hidden costs of customer service #getreal

whitesandalsI spoke with a young journalist yesterday, who was following up on last Sunday’s New York Times article, The Price of Nice Nails. She contacted me after I tweeted about the speedy response the article had resulted in.

It had taken just one day (!) for the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to announce he would be doing something “as soon as possible” about the horrendous abuse of nail salon employees in New York.

I know that New York City isn’t the only place in the country where a summer pedicure is de rigeuer, so what this article exposed is no doubt true across much of the United States. Some of the disturbing ways in which women are treated in this industry are: women having essentially to pay for their jobs, women not being allowed to talk in the salon, and a race-based preferential system that dictates who gets the best clients.

If that doesn’t disgust you, I don’t know what will. It disgusts me, but it doesn’t astound me. Every time I pass a nail salon that advertises a “mani/pedi” for $25, I wonder who it is who believes that the close and personal service of one individual, in this day and age, and in this country, should cost that little. One of my favorite hashtags is #getreal.

So what did the journalist I spoke to ask me about? She asked me if I frequented nail salons. I do. I told her that I get pedicures in the summertime. She asked me if the article influenced me and if I will change my behavior because of it. It did and I will.

I told her that although I’ve always been wary of cheap nail salons, and try to go to places where it at least looks like the staff are well treated, I will definitely scrutinize my salon much more closely the next time I go.

I think that if we can’t pay a fair price for our little luxuries, then maybe we shouldn’t indulge in them. We can’t do a lot about most of humanity’s suffering, but we can do this. #getreal




  • I don’t normally have my nails done professionally, but I have been in salons with friends where the women seemed afraid to speak. It’s one of the reasons I don’t go to them.

    • Anita Irlen says:


      I get it. I think if people do want to buy personal service, they just have to stay aware and pay attention to what’s going on. Sounds like you did and you didn’t like what was.


  • Jennifer says:

    I used to frequent them years ago, and they were closer to $60 at the time. I still wondered how the employee made any money at that price, for an hour.
    I do my own nails now because the sanitary conditions of those places sacre me.

    • Anita Irlen says:


      I think the East and West coasts are different in this regard, and NYC is a totally different beast. One has to be really picky here. I think I might try doing my own nails. Meditative.

  • Angie says:

    I guess I’m not enough of a girly girl, plus pair that with living on a less than shoestring budget, but I’ve never had my nails done (unless you count my 7 year old painting my toes – I mean, toenails). I love your hashtag – kinda like my mantra that’s developed since the age of kiddom – “ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.”

    I commend your choice to be more selective and sharing your information after finding out what is going on with the employees in this area.

  • Laura says:

    I live in a town/city of about 70k people and the salon I frequent is staffed and owned by Vietnamese women. It’s a friendly jovial place and the technicians know their customers names and freely engage in conversation with us as they provide services. When I go in on Sunday I’m going to ask B if she read the article and what she thinks. B is a college student and veracious reader. But I know this salon and the treatment of the techs is probably rare. I could go to the $25 place but the vibe turns me off. I would rather spend $50 and forego expensive coffee drinks each week.

    • Anita Irlen says:


      Yes, it’s about choices, real choices. If we have some “disposable income” (love that term 🙂 then we can and should make choices. I think you made a good one. Thanks for the comment.

    • Anita Irlen says:


      Yes, it’s about choices, real choices. If we have disposable income (I love that term:) then we can and should make choices. I think you made a good one. Thanks for the comment!

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