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Last updated: February 09, 2024

TOXIC CLIENTS: 8 Red Flags To Look Out For

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8 Warning Signs That A Client Is Toxic

While we all have our fair share of ✨ golden ✨ clients, we would be lying if a bad egg doesn’t visit our chair from time-to-time. Toxic clients can take many shapes and forms, but they all have one thing in common: They take away from your professional growth and salon experience.


Sometimes, relationships with these clients can be salvaged; other times, it’s better for both parties if you just part ways. Here are eight red flags toxic clients exhibit and how you can deal with them before throwing in the towel.


1. They resist professional advice.

You just told your client that they can’t go from a Level 3 to a Level 9 in one session without some serious breakage. Despite your expertise, they insist their hair will survive (and look fantastic, too).


There’s a million different ways this could play out, but it all boils down to one thing: The client does not value your professional opinion.


The result: Redos, refund requests and bad reviews that have nothing to do with your professional ability.


How to avoid it: Create separate consultation appointments, or screen clients virtually to see if you’re compatible before they even step foot into the salon.


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2. They are never satisfied with their time in your chair.

If you find yourself constantly reaching new heights to satisfy a client—personalized conditioning treatments, complimentary redos and more—that’s a glaring sign that their unhappiness actually has nothing to do with you. For some clients, one-and-done TLC makes all the difference. For others, no matter how far you go, they’re just never satisfied with your efforts.


The result: Longer appointment times and a constant limbo of mental distress.


How to avoid it: Refer them to a different stylist, verbalize clear expectations before the appointment or let your salon staff know to not rebook that client with you.


3. They’re always late or suddenly cancelling their appointments.

We’ve all had this client. After multiple cancellations and delays, you start to expect them to show up fifteen minutes late to their appointments—and with a double shot iced latte in hand. Of course, they always apologize, but that doesn’t help you catch up your schedule for the rest of the day.


Frequently late clients upset your schedule and can cause other clients to have delayed appointment times. Even worse, ongoing cancellations can dip into your wallet by stealing appointment times from punctual (a.k.a. paying) clients. If a client no-shows, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to fill their spot in time to still earn income. No client = no appointment = no money.


The result: Unhappy clients, messy schedules and loss of profit.


How to avoid it: Have a policy that after x amount of no-shows, cancellations and tardies, a client will no longer be accepted at the salon. 


4. They don’t respect your boundaries.

Put a finger down if a client has ever:


  1. Blatantly ignored your salon policies
  2. Contacted you after hours (AND expected an instant response)
  3. Constantly pushed your boundaries in the salon through verbal disrespect, wandering around, going through items at your station, etc.


How many fingers are you holding up? We’ll make it easy for you: Even just one of these violations in the client-stylist relationship is too much.


The result: Lack of work-life separation and feeling unsafe at work.


How to avoid it: Set clear boundaries and implement consequences (refusing to accept appointments, snoozing notifications, etc.) when they aren’t respected.


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5. They demand or expect excessive discounts or freebies.

Whether you’ve known a client forever or they just walked in and spent $500 on fresh color, a client who expects discounts or free services is always a red flag.


That might sound harsh, but look at it this way: If you DO give a client a discount or free service just to be nice, that opens a door for them to take advantage of your kindness in the future.


The result: Challenges to your worth, self-respect and professional boundaries.


How to avoid it: Stay consistent with your pricing or stick to scheduled/promotional discounts participated in by the entire salon.


Pro tip: A client can also “hustle” you by refusing to pay the full bill or always having payment issues at the reception desk. A client who nickels and dimes you cannot be relied on in the long run.


6. They complain constantly.

Yes, it’s smart to provide your client with comfort while they’re in your chair; you want every visit to your salon to be an experience. But when you’re acting more like room service than a hairdresser, something is amiss. Look at it this way: If your client complains about everything from the air conditioning to the chair they’re sitting in to their coffee, they will very likely complain about their hair, as well.


The result: Mental strain and wasted minutes tacked onto their appointment time.


How to avoid it: Maintain the integrity of the service, then decide if you would like to service that client again in the future.


7. They are disrespectful and gossip about others.

This one doesn’t need an explanation. If a client is rude to you, your staff or other customers, it’s a clear sign that more problems are soon to come. 


Pro tip: There’s no disease that brings down a salon quite like gossip. A client who speaks negatively about you, your team or other clients can destroy an entire atmosphere and hurt your business.


8. They always complain about their former hairdressers.

Beware of clients who complain that their ex hairdressers never did their hair how they liked or asked for it. There’s a reason why toxic clients leave behind a trail of “unsuccessful” hairdressers. 


You know how it goes: The person that complains about how crazy their ex was…well, it’s likely they were actually the problem. The same applies with hairstylists.


The result: General negativity, unnecessary pressure and an unwarranted chance you’ll be added to the crazy list.


How to avoid it: Know your worth and trust your gut. Use the consultation process to your advantage and take note of how potential clients speak about their previous salon experiences.


Always remember: Your mental health is your top priority. 

It is not your responsibility to take care of every client who sits in your chair. Your mental health is far more important than any unappreciative client. If it means you will work better and happier, don’t hesitate to make room for clients who will help you do just that.