intro: Here's a first: I'm writing this column from beneath one of those huge 1950s-looking hair dryers at a salon as my highlights cure. Wow, that's two confessions in one! There's a reason I'm writing on the run: inspiration hit! In talking to my stylist just now--he shall remain nameless, so he can speak freely--I learned tips and tricks about how salons operate that can help you get a great result.
quicklist: title: Finesse the desk. text: If you need a last-minute appointment, use honey instead of vinegar in your voice. Be flexible. Work with the front desk folks to see if there is a way to get in. If they say your stylist has no time, leave a message for the stylist him/herself, because often there is time in the schedule that the stylist knows about but the front desk folks can't "see." Better yet, establish a friendly relationship well before you need a favor and then when you're in a pinch, these folks will be more eager to help.
quicklist: title: Be flexible if you're late. text: Don't expect to get all of the services you were scheduled for, but don't assume you can't get what you need, either. Often you can get your haircut but maybe skip the blow dry. Or you can get all of the services you need, but some of them will be performed by an assistant or by a different stylist.
quicklist: title: Never lie! text: If you colored your hair yourself, don't pretend you didn't. And if you colored it multiple times--with awful results-- don't be sheepish, confess. If you've come in for corrective color, they need to know these things so they can do a good job for you. The chemicals already on your hair will impact the ones they add.
quicklist: title: Be realistic. text: When it comes to hair color, you should know only so much is possible in one visit. If you want to be a platinum blonde, but you've been coloring your hair "goth black" for years, it will take a couple of visits to accomplish. The stylist isn't being obstinate. They're trying to protect the integrity of your hair!
quicklist: title: Listen carefully. text: If you want to make a big change and your stylist can explain from a technical standpoint why it won't work and why you might not like it, you should probably follow their lead. After all, it doesn't do them any good to turn you away, because they lose money. On the other hand, if you've seen a stylist for a long time and they balk at a change--without giving a solid explanation--maybe it's time for a new stylist.
quicklist: title: Tip like at a restaurant. text: Think of your main stylist like your main server at a restaurant and tip 15 percent for good service and 20 percent for great service,. Tip assistants a couple of dollars if they simply wash your hair and more like $5 if they remove the foils and color from your hair and then wash it. Know the salon's payment policy in advance to be prepared for all of this. More and more salons do not allow you to add a tip on your credit card, because they pay fees on each card transaction.
Opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.
Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs including "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please connect with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website, to share your ideas.