Nail Salon Charges $5 Extra For Being Overweight
TODAYSHOW.COM - Michelle Fonville went from being pampered to put down, with one swipe of a pen.
When this DeKalb County, Ga., woman received the bill from Natural Nails, a local nail salon, for her manicure, pedicure and eyebrow shaping, there was a $5 surcharge.
"I said, ‘I've been overcharged,' " Fonville told WSB-TV in Atlanta. "[The manager] broke it down, then told me she charged me $5 more because I was overweight."
The salon manager, Kim Tran, told WSB-TV that she added the surcharge to compensate for chairs broken by overweight customers. Her pedicure chairs have a weight limit of 200 pounds and cost $2,500 to fix.
"Do you think that's fair when we take $24 [for manicure and pedicure] and we have to pay $2,500? No," Tran told WSB-TV.
While it's debatable whether obesity is a disability protected by the law (it is in health-related cases), on the face of it, there's not a chance Tran would have been able to know the reason for Fonville's being overweight. And without that knowledge, any kind of discrimination is a problem and potentially legally actionable.
However, the incident raises practical issues related to dealing with bigger people. When is it unfair treatment for them to pay extra, as opposed to being charged more because they are getting a greater degree of product or service?
Most airlines will give a larger passenger a seat belt extender free of charge, but for the safety of other passengers in an evacuation situation, the larger passenger cannot be seated in an exit row. If the larger passenger cannot fit comfortably between armrests, they will be given another seat, if available, or be asked to pay for a second seat.
Clothing companies like Talbots or Lands' End that offer their regular apparel in "women's" sizes (meaning plus or fuller cut) do so at a premium. In spot assessments, prices were 12 to 17 percent higher for plus size versions. But that makes some sense: Larger clothes require more fabric, thread, trims and so on.
A spokesman for the Professional Beauty Association admitted that prices for services like hair straightening or perming are higher for people with long hair; that's usually the only situation where a different price applies. And it doesn't condone what Tran did.
"While hair and nail salons are generally free to price their products and services to fit their particular market, the Professional Beauty Association encourages salons to be customer and service focused," Marissa Porcaro, the PBA's marketing and communications manager, told TODAYshow.com.
"When considering implementing surcharges or special pricing, salons should really consider the long-term impact on business. A savvy business owner will balance the costs and benefits."
While Fonville's weight surcharge was ultimately refunded, Tran told Fonville to take her business elsewhere in the future.
Fonville went from literally crying — "I was humiliated," she said — to crying discrimination. "The word has to get out there that these people are discriminating against us because of our weight. You can't do that."
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