Ever have a client you just absolutely loved? Like your heart skips a beat and your day lights up when you see her name in your schedule? You just want to clone her, and have a clientele made up of nothing but Bettys. (Or Irmas or Tammys or whatever. It’s an example, don’t take it too literally.)
Then, one day, for whatever reason, your perfect Betty has to cancel her appointment. Not just this one, but all of them. Something comes up; her hubby got laid off, she lost her job, she had a baby, she got a divorce, her mother passed away...you know, any one of the number of reasons that clients stop getting their nails done.
Maybe a couple of years go by. Maybe you’re still friends with her on Facebook so you still feel kind connected to her. You still see her around town now and then, or you have mutual friends who mention her to you here and there. Point is, you get reminded of her on occasion and you miss her. You remember what a great connection you had with her. You remember what an awesome client she was — never late for her appointments, never bounced a check or asked for credit or special favors, always tipped really well, never criticized or pushed the limits of your business policies.
Man! Do you wish she would come back!
And then. One day. She does.
And then you’re ecstatic! You are so happy to hear from her! Maybe you make a special effort to get her into your book. You are so excited to get to see her again. To catch up with what’s been going on in her life, of course, but also because she was such a good client. You know she takes great care of her nails, she doesn’t pick or bite, she never skips appointments, she always schedules in advance. I mean, sure, you like her personally and you’re dying to get to see her and talk to her, but you also know she’s one of those people who respect you and make your job easy and fun.
The day of her appointment arrives. You are so happy to have her back you don’t even flinch that she’s 10 minutes late. You give her a hug (if you’re the hugging-your-clients type) and get down to business because — after all — it is your business and as much as you are looking forward to having her back in your client list, you do have other clients to attend to.
It’s about 10 minutes into it all by the time you find yourself wondering just who the $*#@! is this person? First, she was late. She never used to show up late! Now she’s talking with her hands while texting through her service. She never used to use her phone at her appointments; she always turned off the ringer and put it in her purse because she always said she thought it was “so rude” when people were on the phone through their appointments.
Maybe she shows up with her kids. You know, the kids she never brought to the salon because she knew what hoodlums they were. But now she’s got them with her and they’re climbing your shelves and leaning on your desk — you know, your desk with the wheels on it? While you’re trying to use the e-file? And she acts like she doesn’t even notice that they’re there.
By the time you’ve got her nails done, you start wondering if you really remember things right. Maybe you were thinking of the other Betty all this time? Then your once-most-favorite client pulls out a handful of crumpled one dollar bills, a roll of quarters, and a debit card. She asks what she owes you. You tell her the price. First she looks at you like you just slapped her mother and then says in a nasty, sarcastic tone, “I guess you must have raised your prices.” It’s not a question, it’s an accusation. You glance sideways at the kid who has dropped six of your polish bottles off the shelf and onto the ground.
You smile sweetly and remind her, “Well, it has been six years since you were here.”
She hands you the wad of ones and the roll of quarters. Then she asks if you can run the card for $20 and can she bring you the rest when she gets paid next week?
Oh, for crying out loud!
And you are so blown away by the extreme change in her personality that all you can do is stand there and stare at her as a thousand things to say roll through your head like thunder. But all those things are pushing to get out of your head at the same time, so it’s like they get stuck and none of them make it through.
Then she gets mad when you don’t have an opening in exactly 10 days at 5:30 in the evening. So she gets huffy and walks out with her little devil child who, you notice, has decided to keep one of your polishes. She says, “I guess I’ll just call when I’m ready to come back and see what you have then,” as she walks away.
You don’t even care about the stolen polish or the $17 that she’s supposed to bring by next week when she “gets paid.”
Your heart is broken. You wonder what happened to the wonderful person she used to be. How could she insist that her life is so much better now, since the divorce/break up/getting fired/moving across town/etc.? Is this the real her? Was this inconsiderate monstrosity lurking within her heart all that time when she was such a delight to have in the salon?
Sometimes I wonder if there’s an evil force that devours and then replicates my long-lost-love clients when the person who returns in their place ends up being some sort of bizarre doppelganger terror.
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