Sunday, October 09, 2011

Can I interest you in dessert?

It is a tough economy out there these days. That’s what the news tells us, and therefore it is true, right? Higher level economic indicators are discussed by news commentators and the politician of the hour expounds on the virtue of his greatness to overcome the sluggish market. I think I can confidently say, most Americans are simply tired of hearing about who to blame, why it happened, and how someone can magically take us back to the 90’s and the era of super big growth on Wall Street and outlandish personal spending.

From time to time I choose to spend time and money to have manicures and pedicures. It’s a luxury. My nails are strong enough to grow them out and have them long and look nice. So why do I do it? Because I like the fact that the polish stays on for two weeks without flaking and peeling. And I like the look of artificial nails with a French manicure. As to pedicures, who doesn’t like someone else trimming your nails, cleaning your cuticles and paying attention to your feet? It’s an extravagance that is easily chopped out of our budget.

I have been to quite a few different places to have fills this summer. The first set was put on in New Jersey; I didn’t get a get chance to get them done prior to business travel. Had some time in the evening and stopped by a new place, touting a Grand Opening special. As I walked in I observed the cleanliness and thought, yes, I’ll have my nails done here. The owner suggested a young guy put my set on and they both proceeded to upsell me on a set of gel nails instead of acrylic. Value add came in the form of a bottle of water. The final value add came in the highly self regarded opinion of the technician of the beauty of square finished nails instead of round tips. I thought to myself, “might as well do as the locals do, I’m at the New Jersey shore.”

After Jersey, I had a fill in Kent. The owner of the nail salon in Kent looked at my nails and spoke in length to the technician in Vietnamese. I said I’d like a gel fill since that’s what I have on. He said it is better to fill with acrylic. No upsell in this salon, and in fact, it was such a poor fill that I haven’t been back.

The next experience happened in Vegas. Again, business travel and I couldn’t get to my favorite place, Lovely Nail prior to leaving. Lovely Nail not Nails? Yes, if you question that, so do I and most patrons of the salon. Lost in translation and each time I leave here all of my nails (plural) are lovely.

Anyway, back to Vegas. I figured I could pay top dollar on the strip or go off and get affordable nails. But then there is the taxi fare. So I went ahead and had them done at the casino. Unusual for sure, but I had a Caucasian technician. It was a lovely visit with clear understanding and no difficulty in conversation. Of course, she looked at my gel set with acrylic fill and went on about how so many of the Asian salons really don’t know what they are doing. No upsells at this event. I was paying top dollar anyway. Have to admit, the polish and sheen of the color I chose was absolutely fabulous. I had so many compliments on the color and how nice they looked. This particular fill was COMPLETELY luxurious; I am embarrassed to say out loud how much I really spent when so many people don’t have money to meet all of their bills every month.

In between Vegas and now, I hit Lovely Nail a couple times. And then two weeks ago, I decided to get my “Groupon” (can I use that as a verb?) Anyway, I’ve had this Groupon coupon for almost a year. And with my nail season winding down, I figured I best use it before it expires. I phoned to make an appointment on Sunday afternoon and asked about costs to make sure I’d be using the entire coupon. Yikes, a spa pedicure and a fill will more than certainly use my $50. Glad I only spent $25 for the coupon.

As I walked into the salon, I noticed the fine atmosphere, soft music, nicely decorated, and clean. The gal behind the counter called for a technician to escort me to the pedicure area. 95 minutes later, my pedicure was complete. I planned for an hour and a half tops for both services.

Being a Sunday afternoon, and Uncle Bob asking if I ever get “Wendy time,” I held back my anxiousness to move on to the next thing on my list. The gal behind the front counter said to follow her and she’d fill my nails.

I asked for an acrylic fill, that I didn’t want to have another material since I had some lifting with the gel and acrylic mix. Sitting down at the station, she takes my hands and studies my nails. And then proceeded to tell me the features and benefits of silk wraps. She has developed her own wrap process and it is the best for your nails, only to have natural 100% Chinese silk on them. On and on. Okay, since this is a coupon, I’ll go ahead and give them a try. With that, she begins to file and prepare to wrap my nails in silk. Having heard about this type of fake nail before, I am curious.

Soon I learn that the front desk gal is actually the owner of the salon. She tells me of her other shop in Covington that she recently sold and how she has 3 children, two of which are going to school at WSU. Go Cougs. She stops from time to time to reply to texts from her daughter who is driving back to Pullman that day. I think to myself, she’s done well for herself, emigrating from Vietnam, owning successful businesses, and raising three children and having two of them in college. No small feat.

The wrapping takes quite a bit of time, and we discuss a variety of topics. Pauline, the owner, asks where I typically go as I have my Groupon coupon. She knows of Lovely Nail, and doesn’t speak poorly of them. Her sales tactic is on the up and up, Pauline promotes her salon with best business practices, clean facilities, how the Groupon deal has brought a lot of business her way. “I use it as a loss leader. I’ve offered the Groupon twice. Don’t know if I’ll do it again, but I did sell a lot of them.”
I commend her for drumming up business, and keeping her clientele growing. With the economy the way it is, I comment that I’m sure she’s see a downturn in her business. It’s hard to spend money on your nails when you have bills to pay.

Pauline stops wrapping and says, “Wendy, you have no idea how many people come in here and pay for nails when they can’t feed their families. Yes, it is rough with lots of people with no jobs, but ladies are not willing to sacrifice this bit of beauty.”

Smart businesswoman I think to myself. She is running this place to make money and understands a lot about sales from technique, product offering and her client base. It was nice to have this type of business conversation, surprisingly at a salon. I hadn’t had a higher level conversation like this at any other salon. Not that I couldn’t inquire and ask, but Pauline offered up this information.

So as Pauline grabs the spool of Chinese silk out of her drawer, she begins to tell me about other services they offer. Massage and waxing services. Nice.

“Wendy, do you wax?”

“Yes, I get my eyebrows done.”

“Oh, well what about other waxings; like a bikini wax or a Brazilian?”

This takes me back. Umm, awkward. I don’t know this woman and she’s asking me about that? Not wanting to appear uncouth, I decide to roll with the conversation and tell her no, no I don’t do those waxings. Besides, that whole Brazilian thing is so personal.

“I wouldn’t worry about that. We don’t even look at it that way. And a lot of women really like it.”


“You should try it.”

“Yes, well maybe I will.”

Pauling goes into the details of her services and I get a little glassy eyed. I don’t want to think about that on a Sunday afternoon! The conversation segues into other topics and my attention span officially wanes. Two and ½ hours into my “Wendy time,” I am seriously considering why I have my nails done. This is 2 ½ hours I won’t get back, and was it the best use of my time on this earth? I cut my event short; let her know that I don’t have time for polish and head out the door.

“Come on back when you have time, I’ll put some color on your nails. And think about making an appointment for waxing; you won’t be disappointed. “

Driving away from the salon, I am agitated by the delay in my schedule but also impressed by the sales techniques employed by a persistent small business owner in America. We all know that restaurants try to upsell appetizers and desserts to increase revenue dollars per ticket. The upsells and add-ons in other salons are typically for French manicures, eyebrow waxings, and paraffin treatments. But this gal, she went for it. You never know unless you ask for the order right? That’s what closing business is all about in sales. I’m curious about her close rate.

Will she close this sale with me? I honestly don’t know. But should I choose to have that service performed, I’ll likely return to her salon. Pauline deserves the sale.

P.S. As most of you know, my sissy la la is my sounding board. I told her about the waxing conversation prior to writing and we laughed and giggled. Sharing my title with her I said I still had to work the title into the story to you know, complete the circle. Otherwise the title wouldn’t make any sense. She texted back something I so wouldn’t expect. So then here I am explaining that it’s all about the upsell and more revenue and dessert that way. Love her. And totally think she’s gotta get her fiction writing groove on.

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