Monday, 26 August 2013

Salon Review: Body'Minute

When it comes to the removal of unwanted body hair, waxing is often touted as being the best way to send it packing. As the process removes hair at the root, over time it should grow more sparsely and eventually stop altogether, therefore being of good value in the long run in terms of both money and hassle. However, short-term cost is one of the main reasons cited when people are asked why they shave, use depilatory creams and so on instead of waxing. It's true that salons can charge high prices for this service, and that waxing at home can be more pain than gain.

I was therefore pleased to discover the Body'Minute chain of salons when I moved to France, which offers beauty services of all kinds at very reasonable prices. I can get my underarms waxed along with a half leg wax and basic bikini wax all for the princely sum of...€13.50. (In the US, a mere €11 is charged.) Plenty of salons charge that just to wax one area of your body. At this price, Body'Minute franchises manage to undercut other businesses considerably - and with franchises gradually spreading across Europe and America, and there even being rumours of a London branch in future, there's every chance that you could end up going for your wax there soon.

Some people might wonder if this is too good to be true. The answer, as usual, is yes and no. No, in the sense that the raw materials required for a wax are in fact very cheap (a fact confirmed to me by a mobile beautician I used to see when I still lived in the UK). In this respect, the prices charged by Body'Minute for their waxes are very fair. However, they skimp on costs - and thus profit - in other ways, enabling everything that they offer (not just their waxes) to be so inexpensive.

Firstly, there's their staffing policy. No receptionists are hired at Body'Minute, meaning that the girls working there are always going to be dividing their attention between you, the phone, and the door. Obviously this doesn't matter too much if it's not really a busy day, but if lots of people want treatments that day, you may feel a little short-changed compared to the personalised and attentive service you receive at other spas and salons. 

Secondly, there's the fact that Body'Minute doesn't take reservations for their waxing services specifically. This means that they can have a constantly rotating service, whereby when someone comes in, they can be told to come back in half an hour (or even later) - basically, whenever a member of staff will next be available. This means that staff are used more economically and lessens the chance of employees sitting around and doing nothing, as well as possibly minimising the chance of clients not showing up to appointments. (The chain does, however, take appointments for other services, such as massages and manicures, which may contradict this slightly.)

Thirdly, there's the subscription scheme on which the whole place runs. Subscribers are charged €9,90 a month (€6 in the US) in order to benefit from reduced rates for treatments throughout the 30-day period. If subscribers don't use their subscription one month, the franchise naturally still takes their €9,90 without having to give away any treatments for a reduced rate. (There's nothing wrong with this; many businesses, such as gyms or underground car parks, operate similar schemes. If you don't use the subscription, that's your loss, not theirs.) Conversely, non-subscribers are charged considerably higher rates for the same services. Not only does Body'Minute make some money from these increased prices, but they also hope that the lure of the lower, subscriber-only prices will tempt people to sign up (and of course, the sign-up process carries an extra administrative fee of its own). If they do subscribe as a result of this tactic, there's a chance that they may not use the subscription every single month (which is taken out of your account on an indeterminate rolling basis, until you tell them to stop). And so the circle of life continues.

Fourthly, there are many other areas in which this franchise cuts corners. Staff are likely paid badly (hence the prominently-positioned tip jars at the reception desk - something that barely exists in France, as legislation mostly means that employees are paid correctly), partly due to their lack of expertise (in my experience, they wax well and do good massages, but are rubbish at manicures, pedicures and facials - suggesting that they are trained to only carry out a limited scope of treatments). You also won't see any expensive billboard or television campaigns for this company. Finally, the products they sell for you to use at home are largely inferior: their home wax strips are good, but their moisturisers for face and body left my skin in worse condition than before I started.

So with all of this in mind, why do I still attend monthly with almost religious fervour? First, their price significantly undercuts anyone else in town, making this particular treatment good value for money. Next, it's convenient - I only live round the corner from my nearest branch and there's another one near my work, too, just in case. They also open on Mondays, whereas many salons in France do not. Furthermore, I tell myself I'll tip the poorly-paid staff just as soon as they don't stab me in the underarm with the tweezers in the immediate post-wax period (it hasn't happened yet...). And in closing, the girls are friendly, deserve a job (even if outwardly it appears slightly crappy, surprisingly staff turnover does not seem to be that high), and ultimately they do manage to defuzz me effectively each month. And with waxing still being the most effective (in terms of results and cost) in the long run, I'm happy to keep on going there if it means that I'll be able to be fur-free by 50.

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