[AASM] “Can I sue for client theft?”


“I’m a renter. Another renter in my salon has stolen all of my clients. She’s undercutting my prices and including more in her services. I can’t compete with that. What legal recourse do I have?”

We’ve all lost a client to a competitor at some point. However, you can’t blame the competitor.

clients have free will and the right to choose How and where they spend their money.

How the competitor approached or solicited the client and whether or not it was right or wrong is irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate or condone the slimy, disgusting tactics some professionals employ to coax clients into their chairs–I’m just making the point that clients leave you at their own volition. Nobody holds a gun to their head and forces them to leave you.

Unless a competitor has physically stolen your client contact information, a “theft” did not occur.Those clients were not “stolen;” they left you. You lost them yourself. Theoretically, you could attempt to sue the competitor, but you shouldn’t, as it would be a humiliating waste of time and money. You’re the reason the clients left. So, while it’s unfortunate that this has happened to you, I can’t offer much in the way of consolation.

When I say, “You lost them yourself,” and “you’re the reason the clients left,” I’m not blaming you personally, even though it sounds like it. You lost those clients because–in their opinion–your prices are too high, your services aren’t as good, or your salon isn’t as nice.

Every client has their reasons for leaving and those reasons are based on a need or desire they had that another professional fulfilled in a way that satisfied them.

There’s no need to beat up the other professional, or yourself for that matter.

Instead, evaluate yourself, your business, and your services to see if there might be room for improvement. If you’ve run your numbers and realized you can’t (or do not want to) compete with Ms. Discount Cheappants, that’s fine too. If she’s severely undercutting, it’s unlikely she’ll be in business very long anyways. Most renters who go that route tend to self-destruct in less than a year.

Whatever you do, don’t attempt to match her prices. If you know what your prices need to be in order to keep your services profitable, sustain your lifestyle, and keep your business thriving, then don’t feel pressured to deviate from that. (You don’t want to crash and burn with her.)

Stay strong, invest in some advertising, and bring in clients who value your services and are willing to pay for it.

Forget about litigating this. You have no legal ground to stand on and no lawyer would touch it. (What are you expecting to happen? The judge shuts down her business and orders all the “stolen” clients to patronize yours? Come on. Get real.) Suing this renter would be a waste of time and money you should be using to refine your marketing and rebuild your clientele.

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.


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