Deciding On The Best Cancellation Policy For Your Salon

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by Pam Stellema

in Financial and Money Management, Salon and Spa Business Development

I’ve been closely following the variety of posts found on the social media pages relating to the many aspects around Salon Cancellation Policies.

What I’ve learned is that there’s no single or absolute solution to fit every business.

However, what I know for sure, is that your salon needs to have its own cancellation policy. A policy that helps you to avoid those very frustrating late cancellations and no-shows. A policy that will act as an effective deterrent to your clients, and therefore save you from the financial losses you incur when you’re left with a last-minute gap in your appointment book.

Getting You Cancellation Policy Right

Your policy needs to be worded in a way that’s not offensive to your clients, and yet at the same time is very clear about the outcomes for the client should they offend. It also needs to be one that you’re happy with and willing to enforce.

Just because the salon down the street has decided what their cancellation policy needs to be, it doesn’t mean you have to have the same if it’s not going to be right for you –  and only you can decide that. Many things need to be considered first before you jump in with both feet, and possibly damage your relationship with your clients.

For example, a sternly worded and heavily enforced policy that demands part payment for late cancellations and full payment for no-shows, might be the perfect policy for that salon owner down the road, but will you be comfortable enough with it to put it up at your reception? More importantly, are you going to be able to enforce it when the time comes, or is it going to be just a toothless tiger that clients will soon be ignoring?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m 100% in favour of having a cancellation policy in place. What I’m saying is that it must be right for you and your salon, if it’s to be effective.

You need to consider the two major problems you currently face, that demands you implement your cancellation policy, and what will be right for you and your clients. These two problems, of course, are late cancellation and no-shows.

What constitutes a late cancellation to you?  A late cancellation impacts on your salon if you’re unable to fill that spot again and it stays empty.  That means you must first ask yourself ‘How much notice do we require to fill  that empty appointment slot?’  If you’re the kind of salon who has clients on a waiting list, it may not be a problem at all,  however, for other salons, it may be necessary to ask for 24 hours or more cancellation notice so that you have enough time to schedule another client. Total no-shows, however, are always going to be an expense to your business, and a good cancellation policy will act as a deterrent to this happening.

Next, you have to consider what the penalty to the client will be for the late cancellation or no-show.  Will it be a set dollar amount or a percentage of the value of the appointment? Either way, many clients won’t like it, and you risk the chance of them going to another salon.

You have to decide whether or not your client is asked to pay up, or whether it’s best to tell her you’ll waive the fee for her.  A first time offence is often waived (after all, who hasn’t missed an appointment at some time), however if you have a client who is a repeat offender, it might be necessary to ask for the payment and expect her to go elsewhere in the future.


Another option is asking for pre-payment of services.  This is a controversial topic indeed.  When should you ask for prepayments? Should it be for  every service and with every client, for the clients who’ve had several late cancellations or no shows in the past, or perhaps only for certain services that are high in value and time?  I would certainly consider implementing it for clients who are consistent no-showers or late-cancellers.  It most likely also has merit for large party bookings such as bridal parties where you have put aside large amounts of time to cater for their needs.

Clients can be offended when asked to prepay for services or to pay a cancellation fee, and this is why you must consider the ramifications of introducing it into your salon before you jump in and implement this policy.

The one thing I am certain of is that you must have a cancellation policy in place.  You must know how it will impact on your business, you must be able to live with the outcome and most importantly, you and your team must be fully prepared before you implement it.

Remember, the majority of salon clients clients  are VIP’s and do the right thing and you don’t want to risk tossing them away unnecessarily.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }


You bring up good points regarding cancellations. I am pleased to use an online scheduling system that allows me to put in the number of hours for my cancellation policy – I chose 24 hours. When a client logs on to cancel outside the said period, it sends them an automatic response that they must contact me directly. If it is within the period, I receive an e mail and a text to my mobile alerting me so I may fill the space from my wait list. This system also sends a reminder e mail of their appointment, with the cancellation policy written at the bottom of email, when the client schedules. When a new client comes in the office, on the paperwork (Health History Form for massage), I list the cancellation policy, fees, etc. and leave a space for their initials.

I charge $25.00 per cancellation – enough to send a message, but not so high that they can’t pay it (and avoid me altogether). The “repeat” offenders are no more. They learned my boundaries and now choose to work within them.

Last year with over 800 appointments I had 2 no shows – and it was a medical need.

Thanks Pam for your great articles! I read all of them. Please come to the US sometime.

Leah Byrd
Leah K. Byrd Therapeutic Massage Inc.
Florida, USA



Leah, congratualtions! You have found the right policy for you and your salon. Missed and cancelled appointments can be a large and unnedessary expense in any salon and to get this down to just 2 is fantastic.

Oh, and I would love to come to the US sometime!

Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts.



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