You hear about convenience stores and other businesses getting robbed all the time, but have you ever thought that your salon could suffer the same fate?

Cindy Nguyen, owner of Angel Nails and Hair Design in Hermosa Beach, Calif., never thought she’d be the victim of theft, but that’s exactly what happened to her.

A trio of women recently walked into Nguyen’s salon. Two of them inquired about services while the third one moved from chair to chair. Nguyen thought it odd that the women’s toes looked neat and clean, as if they’d already gotten pedicures.

When Nguyen opened her purse and found her wallet missing a few hours later, she soon learned from police that she had become the victim of a trio of women targeting employees’ purses at nail salons throughout the area.

“I’ve been at this location for 19 years and have lots of regular customers,” says Nguyen. “This was the first time something like this has happened in my salon.”

Nguyen was forced to replace her driver’s license and cancel her credit cards, which were all in her wallet.

Three other nail salons in the same area were also victims of theft. In each case, the thieves posed as clients to distract employees and steal their purses or wallets. “It’s a typical diverted attention scam,” says Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott. “They were targeting nail salons because it’s easy. A nail salon is a trusting environment. They don’t anticipate they’ll be victims of a crime.”

So far, the suspects have not been found.

In San Antonio, a mother and daughter who were treating themselves to pedicures at a salon got much more than they bargained for after they were held at gunpoint and robbed. The robber forced the two women, along with the two salon owners, into a back room. Although no one was harmed, the robber did make off with a watch, a cell phone, and about $60.

Sadly, Kendall, Fla., nail technician Hung Duong didn’t fare as well as the clients and salon owners in the San Antonio salon. Two hooded men entered Million Dollar Nails through a rear entrance and demanded money, according to The Miami Herald. One of the men fired his weapon, hitting 19-year-old Duong, who later died. The salon’s owner, Sonny Pham, was hit in the head with the butt of a gun, his sister told The Miami Herald.

The two men fled, taking an unknown amount of cash.

There may be no national statistics on salon robberies and they may not always make headlines, but it’s obvious from these incidents that salon robberies and thefts do happen and you need to watch out for that.

Fortunately, you can do something to safeguard yourself and your salon. It’s important to remember, however, that no matter how well-protected your salon may be, you still may very well be the victim of robbery or theft. That’s why it’s crucial you know what steps to take in the likelihood that something does occur in your salon.


Less Money Means Less Worry

Deborah Reeves, owner of Nailz Hand & Foot Spa in Cashiers, N.C., takes as many precautions as she can to safeguard herself and her employees.

“I’ve installed door ringers on all my doors so I know the instant someone enters my business,” she says. “My back doors are always locked. If a client leaves a purse in open view of a window or door and will not be staying with it I ask her to remove it. I make sure my last client and I leave the salon together and watch each other get into our cars safely. I want to feel safe and I want my clients to feel safe, not fearful.”

Reeves learned the hard way that it pays to be safe. About 20 years ago, a salon she owned in Savannah, Ga., was robbed. As she was waiting for her client to arrive she suddenly found herself looking down the barrel of a bright, shaky silver pistol. A man with a stocking over his head began demanding money and the salon’s hairstylist complied. The robber then made Reeves, her client, and the hairstylist lie down on the floor while he looked through the client’s purse for money then locked the three women in the bathroom and fled.

“It was extremely unnerving,” remembers Reeves. “He was never caught. For almost a year after the incident I would react with fear whenever I passed someone on the sidewalk or elsewhere who had a similar size and build as the robber.”

The good thing is that Reeves took the proper precautions to ensure the same thing won’t ever happen again.

You can do the same thing to safeguard your salon. Start by minimizing the amount of money you keep in the salon. Take a cue from pizza delivery drivers and convenience stores and post a sign on your window and near your register stating that the salon only keeps a certain amount of money on the premises.

If you can, purchase a drop safe that can’t be opened by employees or be easily removed from your salon. If that isn’t an option, make frequent bank deposits. Vary the times you go and carry the money in different containers.


Shower Them With Attention

You already know how important outstanding customer service is, and it’s even more crucial if it means thwarting would-be thieves.

“Over-supply customers with kindness. Pay a lot of attention to them,” says Chief Jerry Garner of the Fort Lupton, Colo., police department. “If their intent is to harm you you will run them right off.”

Garner can’t stress enough the importance of always being alert. “Be alert for anything that looks out of the ordinary,” he says. “If you see someone suspicious outside you can lock your door. If you went to the trouble of locking the door they might think you also called the police. That will send them packing right there.”

Garner also suggests not filling up the salon windows with posters or paint so others can see you from the outside.

“Pay attention to what your fellow nail techs’ customers are doing,” adds Wolcott. “I realize when nail techs have their heads down and are working with customers they can’t always be aware. But try to look up once in a while and look around.”

Security systems and video surveillance can also be crime deterrents. “Cameras help, but it depends on how much money you want to spend and how worried you are about robberies. You can even install fake cameras,” says Garner.

Keep in mind that with cameras, it’s important to position them correctly and switch the tapes out as necessary.


Take Even More Precautions

Always try to have at least two employees working at the same time.

“Having two people doubles the trouble for a robber,” says Garner. “He or she is less likely to hit you if there’s two people working in the salon.”

Close your doors promptly at closing time or as the last scheduled customer enters the salon. Always lock the door and post the closed sign before you close out the day’s receipts and begin cleaning.

Always have a secure place where employees can store their personal items, such as lockers or a drawer you can lock. Avoid placing the storage area next to a high-traffic area such as the bathroom, for example.


Be Cooperative

In the case that you are robbed, the most important thing you can do is cooperate. “Give them the money they want, but don’t fight them or chase them outside,” says Garner.

Listen to the robber carefully and do as you’re told, but at the same time pay attention to their demeanor and behavior. That way you can form a description of the suspects to give the police.

Once the suspects are gone, lock the door to prevent them from coming back in. Then, head to your phone and call the police. “Call the police promptly,” says Garner. “We’ve had cases where people called their boss or their mom first and it gives the crook that much more time to get away. It’s amazing how many people don’t call the police first. The quicker we get there, the faster we can solve the case.”

Safeguarding yourself and your salon against a robbery or theft is a smart move. You’re more likely to keep would-be robbers and thieves away, giving you much welcome peace of mind. And in the unfortunate case that your salon is robbed, always remember to play it safe and go along with the robber. As Garner puts it, “You can replace money and items, but you can’t replace people.”


Play It Safe

Although you can never fully prevent a robbery or theft in your salon, you can take some steps to minimize the chances of it happening to you.

Low on Cash. Minimize the amount of money you keep in the salon. Try to make frequent bank deposits and vary the times you go. Purchase a drop safe if you can.

Pay Attention. We know you get so busy with clients that it's hard to sometimes look up and pay attention to your surroundings, but it's a habit you should get into. Every once in a while take a look around the salon and pay attention to who comes in and out and who the other nail techs or employees are helping. Promptly greet clients as soon as they walk in.

The More the Better. Always try to have at least two employees working at the same time. Having an employee working by herself makes it more appealing for a would-be robber or thief to do his dirty work.

Offer Employee Security. Never leave personal belongings out in plain view or close to high-traffic areas such as a bathroom. Place personal items in a locked cabinet, lockers, or drawer.

Extra Measures. You can also take extra precautions, such as adding security cameras, ringers on your doors, and promptly locking your doors as soon as you close for the day.


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