No Refunds! No Kidding

By Kathy Hosler

You told her that her dog would have to be short, and you thought she completely understood. You did your best, yet she blew up when she saw her dog. What happened? What could you have done differently?

Mrs. Reed makes an appointment with you for her Bichon, Arabella. As soon as you see the dog, you know it’s been many months since she was groomed.

“I love her fluffy,” says Mrs. Reed. “She just needs a little trim.” She proceeds to tell you that her dog is from championship bloodlines and hands you a book that is all about Bichons—so you can make her look just like the show dogs.

When you check–in and examine Arabella, you show the extreme matting to the owner and tell her that the dog will have to have a short haircut this time.

“I don’t want her short,” says Mrs. Reed snippily. “I want her just like these dogs in the pictures!”

You explain that there is really no other choice. For her dog’s well being, those mats must be removed. She reluctantly agrees. As she goes out the door she says, “Don’t make her any shorter than you have to.”

When she comes back to pickup her Arabella, she explodes, “You shaved my dog! I told you I didn’t want her short. You have butchered my beautiful Arabella! I’m telling all my friends, and giving you bad reviews on the internet!” She throws a check at you, grabs the dog and storms out.

The next morning, she sends her husband in to demand a refund. Wow! You told her that her dog would have to be short, and you thought she completely understood. You did your best, yet she blew up when she saw her dog. What happened? What could you have done differently?

Client Communication

We all know that you can’t please everyone, but no groomer wants an unhappy client. Effective communication between the stylist and the client is crucial, and can prevent a lot of misunderstandings—especially during check–in.

The stylist who groomed Arabella was on the right track, but she didn’t go far enough. When she told the owner that her dog would have to be clipped short, she should have had something to show her. Simply saying ‘short’ doesn’t give a visual length for the owner to expect. There are hair length charts that you can purchase (or make yourself) which will allow you to show them how short their pet’s hair will be.

Just as the owner brought pictures of how she wanted her dog to look, you should also have some before and after photos of matted pets to give the owner an idea of how different her pet might look.

Protect Yourself

Your clients should know what your policies and procedures are. You need to put them in writing. Include the forms of payment you accept, your cancellation and no–show policy, your hours of operation, and anything else that is important to you. Every owner should be required to sign a form that gives you permission to transport their pet and obtain veterinary care for them (at the owner’s expense), should an emergency arise.

In addition, you should have signed releases for geriatric pets, matted pets, cats, and for any other situation you feel is necessary. You can find many pet release forms and other helpful resources at www.barkleighstore.com.

Document Everything

If you notice skin issues, parasites, matting, or anything out of the ordinary—document it immediately, in writing and take a photo of it. If you feel that it is unsafe to continue the groom, stop immediately and contact the owner. Many groomers take before and after photos of every pet they groom. And more and more groomers have video cameras recording everything that happens in their salons.

Don’t be Bullied

You don’t have to accept every pet. If a dog or cat comes in for grooming, and it is snarling, growling, or hissing—don’t feel obligated to groom it. Customers are not always truthful when it comes to their pets and possible aggressive behavior. It only takes one dog or cat attack to end your career. And, don’t allow a client to browbeat you into trying to brush–out a pet that you know is too matted.

If they try to threaten you with, “It’s your job to groom my pet the way I want. He’s not matted. I brush him all the time. When I took him to other groomers, they always brushed him out.”

That’s when you politely, but firmly, tell them that, “If the other groomer can brush him out, then you should go back to that groomer. I believe in humanity before vanity, and will not attempt painful de–matting on a pet that can not be humanely brushed out.”

Join Forces

Socialize with other groomers in your area. Get together and meet for dinner every month or two. You might be very surprised to find that you have some of the same clients. There are pet owners who make a practice of taking their pets from groomer to groomer, finding fault with every groom, and then they refuse to pay or demand a refund. These professional con artists often wind up getting free grooms by threatening to post a bad review on several online sites. Having a good relationship with other local groomers can put a stop to people who constantly abuse groomers in this way.

Stand up for Yourself

You have invested your valuable time and expertise, and used costly equipment and products to groom their pets. Why would you allow yourself to be bullied into working for nothing? Having signed release forms, photos, and video documentation for every pet you groom protects you and your business.

So, from this moment on, you should implement a new policy in your grooming business…no bullies, NO refunds, no kidding!

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