Business Management

Boutique Owner Takes On Ma Bell

Begins crusade that could affect entire industry

Kristy Wurtele, a boutique owner in the Phoenix, Az. area, is in the middle of a fight that may well determine her financial future and possibly even the industry’s

Her struggle is against an over-whelming opponent and a situation that she claims severely curtailed her four-boutique, nine manicurist operation to the single location two station business it has now become.

“The situation,” explained Kristy, “is that Mountain States Bell, here in the Phoenix area, has refused to allow a sculptured nail manicurist to list and advertise her services under the Beauty Salon section of the yellow pages because they claim we own our own shop or concession.

“Instead,” she continued, “they forced me to list under ‘Artificial Fingernails’ or ‘Manicuring’, and as a result my business and income has dropped tremendously.”

Therein lies the struggle, the impact of which has been serve and detrimental, according to Kristy, who backs up her claims with the following information:

“I have always stressed to my girls that with each client they find out where they came from; was it by referral from newspaper ads, yellow pages, whatever the case.”

“By looking at those figures, I was drawing a full 50% of my business from ads in the yellow pages. My business grew 100% over the preceding year, and I was continuing to grow at about 20-30% a month. That is up until early 1982 when the new yellow pages came out.”

It didn’t take long for Kristy to notice the difference.

“Before I even placed the ad I had to fight with them because they refused to allow my listing and ad in the beauty salon section. So in the end I had to place my ad and listing where they would allow me,”

“Then, as soon as the new book came out,” reflected Kristy,” my business took a drop of approximately 20% a month. As a manicurist, I rely on a constant influx of new people, which the yellow pages were giving me. But with the new listing my business and referrals from 50% to 3%.”

The next step for Kristy, once her panic had subsided, was to generate some attention to the situation. One of her first calls was to her supplier, Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, president of Creative Nail Design, Oceanside, Ca.

Between the two of them, a letter writing campaign was devised and instituted, and subsequent legal action was taken against the phone company.

The result was substantial media coverage in the Phoenix area and a costly suit to recover losses.

The letter campaign was pointed. frank and concise.

“A consumer seeking a beauty treatment wants to see that service listed under Beauty Salons and not body replacement,” claims their cover letter. “Sculptured nails may only be the first on the phone company list, who will be next? I am asking everyone in the beauty industry to fight Bell and protect yourself from unfair trade discrimination. All of you know the long struggle to gain equal rights for all people; are we ready to give this up?”

Nordstrom, in a subsequent interview, expanded on his and Kristy’s interpretation of the yellow page situation.

“We began this little campaign because of the threat that this could turn into to manicurists as individuals and manicurists and pedicurists as a group,” he explained.

“The position by the phone company is this; since manicurists do not come under their definition of beauty salons, that being primarily hair, manicurists are not entitled to list their services or advertise under beauty salons.”

There are four basic issues, according to Nordstrom.

1. “The arbitrary listing of sculptured and nail extension manicurists under the heading of ‘Artificial Fingernail’ This type of listing appears in the same section as artificial eyes, limbs and breasts which gives the consumer the idea that services offered are for replacing fingernails.

2. The unfair decision that sculptured and nail extension manicurists, who own their own shops, do not have the right to spend their money buying advertising nor be allowed listing under ‘Beauty Salons’. These people are licensed members of the beauty industry. One of the basic principles of our country is freedom to be a business person without prejudicial and discriminatory interference by a person or company.

3. “The many fine people in our industry, who are manicurists or provide manicuring services, should not be confined to any section of the yellow pages that unfairly restricts their rights to listing under the category usually consulted by a consumer seeking such a service. I ask therefore that these licensed beauty experts be allowed listings under ‘Beauty Salons.’ and if they choose, under ‘Manicuring.’

4. The indexing in the yellow pages under ‘Sculptured Nails’ has the following listing- ‘see Artificial Fingernails, Beauty Salons, and Manicuring.’ Under the heading ‘Beauty Salons’ no manicure shops are listed nor does advertising appear. Why the discrepancy? I request that they change the index by deleting ‘Artificial Fingernails’ and the ‘Beauty Salon’ listings with advertising policy changed to allow proper exposure to the manicuring industry.”

The impact of this situation has been dramatic for Kristy, who also claims that many other manicurists and salon owners in her area have closed or greatly reduced their businesses.

“Should the phone company use Phoenix as an example for their listing rules on a national basis, many salons and boutiques will go out of business. This is a threat not just to me but to the entire industry.”

Kristy’s current struggle is in the legal arena. Her suit against the phone company for an unspecified amount for loss of income, severe emotional distress and other damages relating to the loss of her business has been filed. But she acknowledges that may be a long fight.

“It was very scary watching as the foundation that I had worked so hard for crumbled in front of my eyes,’ she said. “Now I’m right back to where I started from.”

The final note on this story is that Kristy and Nordstrom continue to wage their letter writing campaign and urge manicurists and salon owners to contact them for the materials they have devised.

“We have a form letter that can be easily reproduced and directions for sending the material,” said Nordstrom. “The point here is to stir up a little dust, and just maybe win one for the industry.”

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