By HAYAA KHURSHID
Hey girls. So, everybody loves going to the spa right? This blogger certainly has spa-ing in her top five most favourite ways to pass the time, along with shopping and chilling with my besties and boo. Anyway, because of this and thanks to a very generous mum, I’ve had the luxury of sampling the best spas and salons that Karachi and Lahore have to offer.
Sometimes I leave the spa feeling like I had spent the day in heaven, with no remorse about the odd 4-10k spent on salon and spa treatments. That is because a good spa experience is supposed to leave you rejuvenated and refreshed, not to mention looking gorgeous and smelling divine.
Blogging has other perks. Because I spend a lot of my time on the internet, I managed to sample a lot of deals that come on these, “Oh, I don’t believe we can get so much in so little’ packages on sites like www.dealstoday.pk and others of its kind.
I was salon scouting a week ago, and I came across “Farah Hussain’s Salon” on www.dealstoday.pk. The deal seemed unbelievably awesome. A whitening facial, or haircut, along with protein hair treatment, an OPI manicure/pedicure along with a face polish and blow-dry, all for Rs. 1200. Amazing right? I jumped on the opportunity, because the same services at my pet spa, Roohi’s would have cost me three quarters of what I used to earn before I was a broke college student.
I had never heard of the Farah Hussain Salon, so I decided to Google some reviews before purchasing the deal. The pictures shown on the website seemed pretty luxurious. Vast space, salon chairs, a nice little mani-pedi area, I knew I couldn’t expect a five star spa, but I was expecting something like “Mirrors” at Khadda Market or “Blush” at Khe-Shahbaz, both of which are very competent and professional salon cum spas.
When I called asking for an appointment, a rather bored and contemptuous voice told me to text in my name to confirm the appointment for four days ahead (Friday) and to do it quickly because they were jam-packed with bookings till the 27th of July. Ookay. Gotcha lady. I texted, twice on both numbers, but nobody replied. When I called again, I got to hear something along the lines of, “Alright! Alright! Stop calling you persistent bitch!” (Well, that’s not what she said but her tone implied exactly that). Miffed, I hung up and waited eagerly for the appointment.
Friday, D-Day. I woke up and drove semi-excited, semi-nervous. Nervous mainly because my mother had given me dire warnings about shady salons and filthy equipment. When I called the salon number, half way on the road, it was switched off. After repeated frantic dialing on both numbers, the lady finally answered. When I told them who I was and that I had an appointment for three o clock, (it was 3:25pm when she answered the phone), she said tauntingly, oh but you’re too late now.
However, I asserted that my lateness was not because I was tardy but due to the salon’s inability to answer their phone. I arrived in front of a small wooden gate at Khe-Tanzeem, unremarkable from the outside, looking incredibly shady. Taking a deep breath, I decided to brave it and walked in.
Two tiny rooms greeted me. Needless to say, photographs can be deceptive. Four women in various stages of the process of beautification were seated on the waiting lounge. I walked in feeling like an alien, the lady who had opened the door simply let me in without so much as a ‘hello, what can I do for you’.
A harried looking woman gestured towards the seat where they wash people’s hair and told me to sit after snatching my voucher out of my hand. And that was that. I was left on my own devices for a good half hour as I sat and stared at the activity around me.
To say that it was chaotic would be a bit of an understatement. The two pedicure chairs were full, so a girl in her facial gown with face-polish on was getting her pedicure done at the hair station, while someone was hacking away at her hair at the back.
I asked Farah when the closing time in Ramadan was, and she informed me that they would wrap things up at five o clock. Checking my watch, it was four already.
According to standard salon procedure, a facial of any kind takes: 60 minutes, manicure and pedicure: 45 minutes (minimum, maximum 60 minutes), hair protein: 30- 60 minutes and face polishing: 20 minutes minimum. A good blow-dry and wash should take at least 20 minutes as well. I asked her how she would manage fitting in all the services with just an hour left, and asked her if we could shift my appointment to another day, or divide the services because I did not want to be rushed.
Farah said easily, “Oh no, don’t worry, we’ll fit everything in” ( Jaldi, Jaldi sab saath saath hojai ha, aap tension na lein). Okay, then. I sat back down. Sensing that I was looking affronted, Farah came at me and said oh; let me wash your hair, presumably for protein treatment.
I naturally have very fine and dry hair. I had deliberately left my hair unwashed because I wanted to get a quality protein/ blow-dry combination, which includes hair washing. Touching my hair, she immediately said, “Oh my god, your hair is so damaged! I can’t do a protein on this. I’m giving you the ‘Chi’ treatment” and started massaging something into my hair after washing it.
I asked her what this ‘Chi’ treatment was, and never got a straight answer. She just assumed my hair was rebonded (it isn’t) and applied some weird serum in my head which she left in, without bothering to ask me whether I wanted Chi or whether I wanted the protein.
It seemed like I was in for one surprise after the other. The manicure/pedicure area was a cramped small room, with two recliners, a very noisy aunty seated next to me who was also being ‘pampered’ , a fly that seemed to be magnetically attracted to the area and then my “nail technician” walked in.
I had on double layers of Zoya’s Pixie Dust Nail polish, which has a hard, grainy surface, which since it is full of glitter, is challenging to get off. Note, I said challenging not impossible. My nail technician first sat down and looked at my nails and actually asked me if I wanted to take my nail color off. I mean hello? How else would she clean my nails?
After I informed her that yes, she did need to take my nail color off; she told me that they were out of nail polish remover at the salon. Imagine that. However, she sent off someone to buy new polish remover, and after she finally procured it, she spent a good thirty minutes gently rubbing away at the nail polish, completely unsuccessful at removing it, all the while bitching about how cruel it was that she had the unfortunate task of trying to remove my nail color.
She started nodding off as she was trying to take off my nail polish and I literally had to jolt her awake, to which she said, “Oh, I got so bored taking this off that I almost fell asleep” (yeh color utartey utartey toh mujhe neendh hi agai, bore hogai may). Yeah lady, I’m sorry your job is not thrilling enough.
The nail technician next to her was extremely helpful. She told her to let the nail polish be and to proceed with the pedicure. ( Yes, do the pedicure with my nail polish STILL ON). They bought in tubs of water, the kind my maid uses to mop the floor (they did not have sinks or proper pedicure tubs or foot baths) and she asked me to soak my feet in the cold water. (I know the water is supposed to be hot). After letting my feet soak for about a minute, she pulled it out and asked me if she should cut my nails and file them. I told her to get them in shape. It was an exhausting and infuriating process.
She rubbed some kind of scrub on my feet and proceeded to file my nails. Then (to my horror) she took the filer and started scraping off my nail polish, completely removing the external layer of my enamel! After that she used a foot scrubber to scrub away the dead skin, not from my soles, but on my leg and foot! (OPI, what? The scrub looked like it came from a supermarket).
After the painful pedicure was done, (I swear, my feet looked exactly the same, I could have gotten the same result from washing them in the sink at home), she started getting up when I reminded her that I have hands too which needed manicuring.
She looked at my hands, sighed and said that it was out of her capability to remove the nail polish on my hands. She literally said that. (Yeh nail color utarna meray buss ki baat nahi hai). I grabbed the cotton and remover from her and removed the color from my nails myself in five minutes in front of her eyes. She then weakly repeated the process on my hands, no massage, nothing and after she was done I showed her my hands and reminded her that she forgot to file and cut my nails. Imagine that.
I asked her why she did not massage my feet and hands, which are regular procedures with manicures and pedicures and she told me that since they were rushed because of the deals, they had omitted the massages out of the process. Of course. After that I asked her to show me the nail colors and she informed me that I have to pay an extra charge if I want nail color on my hands and feet. (This was supposed to be an OPI manicure/pedicure, just in case you forgot). I told them there is not a single parlor in Karachi that charges extra for nail color.
While I was getting my pedicure done, another salon technician came onto me and slathered face polish all over my face. I have no idea what was in that face polish, because my face burned up and started itching as if it was covered with red ants. I am proud to say that I have extremely good, healthy and glowing skin naturally, so I am not sensitive to even the strongest chemicals like bleach and ammonia.
However the face polish used at Farah Hussain’s Salon made my eyes tear up and I immediately asked her to remove it. When I told the nail technician that my face was itching, she dug her fingers into the tub of cream that she was rubbing on people’s feet and rubbed the same cream all over my face on top of the polish!
I was disgusted, and the itching got worse, so I got someone to immediately remove the polish from my face. The technician that had applied the polish came at me and half-heartedly swiped some sponges over my face, removing some of the cream. I had to call her back so that she could properly remove it.
By this time, I was seriously seething. They sent me in for the facial, and I was having second thoughts about getting it done in the first place. I had never been to a worse salon. The facial technician came in and instead of creating a soothing environment, started chatting me up about how she moonlights as a beauty service provider and will come perform all these services at my house, trying to promote her at-home business.
I didn’t know whether to be amused or infuriated. The facial was done in ten minutes, no neck massage, no shoulder massage, no back massage, which are staples of a good facial. When I came out, I still had streaks of eyeliner under my eyes.
A salon reviewer generally shouldn’t reveal her identity because then she knows that she will receive special treatment. However, this time I couldn’t play batgirl, I had to tell them that I was there to review my salon in order to receive proper service.
I went up to Farah and I told her that I was reviewing her salon. She told me the salon opened up eight months ago, was doing steady business, and had an incredibly standoffish attitude about the people who took up the deals from dealstoday.pk, stating that she only did the deals as a promotion and that she was not making any profit from them.
I told her that it was only because of the deals that she was getting any recognition, that she should learn how to manage her clients better because the salon was in absolute chaos.
After finding out about my true identity, she asked her nail technician to apply nail color to my nails, without any extra charges. (Oh my did I get lucky!)
I told her that I wanted to get my hair blow-dried, to which she said, oh, you know actually the blow-dry service is only for the people who get hair-cuts, since you chose to get the facial, the blow-dry isn’t included. I reminded her of the voucher, which clearly stated the blow-dry as an additional service, and because she knew I was reviewing her salon, she told me that I can get any blow-dry I wanted. The blow-dry was mediocre and I guess the best part about the whole package of services.
Boss lady Farah saw the eye-liner under my eyes while she was coming to blow-dry my hair and started chewing out the facial technician right in front of me, because she thought that would impress me. Farah runs her salon with an iron fist!
Man, I’ve been to my fair share of shabby salons. They are cost-effective but some of them are extremely competent and professional. They are cheaper because they lack the quality of products and salon space that big salons like Toni and Guy and Nabila’s have, not because their services are bad.
For example, Deluxe Parlors are cheap, shabby (some of them are very dirty) but there work is good. For minor services like waxing, threading and quick blow-dries, these places can be very helpful when money is tight.
However, I would not recommend Farah Hussein’s Salon to anyone. If it wasn’t for the deal, I would’ve literally thrown a bitch-fit and asked for my money back, if I would have paid the 4300 rupees that these services would have cost out of the deal. The money is not a big deal; however the experience was not even worth 200 rupees.
I was not impressed at all by these women’s attitudes, how their services only improved after I told them they were being critiqued and their obvious buttering and flattering afterwards, simply because I had seen how they were dealing with the clients who had come because of the deals, as if they were inferior beings or something.
Out of five, Farah Hussain’s Salon gets .5 BeautyBall. I’d be very surprised to see the parlor still in business after this deal package has run its course unless these women adjust their attitudes and methods of service.