For all of you NAILS Magazine subscribers, the April 2013 issue is likely arriving at your mailbox this week. I got my copy a few days ago. Usually, even though I’ve seen all of the pages before they are ever shipped to the printer, I take my fresh issue and savor it from cover to cover, with my eyes relishing the color choices and the headlines and all of the other amazing content that fills the magazine I now hold in my hands.
But, despite the cover’s brightly spinning pinwheel symbolizing the arrival of Spring, the April issue feels dark to me. That’s because of my frustration regarding the incomplete state-by-state map on p. 147.
That map is part of a story I wrote called “The Apprentice
.” As the name suggests, the article is about how to take the apprenticeship route (instead of enrolling in nail school) to nail tech licensure. Did you know that is an option in about a quarter of U.S. states? I didn’t. Is it an option in Iowa, Illinois, or Washington D.C.? I still don’t know.
Despite my repeated attempts to reach these three state boards, I never received a response to my simple question. All I asked (via, in the case of these three boards, repeated e-mails, phone calls, and voice messages) was: “Does your state allow apprenticeships in lieu of nail school to become a licensed manicurist in the state?”
My new question to these three state boards is: Why aren’t you doing your job? And maybe: Is this how you treat your constituents?
This lack of response worries me for so many reasons. First, if you don’t answer the telephone when a reporter calls, does that mean you aren’t answering the phone when a client witnesses a sanitation breach and wants to report it? Does that mean when a salon owner has a question about her state’s rules, such as if she’s allowed to open a mobile salon or if hand sanitizer is an acceptable alternative to hand washing before a nail service, that she gets dead air or a repeating and increasingly aggravating “please hold” message for more than 30 minutes (which happened to me when I called the Illinois Division of Financial and Professional Regulation)? Does it mean if a salon owner wants to appeal a fine and has a question about the paperwork, that no one will even read her e-mail?
I did everything I could think of to get a hold of all 51 regulatory boards for this story. Early on when formulating my game plan and setting up my interviews with apprentices, I realized the story would be incomplete without telling you which states allow apprenticeship and which don’t. I mean, that would be my
first question if I saw the headline. So I opened up a blank Excel spreadsheet and filled in the names of all 50 boards, then e-mailed each one individually. One day after sending the e-mails, the responses flooded in. About one-third of the boards were on top of it! (The very first state that got back to me was Kentucky. For this alone, it may be my new favorite state.) But within a few days, the flood turned into a trickle and I knew I needed to take additional action to finish the map.
So I visited the missing state boards’ websites and found alternate e-mail addresses. I sent more e-mails. When I couldn’t find an alternate e-mail address, I picked up the phone and called. When that didn’t work, I looked for alternate phone numbers. If I got referred to another department or to the press contact, I reached out to them. Some boards gave me the runaround to multiple people, but still I persisted and got the answer in time for it to publish in the issue, in one case dashing to our Graphics department to make sure one more state was updated before the page was out of our hands and into the printer’s.
For the last few stragglers, I contacted the PBA
and asked the organization for its contacts in those states. That helped in a few cases, but not with Washington D.C., Iowa, or Illinois.
So here we are. I have on my desk a beautiful issue marred by three blue “did not respond” smudges in an otherwise completed article. Here at the NAILS office, we have since moved on to our May issue and have even already started reporting for June. I have all but given up hope that I will ever receive an answer from these three boards. But if these elusive boards do exist and would like to contact me, I — unlike these boards, evidently — have a long history of responding to e-mails. Reach me at sree.roy[at]bobit.com.