My friends are going back to work today. It’s a strange feeling not returning with them, an anxious mix of grief and relief. I’m excited for them to be doing what they love but I’m not missing the conditions under which they return.
There are serious limits on the services they can provide – with good reason – but it will ultimately limit their revenue. I also have learned that most people do not understand the difference between revenue and profit. Just because a business is bringing in a lot of money doesn’t mean that they have anything left over after the bills are paid.
I’m not talking about huge corporations whose top executives are making millions while they have minimum wage workers doing the dirty and dangerous work. I’m talking about the small and mid sized businesses running on a 3% profit at best who are now being forced to operate at 50% capacity with added sanitation and PPE requirements (that cost time and money) for the foreseeable future.
Most of these businesses have now been closed for months with no income and still owe rent and utilities. Loans are the suggested band-aid for the situation, to put struggling businesses into more debt. We could be operating under these conditions for years. When are we returning to pre-9/11 airport security?
Modern society has never experienced this as a whole. This really is a “new normal” for the majority of my friends. I’ve honestly been disgusted at the reaction to these precautions from the public who have a blatant disregard for the industry and the health of service providers. Their health is disregarded anyway and they allow people to treat them like garbage.
It is not normal to work a 10 to 12 hour day without breaks. It’s not normal to go all day without eating, drinking, or using the restroom. These new requirements are forcing stylists to take breaks. They MUST schedule a lunch because they can’t remove their mask mid-service to throw a few cold french fries in their mouth before running back onto the floor. They must schedule breaks to sit and rest without a mask on. They must be conscious about drinking enough water and using the restroom. It’s going to force the entire industry to reevaluate how they run their businesses because stacking clients every 30 or 45 minutes isn’t possible anymore and quickly they’re going to realize they don’t charge enough.
I know that it’s difficult for a client to understand when you’re paying $200 to get your hair done that the money does not go to your stylist. At best they’re getting half of that before taxes, if they are renters they’re keeping roughly half of it after taxes (and self-employment taxes are double what gets taken out of your paycheck btw). So on average your stylist is keeping about 35% of the money you pay to get your hair done. Then they should put some of it aside for savings and retirement because that’s not covered by their employers and just forget health insurance altogether. So after your $25 haircut they are ultimately left with about $4. And now they’re taking half as many clients, or working fewer shifts, or both. I just couldn’t do that. 50% capacity would not even cover my operating costs.
I feel like I put myself through so much for my clients. The past few years I tried to set more boundaries, work fewer hours, and take vacations. I tried to say “No” to difficult clients, stressful situations, or non profitable services. But the ultimate boundary was returning to work in a hazmat suit for the foreseeable future to not even make enough to cover my bottom line. It wasn’t worth my health, mental or physical. I love doing hair, but not that much.