my prices and services with descriptions, and that she could look through the photo albums to see examples of my work.
The lovely young woman leafed through the brochure and then asked me what I charged... No, she specifically asked, "How much does it cost to get your nails done here?" Which just seemed like odd wording for the question seeing as how I am obviously the only person that works in the whole room.
I answered that "Full sets start at $50 for basic pink-and-white and go up depending on the extent of the design work."
"How much for just pink?"
"It still starts at $50 — one color with polish takes the same amount of time and product as pink-and-white."
By this point, my client and I are sneaking peaks at each other with raised eyebrows. The woman's tone of voice made it obvious that she didn't just feel that my prices were high, but that they were unjustifiably high and she gave me the impression that she'd perhaps never heard of nail services costing so much.
But she didn't just say "thank you" and leave. She stood there, looking through my photo albums, like she was trying to process the information, or wanted to say something but couldn't think of what.
At this point, she's already insulted me. It's obvious that this is not a love connection. It's also obvious that she is not going to make an appointment. I have nothing to lose and I just could not contain my simple — and slightly belligerent — curiousity: "Are you used to going to the little shops where you just walk in?"
She blinked at me for a moment like she was translating what I'd just asked and replied, "You mean the places where you go get your nails done? Yes, I get my nails done all the time."
(She did not have her nails done.)
Now, am I wrong? Or does that seem like a weird thing to say when you're standing in a nail salon?
Then she says, "Why is it $50?"
???!!! Naturally, eight hours later I come up with the obvious retort that it's $50 because it's not $49... but at the time I think I blinked a few times as though it were my turn to do some interpreting.
I finally returned with: "Because I have 20 years of experience doing nails and I've managed to rack up a pretty impressive resume that represents a skill level that I believe warrants my prices."
I'm not entirely sure she even heard me. She just stood there, flipping through the photo albums.
I continued with my 3-D cupcake project, and eventually offered — in a lighthearted tone, a meager attempt to lighten the mood — "I don’t do cheap nails."
Now anyone who has ever suffered the sound of my voice might recall that I, apparently, have some sort of "adorable" speech impediment which results in people alternately asking me where my accent is from (I should sound like I'm from central California) or how long I wore a retainer (never — perfect teeth, no braces, no retainers) so it did not surprise me when this lady repeated what I said as the question, "You don't do 'keep' nails? What does that mean?"
So I patiently looked up from my cupcake project, made eye contact with her and careful annunciated, "CHeap nails, I don't do CHeap nails."
She squinted at me, and said, "Keep nails? You don't do Keep nails? K E E P?"
"No. Cheap, C H E A P. I don't do CHeap nails."
I kid you not, this woman furrowed her brow, and muttered, "whatever that means" while she went back to looking through my photo albums.
Seriously? "Whatever that means?!" I still haven't decided if she meant that didn't understand what cheap nails are or if she didn't understand what cheap meant... I'm of the opinion that literacy might have been an issue for her.
Eventually she asked me if I'd heard of a particular salon in town — which I had not. She then proceeded to tell me that the girl at this other salon does "stuff that looks just like these pictures" and that her price isn't as high.
Whatever that means.
Eventually, the lovely, young, classy-looking lady left.
I still don't know why this woman was on my floor of the building, I don't know what she expected from her visit to my salon, and I still don't know how to answer the question, "What kind of nails do you do?"
And I'm not at all sure why I'm supposed to care if someone else charges less than I do.