Salon Security: Protecting Your Salon from Burglary

Salons are increasingly targeted by thieves, so we’re going to talk about salon security, why security cameras are not the answer, and why a gun is not the best solution for securing your business.

Why Salons Are Easy Targets

  • Easy to assess and simple to access. There are no barriers to entry and evaluating the business is simple.
  • Generally filled with women. Hair and nail salons are predominantly patronized by women, who provide far less resistance to criminals than male patrons would.
  • Cash-intensive. Many salons handle a good deal of cash during the day, and not many of them have managers overseeing daily deposits.
  • Little or no security. When compared to liquor stores, convenience stores, jewelry stores, pawn shops, and financial institutions (banks or check cashing businesses), salons are extremely easy to rob. Typical attempts to “secure” the business (security cameras) are laughable in comparison to other businesses that expect to be burglarized and take necessary precautions.

Security Problem 1: Unrestricted Access

Gone are the days when we could trust every customer who walks through our doors.

Let’s talk about Favis Salon in Detroit for a second. (Here’s the video of the robbery if you haven’t seen it yet.) That version of the video doesn’t show the men entering the salon, but you can see in this version, the men are hooded and masked before they enter. These men take their time. They’re armed, organized, methodical, and have absolutely no concerns that they’ll be caught. (Spoiler alert: They weren’t.)

The thieves took over four minutes, stealing jewelry, cash, credit cards, and cell phones. The street value of the information they stole can’t even be calculated. (I tried.) This salon is located in a very visible area with lots of street traffic and walk-by traffic. They have huge windows and security cameras–neither of which acted as a deterrent.

If this salon had invested in magnetic locks with an access control system, these burglars would never have been granted access to the building, because who in their right mind would buzz in two hooded, masked men?

Security Problem 2: Your Big Fat Mouth

Let me do you the favor of telling you that you talk too damn much.

Some of you do so much talking, you leave no work for an organized criminal.

To test my theory, I went to have a mani/pedi. The salon was in an office park located in a wooded area off a main road, less than a minute from the I-75 ramp. My appointment was on Saturday, so the complex was empty.

The salon was a single room with a bathroom, roughly 800 square feet. There were two manicure desks and two pedicure stations, no office for the owner and no back room for the employees. The salon didn’t have front windows and the door had a single-cylinder lock with a standard deadbolt. The back door was also a standard door with no fire alarm, and it could be seen from any position inside the salon. There were no external or internal security cameras.

Here’s a rundown of my discussion with the owner, who was doing my nails.

“Aren’t you worried about getting robbed out here?”
“No, I have an app on my phone that contacts police, just in case. I also keep my gun at the front desk.”

She goes on about the mobile panic button, showing me the application she uses when I ask. By the time she’s done, I know her mobile unlock pattern and that the application isn’t located on her mobile desktop, it’s within the application menus, so it takes her roughly 30 seconds to unlock the phone and get to the app. When I research the application, I discover by reading reviews that it doesn’t work if there’s no mobile signal, so it isn’t reliable. It also doesn’t immediately contact law enforcement; it alerts an alarm monitoring company who then notify law enforcement. The extra barrier between the two agencies buys a criminal more time. The owner kept the phone in the top drawer of her manicure desk, so I also know exactly where the phone is likely to be kept during the day.

This woman then proceeded to go on–at length–about how and why she earned her license to carry. During this discussion, I learned that she’s a recently divorced single mother with two children (ages eight and six) who go to a nearby elementary school. She has pictures of them on the wall next to her station. They take karate after school until 6 PM. Her mother watches them on Saturdays when she’s at work. She lives four houses down from her mother, a few streets over from the salon so she walks or rides her bike to work on the days when it’s nice out.

I lie and tell her I’m single, and have no plans to have kids. I intentionally mention my dog (“My dog is my kid.”). She then tells me she could never own a dog because they’re too much work. She’s a cat person.

The reception desk was a simple antique desk. The cash box is kept in the top drawer, not locked or bolted to anything (the owner had to remove it to open it and place my cash inside). I didn’t see the gun in the drawer when I paid, which means the gun had to be in the only remaining drawer.

“I prefer appointments during times when the salon is quietest. What are your slowest days?”
“Tuesdays, definitely. It’s just me here on those days. I have standings scheduled from 9 AM until noon, but any time after that is available.”

This woman DID NOT KNOW ME. Even if she did, she should never have disclosed this information–not even to a skinny, mild-mannered white woman like myself.

For all she knows, I could be a criminal mastermind.

I only asked two or three questions during this visit. This woman (and her lone employee) told me so much that by the time I left, I knew:

  • The front door is kept unlocked and, aside from the bathroom, there’s nowhere in the salon for anyone to hide and call for help.
  • The only security system they have is a mobile panic button, which takes time to find and launch, and the phone itself is located inside the owner’s desk.
  • The cash box was unsecured, unlocked, and stuffed with cash, so no daily deposits were being made.
  • They have a gun (a Glock G27–yeah, she even told me the model) and it’s kept in the desk drawer at the front of the salon.
  • The best time to hit their business would be Tuesday, when the owner works alone.
  • There are no security cameras inside or outside.
  • The odds of someone walking in, especially on a Saturday when the surrounding businesses are closed, is slim to none.
  • The owner has two young children. I know their names, what they look like, where they attend school, and where they attend karate practice.
  • The owner doesn’t have a dog at her residence and she lives alone.

In ninety minutes, I gained enough information about this woman to kidnap her children and burglarize her business.

A smart criminal won’t give a damn about the money in her cash drawer; they’re going to go for that Glock because its street value is three times the retail value. A Google search tells me that a G27 retails for $600-700, so black market value is probably around $1,800-2,100. I estimate that the drawer had maybe $500 or so. I’m not even going to research the black market price of two adolescent white children. (As a mother, that road’s too dark for me to travel down.)

I estimate that I can walk into her salon unarmed and walk away with the gun and the cash box in under a minute, but theoretically, I could lock the door behind me, take her phone, gun, and cash. I could hold her hostage for as long as I like and do whatever I damn well please (up to, and definitely including, lecturing her about giving too much information to strangers).

I highly suspect that the men who robbed the Detroit salon did so after one of their female associates cased the business. I’m willing to bet that none of the employees had any clue their salon was being evaluated for a robbery.

Security Problem #3: Electronic Amenities

I have always strongly advised against portable electronic amenities, like iPads. Offering these items for client use during services became popular over the last few years. Because I’ve discussed this topic before, and in my book, I’m not going to waste time repeating my arguments against this, but here’s a brief summary:

  • Electronics do not add value to your services; they actually take value from them by distracting your client from the service being performed.
  • Electronics negatively affect productivity.
  • The information your clients input into tablets creates a liability issue (identity theft, suspicious browser activity, etc.).
  • They invite theft.

When I talk about salon security with salon owners at shows, I find the same false beliefs.

“Nobody would dare rob my business. They know we have cameras.”
“We have a security system.”
“Everyone knows I have a gun in the salon at all times.”

If you have said any of these things at any point in time to your clients (or to random strangers at trade shows), refer back to Security Problem #2 and learn how to harness your hyperactive tongue.

False Belief #1: Security Cameras Will Deter Theft

Take a look at that video again. Did those security cameras do anything to deter that crime? No. The criminals wore masks. For the most part, they kept their heads down and faced away from the camera, staying out of the shot to have one of the patrons collect cash and jewelry. To me, this indicates that they were aware of the location of the security cameras before they entered.

Security cameras record crimes for analysis after-the-fact. They do nothing to stop a crime while it’s being committed.

Cameras may deter theft to a degree, but wouldn’t it be preferable to create an environment that minimizes the risk of a crime being committed in the first place?

False Belief #2: Firearms Will Deter Theft

No, I’m not interested in discussing politics with you. If you want to own guns, go right ahead, but do so with the knowledge that firearms are make you more of a target for criminals than you would be without them. As I stated before, the street value of a quality weapon is 2-3 times the retail value. Telling people you are armed is advertising that you have valuable street merchandise and are too stupid to know better than to keep that fact to yourself.

Let me make this clear to you: No material possession in your salon is worth shooting someone over. Absolutely nothing. I don’t care if your hood dryers are made of solid gold. Get insurance.

To deter crime, buy a magnetic lock, invest in visible exterior and interior security cameras, and post a sign that says the premises are under surveillance.

If you’re concerned about getting assaulted, keep pepper spray in your apron and a stun gun in your desk. These non-lethal solutions don’t carry the same liability (or street value) that guns do, and will neutralize a criminal long enough for you and your clients to get to safety–because safety needs to be your primary concern; not defending the salon’s cash or showing a robber “who’s boss.”

Recently, I’ve spoken with four salon owners who carry and all but one bragged about it with a sickening and unsettling bravado, which indicates that they were either not properly trained or are not mature enough to own the gun in the first place since they clearly don’t understand what a tremendous responsibility it is.


Start taking security seriously.  You won’t have to worry about becoming a victim if you take simple steps to deter those who seek to victimize you.


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6 Responses

  1. We have hornet spray at our shop. It shoots further and some people are immune to the pepper spray. Not as small though as a pepper spray. Good information. I lock the door when I’m by myself.

  2. Great advice…Im keeping my mouth shut…Client, “So do you have any kids?” ….me “How about those Brewers?”… but seriously, what do you suggest when asked personal questions without offending by saying “none of your business?” You know how idle chit chat happens with clients, how to you redirect?

    1. I have been asked this question a lot this year while I was teaching at the trade shows, and my response shocks pretty much everyone, lol. I tell clients, “I appreciate that you’re interested, but I don’t want you to feel obligated to socialize with me when you’re here. This is your time to relax and I want you to enjoy that time. If you have any questions relating to the service or if you need anything, please let me know, but I’m here to deliver a great service to you, not bore you with my personal life.”

      I cannot tell you how many clients sighed in relief and said, “Thank you SO much for saying that! I always feel so weird trying to have these forced conversations!” Seriously, every single one of my clients appreciated it. As a career salon manager, I’m the person clients complain to about those “relationships” other techs falsely believe are critical to success. Trust me, the vast majority of clients just want to enjoy their service with you, lol.

  3. Great article Tina. I work for a local alarm company in Chicago. There have been some recent burglaries at salons around the area. What would be an effective conversation between myself and a salon owner about burglar alarms? I have tried selling burglar alarm systems to salon owners with very little success. I don’t know if it’s because they believe they don’t have a lot of valuable items (which I know is false) or because they are just saving their money. Can you help me?

    1. It’s likely because they’re saving their money and relying on their insurance to cover any theft and damage, but that’s not what matters–the safety of their employees matters. Many of the burglaries that are happening in salons are happening in broad daylight during business hours when the salon is busiest. These burglars will come in with two or three people–one or more of them armed–lock the doors, and collect cell phones, purses, and anything else of value. In metropolitan areas, I consider silent alarm triggers incredibly important (if the salon owner doesn’t want to go the magnetic lock route). If that doesn’t concern them, point to their data. A lot of salon owners are using computer systems to store client, appointment, and sales data. If they’re using a system that isn’t internet-based (I don’t, for example), that data can be taken away with the machine, leaving them without records of any kind. For me, the most effective method of getting me to sign a contract for service would be to use math.

      How long will it take their insurance to respond to a claim?
      How well will the policy restore the salon?
      How many days of business will you lose in the event of a burglary?
      How much money are those days worth?
      If an alarm system could limit the burglary to window/door damage and either reduce the theft or eliminate the possibility of any theft, would it be worth it to pay for the plan to keep a burglary from shutting down your business?

      I know how much revenue I stand to lose if my salon is broken into and trashed. I know how hard it would be to figure out which products were stolen and how hard it would be to replenish those items (with or without insurance money). For me, it would be completely worth it to pay monthly to keep it from happening.

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