girl in a salon chair

Have you ever gone to the salon and come out with great hair but a bill that was higher than expected? I have, too. In a perfect world, salon employees would be honest about each charge--but sadly, that is just not how it is. Running into this problem is rare if you have already built a strong rapport with your stylist throughout the years. But when going to a new place it is possible and highly likely that hidden fees can be tagged onto the price of your visit.

The friendly shampoo person or stylist tells you that your hair is too dry and needs a moisturizing treatment.

Or that your hair is damaged and it needs a protein treatment. They may say it will just take a couple extra minutes and your will be so much better for it. 99% of the time, these extra “add on treatments” will cost extra dollars.  Personally, I find it worth it I will always get an intense deep treatment after my color but I know I will have a $25 charge for it (prices vary based on salons). If the treatment does sound like something you would like, just be sure to ask how much it is so you aren’t shocked after it was applied and it’s too late.

Should you be held responsible for asking about additional charges while at the salon?

The Allied Beauty Association in Mississauga, Ont., which represents the professional beauty supply industry in hair and nails in Canada, said to a caller inquiring about this situation  in very blunt matter,  “Well, if you were buying a car, wouldn't you be the one to ask questions? The ABA (which does not represent hairstylists) does not have an official policy. But Susan Solomon, its executive director, has said, “I would ask, ‘What is it and how much is it going to cost?’ ” This is simple enough but most of the time when we are at the salon we are relaxing and aren’t aware there can be additional fees.

As clients, we can sometimes feel intimidated asking for what we want.

Lucy Valavanis, co-owner of You Salon & Spa in Richmond Hill, Ont. says, "When a salon offers a treatment, they should tell the client upfront how much it is. “We want our clients to be happy, because we want them to come back.” She advises that if you hear the word “treatment,” though, it signals extra time at the sink. “It’s more than a conditioner,” says Valavanis, who has been a hairstylist for 25 years. “At the restaurant, you get bread for free, but if you order bruschetta, you have to pay.” 

There are other sneaky charges to be aware of at certain salons.

For example, you may be getting a blow-dry and you have extensions, or your hair is very long, thick and curly and you want it blown out straight. According the salons, this takes twice as long as a regular appointment. But Valavanis says in every case, the stylist should inform the client first. I have been hit hard with unexpected extra fees because of how long and unruly my hair is.

Personally, I find it to be a bit unfair, I cannot help the natural texture of my hair is not easier to work with so I am punished for it!?

There are a few other surprise places to be careful of with extra charges. One is  when you’re getting a significant hair color change. You can go for a consultation and be given one fee, but then once you are actually in the seat and going through the process, it may end up being more extensive—and expensive—than what you initially were told. Depending on an individual’s hair pigment, it might take two lightnings or more. To get the effect you want, you may unexpectedly need to add dimension with something like lowlights. Sometimes the colourist cannot anticipate these things. Another factor would be if the colorist needs to use more actual color than expected.

Bottom line: A salon should communicate properly and with courtesy to its clients. If you go to one that doesn’t, find one that does.