The Great Restriction Lift Rip-off – businesses putting financial punishments in place for people who don't turn up for bookings

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In recent days, the biggest salon chain in the country has been compared with a labourer making a quick buck from people’s misery during the Celtic Tiger.

As Peter Mark announced extra costs for ‘add ons’, such as dealing with uneven patchy home colour (an extra €60) and regrowth longer than 2cm (an extra €45), one bemused observer noted the chain was “like a builder … puffing on a cigarette and shaking his head [and asking] ‘what cowboy did that? Cost a fair bit to fix it'”.

The public outcry should be a warning to others, but desperation means people will stump up regardless – so will businesses even care about disgruntled customers as they try to make up their losses in a post-Covid world?

This weekend, the Irish Hairdressers Federation (IHF) told the Sunday Independent there is only one way to make businesses know you don’t appreciate increased costs: “Vote with your feet.”

In a statement released yesterday, the IHF made no bones about whose side it was on. Representing scores of small- and medium-sized hairdressers around the country – and not affiliated with Peter Mark – it said: “The answer is no… [IHF affiliated salons] are not putting up their prices, they just want to open their doors safely and get back to business.”

The organisation advised customers unhappy with hiked prices to spend their money elsewhere.

But even Peter Mark would say the same. This weekend, it told the Sunday Independent: “Ultimately, it is the client’s decision whether they want to avail of an additional service based on the professional consultation.”

Elsewhere, FLYEfit gyms will reopen tomorrow with a new online booking system to control the number of people who are allowed to train at one time.

The chain – popular for its 24-hour service – has made no mention of a reduction to its €29 monthly fee, despite asking customers to compete online for slots.

Over in the restaurant industry, meanwhile, it’s a matter of ‘wait and see’ whether we can expect price hikes as eateries reopen.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said: “I haven’t heard of members putting up prices,” but he added “nor would we tell our members what to do. It will be an individual decision as to what way they run their own business.”

Paul Flynn, chef and owner of The Tannery restaurant in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, said he had heard anecdotal evidence of outlets across various sectors preparing to increase prices but said he agreed with the IHF: “No one is forcing anyone to spend money. If you don’t feel it’s worth it, then don’t take the plunge.”

He said his own business would not raise prices because “we want longevity and for people to leave happy”.

He said he could understand why some businesses might bump up their price list – given the extra costs involved in introducing social-distancing measures: “Every business has their own circumstances and I wouldn’t judge anyone.”

He added that “it is daunting” for many traders who do not know if their livelihood will survive the coming months and urged people who have a complaint to voice it directly to the business owner involved rather than taking to social media to publicly shame a trader, which he says can have “dire consequences” for their livelihood.

The family-owned Killarney Park Hotel in Co Kerry can vouch for the fact that one hasty tweet can leave a business open to unfair criticism.

General manager Niamh O’Shea explained how events unfolded over the past week: “A man searched for a family room for two adults and two children at our hotel on a holiday booking website.

The site returned pricing for two bedrooms instead of one. The result was €4,500 – double the actual cost of what he was looking for. But the man didn’t know this. He posted it online and it went viral on social media. Unfortunately, we are still trying to explain to people that it’s incorrect.

“The man eventually apologised and deleted the tweet but it was too late. We have been getting calls about it all week.

“As a hotel, it is taking a huge effort across the entire team to get back open and I would urge people to fact-check information instead of jumping on the bandwagon on social media.

“We would also advise people to go to the hotel directly and they will get the best price, rather than involving a third-party website.”

Source: Irish News