No, You Cannot Pay When You See Me. Here's Why.
It's been near seven years of business, and I've waited for this inevitable phone call to come. I've wondered how I'd cope with it. I've thought endlessly on what damage control might look like for my business when it became reality. I've wondered under what circumstances it might present itself. And guess what? Tonight, it came.
[6:49pm, Phone Rings]
Me: Hi, this is Chelsea!
Her: Hello - Is this Chelsea?
Me: Yes, this is Chelsea!
Her: Hi Chelsea, we're here waiting for you at the Starbucks.
Me: Hi! Yes, I'm sorry. I didn't receive your completed invoice so I assumed services were no longer desired.
Her: Well, we didn't receive services.
Me: I understand, however as noted on the website, all sessions must be paid in full by 48 hours prior to service.
Her: Okay, well we don't do business that way. Thanks anyway.
Me: My pleasure.
Now I'm not the type to air my business' business, if you will. Thankfully things are rarely messy here at Cardamom & Clove Henna, but this is something that I want to address as much for myself as for potential clients. I pride myself in transparency, and I'm not going to shy away from it here. So let me set the stage for you as it relates to this call...
I received a request for a henna session for three late on Friday night. The request was for Monday, which is not a date that is available for self scheduling at this time. I helped this person through scheduling the appointment on my end, and noted that I'd be sending an invoice to her for completion. She provided her email address, and we pleasantly parted ways on the website. The appointment was set for 6:30pm Monday, pending completion of said invoice.
Saturday the invoice was not completed.
Sunday the invoice was not completed.
Monday arrives, a reminder is sent, and the invoice is not completed.
The invoice includes a service agreement which outlines the time, location (as I work at varying locations throughout the week), and duration of the services requested. My payment processing company provides me additional information on the back end as well - including details on if/when the invoice is opened.
At 6:00pm Monday, the invoice still appeared to be unopened. At this point, I cancel the invoice, automatically generating a cancelation notice to the potential client, and move on with my evening. While it doesn't make me happy at all to disappoint potential clients, I also have to protect the integrity of my business by maintaining the standards and protocols that continue to guarantee the sustainability of what I do - included in these standards, advance payment.
So why do I (and many henna artists) require advance payment - either in full or by way of a significant booking fee anyway? I'll explain.
1. We get stood up. And often.
Nothing is worse than arriving at a location to meet a client and no one showing up. Like you, we have families, friends, obligations, and lives outside of our businesses. When we agree to see you, we are also agreeing not to spend our time elsewhere. We may also be agreeing to investing in other services like childcare costs to accommodate seeing you. Long story short, our time is valuable, and unfortunately there are people out there who will not value it. Requiring payment upfront weeds these people out.
2. It's the industry standard.
In the entertainment/service industry, it is standard to secure payment prior to services being rendered. If not, the odds are particularly high that we will not receive payment (or that we will have to chase clients and event organizers down for payment). We don't want to do that. We want to arrive, wow you with our skills and send you home feeling lovely. Nothing ruins that quicker than an IOU. You know what else sucks? Small claims court.
3. We have something to lose.
Our reputation. My business has been running for years, I've served across multiple states, I've received recognition from local and international publications, and I maintain a solid five star rating over multiple platforms - all from legitimate clients, not friends of friends. You'll never find a review out there claiming that Cardamom & Clove Henna cheated anyone, stood anyone up, or dissatisfied any client at any point in time. Like any professional, I take my craft seriously and I treat my clients with the utmost respect. As a consumer, I can understand the reluctance of paying upfront in the case of a business whose reputation is on the rocks, but not from a legitimate practice with good standing.
Our livelihood. If our reputation tanks, then there goes our livelihood as well. It doesn't take much to damage the trust of clients, and word of mouth is like gold to small businesses. We understand that if things go badly, then the proverbial (and quite possibly literal) food will be taken from our children's mouths.
You don't. The worst that happens on your end is that you don't get henna that day. Questions, see number 1.
4. We make our paste fresh.
As mentioned, professional henna artists care about what they do. We'll never use "instant henna," or other questionable pastes on your skin. We use fresh, natural, quality ingredients to prepare amazing products for you. Henna takes anywhere from 12-24 hours to prepare and that's before we take the time to cone it up so it's ready to use on your skin. The overwhelming reason why I choose to secure payment by 48 hours prior to booking is so that I can be assured that I have fresh paste available for use. My products are not free, nor is my time. If I'm using my certified organic, therapeutic grade, top notch ingredients to prepare something for you, then I expect to be secure in the fact that you will show up - and if you don't, then my time used beforehand still deserves to be compensated.
5. It's our prerogative.
Listen, this is where it gets a touch #pettylabelle but I'm just going to be honest here. When you work for yourself, you make your own rules. As if the above weren't sufficient enough indications, the fact of the matter is that when you visit a business, large or small, your options are to a.) accept the terms of service that said business extends in exchange for the experience that they offer or b.) go somewhere else. While I dislike knowing that I'm not for everybody, that's just the way life is. As my mama says (and I'm pretty sure she stole this from Dr. Phil, but he's alright in my book), "You teach people how to treat you." That means sticking to my policies - especially in the case of new clients.
When I engage with my clients, then receive 100% of me at each booking or event. I know that, and they know that. What we share is authentic, friendly, and respectful - and that's just it. The person who doesn't feel that respecting my time, my business, and my policies is a priority, simply put, is not a priority of mine - even as it pains me to make that decision.
In this particular case, it doesn't feel great to have had this scenario play out as it did. Knowing that someone who I'd otherwise genuinely enjoyed interacting with had driven to a location and waited for me expectantly and was inconvenienced doesn't make me happy. If she comes to read this, I hope that she understands that there was nothing personal in what took place today. I'd looked forward to meeting her and her group. While I hope that she will allow an opportunity for us to reconcile what I'm sure was a less than satisfactory experience for her, I understand if she chooses not to patronize my business moving forward. At the same time, I also need to be clear that there are boundaries which cannot be overstepped. The client-provider relationship is one of give and take, and cannot be one sided. When that balance tips too heavily in any direction, sustainability is lost and businesses fail.
So there it is - at near 11pm because it's not something that I've taken lightly - take it or leave it.
If you have any feedback or questions on my policies, I'd love to hear from you! Send me an email directly to email@example.com. I personally respond to every email I receive.