Dear Ms. Angel,
Sorry, but I need to rant: So many people have been getting messed up piercings and coming in to have me fix them (change the jewelry, give aftercare info, etc.), and then they don’t even tip me! It seems half of them stop in here first, go get hacked for dirt cheap somewhere else, and then come back for me to fix it. Aaagh! They’re taking up A LOT of my time and energy. I have always done free insertions and jewelry changes, and I don’t want seem greedy, but I’m starting to feel over it. If you think people should pay, I would welcome suggestions on how much to charge.
Also, we have been doing only walk-ins but I want to start accepting appointments too. However, I don’t really know how to go about it. Your guidance would be much appreciated.
Your frustration is understandable! I think it is wise to request some input and a fresh perspective, though what works for one business won’t necessarily be the best approach for another. Remember that it is okay to experiment with a new policy or procedure in order to determine the best solutions for your situation. If, after a solid trial, you find that something isn’t working well, then you can switch back to the old method, or attempt another new one.
I did some investigating about current industry practices regarding jewelry swaps, reinsertions, stretches, and so on. It turns out that many studios do not provide such assistance gratis. It appears quite common to assess a “tray set up,” “materials fee,” or “service charge” between five and twenty dollars, depending on geographic location (and prevailing piercing rates), how much time the client requires, and so on.
Performing these services takes resources like gloves and other disposable supplies, and often requires the use of tools like tapers or hemos that need to be reprocessed (or discarded, if you have a disposable studio). Passing some of the costs along to your clientele is not at all greedy or out of line. And, as we all know, dealing with jewelry changes can end up taking even longer than a piercing.
As a courtesy, I think it is reasonable to replace the jewelry in a healed piercing at the time of a new purchase without additional cost—especially a same-gauge item. When the new ornament is thicker, the piercing is troubled, the channel is empty, or there are other complicating factors, a charge would be fair. Similarly, if you’re asked to remove jewelry—especially if it wasn’t purchased in your studio, requiring a payment is just.
Having a flexible fee structure with an established minimum is sensible, since so many different situations are possible, and the amount of time, technical expertise, and equipment required will vary considerably. You can always choose to give a discount if the piercing was done in-house, the individual is a regular, or they are purchasing high-end jewelry. Also, for piercings done at the studio, I believe it is best not to charge extra for initial jewelry downsizes that must be done for safety, as is common with oral piercings.
For piercees who are more independent, I sold insertion tapers and would happily share information so that they could swap out their own jewelry in healed piercings. I always insisted clients come in for any changes that became necessary during healing, however.
Some studios also charge a consult fee ($10 seems most common) to evaluate a troubled piercing that was done elsewhere. This is certainly warranted in cases of people requesting advice after getting cartilage, nostril, or other piercings with a gun, or other inferior work—especially if they’d come in and inquired about piercing before getting hacked. See my article in issue #209, “Dealing with Difficult Clientsi,” (October 2019) for more support.
You have no reason to feel guilty or apologetic charging for the professional services you render! For example, you wouldn’t expect a hair salon to trim your bangs for free, even you got your hair cut there some weeks prior. And your mechanic wouldn’t be expected to do a complimentary oil change just because you stopped by while in the neighborhood. Those professionals feel perfectly justified in collecting money for their services—and so they should, as should you. When piercers devalue ourselves, we train our clients to devalue us as well. Charge what you are worth!
Accepting bookings in advance allows you to reward those who’ve planned ahead by serving them first, and it helps you to prepare for your day by anticipating at least some of your workload. I don’t think there’s any downside to it (when handled well), especially if you also take walk ins, which should be feasible unless your shop is super high volume. In my studio, we usually had two piercers on duty, which allowed for assisting someone in each category at the same time, but this is not required for success with pre-booked appointments.
Be totally honest with your walk-in patrons about how long they can expect to wait, or they’re likely to end up extremely disgruntled. Always offer to schedule a future appointment, so they can avoid hanging around for you to finish with your bookings, if that is their preference.
I have several colleagues who informed me that their monthly figures went way up when they began to offer online scheduling. There are many appointment-booking apps and services you can use to automate the task. Make sure to select one that allows you to record manual entries, too.
Free and low-cost systems are available, so you don’t need to make a big financial commitment to give it a whirl. Carefully set up your account to accept bookings only during your available hours!
I strongly suggest using a service that integrates taking deposits to confirm the appointments, which is a fundamental part of many of the available options. You may elect to require a deposit for half of the piercing fee up front, some other percentage, or the full amount. The latter is safest to encourage maximum compliance. Once someone has pre-paid a non-refundable deposit for a piercing, they will feel strongly encouraged to show up; and, only those who are serious about coming in will be likely to follow through with the reservation process.
You must have crystal clear policies posted so that online appointment booking doesn’t cause more problems than it resolves. Include your fee structure, minimum initial jewelry costs, ID requirements, and anything you need your clientele to know, including a comprehensive (and easily accessible) cancellation/refund/rescheduling policyii. Clarify how clients should contact you in the event of questions or issues, whether by email, phone, or social media. My instructions include a link to my aftercare guidelines (which I also provide verbally, of course), advice to eat a light meal one to two hours before the appointment, and the following:
Your deposit will be forfeit (lost):
- If you fail to appear, or cancel last minute.
- If you are more than 8 minutes late for your half-hour appointment. Yes, 8.
- If you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (zero-tolerance policy).
- If you do not present valid photo ID (driver’s license, passport, or military ID).
I hope some of the ideas above will prove helpful to you.