Making appointments at beauty salons has always been low on my list of priorities. It just seems unnecessarily complicated. They expect you to book well ahead, give your name, phone number and sometimes even your address. They text you to confirm and they might even request you turn up a few minutes early. Once you're there they try to dress you in a white robe before ushering you into a private room. It's as if you're about to undergo a kidney transplant rather than, say, a manicure.

So it was against my better judgement that I booked for a massage at the local beauty place one Thursday earlier this month. But I was up-to-date with my work for once, my daughter's school was yet to break up for the summer holidays and, hey, I was worth it.
I duly turned up at 11.02am assuming they'd see me right away since punctuality was emphasised on the website. But, after announcing my arrival, I was invited to sit and wait.

At 11.15am three workers were still merrily hanging out behind the reception desk presumably oblivious to the tension I was feeling about the fact that I was yet to be called for my hour-long massage. I had a list of chores to work through immediately after and this relaxing treat was fast becoming a stress-point in my day.

Eventually I stood up and addressed the women at the counter in my most pleasant, non-judgmental tone: "Look, I won't wait any longer. But thank you, anyway."


Actually it was probably heavily laced with sarcasm. As I was leaving one of them said, "But it's only been 15 minutes."

I couldn't work out whether she thought that 15 minutes was meant to come off my one-hour massage or the time I'd allocated to errands afterwards. But it was a moot point.
My experience just a week later at the drop-by nail salon at Newmarket's 277 could not have been more different. Within two minutes of arriving for my spontaneous pedicure my feet were soaking in warm water, my back was being massaged by a vibrating La-Z-Boy-esque chair and the nail specialist was about to work her magic.

The efficient service at the ProfessioNAIL nail bar was the polar opposite of what I encountered at About Face. The man couldn't have cared less what my name or number was. He was never going to text me or put me on his mailing list. His only concern was whether there was $32 in my Eftpos account. I was being processed - and the factory-like, no nonsense ambiance was all part of the appeal.

As a bonus there's not much small talk at the casual nail bars; there's no expectation to be either interested or interesting. Similar sessions at regular salons usually come with 50 minutes of nonstop chatter from the beauty therapist at no extra cost. Over the years I've heard it all: personal tales of intricate wedding plans involving two ceremonies in two different countries and a first-hand account of being abandoned by a boyfriend while heavily pregnant. Beauticians, it seems, lead exciting lives.

About Face had sent me a text the day before to confirm my appointment. I responded with the requisite 'Y'. It was probably naive of me to think that one of the women who had witnessed my departure might have called to apologise for the aborted massage. It's unlikely that an organisation that failed to provide a service - or any reassurance that my custom was valued - in the first place would be adept at service recovery. That would be too much to ask.