“20/20 calling,” came the call last week. “They want some information about the nail industry for a story they’re doing on Watsonville, Calif.” I spoke with a producer; who’s interested in facts and figures about the nail industry and anything else I could tell her about the bacterial outbreak that occurred in Northern California last year. As usual, when we do these interviews, I imagine the “teaser” ad they’ll run: “These women had no idea they were risking their health when they walked into their salon for a beauty treatment, but they came out of the salon with their legs covered with sores — news at II.” Far be it for me (as a member of the media) to criticize the rest of the media, but you have to wonder why the news picked up on this story six months after it happened, and is now blowing the story out of the water without doing much follow-up.

As most of you know, a California salon was shut down late last year after many of its pedicure clients broke out in sores. They were exposed to a common, but virulent bacteria in a poorly maintained foot bath. (For the full story, see “Don’t Let It Happen to You” in the March 2001 issue of NAILS.) The story launched a slew of local news stories, especially in California, about salon safety, and has led several manufacturers and the California Board of Consumer Affairs (which regulates the salon industry in California) to lead a campaign to clarify maintenance procedures for the foot baths. So out of the scandal conies at least one good thing.

The problem I see is not that all of the industry’s dirty laundry is aired, it’s that the public sees only one side and usually isn’t given enough information to put it all in perspective. I’ve seen it many, many times: A news report on one bad salon can wreak havoc on the industry for months — sometimes even years — to follow, There’s no way to prevent the stories, but I suggest that all salon owners and nail professionals be prepared to deal with the fallout directly, honestly; and intelligently with their own clients. That means tell your clients what you do in your own salon to keep them safe. Tell them how you dean your pedicure spa, for example, and why it takes a few extra minutes to do.

You think your business has gotten competitive? SO has the news media. They compete by offering more salacious stories, more gruesome images, and more outcries in the name of public safety. And you can bet if they’ve got it, there will be news at 11.

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