Now paying: Covid-19 protection fee for salon services?
Gurugrammers couldn’t be happier when salons got a green signal in the millennium city. But, now there has come a shocker for those visiting the salons. Shikha Sheth, a Gurugram-based corporate, recently posted on social media about her experience at a salon where she went to avail the much-awaited hair and beauty care, and in return was handed over a bill that charged her a ‘Covid Protection Fee’; this charge was beyond the cost of services she had availed at the salon.
Sharing the incident on Facebook, Sheth wrote: “I asked for the bill to be seen as I thought it seemed bloated. When I looked at the line items, there was a charge of INR 240 for Covid protection - I asked what this is and I was told that its all the covid gear that they are using (sic).”
When contacted, Sheth, who works with a global executive search firm, says the problem was “non-disclosure”, and adds, “I asked them to show me the bill and the guy at the counter hesitated. He wasn’t giving a print out and said ‘You come here and see on the screen’. I saw the ‘Covid Protection Fee’ and I pointed out ‘What is this?’ To which he said ‘All the kits and stuff like that’... I remember when I had entered the salon, they were not wearing shoe covers, there was a sanitiser but no face shields. PPE kits that they claim they’re supposed to be wearing were like an apron. When I’m paying a bill of ₹1,700, and in addition giving a tip of ₹100, why would I have a problem paying another ₹247? My problem is, why didn’t they didn’t tell me at the time of booking of the appointment. If it’s a new addition, the necessity to pay this service charge is neither displayed at the reception nor at the entry door. The lady (at the front desk) said ‘If you’re not going to pay, we’ll inflate your bill by 10%’. To me, this is a clear case of duping the customers.”
When contacted, director of the salon in question, Manisha Yadav, told us that she’s investigating the matter, but also emphasised that their expenses have shot through the roof. “This is the charge we are taking for the disposables we are using. We have been open for many days and nobody has really said anything, but maybe she was not told prior. Otherwise, we don’t take the customer only. There is an extra charge because we are using additional things [like] extra set of disposables. The moment you walk in the salon, you are given shoe cover, and even the fabric is sanitised. We are not cutting corners, but saying that protection is the most important thing not just for my customers, but even for my staff. We are not going to take any chance as health is most important. People are not realising that more than them, my staff is at risk! We don’t earn that much money, and the amount of money that is spent on disposables right now [is quite something] because the customers walking in, are very less,” says Yadav, adding, “We have taken this feedback. There’s a talk going on with all salon owners. We will try and see the best possible way, so that nobody feels the pinch.”
Unlike Sheth, other denizens feel such a charge is completely uncalled for! Smriti Chhabra, who is the founder of a community of Gurugrammers, says, “Some doctors are also charging extra for PPE gear, which they are asking the patients to wear during check up. We understand that it’s an additional cost for salons, to add to their consumables to run their operations. But why are the customers being charged for it? And if they are charging it, then there should be a capping on the amount as it shouldn’t pinch the customers visiting them.”
Some of the salon owners/management also question this new charge that has become the bone of contention in the current scenario considering some disposables were part of the services earlier as well. “I’m not sure in what capacity is this being charged” says, Sonali Bhambri, director, Toni & Guy (North India), adding, “In our gear, disposable sheets, strips and face napkins, were already there. In hair, we have shifted from regular towels to disposable towels, which is an added cost, but as of now we are not charging extra for that bit.”
Divya Parchani, marketing manager - India, Geetanjali Salon, informs that they have made a Covid-19 test mandatory for their employees, and alongside provided PPE kits and introduced disposable towels etc. “If I sell a particular service for ₹400, it accounts for the employee fee, different expenses plus a profit margin. Now, the expense per service has gone up. It’s subjective for every brand if they are unable to pay it from their pocket, and totally depends on what is the profit margin that the brand has. Presently, we are not charging any such fee, and as a brand we feel we shouldn’t be charging such a fee right now,” says Parchani.
Some who frequent salons say that they don’t mind paying extra, but demand prior clarity. “You can increase the price of the services your giving by 10-15%, but a mandatory Covid-19 charge is unacceptable,” opines Aparna Tandon, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, whereas Gurugram resident Nidhi Wahi Gaura, adds, “Whatever addition is made in the billing, it must be informed to the customer prior to being served. If the customer agrees to pay it, only then should the salon proceed with the service.”
Author tweets @nainaarora8
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