Remember when you had that really bad day and you were like “Oh, man, at least I wasn’t locked in the bathroom at a nail salon for 45 minutes and then told I had to pay for the experience”? While that maybe didn’t happen to you, one reader writes in about seeing just such a thing happen at her local salon.
Elizabeth L. of Fort Worth, Texas, just thought she was going to get her toes painted before a wedding she had to attend later that day. But what she got was to witness something totally baffling.
Yesterday afternoon I popped into a local nail salon for a pedicure. After I settled in with my feet in hot water, I noticed there seemed to be a lot of activity going on and a weird mood of tension. Most of the staff were clustered in the back around the restrooms, and then someone wandered by with a mangled wire coat hanger and a screwdriver.
I asked my nail tech if anything was wrong and she said “Oh, no!” and gave a nervous giggle. So I looked over at the only two other customers, who were peering anxiously toward the back and asked them. “A woman’s been stuck in the bathroom for 45 minutes and can’t get out,” one of them said. “And they won’t DO anything about it!” said the other.
For the next ten minutes various staff members pulled, tugged and banged on the door while the poor woman trapped inside seemed to be nearing hysterics. The two other customers had apparently been urging the staff to call 911 for quite a while, but they refused. Then the woman in the bathroom shouted through the door “I’ve called 911 myself and they’ll be here in five minutes!”
So the staff gets upset, and start talking in a language Elizabeth doesn’t understand. Meanwhile, the other customers are all watching the drama unfold.
A few minutes later a fire truck pulled up and five burly firefighters barged in carrying giant pry bars and big boxes of tools. They attacked the door with great vigor, completely freaking out the staff, one of whom muttered darkly about their paint job. Finally with great splintering of wood the door was opened and the poor prisoner (who had now been trapped for close to an hour) emerged to applause from myself and other two customers.
She was weeping and clutching her cell phone and staggered toward the door while the other two women patted her on the back and gave her hugs. (I still had my feet in a tub of water, so I just cheered from my chair.) As the woman neared the door, the manager dashed across the room clutching a receipt and called out in a cheerful voice, “That will be 45 dollars!”
Everyone froze. The two other customers stared open-mouthed and one of the said “You have GOT to be kidding me!” The woman pulled herself up and announced “I’m not paying you a dime, and I’ll never come here again!” and walked out the door. Chaos ensued. The two other customers were yelling that this was outrageous, the staff were arguing in their language and the manager kept yelling “You can’t do that!” Then the manager dashed through the door, apparently to apprehend their formal bathroom detainee. The two other customers stormed out, and I pondered whether I should join them, feet dripping, or stay, get the pedi I needed for a wedding that night — and to see how things turned out (curiosity and the wedding won). The manager then slammed back in the room and shouted in triumph “I got her license number!”
Meanwhile the firefighters had been packing up their tools. One of them examined the lock to the men’s room and took it apart, informing one terrified-looking employee that he had disabled it so the same thing wouldn’t happen to another customer. As the last two men picked up their tools and headed out, the manager rushed over to them waving the slip of paper with the license plate and demanded they go after the woman. “She was our customer, we gave her a mani/pedi and she didn’t pay! She locked herself in there, it’s not my fault! You’ve got to make her pay!”
“Ma’am, we don’t do that,” he said flatly, and walked out the door. At this point my toes were painted, and my curiosity was overcome by the realization I had no desire to be the only customer left in the store with the crazy manager lady. I hurriedly handed my credit car over to my technician (who seemed utterly embarrassed by the whole escapade), but as I walked toward the door she came to me beet red and said “Um, it’s going to take a few minutes because the phone line is busy.”
Yes, friends, it was the manager on the phone, and she had called 911 herself. She was arguing vehemently with the operator that they needed to send the police immediately to go arrest the woman who had run out of her store without paying. No mention of the hour-long bathroom stint. Just angry repetitions of the licence plate. All I wanted at this point was to get the hell out of there. I dug around, found enough cash to pay, and hit the door, ignoring the desperate pleas of my tech that my nails weren’t dry yet.
And that is the story of the Great Nail Salon Kerfuffle of 2011. I have no idea what happened next — probably nothing, since the police weren’t about to descend upon a home in hot pursuit of $45 bucks from a nail salon to which firefighters had been summoned 20 minutes earlier. I hope the fire department sends a bill to the store for a job that a locksmith could have handled. Shoot, I hope the trapped woman charges them with false imprisonment! I’ve never seen such appalling and frankly callous customer service in my entire life. And the worst part from *my* purely selfish point of view? The nail tech was right: my polish wasn’t dry. I totally ruined the pedi in my haste to get the heck out of there. I’ll have to go get a new one soon–but not from that particular salon! They’ll never see my business again!
Lesson learned? Always bring your cell phone to the bathroom with you.