On September 26th, 2018, a New York law was updated and signed by Governor Cuomo (S.6343-A/A.10574) to protect barbershops, beauty shops, and salons. The law had originally protected restaurants, but the September update was specifically designed to protect hair and beauty service organizations against theft. If a client fails to pay for services, it is a class A misdemeanor that can result in anything from fines to jail time.
Non-paying customers are frustrating, demoralizing, and detrimental to a business. This is especially so when the practitioner has already performed the service. Sometimes, administering beauty services can take hours of dedicated focus at a time, like coloring or braiding. A viral video caught fire earlier in 2018 that featured a stylist who cut off the microbraids off a woman who couldn’t pay for the services already rendered. While this is extreme, dangerous, unprofessional, and unadvisable, it is an example of the frustration practitioners endure when dealing with freeloading customers. Services like braiding or balayage can take as much as eight hours. When a customer enters into the service knowing that they can’t pay after it’s completed, it’s thievery and a huge waste of time.
As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “With this new law, we are taking a major step forward to prevent theft and protect beauty shops and barber shops across New York. These small businesses are cornerstones of communities from Buffalo to Brooklyn, and when they lose out on compensation for the services they provide, it often brings significant financial hardship. By strengthening the law to allow for theft of services prosecution, we are bringing peace of mind to small business owners who work tirelessly day in and day out.”
The latest iteration of the law targets freeloading clients. If a client has already had a service completed from the service provider but doesn’t pay, it will be considered a criminal offense. The previous version of the law didn’t classify such behavior as a criminal offense. Class A misdemeanors are usually considered the most serious. If an adult commits a Class A misdemeanor in New York, a court may:
- Sentence an individual to a maximum of 1 year in jail, or 3 years’ probation
- Implement a fine of up to $1,000 or twice the amount of the individual’s gain from the crime.
New York government officials wholeheartedly support the law:
Senator Marisol Alcantara said, “Small businesses like beauty shops and barber shops depend on the patronage of their community members, and when individuals take advantage of local businesses it puts them at great financial risk. By adding this protection for small business owners, this bill will ensure that these businesses that are so critical to local economies can continue to thrive and succeed. I thank Governor Cuomo for his continued support of small business.”
Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman said, “Individuals who trained in the barbering and cosmetology licensed professions offer services to the public for which they should be compensated. This law now protects these service providers in a way they’ve never been protected before. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and my colleague Senator Alcantara, for ensuring the protection and court representation of these merchants.”
The new law will provide much-needed protection for beauty service providers, salons, and barbershops. It will mitigate risk and keep businesses from losing necessary cash flow. Service providers will remain incentivized to do their best work because they will be sufficiently protected and compensated fairly. This will lead to a steady stream of clients and a bustling business overall.
As Governor Cuomo himself said, “Beauty salons and barber shops are no different than other small businesses whose livelihoods depend on the support of their communities. This legislation closes a nonsensical loophole that gives these businesses equal protection under the law once and for all.”