I'm FREEEEEEEEEEEE! Oh, and hi!
I've been lurking this board for a long time, but never posted because I worked for a corporate salon and I just didn't feel comfortable sharing anything I had to say in case it came back to bite me in the form of a write-up or firing or somesuch.
Yesterday, I put in my two-weeks notice. Today I worked my first day in my new private salon job.
It. Is. AWESOME!!!! Instead of ending my day feeling like I'd gotten run over repeatedly by an Animal Control van full of angry bears, I felt like this:
In fairness, I will say that today I discovered that my corporate salon gave me much better training than I was led to believe by the actual salon managers I've had, who made me think my grooms were similar to, though slightly worse than what you might expect from a mildly retarded squirrel afflicted with palsy if you gave it a pair of shears and asked it to do a Town & Country on a disagreeable St. Poo. That is to say: they knew I was trying hard, but I simply could never be equal to the task. I'm sure they didn't mean to make me feel that way, but I walked into work every day dreading what might happen.
I looked at every dog like furry little bombs that could, at random, explode and riddle my career with the shrapnel of a million tiny hair splinters of failure. I didn't blame the dogs any more than I would blame them if they came in strapped with actual explosives; in fact, I pitied them and tried my best to assure them that they would be fine. But what do you do if someone plopped a bomb in front of you? An intelligent person would flee the area and call the authorities. Instead, I saw my job as defusing this poor creature for what seemed like astonishingly ungrateful owners who, for reasons I was beginning to seriously resent, appeared to think that I might actually enjoy hurting their dog, rather than ever-so-carefully removing weeks -- sometimes months -- of neglect. To top it all off, real bomb squad techs aren't expected to make the bomb look pretty when they're finished disarming it.
This is heroes work, I'd tell myself. And then the bastard customers would SNEAK THAT BOMB BACK INTO THE STORE AND DETONATE IT! And it was always the dogs who needed my attention the most that came back to mess up my day. You know the kind: the six-month matting on the outside-labradoodle that had sores under its pelt, which of course, I must have put there. Or the ill-tempered shit-tzu puppy that bites like a wounded badger that I had to send home who belonged to a family with three precious children whose birthdays and Christmases I have ruined forever. Or the owners of the great dane who comes in with the prong collar, a shock collar, and a halti who are simply outraged that I would dare call myself a groomer when I refuse to finish grinding his nails just because his teeth are on my arm.
There I'd be, working on some other poor, innocent mutt three days later, when my manager would walk in with a look you might use when you're about to inform someone that they have been infecting orphans with leprosy. I knew that meant that some ingrate had gotten sticker shock, realized that the 100% satisfaction guarantee means that they can get their money back, and did what any cheap jerk would do: complained until they got a refund.
Corporate has no boundaries when it comes to customers, so the worst kinds of behaviors are encouraged from them. I've seen the sort of insulting, rude, threatening disrespect thrown at me and my co-workers that has made me seriously wonder how in the world these people managed to reach adulthood without being punched. And of course, we are forced to oblige, even if it is bad money not worth inviting in the door, never mind apologizing to. Eventually, I realized that these are the kinds of people who have been fired from every reputable private salon in the area because they either deluded or dishonest, or both. Here I'm not talking about the relatively reasonable people who have difficult dogs who can't afford private salon prices -- I never minded those people -- I'm talking about the people who suddenly turn into entitled toddlers the minute they set foot in a corporate retail environment: because they have been taught by the company that they can and should.
This bred an environment of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Ladel atop that sundae of f*ckery some oft-changing corporate priorities. Safety! Sales! Add-ons! Report cards! Water spots in the kennels! Increase your concurrency! Don't do bath dogs! Do bath dogs, but only if you're requested! Do requested bath dogs, but you may not get commission for them if a bather is available! Do more walk-in services! Don't do walk-in services! Do walk-ins, but only if a bather isn't available and you can't get commission for it! Seasonal packages! 10 hour shifts on weekends! Optimization! Surveys! Coupons! SAY THE WHOLE COMPANY SLOGAN WHEN YOU ANSWER THE PHONE!
When my salon manager started withholding my commissions on my dogs whenever a customer complained. If she had to do a "redo" that took an amount of time my manager decided was unreasonable, my money became her money. Of course, since it benefitted her to find sufficient flaw in the groom to justify than magical money transformation, suddenly many of my dogs were requiring full regrooms when the customer looked at the bill and became abruptly picky, rather than a few snips here and there to satisfy someone who was weighing whether or not it would be worth their time to try for a refund.
All of this was beginning to make me think that I am just a crappy groomer, and I was ready to quit and return to my previous career when I stumbled upon a discussion on Facebook among ex-groomers of this particular company. Someone asked the question: Are those of you who have quit and moved o to private salons happier? The discussion had over a hundred replies, and nearly all of them were some variation of an emphatic "SO MUCH HAPPIER!!!".
So, I decided, what the heck. I'll shoot an email to a local salon/kennel and see if they bite, figuring they would surely not want some newbie groomer from a retail salon.
But what do you know? Not only did she want someone, she was rather desperate for a reliable groomer who wouldn't flake out, actually has her own equipment, and knows a #4 from an E comb. We were both wary of each other at first, but she invited me to come groom with her. She wanted to make sure I wasn't going to hack up a dog or choke it out, or a number of other fears that I wish weren't justified, since my manager before this one was rather notorious for strangling small dogs with the grooming loop until it got a nosebleed. I could understand her reticience. I was anxious that she'd find my grooms to be sub-par and an embarassment to her establishment.
So I went on a ride-along in her van for a day. As she groomed dogs that I held for her, and got paid obnoxious sums of money by thrilled customers, I began to grin stupidly. Her grooms weren't perfect. In fact, if I'd try to send home dogs with hair cuts as casual as hers, my manager would have taken all of my commissions and I probably would have been given an electrical shock or something. I wasn't thinking bad things about her grooms, mind you. Not at all. If the customer is happy and the dog is happy, then it's a good groom. But, I was thinking that I wanted to get ahold of a dog and show her what I could do so she could stop fretting that I was going to ruin her reputation with incompetence.
With some trepidation, she gave me a pair of terriers to do. A yorkie and a westie. I took two hours and put them in their suites to await inspection. About a half an hour later she comes back into the grooming room with a big silly grin on her face and says, "They look great. Really, really good."
I said, "You're happy?"
"Oh yes. This is going to be great. I can give you three more dogs today and book you a full day's worth next week. Do you know how to do poodle cuts?"
I smiled, "I own a Standard."
She frowned a little. "Which cuts can you do?"
"All of them."
She looked surprised and asked me to list off all the ones that I knew. After I got past Dutch, she waved her hand and smiled.
"You're going to make a lot of money here."
And I did make pretty good money on my first day. Almost as much as I take home in a week at my corporate job, not counting tips. And I feel great! The salon building is on a 10 acre property that kennels all kinds of animals, and when I want a break, I can go take a walk by the horses or sit under the pecan tree. I am not just allowed, but encouraged to love on the dogs all I want. I can take as few or as many dogs as I want and I set my own hours and days I want to work. She doesn't do weekends, but if I want to, she doesn't have a problem with it. DOESN'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT! I almost cried. It's been a year since I've seen my family on a weekend since I've worked for corporate.
Many things could go wrong, of course, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm doing the work I want to do. And none of those dogs felt like bombs. They felt like little bundles of love and happiness.
I'd say that I wish I'd made this decision sooner, but at the same time, I don't think I would be as good as I am or as grateful if I hadn't done my time at corporate, so it wasn't a waste. But at the same time, I really am glad that I took that step.
Just wanted to share, since I can now without worrying that someone at corporate will see this and smite me.