The mani-pedi experience is supposed to be an enjoyable one. Whether you're flying solo or rolling deep, your only goal is to be taken care of and emerge just a bit more put-together and relaxed. But, because the whole thing involves the action of handing over money in exchange for being touched by a virtual stranger, it can be fraught with uncomfortable moments — both for you and your technician.
Of course, you expect a certain level of professionalism and respect from nail technicians, which you should obviously return because you're not a ruthless dictator. Few people would want to be known as difficult (or some other, less polite). But understanding what's polite when it comes to tipping, requesting post-pedi smudge interventions, and conducting in-chair phone chats is murky territory.
To quell those feelings of panic that may be bubbling up as you walk through the salon doors, we went ahead and asked those awkward questions for you. Assuming you’re satisfied with the level of service you receive, simply follow this advice from top nail-salon technicians and avoid being an (accidental) mean client when you go for your next nail treatment.
Is it rude to answer your phone?
Yes. Limit your conversations on your phone to emergencies only. Getting your nails done is about spoiling and taking a moment for yourself. You are supposed to relax and take a little break from life. Firstly, being on your phone, defeats the point of being relaxed and removed from your current environment and secondly, it is very disruptive to other clients. The manicurist will need to ask you questions during the treatment, so if you’re not paying attention you might not end up with what you want. If you need to take a call, politely explain this to the technician and hang up before polish application. It’s one thing to smudge a nail by accident, but if you’re being careless with wet nails and handling a phone, then the manicurist might not be as happy to fix them up.
What about chatting…. Is small talk a thing or is it better to be quiet so the nail technician can do their work?
Complete silence when doing a client’s nails is a bit awkward. As a nail artist I am often given free rein when it comes to what to do on a client’s nails, so chatting is helpful, as it helps me to get to know their personality.
If my manicure chips within the first day, is it okay to go back and ask for a touch up?
"I think a one day chip clause is pretty much implied with the service," says manicurist Whitney Gibson. "Obviously this doesn't mean you should head from the salon to a long day of gardening, but the average nail tech is going to understand if you come back hours later." Some salons have a price for touch ups, but if they don't, it's polite to tip your manicurist for their time.
What about tipping. Is that common practice in SA? And, if so, how much should people generally be tipping?
I don’t think tipping a nail tech is common in SA, but we do have clients tipping us and we really appreciate it when it happens! About 20% of our clients tip and it’s usually between R10 and R50. I think it depends on the amount of time and work that is put into the manicure.
Should you tip when getting gel removed?
Many nail technicians rely on tips as an important supplement to their wages. It doesn't have to be a lot, but it's more than just a thoughtful gesture.
Is it okay to arrive with old varnish on or should I remove it beforehand?
If their nails are varnished then yes, because removing it stains everything. When a client books it helps a lot if they know what they have on their nails so we can figure out how long the soak-off will take, as different products soak off at different speeds.
If you end up not liking the color you chose, can you ask for a do-over, and when is the proper time to chime in?
This isn’t an unusual situation, but be sure to speak up ASAP so the technician won’t have to redo the entire thing, which can eat into the next appointment. Evaluate and make your feelings known after the tech applies the first coat to the first nail or two; if you’re on the fence, you can even ask to have the second coat applied to one nail to be absolutely sure. Don’t stress about it, but do acknowledge it.
How do you deal with getting a mani-pedi when you have a cold?
Things are happening at close quarters in a nail salon, so behave the way you’d want others to. Start by washing your hands and inform your manicurist that you have a cold, so they can behave accordingly. Keep supplies, like tissues for a runny nose, on your lap so you can reach them easily. Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow, not hands, to avoid spreading germs.
Are there any other nail-salon-specific etiquette situations that come up often?
Know what’s currently going on with your nails, since there are different removal processes for each polish type (think gel, Gelish, Shellac, acrylic, etc.), and not all nail salons are equipped to deal with all these different types of nail enhancements.Finally, it should go without saying, but the gist is: Don’t be a jerk. I occasionally see some clients treat their technicians disrespectfully because they think they are entitled to do so. Basically, stay away from any behavior that would make you cringe if you saw it on a reality show.
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