Groundhog Day-jà vu: The salon claims we see again and again

Since Winter Storm Jonas left us buried in snow, East Coast residents are awaiting the news from Punxsutawney Phil: an early spring or six more weeks of winter? Snow or shine, salons and spas will continue to serve their customers, whether they’re regulars who wouldn’t be caught without fresh color while snow-bound or new guests coming off the ski slopes and looking to pamper themselves with a spa treatment.

Customers expect stylists to quickly accommodate their needs, and it is important to please them, whether it’s their first visit or their 50th. In doing so, however, salons can find themselves in a Bill Murray-esque time loop with certain insurance claims that seem to keep coming back. Just two mistakes lead to repetitive (and expensive) insurance claims at salons—two preventable errors we see salons make over and over again:

  • Avoiding the Patch Test: This government-mandated allergy test can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. This poses an issue for customers on a time crunch (aka most of them… think wedding, meeting, prom). Everybody’s satisfied when the client, who has never had an allergic reaction before, assures the stylist she will assume all risks regarding allergies. That’s until Murphy’s Law steps in, and an allergic reaction sends the maid of honor to the ER the night before the wedding. Long after the nuptials, the salon is assuming liability they didn’t see coming as they waved a beaming bridal party out the door.

How do we break the cycle? The solution is simple: when the color manufacturer calls for mandatory patch testing, do it! Convenience is important to customers, so when they make an appointment, let them know about the patch testing requirement and offer a time when they can come in beforehand to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the timing of their next coloring. Most customers will appreciate knowing this ahead of time, and for the few who refuse to spend the time on the patch testing, their business may not be worth the risk of the claims that come through with a Groundhog’s Day-like frequency. The only other solution is to look into the few rinses that do not require patch testing, but keep in mind, these are relatively rare.

  • Product Instructions vs. Stylist Shortcuts: A great stylist has learned shortcuts to save clients time, and s/he takes pride in them. So, if using an overhead dryer instead of the recommended air dry can shorten the processing time of bleach or color, many stylists think, why not? Unfortunately, this may results in hair breakage or hair loss, and in some cases, thermal burns to the exposed skin. The result? Medical attention, expenses and negative publicity from unsatisfied clients publicizing their injury photos and insurance claims.

This all can be avoided if stylists are instructed not to take shortcuts that conflict with the product directions provided. Like the weatherman who believes he knows better than the groundhog crawling out of his hole, it may not be ideal for a stylist to change his/her routine for directions they do not see as completely necessary. Ultimately, the time and money saved from the reduced threat of litigation and court appearances make it worth reconsidering the shortcuts that are saving the customer what may be an insignificant amount of time.

Is this the year salons break the cycle? Addressing just these two areas can save time, money and—most importantly—clients.


Dave Casper, Claims Examiner at Brownyard Claims Management. He can be reached at

Share this:

News and Resources