A question I hear from salon owners all too often is, “How can I keep nail professionals?”
One thing that often jumps out at me is tiered pricing for hair professionals. You surf salon websites and you will see the hair services are “starting at” and the different levels of hairstylist have catchy names like Master Stylist or Advanced Designer. The salon’s website usually explains that the difference in price comes from the difference in education and experience each professional has. This is perfectly reasonable and a great way to reward senior employees, while also giving the clients opportunity to choose between paying less for someone newer in the industry or paying more for someone who has taken more classes and has more service experience.
What puzzles me is that the same salons will have across-the-board non-tiered prices for nail services that are usually either average or below average. This means that the customer pays the same for a nail service from a cosmetologist who graduated yesterday and an experienced nail professional who may have been with the salon for 10+ years, in the industry for 20+ years, and taken 25+ hours of advanced education per year. While this seems lucky for the client if she happens to get the experienced staff member, it’s pretty disrespectful and unfair to the professional doing nail services. Why would an experienced salon professional choose to do nails in a place that clearly places NO value on nail services or the people performing them?
Let’s say a haircut is $38 and up. This leaves room for different levels of experience in the hair service. A haircut is roughly half an hour, give or take, with some different variables. Next, let’s imagine that a manicure is $25 and also about half an hour. If you are a cosmetologist, why would you deliberately choose to make 34% less per hour? If someone is just getting a basic haircut, then scissors may be the only thing used. For a basic manicure there are implements, polish remover, cuticle product, polish, and some ancillary or disposable items. Therefore a nail service uses more product, the same amount of time, and yet is worth 34% less? This could be why some people would choose not to even try doing nails or volunteer to help with nail services and improve their skills.
Next, let’s get to the blatantly disrespectful part. Say the senior hair stylist makes $49 on the tiered “and up” scale. Since the nail services are not tiered, the senior staff willing to do nails is now making 48.9% less per hour if they choose to do nails. A small handful of progressive salons actually have implemented tiered pricing for nails, however the scale is kept much smaller. One example would be $25 as a basic manicure base price and $30 for an experienced staff person. Therefore the salon owner is telling the staff that while continuing your education and gaining experience in doing hair is potentially worth $11 more for a half hour service, the same effort is only worth $5 per half hour if you do nails. Why would someone choose to do nails if they are going to be undervalued and underpaid?
What are your thoughts as a salon owner about the discrepancy? If you work in a salon in this situation, how does it make you feel? As a consumer, what makes you feel that a manicure should be inexpensive?