A Vancouver salon owner says she’s pleased a small claims tribunal sided with her against a customer who sued over what she claimed was a “lopsided” haircut.
But Lorri Dar says she can’t help but feel the woman’s complaints about unwanted “frizzies” never should have wound up in court.
B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal dismissed Sapanjit Chohan’s lawsuit against Dar’s East Vancouver Kokopelli Salon this week for a lack of evidence, concluding that “it is common experience that some haircuts are better than others.”
“This is what we deal with in our industry,” Dar told the CBC.
“As well as being mixologists and chemists and artists, at the same time, we’re dealing with the mind as well. I can tell you that you look beautiful. But you may not feel that way. I can give you the best cut that you ever had, but you still may not feel that way.”
‘Clumps rather than curls’
The small claims case highlights the perils of suing over a haircut — a tangled legal history that touches on the need for expert witnesses, “obsessive” pampering and the male perm.
Chohan went to Kokopelli on June 1, 2021 to have her hair cut by an employee identified only by the initial L.
She messaged L to complain later that night, and spoke by phone and text with Dar, who invited her to return so they could “try to fix her hair to her satisfaction” — an offer Chohan refused.
“She says the haircut was lopsided, there were clumps rather than curls at the bottom, and she had ‘more frizzies’ and wispy bits,” wrote tribunal member Micah Carmody.
“In terms of technique, Ms. Chohan says L ‘dry cut’ her hair and ‘snipped away randomly here and there’, ‘razor cut’ her bangs, seemed distracted by another client, and failed to trim Ms. Chohan’s split ends.”
Dar argued that Chohan had “unreasonable expectations.”
She said hair cells change over time, forcing stylists and customers to “do the best they can to work with what the client and the hair allow them to do.”
“She also says split ends cannot be entirely removed without cutting a lot of the old hair off,” Carmody wrote.
“I accept these undisputed statements.”
Faced with before and after photographs of the haircut, Carmody noted some “long frizzy ends” and a slight length imbalance, but nothing that would warrant claims for damages.
“Ms. Chohan’s hair appears to fall just past her shoulders in all photos,” Carmody wrote.
“In any event, I find L was likely trying to achieve a balance between Ms. Chohan’s conflicting demands to not remove too much hair but to be rid of split ends.”
Hair negligence and expert witnesses
In dismissing Chohan’s suit, Carmody said past court decisions have established that “negligent hair care can result in damages.”
In 2002, a judge in Kelowna awarded $800 to a woman whose Rapunzel-like locks were damaged by a negligent “foil” application and over-brushing.
The victim had been “growing and pampering” her hair for 15 years.
“I expect some persons would say she was ‘obsessive,'” said the judge.
The woman claimed she watched in horror as a new employee combed out “dry and sticky conditioner causing ‘huge chunks’ of hair to ‘come off.'”
The key in that case was an expert witness in the form of a stylist who was “doing maintenance” with the woman post-hair disaster. She estimated that it would take “another couple of years until her hair is back to its prior healthy condition, and some five to six years until it is back to its original length.”
Expert testimony also proved crucial for a Vancouver man awarded $6,500 in 2001 for a botched perm. The victim claimed he suffered burning to his scalp and neck when a stylist failed to follow instructions for the application of a “permanent wave” solution.
“He stated that he was so embarrassed by the flaking of his neck that he was forced to wear turtlenecks for the longest while to conceal it,” the decision in that case reads.
“He stated that he has flare-ups twice per week in the winter and spring and four times per week in the summer, and he cannot wear T-shirts because if the sun hits his neck it causes him problems.”
‘Do your due diligence’
Dar says she felt bad that Chohan was not happy with her haircut, but says she did everything she could to try to resolve the situation and to check her employee’s work.
“Anybody can have an off day,” she says. “If there was a discrepancy there wouldn’t be an issue there. It would have been taken care of immediately, fixed, or money returned.”
Dar counterclaimed for damages that she claimed she suffered as a result of online comments Chohan made defaming her business.
She was seeking $1,500 and an apology, but Carmody said the tribunal can’t handle defamation and libel suits — which are the domain of the B.C. Supreme Court.
Dar says the industry works through word of mouth and negative reviews travel fast.
She says hairdressers might not think they’ll end up in court, but there’s one sure way to protect yourself if you do.
“Do your due diligence and take care of things immediately, and try to communicate with the person that’s having the issue,” she says.
“If you’ve done something that’s not correct, you need to fix it. If you can’t fix it then you need to return the money. It’s like any service that you get done. You take a car in and it comes back worse, then you have to deal with it. This is your responsibility in the industry.”