I woke up this morning full of fury. Today is as good as any for an “empowerant” (empowering rant, new word I made up. Someone call Webster!).

My inbox was full. I have 27 emails, over 120 Facebook notifications, and more Facebook messages than I will have time to respond to today. Seeing statutes in black and white has opened a lot of eyes.

…but my question is WHY?

Why did it take this for you to see that this practice is wrong and exploitative and backwards?
Why didn’t any of you question this practice long ago and search the statutes yourself?
Why did all of you think it was “okay” to work for free or for less than minimum wage and to pay business operating expenses on top of that?

Why did I have to show you that you deserve better for you to finally believe it?

I challenge you; please name one industry where this treatment is “customary.” Please name one business where employees are expected to sit in empty businesses and “maybe” make money. Name one business that takes business expenses from an employee’s paycheck. Name one business that requires a professional license as a prerequisite to employment but treats their employees like garbage and doesn’t guarantee them even minimum wage. Name one business that thinks handing over 50% of gross sales is a reasonable compensation method or a sustainable business practice.

Explain our “customary” business practices to anyone in any other business.

Tell them about salon owners that hire indiscriminately, filling their salons with employees they think they don’t have to pay for–attracting them with job postings that clearly state, “Must Have Clientele.”
Tell them about how many of us are classified as “independent contractors,” even though we’re not given any independence.
Tell them about how it’s completely normal for a salon owner to say, “You have to do your time and market yourself.”
Tell them about how it’s common practice to have money deducted from our paychecks to cover product, “head charges,” credit card fees, or other business expenses the owner should be paying for.
Tell them that if a client returns, complaining about their service, that the owner deducts that money from our paycheck entirely.

You know what happens when I tell people about these things you consider a normal part of this industry?
They look horrified. Many get confused and say, “Why would anyone accept that?”

When I speak with exploited salon employees, I often ask them, “Why do you think these practices are permissible? Why would you chose to work in such an exploitative arrangement that expects the world of you and offers you nothing in return?”

I hear the same answers: “Because I love having the ability to be creative.” “I want to be successful in this business.” “I thought it was part of the job.”

Today, I’m passing this message to you: If we don’t make any changes, nothing will change. Exploitative employers aren’t going to suddenly wake up one day with a change of conscience and say, “You know what, I’ve been taking advantage. Today, I’m going to correct all this.” This isn’t “A Christmas Carol.” In our industry, there is no Ghost of Salon Future to correct salon owner Scrooges.

I have found that the beauty industry attracts “givers.” You’re happy to make sacrifices for others. You live to serve and to pamper. You work overtime; coming in early, staying late, giving up weekends and lunch breaks and forsaking vacations. You neglect and devalue yourselves; ignoring your health, charging far less than you’re worth, and allowing exploitative employers to treat you like indentured servants. You let these employers tell you that you don’t deserve a living wage. You don’t deserve breaks. You don’t deserve paid vacations, overtime pay, or access to affordable insurance.

These exploitative employers hide behind the shield of “industry custom,” shrugging and saying,”This is how it has always been done,” or “This is how everyone does it.” This treatment is unacceptable and we need to start pointing that out to them.

Do you know what I hear when I hear these “customary” practices?

“You have to market yourself/You must have a clientele to work here.”
“You are on your own. It is your responsibility to bring clients to my business.”

“You must provide your own product/You must pay product charges.”
“I will not be providing you with the means to do the duties I have hired you to perform.”

“You must pay fees and meet quotas.”
“I reserve the right to assign arbitrary costs to you. You are indebted to me. You must make enough money to keep your job.”

“You will be fined for mistakes, tardiness, and other infractions.”
“I will penalize you by taking from you what you have rightfully earned.”

“You must sign a non-solicitation contract.”
“I own the business I have forced you to build on your own. You owe me your clientele.”

“You cannot work for yourself or anyone else.”
“I own you. You belong to me. I control you and your right to earn money plying your trade. You owe me your loyalty, even though I have done nothing to earn yours.”

“You are expected to remain in the salon, even if you’re not busy.”
“Your time belongs to me, even though I am not paying you for it. Your time is worthless to me.”

“You must adhere to the salon’s prices and participate in promotions.”
“I determine your worth. If I decide your services are worth 50% less during holiday season or for any other reason, you have no choice but to accept that.”

And my favorite: “You need to be part of the team.” This one is used to justify demanding all of the above, which is so ironic is physically painful to me. Seriously, it’s like an ice pick being driven through my eye socket. How is that fair? You’re expected to look out for the salon–but is the salon looking out for you? No. It’s not. The exploitative employer looks out for themselves only. You don’t register anywhere on their list of priorities.

What these combined statements say is, “You are alone. It is you versus me and versus your coworkers. It’s every man for himself here. I own you and your clients. You are my slave and you are here to serve my whims, but do not expect me to make any sacrifices for you. All of these things are owed to me because I have gifted you with employment. All of these things are excusable and acceptable because everyone else does them this way.”

These are common expectations in our industry. They’re so common, most professionals don’t realize how backwards they are until they see them in the right context. This isn’t leadership. It’s domination through fear and intimidation.

A true leader uplifts and supports their employees. They put forth effort into attracting clients. They guarantee a base wage to ensure their staff make enough money to feed themselves. They earn loyalty through respect, honesty, and consideration. They don’t look down their nose at them and tell them that they have to “do their time like everyone else.” They don’t blame them for their professional struggles. They extend helping hands, encourage, motivate, and educate.

I know you love your jobs, but doing something you love and enjoying a work environment that treats you fairly and respectfully aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. Now is the time to stop acting like they are.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate what you are trying to do but making blanket statements like the ones you have above, in my opinion is wrong as well. I am a salon owner. I provide everything (product, equipment, credit card fees, even the clientele). I do not tell them when to work, what there hours are…they tell me and the front desk schedules accordingly. If they come in and they only have two or three clients, you often block off their books for the rest of the day. This drives me crazy but I don’t say anything because “they are independents”. I have one very talented Esthetician that some days she comes in with her hair and makeup done and next day she may come in looking as if she just rolled out of bed and is headed to the gym. Uum…I thought we were in the business of selling Beauty. I don’t say anything because “they are independent”. I am very careful to follow the IRS requirements for “independent contractors”. There are some of us out there that truly love and respect this business and would like to help new people in this industry get off the ground. Not all salon owners are greedy, self-serving demons.

    • That is why I explicitly call them “exploitative salon owners.” For it to be a blanket statement, I would have referred to them as “salon owners.” As a salon management consultant, I mostly work with owners and absolutely do not believe that all salon owners are like this. I’m sorry if you received that impression, but I went out of my way to make it clear that the owners I was referring to are intentionally exploitative.

  2. Tina,
    I wish I could hug you at this moment!! I adore your new word, and how strongly it has empowered me! I am an independent contractor overly used by one of these “exploitative” salon owners. While only recently realizing just how wrong I have been treated I had a terribly hard time approaching my salon owner. However as I’ve cautiously researched and prepared my case to her I was lacking the guts to bring my findings to work.
    As I have finally finished my research and coincidentally found your blog I just wanted

  3. Tina,

    Thank you! I am a salon owner in New Jersey and absolutely horrified at what is going on in our industry. I believe I am one of the good ones. How do we change it? How does this industry allow this?

    • We change it by taking ownership of our salons and doing better than those who don’t. We make our workplaces the most desirable and educate our employees about their rights and our obligations to them so they can move forward as more informed professionals who can truly appreciate the lengths we go to to do better by them. Workers in our industry are desperate for employers who lead and take ownership of their businesses. Be the best damn boss there is and make sure they know how much you value them. You’ll reap what you sow in the best way possible. 🙂

  4. I totally agree with these views of “exploitive employers”. I feel that most salon owners are really lacking the skills for businesses ownership. Since self-employment “booth rental” seems to be where the industry is heading ; perhaps beauty schools Should also have a focus on business ownership .
    As a salon owner who provides well and cares for his employees , I have found it difficult to get a return on my investment .
    I’m not looking for an indentured servant but certainly some type of recoup for all of the education and training we provide . It’s a lot of work only to loose them to booth rent.
    I feel that one of the biggest problems we have is compensation in our industry . When we tell a new hire that their compensation is 50% , it’s not telling the whole story . There is a cost of sales for which the employer must bear and in my salon it’s very close to 70% . This only leaves 30% left over for all fixed expenses and in my area rent is off the hook .
    I really do hope that we can come to some mutually beneficial compensation because I really would like both salon owner and the employee to do well:)

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here