Chop Shop Nail Service




If you’ve read my blog long enough you know I am not the frilly girl type of woman, kind of ironic considering I was a hairdresser for years. What I mean is I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. I don’t go to great lengths to upkeep my nails. Being a daycare provider I sometimes receive gifts to pamper myself….and usually I end up redeeming them right before they expire. Last year was one of those times I got manicures like a week apart.

The first place I go to is a luxury day spa I’ve gone to in the past. My goddaughter enjoys getting manicures and pedicures and she wanted me to have one as well. I am greeted upon my arrival and showered in attention. My manicurist is a pretty little Asian girl who caters to my every need. As she is filing my nails she asks me if I come to this spa often and tells me how much she enjoys working for this type of salon.

“I used to work for family business. You no go to Asian family manicure. They chop shop. You get in and out. No pampering. Don’t meet OSHA standard.” I don’t argue with her. I know a family that owns one and they are nice, but I’ve never had my nails done there. I also keep in mind that I have another gift certificate for one such type of shop to which she is referring.

This young woman is attentive and gentle. My favorite part is relaxing in the massage chair while my feet are being soaked and massaged. Heck, I could have do without the pedicure and be just as happy with only the massage benefits!

(I took a quick picture of my hand and foot while in the parking lot to send to my goddaughter. I knew it was only a matter of hours before I would chip or scratch my nails.)


The following week I go to the “chop shop” to redeem my services. I hope this is not the salon the last manicurist was speaking of. I walk in to customers waiting in chairs lined against the wall. Every manicure and pedicure station is filled. The patriarch of the business belts out, “What you need?”

“I’m scheduled for an eleven o’clock manicure.” I note to myself it is ten of eleven.

“Have seat. Be with you soon.”  He continues working on his client.

While I’m waiting I notice a case on the wall with bottles of nail polish labeled with customer’s names. I recognize a few of those names. People come and go. The patriarch tells me several times they will be with me soon. About thirty minutes later he asks me again what I’m scheduled for and I reply a manicure.

“Ok. You (pointing to me) pedicure station two.”

“I’m not here for a pedicure. I’m scheduled for a manicure.”

“Pedicure two,” he repeats. I oblige and hope he’s not going to be the one working on me.

About ten minutes later an older woman ( I wonder if it is the wife of the patriarch) who is in the middle of a manicure comes over and tells me to take my shoes off as she starts filling the tub with water. I tell her I’m not here for a pedicure but a manicure.

“Why you at pedicure?”

“Because he told me to sit here, “I nod at the patriarch. She shakes her head and turns off the water and goes back to her manicure. Eventually she finishes with her customer and leads me to her now empty but dirty manicure station. I sit with my hands in my lap, allowing her space to clean her table. She asks how I want my nails shaped and tells me to pick out a color. I think she’s going to clean her table while I pick a color. No, she walks to the back and checks on her customer whose polish is drying.

When my operator returns she lifts a Tupperware bowl off the floor beside her table and takes it to the back. She comes back with the bowl filled with steaming water. She does not sanitize the table surface but scoots an area clean for my arms to stretch over the table and places my hands on a paper towel scattered with nail clipping from the previous customer.  I am tempted to walk out. I decide not to be rude, but to keep my eyes on the instruments she uses. She does remove the used instruments and takes out sterilized ones to use on me, however she starts working on my hands over the used paper towel. I am disgusted. She works fast and furiously. No gentle touch, she digs my cuticles and cuts too far back causing a small bleed which she blots with a fresh cotton ball. We are finally finished and I am not happy with my services but I tip anyway. I silently vow to never return. In fact, if someone gives me a certificate there I will not use it.

They were busy as it was a federal holiday, so maybe I’m being too harsh. However, having managed a salon for years, I know the conditions were well below standards. I suppose the saying “you get what you pay for” rings true. At least, it does in this experience. The prices at this place are cheap which matches the services I received. On the few times I actually have my hands and feet pampered, I want just that, pampering. It’s worth paying the price for not just luxury on occasion but to have services rendered in a sanitary environment. I do know people who swear by this place and say they’ve never encountered this type of service, but they also say they like it because it is so inexpensive. I can only hope my experience was not the norm.

Spin Cycle: Beauty

25 thoughts on “Chop Shop Nail Service

  1. Oh yes. Los Angeles is a mecca for cheap nail salons. There is one in ever strip mall. You can pay everything from $100 to $20 for a mani-pedi, and you totally get what you pay for. I have finally found a place that is cheap but clean, which is something special, let me tell you. But it’s so fun to occasionally spend a little extra for some real pampering! I love the nail color in the picture, btw.

    You are linked!

  2. I’m glad this was your experience, not mine! I’m not exactly proud to admit this, but I’ve never had a mani or a pedi professionally done. I’m much more comfortable doing that type of thing myself — and I KNOW my stuff is clean, ha! You’re lucky you didn’t get some sort of fungal infection from that last place. I’m with you — you get what you pay for!

  3. “They were busy as it was a federal holiday, so maybe I’m being too harsh.”

    No way, you’re not being too harsh at all, Suzi

    You and I both know (having been licensed cosmetologists) the importance of sanitation.

    ” I know the conditions were well below standards.”


    These type of unsanitary chop shops are everywhere. We have a TON here in Philly, and every time walk by and look in the window, they’re PACKED with customers who just want CHEAP and FAST.

    Love the photo of your mani/pedi. Great nail polish color! Doesn’t it feel awesome to have a manicure and pedicure?


    • It does feel awesome to get a mani and pedi. I very seldom take the time to do, but I do enjoy it. Perhaps, I might just go get a massage…been a long time since I’ve done that as well…and that is heavenly!

  4. Truthfully, those places can really cause some serious problems. I’m really afraid of them. Your hands and feet look wonderful in that photo. (I do get regular pedicures,but hardly ever get a manicure because I ruin nail polish working in the garden anyway.) Go to the upscale place and forget the chop shops. The infections you could get can be way too costly for a cheaper service.

  5. I’ve gone to some of those places, but none quite as bad as this one, thank goodness! I love the massaging too – the little girls in the kiosks we found in Beijing malls were so good at massaging it was pure heaven.

  6. You described two very different experiences. I only had a manicure once (using a gift certificate my mom gave me) and I wasn’t impressed. They didn’t even put a base coat under the red nail polish I picked out. That first place sounds like one you should go back to if you can 🙂

  7. Yikes!
    I do love going for pedi’s, I found a nice little place here that’s relatively cheap and if you go first thing in the am, it’s nice & clean & quiet.

  8. Oh wow, yeah I don’t blame you for not returning there. That sounds awful!

    I’ve only had a mani done once. I’m hesitant to let people touch my feet for some reason 🙂

  9. Sometimes those “chop shops” scare me with the bacteria/virus risk. But there’s nothing more relaxing than being pampered at a really good spa! Vote with your dollars which one you like best!

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