Charging Fat Folks Extra for a Pedicure?

A nail salon is accused of trying to charge people more for a pedicure based on their weight:

Sign reads: “Sorry. but if you are overweight, pedicures will be $45 due to service fees for pedicurists Thank you!”

It’s the exclamation point after “Thank you” that really activates my throat punch reflex.

Now, I say that they are “accused” because even though Deshania Ferguson was at Rose Nails in the Frayser Plaza Shopping Center in Memphis, Tennessee and took the picture, and even though background in pictures of the sign perfectly match the floors, walls, and chairs in the salon, the owner swears that the sign wasn’t put up at his shop and he says that “There are the same walls and floors everywhere, it could be anywhere.”  He did say that he had thought about it because fat people are difficult for the nail techs and he had two $2,500 chairs break.  But, he definitely didn’t put up the sign.  Right, sure,  so let’s just deal with this hypothetically.

A salon that did this wouldn’t be the first, in fact I’ve blogged about this before, but let’s go through it again. As the 300-ish pound recipient of many a pedicure, who has gotten pedicures with people heavier than I, neither I nor my friends have ever had a problem with techs or chairs, but I did some research just to be sure that mine was not an outlier experience.

According to several sources the average weight limit is 300lbs but that is a low number in the owner’s manual meant to decrease liability exposure for the chair manufacturer, and the chair will actually hold much more weight.  (There are some who claim that the chairs in the salon in question are more than 10 years old and that’s why they broke but, again, there’s no proof.)  But if, hypothetically, a salon was charging fat people $15 more for a pedicure for chair breakage, and the chairs are $2,500, then they betting the the chair will only break with every 166.6th customer over 300 pounds which doesn’t really make sense – either they think fatties will break the chair or not. (In which case – get a better fricking chair.)   And if they are charging the fee to those under 300 pounds then that’s completely indefensible since the chairs were designed to accommodate them (and also, get a better fricking chair.)

But wait, despite the owner bringing up broken chairs, the sign doesn’t say anything about the chairs – it just says that it’s for “service fees for pedicurists.”  Alright – the idea that fat people feet somehow warrant an extra $15 charge is bullshit, including and especially when the sign makes absolutely no designation of what they are defining as “overweight.” Do you have to go in and get eyeballed by an employee?  When you walk in do they tell you to pick a color and step on the scale? This is seriously screwed up.

Obviously, fat people who want to engage in activism (and avoid over-priced pedicures) will avoid this place a salon that would do this.  But this is where the thin allies can shine. Maybe these places can survive without fat customers – but they can’t survive without any customers.  A big part of ally work is refusing to give our money to companies that don’t give other people the same experience that we get.  So I’d like to see my not-fat pedicure procuring friends head to salons that don’t charge a fat fee.

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9 thoughts on “Charging Fat Folks Extra for a Pedicure?

  1. If broken chairs really were the problem, the solution is simple. Have a chair or two with a higher weight limit.

    1. And you could even post a sign “For your comfort, we provide these chairs for our larger customers. Weight limit X.” Someone who is large can then request that chair, knowing that they will be secure and comfortable.

      Some people (usually on the thinner side), would think it’s a bad idea to even publicly acknowledge weight limits, but I say post them. Let the person know what is safe and what is not, and let the person decide, based on their own knowledge of their own body, where they want to sit.

      I know that when I had to rent a scooter for a week, I made darned sure that I got one with a proper weight limit. And when I bought some camp chairs, I got some in varying weight limits, and keep track (Orange is for so and so and blue is for such and such).

      There is no judgement or name-calling or bigotry involved in providing and advertising furniture with higher than average weight limits.

  2. I had a friend who was once contacted by a salon owner who insisted she broke a chair and that she pay for it–this was in the 90’s and I think the amount was something like $1500. My friend was understandably distressed, in part because she had felt the chair jolt at some point and did feel culpable. I said if the salon owner had the gall to allow a client to use unsafe equipment then he was lucky SHE wasn’t suing HIM. I don’t remember how it turned out, except that she didn’t pay–the guy had the gall to say to her, “You know you broke it!” But there wasn’t any proof. Since when is a customer liable for the safety of a business’s equipment when used as recommend by the business owner?

    I was horrified by the idea that he thought it was okay to blame and charge her, and I’m horrified by this. It’s not like fat people feet have nails thirty times the size of thin people feet or something.

  3. Yeah, not cool. Toes shouldn’t be any harder to paint for a pedicurist if they belong to a fat person or a thin person. I can’t imagine the extra’s like foot massage would be any different either.

    I suppose if you honestly think someone might break a chair, you could put up a sign stating that your chairs are older or only rated for X weight and let the customer make up their own mind. Still, I would think a business owner should be prepared for wear and tear and occasional breakage of items.

  4. I’m afraid that “Service fee” is to compensate the poor, put upon pedicurist for having to touch fat-people feet.

    I can’t think of another explanation. I was going to say, “another explanation that makes any sense,” but really, that doesn’t make any sense, either.

  5. I am lucky to have okay feet. I say I am lucky because I am someone who does not like gross things to do with feet, particularly nails. Let’s be honest here… some people have some truly nasty feet. Nasty feet are not prejudiced… they afflict all sizes, ages, colours and religions.
    If they don’t charge people an extra service fee for having particularly nasty feet then they certainly cannot charge for being fat.
    I just don’t understand why this is still such a thing these days. Why is this still okay? I’m glad someone named and shamed them. I am shocked that the guy basically said she was a liar. For me even if I wasn’t worried that he was a prejudiced jerk the outright lying would be enough for me to not use his business. If he is shady about that, what else about his business is he shady about?!

  6. I don’t get pedicures because people touching my feet creeps me out. But I am 340+ lbs, with size 6.5 feet and a genetic tendency towards not sweating very much (like to the point where my inability to sweat actually causes problems sometimes). I fail to see what exactly about my small and unsweaty feet has anything to do with my weight. And if you’re in the pedicure business, shouldn’t you be ok with the fact that some people’s feet might have issues? I can’t even wrap my head around this at all.

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