My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer


You’re Better Off When They Leave


As owners, we occasionally feel handcuffed by employee demands. So we need to know the difference between a good employee making suggestions and having dialogue, and an entitled staff member who is wanting rules to be bent or broken just for them.

Sometimes we are tempted to bend, out of fear for losing those people and what that might mean. Don’t be afraid, run your salon the way you know you need to. That stylist was likely casting a large cloud over your salon. They were unhappy, you were unhappy and your team was probably unhappy too.

If and when they do leave or you let them go, you will be better off.


Why You Won’t See Me at Chicago ABS


I’m sorry and embarrassed to say I have cancelled my class at Chicago ABS. Or more accurately, it was cancelled for me and I chose to not play games with these people anymore. Here is what happened.

In September of 2015 I started applying for the 2016 shows. I had had a lot of fun and full rooms at IBS New York 2015 and I wanted to do Long Beach and Chicago for 2016, so I filled in the online application.

What I discovered was that after agreeing to book me, telling me they would “love to have me,” they completely forgot to schedule me. By the time I asked for details, I believe that it was too late and they started string me along.

I first got an idea that they were going to try to cancel me on February 16th, in the email below. But I started to realize that my class was not available to purchase on February 20th, 3 weeks before the show. They had cancelled me February 20th and the only way I found out was because people were messaging me telling me they were unable to book my session.

On February 24th, I wrote to ask what was happening and was informed my class was cancelled but they would put me back on if I could sell 10 tickets by March 1.

I do this for fun and because I love speaking to and meeting people. I do not do this for money. I was being lied to and disrespected and this was not going to be fun anymore so I told them I wouldn’t do the class.

It is my firm belief that my class was never made live at all. I have since learned from a well-known speaker that it is part of the Chicago ABS business model to overbook educators and then cancel them within 2 weeks of the show if they don’t sell well. It is my feeling that since this is normal for them, they put me on the program but never made my class available. It’s win/win for them, knowing I will promote my class and my name will be on the program and they can cancel without repercussions.

In fact, I am still being promoted on their business page as a featured educator 6 days after I discovered my class wasn’t being sold. I just captured this screen shot right now.


Due to the travel arrangements I had made, my cancellation fees for flights now total $900. I won’t bore you with the details of why they are so high.

So thanks for wasting a crazy amount of my time, energy and money Christie Smaidris and Chicago ABS. You are incompetent and have absolutely no respect or regard for the people who educate at your shows.

Here are the relevant email exchanges between us as well as my thoughts in red if you care to read the actual details and see what I put up with and how agreeable I was attempting to be.

September 18, 2015 
Hi Christie,
I’m sorry to bother you. IBS is trying to book me for New York and I would much rather do Chicago since I’ve never been to Chicago and I hear nothing but great things about the show. I can’t do both as I’m a family man and I’m not interested in being a road warrior.
Do you have any idea when your team will start evaluating educators? IBS has given me 2 weeks to make a decision.
Michael Levine

September 20, 2015
We would love to have you! Let’s discuss next steps! 
Christie Smaidris

September 24, 2015
Not sure if I got back to you, but we would love to have you.  When is a good time to discuss the next steps.
Christie SmaidrisAfter several more emails arranging a time for a telephone call, we spoke on Thursday October 1, 2015 for about 30 minutes.
She seemed excited for my sessions, we were going to do 2 classes and try to get me into a student workshop she was planning.
Everything was a go.
January 13, 2016– I’ve not heard anything from them in months and I realize I have no contract. I’ve turned down New York and I have booked flights as well as a teaching gig and a studio interview in California that I need to go to directly from Chicago before going home.
Hi Christie,
I hope your planning is going well.
I am just finalizing my travel details for the show and wasn’t sure what, if any, travel arrangements or discounts ABS has with hotels for educators. 
I also don’t see a contract anywhere in our emails, though I know we did discuss the event and my class in detail a few months ago.
I look forward ton hearing from you.
Michael Levine
January 13, 2016
Hi Michael,
I completely forgot about this!  What?! Can you quickly provide me with the class title and description and we can get this finalized today.  I can’t really discuss until Friday, as I have a huge deadline for this education supplement.  I am so packed with classes, but I did commit.  Would you mind doing two classes on one day?
Christie Smaidris

January 13, 2016

Hi Christie,

No worries,  and I’m happy to do whatever classes I can.
I’ll forward the classes again.
Michael Levine
At this point I was a little concerned but I was getting two classes and I understand that things get lost in the shuffle sometimes. I re-sent her my class descriptions, bio shot and details within minutes, and she thanked me for the speed of my response.

January 24th, 2016
– I see I’m only booked for 1 class
Hi Christie,
I just saw the ABS schedule. Is there a student schedule coming soon? We had talked about me doing a student session as well. You had mentioned there is sometimes a panel for students at ABS. Let me know if there is anything else I can get involved in.
Thanks so much! I look forward to meeting you.
Michael Levine
January 25th , 2016
Hi Michael,
Unfortunately, I had to cut many classes due to the amount we have had this year.  Including the CE classes Saloncentric is having at the same time, we were close to 100.  I have a committee to review and they have the last approval prior to print.
Also, unfortunately, we do not have students attend our CE classes as they are advanced classes and are paid classes. 
Lastly, I do have a student assembly on Monday that we need to find talent to fill.  I am waiting to find out what that might entail.  I will let you know if there is something you might be able to do at that event.
Christie SmaidrisJanuary 25th, 2016- I’m starting to express my frustration, but trying to play it cool.
Hi Christie,
OK,  I understand though I’m a little bummed as I turned down a strong presence at IBS for this.
I know you are scrambling but if you can find anything else for me to get involved in it would be great.
Michael Levine
I now go to California for ISSE and am focusing on that event as well as a little vacation. At this show, I meet a very well known educator and colourist who tells me he’s frustrated that ABS has cut him to one class. I feel a bit better about it knowing it’s not just me.

February 16, 2016
Hi Michael,
Did you already make your air reservation for the show?  I need to reserve your hotel and reimburse you for the expense.  I can forward our travel contact if you have not.  My concern is that we have no attendees for your class as of yet, and I am worried about the cost of an airfare from Canada.  Can you keep me posted so we can review and finalize. This is now freaking me out. Is she implying they may cancel me or not take care of any expenses?
Also, can you forward me your contact information for the contract? I still don’t have a contract.
Christie Smaidris

February 16th
Hi Christie,
That’s unfortunate about the class. Do you have any promotional material I can share on my social media?
If we draw any people, I don’t care about attendee dollars,  I just want an audience.
ABS charges for classes and splits the cost with the educators. I don’t like this idea as it’s not easy to draw an audience for a business class if you expect them to pay. I do this for fun, not money so I’m happy to forgo my share of what we get.
No response about the promotional material.

Febuary 19, 2016
Hi Christie,
Is there any promotional material you can send so I can push my class. I have a large following in the US and I should be able to draw some bodies.
ABS doesn’t have or offer any promotional material other than the show program so I make the graphic seen above and create a blog post, and IG post (which ABS liked) and a Facebook post offering my thumbdrive free with each ticket purchased, not realizing that at this point, they have already cancelled my class!!!

On February 20th, I get a comment on my Facebook post promoting my 1 class.
“I fear you won’t have attendees only because even I couldn’t find the option to register for your class, just the class of a gal who also has the words ‘survive’ and ‘thrive’ in her class description.”
At this point I think it’s a glitch and maybe I’m not on there yet because they forgot about me once already. I’m not worried though, because they know I’m coming and are booking me a hotel. Right?
I’m a busy guy and I forget to contact ABS about this.
But then I start getting more messages, and on Wednesday February 24th, someone writes me telling me she was told by ABS my class was cancelled.

February 24th
Hi Christie,
I have now been told by 4 people that my class is either not showing up when they try to register for it. The latest one said she was told it was cancelled.
Please tell me what is going on here. I have been promoting this class, offering a personal incentive and nobody is able to register for it.
Michael Levine

February 24th
Hi Michael
Let me check on it.  I know the committee was reviewing the numbers last night to decide if any needed to be cut.  I will get back to you as soon as I can. 

Hi Michael
I do apologize for your trouble.  We certainly would still have you attend and reimburse you for any value for your flight if the class is canceled.  Unfortunately, we have a committee, led by our CFO,  that reviews the budgets and class expenses and they begin cutting classes three weeks before the show.  We are a not for profit organization, but we also need to be fiscally responsible to the association and a Board of Directors. Having classes at a convention center in Chicago is a huge expense and if they see something not moving, they don’t have much time to make sure we don’t lose money.

I have not heard back yet, but I will let you know first thing in the am. I do apologize for the inconvenience and I do understand your frustration.

Hi Michael
The class is back up. Anyone can register now and the registration code is CE 4030.
I need the numbers to go past ten no later than Tuesday of next week for us to keep the class. If it falls below, we will cancel and give attendees the ability to be refunded or moved to another class. 
Unfortunately, the classes are extremely expensive, around $2500 in expense per educator, so we need to break even. As a not for profit association we don’t need to make money, but we can not lose it.   
We know that our professionals don’t start buying classes until the last two weeks and sometimes longer for business classes, so it’s a tricky thing and something we do not review as much as possible. We don’t like canceling classes either. I don’t especially as it is never my decision, but I need to tell the educators I have contracted. 
If we do end up canceling and you choose not to come, we will reimburse you on the cancellation fee for airfare.   You are welcome to stay, but we can not cover air but will cover your hotel per the one night in the contract. I had booked 5 nights for this trip based on me doing a minimum of 2 days of classes. I would have expected at least 2 night’s hotel covered.
You are welcome to attend the show. 

I apologize for this situation as it is not something I enjoy about this job. OK, so they do this all the time?
I’ll keep you posted on the registrations. 

At this point, I’m done and not interested in dealing with these guys anymore. They are now acting like they are doing me a favour by doing what they had agreed to do in the first place.
Hi Christie,

Tell them to cancel me. I’ve never been treated so unprofessionally in my life. This is going to cost me several hundred dollars not to mention the time.
You guys cancelled my class without telling me and making me look stupid when  I’m promoting it.
I can’t believe what I’ve experienced from  you guys.
Michael Levine

Hi Michael,
I’m sorry you feel that way. Feel that way? Seriously? You think this is normal and acceptable?
I’ll let registration know. Let me know if you want us to reimburse your cancellation fee.

Christie Smaidris

UPDATE- The show’s CEO Paul Dykstra called me when he read this and tried to smooth it over by making some really over the top and unnecessary offers. He had also explained how my experience is not how they do business and I just happened to have slipped through the cracks, but I have now talked to so many people who say that ABS treats independent educators very poorly and this is absolutely normal for them. My assumption was they had no idea I was a blogger when they pulled their nonsense with me. I just wanted to do my classes and have certain expenses covered like we had agreed to. I’m actually very low maintenance.

I declined the offers as there was a sour taste in my mouth about it and instead we had agreed he would reimburse me for the cancellation fees for the trip. Now these fees actually totaled $1000 because we had bought airline tickets for our children to stay with grandparents out of town, but we only asked for half that, the fees for my wife and I. Paul absolutely agreed.

So far there has been nothing sent to me and I don’t expect there will be. I don’t need the money but it would have absolutely been a nice gesture and cooled a bit of the negativity I felt about them. Which is fine by me, because I like being fueled by anger. I think it makes my writing and videos better.