The last straw

If I was compiling a list of reasons that I’m not Nigerian, one would be Because my hair rarely looks on point. Nigerian women (and I’m not saying only Nigerian women) care about their physical appearance and their hair is a large part of the equation. They spend time on it, looking into the best products and hairstyles. Many change their hair style often.

Me? I relax my hair, and my scalp suffers. My hair care regimen is better than it used to be but still not perfect. I still sleep without a hair covering quite often. I need some silk scarves and my hair needs more moisture.

I was going to share pictures of my hair but I’m too embarrassed. Maybe I’ll get over that by the end of the entry, but I’d like to think that one or two of you have this idea of me as this polished, well put-together person (not even close to being true!) and I’m not sure I’m ready to shatter it.

Getting your hair done here is expensive if you go to a salon. I’ve never used the relaxer kits myself (my mom used to do it for me) and to be honest I love the idea of someone else working on my hair because having to wash and condition it is trouble enough (I know, poor me right?). The least expensive salon I can go to charges $68.25 to relax my hair. The other place I go to charges $79, and once last year, I paid $95 (please don’t judge me; it was painful to pay it), because I was hoping this more expensive place wouldn’t lead to a burned scalp (it did, but my hair had never looked better).

The lady I usually go to (Madame $68.25) is a usually pleasant, Ghanaian lady, but some of her business practices frustrate me:

The lack of organization
I never go to her salon without making an appointment; however, I think my sister and I are the only ones who bother to do this. Everyone else shows up willy-nilly, some waiting for hours (my sister waited for two hours once and she HAD an appointment!). They just camp there waiting. I’ll waltz in on time for my appointment and usually she’ll leave the person whose hair she’s doing and tend to me within 20 minutes because I always give her the “I booked an appointment” look. Inevitably, some of the people waiting will realize their day is half over and leave.

She needs to run her business so that clients are made aware that they have to book an apointment, and she needs to get an appointment book and keep it up to date. She should know it well so that when someone drops in, sans appointment, she can tell them that she has x amount of time available and that when the person who scheduled an appointment comes in, she’ll have to stop their hair and tend to that person. This way nobody’s time is wasted. She also needs to give better estimates of how long people have to wait because I’ve observed she’ll say 45 minutes when it’s really 2 hours.

Her phone skills
If the phone rings, she never hesitates to answer it and start talking, often animatedly, while continuing with my hair. I’m not sure why I find this so irritating, but I guess I find it hard to relax when she’s excitedly talking in an elevated tone of voice right over my head. I find it rude. It’s business time, not personal time, so I feel she should be focused on client calls.

She needs some sort of secretary/receptionist, who can answer questions about the hair products for sale, help a client send money to their relative/friend (she has a Western Union thing in her salon), and help customers who’ve just had their hair done pay for their ‘do, so she can focus fully on her current client. I understand that she may not want to spend the money on this, so what about a good voicemail system that she checks regularly, or maybe one of her kids, who are often underfoot, could do this. I think they’d learn a lot about dealing with people and gain some disclipline too if she had them answering the phone professionally, and doing small chores around the place. Instead the younger girl, who is undeniably cute and very personable, has grown spoiled (I’ve been going there for a while) and very used to getting her way. She expects clients to think she’s cute and coddle her when sometimes? You just want your hair to get done, pay for it, and get on with your day. You can tell she’s used to being adored and complimented by the older clients and just lives for it. Now that she’s at least 10 years old, the act is getting old.

Not making the client feel special
If someone comes in to buy hair products (which she also sells), or if the guy who cuts hair finishes with a client who needs to pay, she’ll leave your hair to go handle the transaction. Sometimes the customer has questions or needs guidance, so this isn’t always a simple and quick exchange of money. I sympathize with the fact that she doesn’t know this until she’s left my hair but it’s very annoying and adds extra time to my appointment. She never says “excuse me; I need to go ring in this sale”; she just leaves. And when things are running long due to questions, she never calls back to me that she’ll be right back. That is rudeness. And if someone should decide they need to send money to their cousin abroad via WU, she’s off again, leaving me rolling my eyes and sighing inwardly.

But I’ve dealt with these things for many years, complaining about it to anyone who’ll listen and to my sister, so that’s ok. But I’m tired. About a month ago, my sister went to do her hair. She said the hairdresser “hacked her hair”: usually she asks if you want a trim to remove the dead ends. My sister said she just wanted the dead ends off but she got her hair chopped and it really did. She lost way too many inches for it to be called a “trim”. Our hair barely grows so she was not happy.

Three days later I went to my appointment. I was kept waiting, I was forgotten and she really didn’t seem to care about what she was doing. My sister she felt the same way during her earlier appointment. Maybe she’s stressed or going through something.

When it was time for my trim, she cut my hair unevenly! I didn’t notice it but the next day at work, a colleague asked if I was rocking an asymmetrical style! I went to the bathroom and tried to see if maybe it was just the off-centre part affecting the length but it wasn’t: there is at least a inch of difference in length! I contemplated going back to get her to even it out but you know what would happen: she’ll trim a little off the left to even it with the right and suddenly the left will be too short. Then she’ll trim a bit off the right to match the left and before I know it I’m bald, and 25 years of growing my hair will be gone, just like that.

So, finally, I’m shopping for a new salon. One recently opened in my parents’ neighbourhood, but I’m going to do what some of my oyinbo friends do: I’ll meet with the hairdresser and make sure she knows my personal hair issues and what my hair goals are. Something about the way this new place is organized gives me hope that she’ll be that kind of hairdresser: the forever kind. I just hope she’s not too expensive!

Don’t forget: this blog is nominated in two categories in the Nigerian Blog Awards. To vote for this blog as Best Personal Blog, Best Personal Development Blog or both, feel free to click the links, which will take you to the polls.

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31 thoughts on “The last straw

  1. Funny that you're talking about hair today…I'm braiding my hair right now. But I'm braiding it myself (yeah, I do it sometimes…instead of going to the salon).

  2. OMG! You should so go to my hairdresser! Her name is MIMI, its is a little pricey but the way she does your hair, is wow! I like her.. let me know if you want a number.

  3. Yep hair and its care is never easy. I say paying more money for the better haircare is worth it as long as you can pay your bills. No cheap cost is worth the scalp burn. Gd luck and keep us updated on the new salon.

  4. *comes out of lurkdom*

    Congratulations on your nomination! I am soo excited for you!!!

    I will definitely vote for you!

    In regards to your post, I can COMPLETELY relate!!

    One of the reasons I went natural is because of the cost…and girl, I also paid those prices and more because you forgot to include the tip.

    In regards to your hairdresser, it is so unfortunate that she's not the only one. I had the same situation all the time even in a puertorrican salon that I used to attend. I would go at 9 am and come back at 5 or 6p.m. With all the time spent there, I could have filled a timesheet and get paid!!

    The best hairsalon that never did that shit was a cape-verdian! It is such a pity that the boss got into an argument with my friend and I didn't felt comfortable going there anymore.

    First of all, an appointment was mandatory and if you came in late, you would get a warning and the second time a fine, the third time she'll refuse payment.

    She had a receptionist and a separate wash/conditioning room. I loved going there! Love the ambience too, clean, green and relaxing.

    She didn't take personal calls and had a file for each client.

    the best salon experience was actually white. I went there for a blow out. I got in and I received a key to a locker room and an apron to wear, complimentary beverages , a snack and the stylist made me feel special.

    I think the problems with hair salon like the ones you go to and the ones I've been to is that the owner looks into the short -term and not long-term i.e I need to make as much $$ as possible instead of I need to make this client happy so she can bring her sisters, mama, grandma, shoot the entire family.

    I think as Africans, we often make that excuse of "you know., I'll go there when I can, after all, I am paying her. Or I'll go there African time."

    For those who value their time, when you become more demanding about time, you get a side eye. I used to get that side eye in Zimbabwe. I'll call in to make an appointment and she'll be like..a what?

    me: an appointment

    her: okay…well you can come anytime you know.

    me:no, I want an appointment.

    and they didn't even have a freaking appointment book.

    same thing in other countries.. I love love love hair salons so I used to go to as many as possible!!

    anyways, I am writing a novel so I'll stop here.

  5. anyways I forgot to say best of luck with the salon search !!

    another salon horror: the hairstylist 's hair was so busted that I didn't even want to get my hair done

    did we mention the braiding sessions horrors?

  6. LMAO, ndo o. I find a lot of black hairdressers are pretty much unprofessional, I am talking about Nigerian, African American and Jamo hairdressers, it's just ridiculous. But I do think some of the blame lies with us, we tend to take crap from our hair care providers. When I was in Yankee some lady couldn't get the track out of my hair so she ripped it off, glue and all, I rocked a bald spot for the rest of the summer. SMDH, I swear someone needs to show people how to run a proper salon. Again, pele o and good luck finding a GOOD hairdresser

  7. Being the mom of a mixed teenage daughter, it has been really hard finding places to take her to get her hair done. We have had failures (when they fried her hair so badly with relaxer that it began falling out) and successes (a hairdresser that would not relax her hair because she told her it was too delicate and instead made it look beautiful naturally). Having gone to many appointments with her, I can relate to the extensive waiting. I have spent 6+ hours in the salon waiting for my daughter. I never thought it was possible to spend that amount of time doing hair.

    I wish you the best of luck finding a salon that is reliable and is kind to your hair.

    Congrats on the very well deserved nominations. I love your blog.

  8. I keep telling U, U are Blogging about me. My hair is ALWAYS a mess. even when I think it looks good, I go out wit a group of Nigerian babes and realise…. its a mess!

    So mostly, now, I just keep it braided. My hair is natural (rocking th afro puff) so its a double pain to comb, brush, all of dat.

    I think the salon U just talked about is like alot of other africn biznez's, dat casualness, almost no effort put in to customer service thing, can get very frustrating and would usually result in a loss of biznez, but with something as speciallized as "black women's hair" (lol) they are guaranteed to come back.

  9. I am not familiar with canadian hairdressers but like omosit said its prevalent with the black hairdressers here in yankee. Unfortunately, I consider them the best, I stay FAR away from africans unfortunately unless i am braiding. The best hairdresser i ever had, I had to leave because of her bad time management. I agree that investing money in hair is worth it. A relaxer on average here is 75. I try not to relax more than 3 times a year but I spend much more on everything else. Good luck in your search!

  10. I once paid $120 just to relax my hair…..I'm not proud if it too. Nowadays i just get one of my friend to do it then the next week i go to the salon for a trim.

  11. The Salon reminded me of a Nigerian shop I went to somewhere in the midwest. I was so ashamed! It was untidy, dirty, the shelves were not properly arranged and the prices of items were of course outrageous! They made a lot of money but the general ambience of the place was horrible! They stocked essential items for the Nigerians who absolutely must eat naija foods so maybe they think like your hairdresser, hair must be made so ill always have customers! Terrible methinks!

  12. I totally feel your pain! It is the same in the UK. I blogged about something similar last year. They have no concept of time or customer service. I hate waiting at the best of times, but even more so when I have an appointment. Best service I have received was with a black stylist who worked for a European salan. Service was top notch, but I paid the price. £120 to be exact.

    Simple things like offering you a drink, taking your details, giving you call back a week after your relax to see how your hair is, sending vouchers on your birthday, dealing with one client at a time. Its not rocket science!

    When I moved to Birmingham I went salon hunting and after trying 3 different places, I have finally settled on one I like. It only took me 12 months lol!

  13. Pele dear. Hair stylists woes applies everywhere. Just that its cheap back here [Naija] and customer is very much the Queen.lol. I'm usually lazy about taxi-ing further than 400m to do my hair. So the Surulere hub of popular hair stylists[Bobby's, Make me] were once in a while moves. Luckily there was this saloon with a fyne-God took his time to make-male stylists. That saloon was like a scene from desperate housewives. A lot of simpering females coming to do their hair like twice a week..lol. but admittedly he is great with fixing and cuts.

    I have particular saloons for retouching/braiding/fixing. Coming across one that does all three well is usually a rarity. Happy hunting gal

    @Jaycee. Can we have pics please. Power to your arm!

  14. Congrats on your nomination! well-deserved!

    I can totally understand your frustration! The point of an appointment is that the position is reserved and you have obviously planned your day to do different things. As for talking on the phone, if it concerns someone else booking an appointment, I'm game! But if not, I'm not impressed!

    Great concern though! My hair dresser is fabulous and in the days of my relaxed hair she was beautiful. My sister has the most sensitive scalp in the world and she still hasn't complained once!

    So if you need a number, let me know!

    ijay

  15. Feel you on the hair thing, Even down here in Nigeria most of the salon are unprofessional. Caring for hair is one herculean on its own

  16. GNG, haven't you heard of the expression "A good man is hard to find, but a good hair stylist is near impossible to find"?

    Most black ladies have to compromise on our hair one way or the other. Either you pay through the nose for a great service, or you go to the unprofessional but (slightly) cheaper ones.

    I blogged about my last trip to the salon here: http://favouredgirl.blogspot.com/2010/04/bald-hea… it was enough to make me consider chopping all my hair off and going bald for a while! I'm still considering that, btw.

    Congrats and kudos on all the hard work you've put into running the blog awards. I tell you, it's hard work coordinating a group project like this! Looking forward to the Category B ones next ;)

  17. Umm…have you tried using satin pillow cases? It helps out when you don't feel like wearing a scarf.

  18. I am having the same dramas at the moment. It really sucks because you don't want to end up at the wrong place and end up scalped. Sometimes it just ends up easier being disrespected but just sticking to what you know will be a decent job

  19. hmm…perhaps it's time to go natural and embrace your curls?

    Sorry to say, but Nigerian women do NOT know how to take care of their hair. They rock the worst weaves, and subject themselves to traction alopecia all in the name of braids. And yes, I am Nigerian.

    I hate the notion we have that the only way to look polished is to use chemicals. Ugh.

    Anyways, your hairdresser sounds horrible, and like she takes your business for granted. Glad you're looking for someone new.

    ps check out this natural hair blog I stalk:

    bglhonline.com

  20. Every single time I get comfortable with a new stylist they jack their prices up. Sigh. So in the interim I go to JCPenneys Hair Salon which is slightly more expensive than a typical mom and pop shop, but does a good job. You would be surprised at the talented women they have in there that specialize in black hair. I guess it depends on the population of black folks in your area, but until you find a good stylist I would check out your local JCPenneys!

  21. I can completely relate to your post.

    Hair dressers…………they are somthign else!

    Sometimes I feel like going natural on some low cut, so I dont have to endure all the 'hardships of having nice hairdos at salons'

    Good work on the Naija blogger award!

    More power!

  22. Ha! You really need another hairdresser, I can't believe you put up with all of that for so long! Is there a dearth of hairdressers in your city? No problems here, I wear my hair natural since always and now I'm really glad for it ;)

  23. girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! need a help from ou all…………

    i would like to know how the nigerian ladies care their hair. what is their habit towards the hair care and hair care products.

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