Our Trainer visited 4 different Nail Salons, around New Zealand, to try out pedicures, and was amazed to experience the differences in treatments and prices. As a Salon owner or manager, how often do you put yourself in your client’s shoes or your employees? No, pun intended.

Foot rest

I like to get pedicures done. I love my feet being pampered as I’m on them most of the time and very often training other people how to do them, so it’s a treat for me if someone can do mine for a change.

Over the last three months I have visited various places to get my pedicures and have paid anything from $32 - $100 and whilst some salons were very good there were a couple where I left feeling a little disappointed to say the least.

It’s the little things that can make or break your business.

The first place I visited was lovely and wasn’t too badly priced either, $55 for a pedicure with traditional polish. I was welcomed and offered a ‘Tea Menu’ and I had the choice of different herbal teas that would relax or invigorate me depending on what I felt like at the time. I chose my tea and had a choice of colours to choose from off the nail wheels. Bright colours, dark colours, glitters, pastels and pearls and everything else in between, they offered a huge variety which was great and I didn’t feel rushed into choosing a polish.

I was then taken to where I would be having my treatment and asked to sit in a chair and put my feet into a large copper bowl, where I sat soaking my feet and sipping my tea for the next five minutes, this was luxury and all my troubles seemed to melt away with my feet in the copper bowl and the lovely aroma of the foot soak.

Once my feet were soaked and scrubbed I was then asked to step from the chair to the pedicure couch. However the floor was concrete and cold and my feet were warm and wet, and there was no towel on the floor. You might think ‘well what’s wrong with that’? Health and safety for a start. Concrete floor + wet feet = potential disaster. Not only that, it didn’t feel nice under my feet either. Nice warm feet + cold, hard concrete floor = feels ugh!

The pedicure ‘chair’ was more akin to lying on a sun lounger and there were plenty of plump cushions to make myself comfortable. Being a bit short in height I had to shimmy my way down the lounger so that the technician could reach my feet, unfortunately this then wasn’t very comfortable for me, no matter how many cushions I put behind me and I could also feel myself slowly slipping forwards, (I was wearing loose cotton pants), and was afraid that I might end up on the technicians lap!

The lounger idea is a great concept but the ergonomics don’t work well for the technician as she couldn’t get her knees under the bed (it wasn’t adjustable) to get herself into a better working position. I could see that she had to lean forwards and sit with her knees either side of the lounger, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up with a bad back and hips very soon.

The service itself was excellent and I could not fault the technician in her technique and delivery of the treatment and polish application. The salon was very clean and all the tools were sterilised before use and disposable items were properly disposed of. It was also lovely to have my feet properly dried before a proper foot massage with a professional brand of foot cream that gave off a wonderful aroma.

How often do you look up?

The second place I went to was the cheapest of all the treatments I tried, $32 for a pedicure with traditional polish. The pedicure chair has the foot spa attached and I was asked to put my feet into the bowl while the young lady filled it up and went off to finish attending to another customer.

She then got her trolley and started the treatment asking me to place one of my feet onto the foot rest. She removed the polish, tidied up the cuticles, cut and filed the nails, sort of scrubbed my feet with a pumice block and rubbed my foot and leg several times with a cream, while they were still wet, then removed the excess with a hot towel, before leaving me, again, with a damp/wet foot and leg, to attend to another customer before returning and repeating the whole process with the other foot.

I’m not keen on having my feet and legs massaged with cream over wet skin and would much prefer that the skin is dried first before being massaged, but it seems that this is the procedure favoured by many Asian nail salons. The pedicure chair also doubled as a massage chair and I could control this with various switches on a control panel, which was fun for the technician while my legs jiggled and wobbled as she tried to paint my toes.

There was a UV sterilising cabinet on display behind the nail stations, and it’s probable that the nail tools on the pedicure trolley’s are already sterilised and then placed into a solution on the trolley. It would be more reassuring for the customer if they could produce a sealed packet of sterilised nail tools, this may not be cost effective for them, but then they could always increase the cost of their treatments slightly....

I felt for the girls working at the nail stations doing people’s acrylics and gels, as they had no table lamps and the salon wasn’t that well lit therefore the salon owner would need to consider some lighting for her employees to prevent future eye strain of her employees.

At eye level everything looked clean and tidy and there was a young lady who walked through several times with a sweeping brush to keep the floor clean. However, looking up there was a lot of dust collecting on top of the light fittings and exposed steel pipes that made up part of the ceiling. This salon does have high ceilings but they need to ensure that everything is as dust free as possible especially when doing nails as nail filings form particles of dust and this can lead to health problems for some people, most of all those that are exposed to it everyday, even though the technicians may wear masks, the customers don’t.

Up in the furthest corners of the ceiling were large cobwebs, not that I’m afraid of spiders but it just looked a bit ‘forgotten’. Although keeping the work stations clean and tidy is an everyday task, you just don’t know who is going to look up and see those cobwebs! How often do you look up in your own salon or treatment room?

I don’t know if they were short staffed or if this was the way they did things but the technician kept leaving me to attend to another customer who was having her gel polish removed, so she kept checking on her and then returning to me. The technician worked quickly and was very efficient and I was in and out of the salon within 45 minutes.

Is your service value for money?

Another place I visited has a very good reputation in the nail industry and I had to make an appointment as they were so busy and I paid $40 for a basic 30 minute pedicure which consisted of a foot soak, file, buff, tidy and polish application.

I was pleasantly greeted and asked to take a seat and put my feet in the bowl which I did. I was then asked what colour would I like on my toes. I asked for a florescent colour and was told that they didn’t have any fluorescent colours, which I was amazed to hear as those sort of colour’s are really popular in the summer, so I then asked for a pink.

The young lady went away for a few minutes and came back with a selection of 5 different colours, (only one was pink) and I was suprised to notice that the brand(s) of polish that I was offered I could have bought myself from Farmers or somewhere similar. In the end I chose a MAC polish which was gluggy and thick and the technician struggled to paint it on - although I didn't know it was like that at the time of choosing it.

The technician did a good job of filing and shaping the nails and she did a good job with the gluggy polish too, however the 'tidy' was done so quickly that I blinked and missed it! Reading their literature I’m not clear on what they meant as a ‘tidy’. Did this refer to a cuticle tidy or did it refer to cleaning around the nails with a cuticle stick? If only cleaning around the nails, then I accept that it would be a quick part of the overall procedure, however if it is referring to a cuticle tidy then I would have expected that part of the treatment to be more thorough.

I was very disappointed in this salon as I had heard good things about it but I wouldn’t consider that the treatment I was given was value for money. I felt that I could have done a better treatment myself or had I known that they didn’t stock florescent colours then I would have brought my own. It would have been nice to have nail wheels offered so that I could see and choose my colour prior to the treatment starting, unless the technician forgot to offer them to me, unfortunately I didn’t have much to choose from when I was offered different colours.

On a positive note it was refreshing to see a clean and tidy salon and technicians that are clearly passionate about their work, as well as seeing that everything is sterilised and disposed of properly. The technician that attended to me was lovely and very friendly and did a good job over all. I did write an email to this particular salon to express my disappointment and I’m still waiting to hear back from their owner, nearly two weeks later, which basically tells me that they don’t value my feedback as a customer either.

You get what you pay for

The last salon I visited is a well known day spa in Christchurch and was the most expensive of all the pedicure treatments, $100, and took an hour. I don’t mind paying more for a treatment if it is done well and this was done very well.

The technician was very thorough with the treatment, she clipped, filed and buffed the nails, cuticle tidy, foot and leg massage and then polish application and I’m glad to say she dried my feet before the massage. I could not fault the young lady on her skills and she had a lovely way with the customers, too. She was chatty but not overly so and allowed me to close my eyes and enjoy the foot massage.

All the nail tools were sterilized and came in a sealed packet which was opened in front of me. Once the file was used, it was then offered to me to keep, which I didn’t as I have plenty, and there was a large range of colours on offer. As I was sitting next to the wall where all the polishes were I had the whole treatment time to choose a colour, luckily there was no pressure at the start of the treatment to make a hurried decision which could be regretted later.

My only criticism would be the ergonomics of the pedicure station as the technician had to bend her neck and too much of this could result in a neck strain. My understanding is (through talking to the technician) that the salon owner is aware of this and will be addressing the problem soon

Poor equipment design can contribute to employees getting injured or incurring Repetitive Strain Injury or Overuse Syndrome (RSI or OUS). Whilst a piece of furniture might look nice in your salon, you need to ask yourself, is it going to be the best for your employees? Employers beware! You are responsible for looking after all aspects of your employees Health and Safety whilst they work for you on your premises and whilst some ergonomic hazards are hard to detect you need to be aware that they exist and choose your furniture wisely.

As salon owners, put yourself in your customers shoes occasionally and remember to look up and look around, what can you see that potentially your customers can see, even better than that, ask a friend or family member to be a mystery shopper for you and ask for their honest feedback. What was the customer service like? How were they greeted? What was the treatment like?

On the whole all the treatments I received had their good points and some had room for some minor improvements. It’s true you do get what you pay for and if you pay good money, you get a good treatment, but remember it’s the little things that count, they may not seem a lot to you, but to a customer it could mean a future appointment or not and from all the salons I tried, there is only one I won’t be hurrying back too.

Next time…. Facials.