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March 26, 2015
The Real Issue
Should I Send an Angry Note?
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


Last week, I took my two preschool-aged boys to have their hair cut. My stylist usually cuts their hair for $10 each. When I arrived at the salon, the receptionist said that my stylist—who is the salon owner—was out on a family emergency and had asked her colleague to fill in for her. I said that would be fine, and she spent the next half hour cutting my boys’ hair.

When she was finished, I went to the front desk to pay. The receptionist told me I owed $18 for each boy. I told her, no, the price was $10 per boy. She doubtfully accepted $20 plus a $7 tip and I left.

Two days later I got a voicemail from my stylist, ranting at me that I had cheated the other stylist. She said I just had to understand that when I sat in someone else’s chair, I had to pay her price, and couldn’t leave without paying.

Thinking there had been a terrible mistake, I called her back immediately. She answered, and again accused me of cheating the other stylist. She said the receptionist told her I had thrown $20 at her and stormed out. I did neither of those things, and I’m offended at the accusation. Also it was $27, not $20—I notice she didn’t mention the tip.

Anyway, she says I owe the other stylist $16. I don’t think I do—and at most I’d owe her $9—but she does hair for three other people in my ward, and I know she gossips.

Should I send her the money, or just a note telling her off? I’m really ticked.


If I were you, I’d be ticked, too.

You went to an appointment, received a service and paid the previously agreed-upon price. You were even willing to see a different stylist in order to accommodate your stylist’s personal emergency. Then, after you resisted a higher price (reasonably, in my opinion, as you had no way of knowing how their pricing works—although you’ll know to ask next time), you still gave the stylist a 30% tip. And for your trouble, you got a nasty voicemail and were accused of stealing. All over less than $20.

(As an aside, I’d like to know how a person would throw $20 even if he wanted to—how do you hurl a paper bill? You might have slapped $20 on the counter or thrust it contemptuously at the receptionist, but you couldn’t have thrown it to much effect.)

People do funny things when money is involved. And from the situation you describe, it sounds like your stylist’s salon is not doing very well. If she were flush with cash, I imagine your stylist would have handled the situation more calmly. She might have simply offered to pay the other stylist the difference in their prices; and if things were going well, the other stylist would probably have waved off the money and put the favor in the bank.

Perhaps your stylist would have called you for a civil conversation about the incident; and if she had not been satisfied with your behavior she might have refused your next booking. But leaving an angry voicemail for a client instead of just asking what happened is not good business. Paradoxically, at the very time your stylist most needs clients and referrals, she has offended a client.

The correct response in this situation has three parts.

One, take your business elsewhere. There certainly are other stylists in your area who can do a beautiful job with your hair, and who would have handled this situation professionally, without anger or accusations. I suggest you find one and not look back. Don’t feel bad about your former stylist needing the money—any new stylist you find will also need the money.

Two, send $16 to the stylist who says you cheated her. You should not mention the $7 tip or deduct it from the $16 she says you owe her. You don’t actually know what this person said to your stylist, or how. Nor is it worth your time or hers to call and discuss the issue. If she genuinely feels cheated by what you paid, you can make her whole for a mere $16. And if she knows she exaggerated the situation to your stylist, well, that is not your problem.

If this were a different kind of dispute and if there were a significant amount of money at stake, I would not necessarily recommend rolling over and paying the money. But this is a demand for $16. For $16 you can just be done with it.

Three, do not send a note. A check with the stylist’s name on it will surely get to the right person, and because you are going to take your business elsewhere, no further comment is necessary.

After all, the only purpose of your nastygram would be to try and inflict on your stylist and her colleague the same pain they inflicted on you. And really, what is the point of that? It’s unchristian and it wouldn’t work—nastygrams don’t prick consciences, they inflame tempers. And after your temper cooled, you would not be able to reflect on this incident with satisfaction. Instead, you would feel ashamed that you, a Mormon, lobbed a scathing missile at another person over $16.

Further, you would be breaking one of my personal rules: Never send a letter that you do not want (1) read aloud in a deposition or open court, (2) forwarded to everyone you know or (3) posted on the internet. This rule is particularly important when you are irritated with someone and would like to sear him with your unassailable logic and caustic wit.

So send the $16 to the other stylist, sans nastygram, and then find a new stylist. Losing a client sends a much stronger message than anything you could write.

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