How much should you be paying for salon services like manicures, pedicures or enhancements? $15, $20, $40, $60??? Budgets are tight and bargains plentiful in the world of nail salons. But what are you getting for the money?
Discount shops are literally in every strip mall. I’m starting to wonder if it’s federal law to have one in every strip mall. But I digress. So it’s no wonder that consumers think that $25 for a manicure AND pedicure is a reasonable price.
If you have seen the New York Times article that exposed some shading business with the wages of salon workers, you may start to wonder what is a fair price.
Let’s look at some of the costs of being a nail technician: (For this articles sake, I will look at this from the viewpoint of a ‘booth renter’, this nail tech runs her own business within a salon and is responsible for all of her/his expenses.)
First, most states requiring licensing, which includes formal education. Think of a two-year community college degree. For the most part, that would be equivalent. So, just to have the privilege of taking the state board exam, you are looking at a few thousand dollars in education. Then the state test isn’t free. And if for some reason you don’t pass the first time, you have to pay for it again.
So, now we have our license. We need supplies. Polish (duh), in every shade of red and pink, then the fun colors, oh, and glitter. Lots of glitter. And brushes. And artificial enhancement products, gel or acrylic. Gel requires special lamps, boy those things aren’t cheap! And a table and two chairs. And towels, cotton balls, acetone remover, soap to wash hands, cleaning wipes, etc. The list goes on…
Then there’s the advertising. May be as simple as some business cards. May need to place an ad somewhere, offer discounts to get things going, do some networking (which takes time away from the chair, where the money is made).
Let’s not forget about the rent, which should include electricity, water, etc. We also need insurance to cover products and liability.
Many states require continuing education. Whether it is required or not, a nail tech worth her/his service is always seeking to learn more about their craft. This costs both time and money.
What about sick days? Vacation? Well, the rent is still due, kind of like having a child in daycare. You are paying for the spot, not the use of the spot. If the tech can’t be behind the chair, they are not making any money. Health insurance? That’s an out-of-pocket expense.
Oh, and those no-show/late cancellations? Imagine for a moment that you went into work and your boss said ‘for the next hour, I have nothing for you to do so I’m not going to pay you’? Would you work for that boss long? Yes, we can fill that hour with practicing technique or cleaning around the salon, or taking that ever-missed lunch time to actually eat something. But we were counting on you being there so we could pay for our kid’s next karate test, or field trip, or the next class we want to take to improve our services.
Last, but should be first, go ahead and assume that 25-30% of the service fee is going to pay taxes. Self-employment tax is 15.3%. There may be other tax implications due to household earnings and state income tax.
So, you see, there is a lot that goes into the proper price of services. We really don’t make $35/hour. We charge that. We’d be lucky to keep about $10/hour of that for our families. What kind of work would you do, after receiving such extensive education and business expenses, including the headaches of owning a business, and barely make minimum wage?
Now I bet you are wondering how the discount shop can offer such low prices. Easy: They tend to cut corners (mostly on your safety) and quantity of services. They rush you in and out, don’t ask about your health (that will be covered in another blog), and use add-ons to increase the price. Think you are getting a $20 pedicure? Oh, the scrub is extra. And you want French polish, that’s extra. Every little thing is extra. Kind of like the new discount airlines; want peanuts? It’ll cost you. And don’t get me started on what the service providers are making. Typically, the service providers are misclassified as Independent Contractors. Take into account all the expenses of being in this business and do the math. An hour service that only costs $15-20, even if you only take out the 15.3% employment tax, leaves $12.70-16.94. That may sound like a lot until you recall the cry for minimum wage to be $15/hour for unskilled workers.
These service providers are skilled. They are educated. They are business owners. They deserve a living wage, above the minimum, and respect.
So, please, the next time you consider a salon service, consider the livelihood of your service provider. Is the price too good to be true? Is she/he getting compensated fairly?
Pay what they are worth, tip big and don't miss an appointment. (Or at least give 24 hour notice of changing an appointment.)