Cowardly complaining 

It’s not really a surprise that I don’t have a hard time confronting businesses that don’t provide a good service. Amin my friends, I’m actually the one people go to when they have to write a scathing letter to customer service or are looking for a discount after being treated unjustly. (Yes, I did just refer to being lied to by a restaurant hostess as injustice.)

Which is why what I’m about to say might actually shock you: I am terrible at complaint to hair stylists.

I don’t know why this is, but whenever I get my hair cut or highlighted and they ask what I think, I immediately give them my cheesiest smile and proclaim the “I love it!” Even if it’s not exactly true.

I can’t tell you how many times I have actually left the salon with hair I straight up did not even like. This is so not like me.

There’s something about someone providing a service that, on some level, I deem as superficial that makes me want to do whatever I can to appear not high-maintenance. (In terms of other people I will let get away with unsatisfactory results, see also: nail technicians.) So as a result, I’ll fork over my cash just to go home and tug on my hair in front of a mirror for a few hours.

So, recently, I’ve been trying to speak up a bit more. I’m not looking for a confrontation, but I do feel that I should get whatever result in paying for.

I recently went for a highlight, had a great conversation with the colorist about what I was looking for, and then settled in with a magazine while she went to work. A couple of hours later, I found myself blow-drying hair that looked…well, looked exactly the same.

“What do you think?” The stylist asked cheerfully.

Cue my mental struggle. I liked this gal, and the hair didn’t look bad, per se. But the last thing I wanted was to drop another couple hundred bucks a month or two from now to (hopefully) get the hair I wanted. I took a breath and listened to my voice leap a couple of octaves.

“Um, it’s okay…I think I thought it would be a bit…lighter?”

Her brow furrowed.


She’s really going to make me do this, huh?

“I just feel, like, it’s not…that different? It looks kind of the same? Around the roots…?”

For the record, she was totally cool about this criticism. We quickly cleared up our miscommunication, and she offered to fix it.

The really sick part? I still had to be convinced to take the correction.

“Oh, um, are you sure? I…I mean, if you’re, sure, ok, yeah, if you don’t mind.”

Spoiler alert: I did actually leave with hair I liked. But is that enough positive reinforcement to make me speak up next time? Only time will tell.

But I’m curious: Do other people feel this way about cosmetic services? Or is there another business that you have a hard time complaining about? Or is this just my own weird insecurity?

10 thoughts on “Cowardly complaining 

  1. Yesss! I struggle with this to. I don’t want to criticize their work or hurt their feelings but at the same want to get what we discussed and I paid for. Most of the time I keep quiet and think of ways I can fix my hair at home while I’m still sitting in the chair holding back frustration and one time tears! I think it has a lot to do with knowing it’s not going to be a quick fix. It’s not like you just have to throw a steak back on the grill, or replace something that doesn’t work. You’ve been then a long time and to fix it means to do it all over again! And then once again comes their feelings….

    • SO so true. And given how much time I’ve just committed, the last thing I want to do is plop back in the chair for another hour and a half.

  2. Yes! This happens to me too. I don’t understand this! I have no problem sharing my opinion on most issues… But somehow telling someone I could look better if they did their job better is really hard.

  3. I think it’s hard because it’s something that they take SO much pride in. Just like at a restaurant I think I would have troubles saying my food was kinda’ not good if I was talking to the chef himself…. but when I’m talking to a server, who I know didn’t actually cook it I don’t have a huge problem. Hair, though, is kind of an art form, I feel like, and hair stylists tend to be proud of what they’ve done. I’ve had hair stylists look at my hair after they’ve done it and re-do it because THEY weren’t happy with it, but I would never be able to easily be like, “welp, no, it looks awful.” So I TOTALLY get it.

    • That is definitely part of it! They worked so HARD. In most cases, it takes a few hours to highlight my hair. I WANT to be able to tell them it was worth the effort.

  4. I’m totally guilty of this! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve left a hair salon not happy with the results. I’m getting my hair highlighted in two weeks and I’m going to try and take a page out of your book and speak up!

    • Here’s hoping you have more gumption than I did! (Or, you know, that your hair just comes out perfectly and saves you the trouble.)

  5. I rarely leave the hair salon with exactly what I want. I usually chock it up to not being able to communicate what I want effectively.. But sometimes, if I bring a photo, and they interpret it as something totally different, I should probably say something. But I don’t. And I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the guts to do so. Sometimes I just want to GET OUT OF THERE because I’m so worn out from making small talk and fake smiling the whole time.

    • Oh man ALIVE do I know what you mean. I always feel like a bad person, but I really just want to sit, read my magazine, and NOT TALK TO ANYONE for a few hours. Does that make me a bad person?

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