Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Salon Globalization

In preparation for my walk down the aisle next month, I decided that I should get a hair rebond treatment. I did it last week and availed of the services of Tony & Jackey Salon Timog Branch. I went there on a Saturday at around 4pm and the place was packed with Koreans and Non-Koreans alike. I also noticed that all the hairstylists are Koreans so I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw that all the assistants are Filipinos; I figured that it would be easier to communicate to the Korean hairstylist with the Filipino assistant acting as mediator. The receptionist is also Filipino so I went up to her and asked how much for a haircut and hair rebond. She told me that the hair rebond would be P3000 (around $75 with the current conversion rate) using the Korean brand of hair chemicals and P5000 using the L'Oreal brand. Haircut would already be included in the charge. Given that haircut alone costs P500, I figured that P2500 for my hair length (shoulder-length) is reasonable enough so I told her that I'll get the Korean brand treatment and have my hair cut by Shine.

I had to wait a while for my turn because Shine had many clients. While I was waiting, I was able to go to the nearest ATM to withdraw money because the salon doesn't accept credit card charges. When I was called, I had my hair washed by a Filipino so I was able to tell her what I wanted my hairstyle to be so she can tell Shine afterwards. I also did some small talk because I was curious how a salon such as this one operates. I found out that the assistants were trained at the Malate branch, that Mr. Tony and Mr. Jackey are not the owners anymore (they sold their business to another Korean who kept the name of the salon because it was already established), that there is no Tony & Jackey Salon in Korea (it's only here in the Philippines) and that the number of Korean and Non-Korean clients have almost equalled for this branch. After my hair wash, I sat at the salon chair and Shine took a look at my hair. She speaks little English so with the help of hand gestures, she conveyed what she's going to do to my hair. I wanted to add that I wanted the ends of my hair to be wispy like the Korean hairstyle but I decided that I'm just going to leave this to the expert. Turned out that I just had a trim of my already layered hairstyle but I was ok with it so I didn't have it changed anymore. Then came the hair rebonding which lasted for 3 hours. My poor boyfriend waited the whole time; good thing there was a coffee shop nearby so he was able to hang out and have coffee!

During the hair rebonding process, I was able to talk more to the assistants but when Shine comes around to check my hair, she would signal the assistants to stop talking to the client (that's me). Maybe she wants to make sure that the assistants don't tell anything they're not supposed to to the clients. After all, we were speaking in Tagalog so she has no way of knowing what we were talking about. But still, the Korean hairstylists must know that in the Philippines, this is what the client and the people in the salon do, they talk to each other. Whether it's about the latest showbiz gossip, who's seen who doing what, or who's been to where, chatting is an important part of the salon/parlor experience in the Philippines. Especially if you're sitting on your ass for 3 hours and you've finished reading all the magazines in front of you, you'd definitely want to talk to someone! But since I'm in a Korean salon and that was how they wanted things to be, and since there's a saying that "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", I decided to shut up lest the assistants get into more trouble. I just people-watched inside the salon and noticed that there were quite a number of Korean guys in the salon, some even having their hair permed. Again this is in contrast to the Philippine setting where only a few men go to the salon (most go to the barber shop) and oftentimes the men in the salon are husbands, boyfriends and sons just waiting for their wives, girlfriends and mothers to finish their beauty sessions in the salon. I remembered my boyfriend who was waiting outside and I texted him that my treatment is nearly finished and that we'll have dinner after, my treat because I made him wait so long (although I did tell him earlier that he could go home first and just fetch me when I'm done because I knew that my hair rebonding could take a while). At last, I had my final hair wash (I had three hair washes!) and I was advised not to wet my hair in the next two days. I thanked Shine and the assistants, paid at the desk and then gave Shine and the assistants some tips.

Overall, I'm satisfied with how my hair cut and hair rebond turned out. But if you ask me if I'm going to go back there, I'll say not in the immediate future. Maybe when the hairstylists have learned a little more English and after their salon has acquired the same cozy environment that is common in the salons/parlors around here, then I'll go back. But then, maybe they don't want that; maybe they want to retain their authentic Korean image and professionalism (btw, I found out from one of the assistants that in Korea, going to beauty school is also like taking a 4-year course). But hey, you can still be authentic and professional and at the same time, adaptive to your environment and clientele, right? Either way, the local salons/parlors should see the Korean salons as a valid threat to the market share. People are more open to trying new things nowadays so they shouldn't be complacent that their "suki" will keep coming back to them. If the Korean salons can provide better service at more affordable prices then they should beware. After all, one satisfied customer is all it takes to spread the word around. I should know, this was how I decided to try Tony and Jackey salon in the first place!

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