Life and Money With Helaine

Dear Helaine: Help me out with this one. My salon, like most where I live, charges for a blowout after you get highlights. I do it once every few months as a treat -- it's $40. Or, I should say, I did it occasionally.

I had a big meeting with my boss scheduled the day after my last appointment, so I said yes, I'd love the help, when my colorist asked if I would like to schedule a blowout. When I paid the bill, I discovered I was charged $80. I asked the receptionist to look over the bill and said I thought there was a mistake.

She told me my blowout was done by a master stylist. When I responded that in the past the salon always used assistants for the task, she told me the salon recently changed that policy, and I should have realized I was in the hands of a senior stylist. I told her it was wrong to spring a doubling in price on me or any customer. After another minute of back and forth, she refunded the $40 as a courtesy "just this one time."

I'm now feeling guilty and wondering if it was all my fault for not asking the price in advance. What do you think? -- A Hairy Problem

Dear Hairy Problem: It is customary to send out an email notification of a change in salon prices, as well as to post a notification at the front desk. It doesn't sound like the salon did that in this case. I doubt you are the first person to experience this sticker shock, though you might well have been the first to speak up -- and good for you that you did!

If an establishment suddenly doubles the charge for a service, it needs to tell customers about it before they sign up for it. Springing a 100% price increase on a customer after the fact is not acceptable. Moreover, I know very few people who know all the stylists in their salon, so the idea that it's your responsibility for not recognizing the person is simple excuse-making. You did nothing wrong here. The salon did.

One other suggestion: Get your colorist's contact information. This is such an unusual situation, I wonder if the salon is experiencing financial woes. It's rare to see a price go up by that much, with or without notice. You don't want to be out a prized beautician if the establishment suddenly shuts its doors.

(To ask Helaine a question, email her at askhelaine@gmail.com.)

(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Sue Roush at sroush@amuniversal.com)

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