service with a smile (and free gifts)

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i enjoy good customer service. i mean, who doesn’t? whether it’s at a fine retail store (looking at you, nordstrom) or just your local super market (do you really have to ask who i might be referring to?), a pleasant shopping experience is always appreciated. and in an ideal environment, every trip to your favorite business would be a memorable affair. but unfortunately, we don’t live in a utopian society, and sometimes the unpredictable nuances of what we call “life” get in the way. it’s in these less than perfect moments that i think a business owner’s attention to the ultimate comfort and satisfaction of their patron is truly tested. and even the smallest of gestures can be just the thing to transform an unfavorable yelp review into a glowing one.

as i mentioned last week, L made us appointments at blo, a local blow dry and styling salon in north county, for saturday afternoon. we arrived on time for our 4:30 p.m. appointments and almost immediately, L was ushered to an open station by her assigned stylist. the staff assured me that my turn in the chair was forthcoming, so i settled in on the white leather sofa with the latest issue of instyle to pass the time. i watched L from afar as she discussed her desired ‘do with her stylist and chatted up her fellow patron in the adjacent chair. time continued to pass, but i paid no mind. with no pressing plans, i was happy to wait for once (look at me being all patient). the only thing we had left for the evening was filling our bellies with delicious greek food at a nearby cafe. but the hummus would be there just as much at 6:00 p.m. as it would 5:30 p.m. (unless there was suddenly a huge rush on garbanzo beans, which, in all honesty, could happen, they are one of the most delicious varieties in the legume family).

ten minutes passed. then fifteen. a cheery lady dressed in the salon’s signature fuchsia hue offered to bring me a drink -“mimosa? coffee? water?” i politely declined. “i’m great,” i replied. she thanked me for my patience (you’re WELCOME, i thought) and assured me it wouldn’t be too long now. i smiled as if to say, “no worries.” like i said, i was perfectly content to wait. L disappeared to the shampoo bowl and arrived back to her chair soon thereafter with freshly washed locks. her stylist wasted no time in beginning her blow dry. she continued to pass the time with sporadic conversation with her blonde counterpart. at this point, i was a little jealous she was having such a great time chumming it up with her newly-formed friend.

the minute hand danced its way closer and closer to the five o’clock hour. half an hour. it had been a full thirty minutes since our originally scheduled appointment time. i looked back down from my watch to the pages of the glossy mag. when i looked up again, there was a tiny white bottle of hair product in my face. the owner had once again come over to check on me, this time offering up a free travel-size portion of the salon’s signature leave-in conditioner. “our regular customers SWEAR by this stuff,” she quipped as she placed it in my hand. “seriously, they call it their “crack!” uh, thanks? just kidding, i did sincerely thank her for the gift. it was obviously (the first of many) a peace offering for the inconvenience. and while, in all honesty, it had hardly phased me that they had been nearly 30 minutes tardy for my appointment (again THE PATIENCE people, note the date and time), i appreciated the gesture.

finally around 4:45 p.m. a petite brunette appeared from behind the mirrored partition. “hi, i’m alena” she stated as she offered up her hand. “i’m so sorry to have kept you waiting.” the front desk staff looked relieved to finally get me into a salon chair. you could almost see the color return to their face as they exhaled for what seemed like the first time since my arrival. i explained to alena what i wanted, “big volume, slight curls, something that will last well into next week.” she nodded her head as she shook our my tangled mane. i watched her assess my hair in the mirror and affirmed what her facial expressions clearly read. “i know, i have a TON of hair.”

we walked over to the shampoo bowl and she gave me what might have been one of the best scalp massages in recent memory. i almost fell asleep with my head in her hands. we arrived back at the chair and she began to brush out my damp locks. by the time she brought the blow dryer up to my scalp, i noticed L admiring her coiffed style in the mirror out of the corner of my eye. she was already done?! i suppose it was now her time to wait. after the initial blow dry (oh yes, there were two), alena left me in the chair to retrieve the proper sized curling iron. while she was away, another of the front desk assistants approached me. in a soft volume, she informed me that they would be comping my blowout today. wait, really? flattered by their gesture, i offered up a “wow! thank you” as i nodded in compliance. first the hair “crack” and now a free blowout? talk about service!

alena finshed up the second blow dry and called in recruits for the curling. seriously, i had two girls working on my hair in the final minutes of my styling session. i have never felt more high maintenance-slash-totes important at the same time. i only hoped that both sides of my head would turn out the same. with two gals on the job, the rest of my appointment went by relatively quickly. the end result was a very 60’s brigitte bardot-esque ‘do. perfectly appropriate for a fancy dinner at a strip-mall greek restaurant food chain. at five after six, an hour and a half after our 4:30 p.m. appointments, i was finally reunited with L. though my bill had been taken care of by the salon, i still wanted to leave my gal a tip. regardless of the time lapse, she had done a fabulous job and deserved to be compensated accordingly. as i gave the lady a twenty and waited for the change, she took out two small viles of product and handed them to L and me. “this is our argon oil. it’s great to add to your conditioner and it makes your hair silky smooth.” ANOTHER FREE GIFT. y’all. it was almost comical at that point. we said our thank yous and goodbyes and headed across the parking lot to dinner.

as we walked, i laughed as i recounted all of the measures that had been taken by the staff to ensure a somewhat salvaged salon experience. “i mean, i got two free hair products and a free blowout just for having to wait for a tardy appointment,” i said. “and i didn’t even make a stink about anything… imagine what they would have offered if i had raised hell?”

if i had gone all customerzilla on them, i’m fairly certain i could finagled a free blowout for L, a few more salon products, and maybe even our own customized blowdryers and curling wands.

i suppose there’s always next time.

but in all seriousness, a job very well done by the staff at blo in carlsbad for turning a lemon situation into a lemonade experience. in the words of the terminator, “i’ll be back.”

image via pinterest

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