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Suck It, Kim Tran! | Manolo for the Big Girl

Suck It, Kim Tran!

Kim Tran runs  a nail salon in DeKalb County, Georgia. One day recently, Michelle Fonville came into said salon for a mani pedi and a bit of eyebrow work. Everything was just fine until Michelle got the bill. She was puzzled by the extra five dollars on said bill. When she pointed it out to Tran, this is what happened:

“I said, ‘I’ve been overcharged. She may have made an error,’” said Fonville. “She broke it down, then told me she charged me $5 more because I was overweight.”

That’s right. She was charged extra for being fat for a manicure. Why? Tran says it’s because fat people break her chair. She claims that the chairs will only hold 200 pounds and cost $2,500.00 to repair and that fat customers need to pay for the damage they are doing in her salon.

“Do you think that’s fair when we take $24 [for manicure and pedicure] and we have to pay $2,500? Is that fair? No,” Tran told Philips.

No, that wouldn’t be terribly fair. On the other hand, I don’t see how $29.00 covers the cost of repairing the chair, either. I don’t see why the work cannot be done in a chair designed to hold heavier customers. I don’t see why the standard costs of doing business (wear and tear on furniture and equipment is part of the calculation used to determine the price of a service, anyway) can’t be prorated across all customers. I don’t even imagine that every average weight customer is careful with the furniture. Does Tran think extra-lightweight customers should get a $5 discount because they place less wear and tear on the chairs? What about if they flop down hard on the chair or spill food or fail to take off their spike heeled shoes and rip the cloth? Do  they get to keep on paying $24.00, or do they pay extra?

When Fonville protested the unfair extra fee, Tran did take it off her bill… and then told Fonville to take her business elsewhere if she wants her nails done.

I’m sure Tran thought that would be the end of it and she would never see or hear from Michelle Fonville again. But Fonville went to the press.

Look, according to the law of the land, there is nothing to stop Kim Tran and others like her from charging extra for dealing with a weighty customer. And there are a lot of people in this country who probably think she should just charge every fat woman who comes into her salon $2500.00 for a manicure. In the end, though, these people are flat out wrong. Charging extra for the same service is wrong. Just because airlines keep getting away with it (and guess what? They’re wrong, too!) Doesn’t make it right.

All we want is a fair shake. Extra charges for being fat are not fair.

Suck it, Kim Tran.

Oh, and Michelle Fonville? You are my new hero. How many other women would have simply left the salon, had a good cry, and went looking for another salon. You went looking for justice. Thank you.

20 Responses to “Suck It, Kim Tran!”

  1. skye August 29, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    You know, I read this first on a fatshionista blog and seriously wanted to travel one county over to give Tran a piece of my mind. Imagine a hormone-krazy, pregnant, fat grrl descending on the place *hee*

    I agree that salons–and any other business–have a right to charge what they want, but *only* if they post a list of charges or inform their clientèle in some clear way. It sounds like the salon tacked the fee on w/o first informing Fonville and that’s bogus, no matter the reason for the fee. Somehow I don’t imagine posting “$5 fee for fatties” would be good for business, but if Tran wants her pound of flesh *cough* she should have the balls to be honest and up-front.

  2. Dawn August 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Ugh , what the hell is wrong with ppl ? Honestly ! Had she charged me that crap I would have thrown the bill at her and walked out and paid NOTHING . She’s just looking for someone to pin repairs on . I have been to many nail salons in my day and NONE of them seemed to have chairs that would be harmed by anyone over 200pounds . Speaking of which , is she going to weigh every person that comes in the door to make sure she charges those over 200pounds ??? Grrrrrrr . This really piss’ me off .

  3. Twistie August 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Oh, and those of you who tried the link and didn’t get anything but an error message? Thanks to eagle-eyed reader and longtime co-conspiritor Fabrisse, the link has been fixed. You can now read the story and see the footage of Fonville telling her story on television.

    My only excuse is that I spent last night at a really amazing wedding and am still a little loopy from the celebration.

  4. Sabayon August 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Actually I am pretty sure that this is illegal. In most places discriminating against fat people isn’t illegal, but unless her price list said “Mani-Pedi: 24$ *29$ for fatties” then she can’t charge 29$ to some because that is not the listed price for that service making it technically fraud.

  5. Constance Kent August 29, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    I’m amazed at this salon owner’s lack of business acumen. Competition is keen among manicurists in my city — there’s a little nail salon every few blocks. Furthermore, “getting nails done” is something many girlfriends do together, so losing a “fat” customer you’re gonna lose her skinny friends’ business too. Very short-sighted of Ms. Tran.

    I’m also surprised about the apparent “chair problem.” I can’t conceive why any clinic or salon providing services to the general public would buy furniture that couldn’t support at least 350 pounds, if for no other reason than to protect themselves from liability in case a client or patient were injured. by its collapse.

    Godfrey, the lack of common sense!!!

  6. GoP August 29, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    My husband gets pedis too. Wanna bet HE wouldn’t be charged the fatty fee even though he weighs about 210?

  7. BSAG August 30, 2010 at 6:35 am #

    I would think that $2500 would be more than enough to buy a chair that holds more weight in the first place.

    This is just an example of a business owner cutting corners on inadequate equipment that costs her more in the long run. It’s not enough that she passes on the cost of her oversight to the customers; she feels the need to blame them for it too.

  8. ChaChaheels August 30, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    @ BSAG:

    This is just an example of a business owner cutting corners on inadequate equipment that costs her more in the long run. It’s not enough that she passes on the cost of her oversight to the customers; she feels the need to blame them for it too.

    I don’t think so. My kitchen chairs are from IKEA, and cost about $20 each, and they can hold someone over 200 pounds with no problem. They have for over 10 years, on a daily basis, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Certainly a big industrial lounge mani-pedi chair is constructed to be safe for use with the vast majority of customers who would walk into any salon. The “broken chair” excuse is absolute bull.

    So my take on this is that the Extra Fattie Fee is something that comes directly out of Kim Tran’s hatred, an ignorance so deep and unvarnished that she can’t help expressing it, despite the fact that it will kill her business. That’s right: she’d rather take food out of her mouth than stop hating the Fatties, and she knows that hatred is so widespread and so well supported by the society around her that many people will make her a hero before they see her as the unprofessional, prejudiced, and fraudulent bully she is.

  9. BSAG August 30, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    @ChaChaheels – Well yes, I totally agree with you. I think it is absolute bull that heavier customers put that much more strain on the chairs, and that Ms Tran is making up an excuse to penalize people whose appearance she disapproves of.

    I was just saying that if she knew it would cost that much to fix a chair (which, if it broke after enough fat people sitting in it, would eventually break after some number of thin people sitting in it too), she should simply have sprung for better quality chairs in the first place. But then she’d have to find some new scam to punish the fatties.

  10. JS August 31, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Not to poke the hornet’s nest, but can someone let me know the basis for Twistie’s argument that airlines are wrong when they charge extra for overweight people? I’m assuming that she’s referring to airlines like Southwest that require people “of size” to buy two seats if they cannot fit comfortably/safely in one (and by “comfortably,” I mean “without encroaching on the adjacent seats”). This has always seemed appropriate to me–what’s the counter-argument here?

  11. Twistie August 31, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    @JS: Yes, that’s the issue I’m taking with airlines. It’s not just Southwest. Lots of airlines are doing this now. My argument with the policy is threefold.

    For one, an airline ticket pays for transport of a body from point A to point B. My being fat does not magically turn me into two people, nor does it double my income so that I can afford to pay double to travel. Also, the two seats I buy can wind up being in completely different rows. This is a common problem, but I do not suddenly find a way to break my body down into acceptably-sized chunks that can sit in different parts of the plane. Nor can I imagine anyone wanting to sit next to either part of me if I could. I don’t get to bring more carry on luggage, I don’t get a second meal/snack (on flights that still provide them), and I don’t get double of any amenity offered to any other passenger. In short, I’m being charged double for the same service a thinner person is given. I’m also more likely to be bumped off the flight I’ve paid double to fly, or expected to simply donate for free my second seat I was forced to pay for… which I apparently suddenly don’t need if someone else wants it.

    In the second place, other people whose bodies might encroach upon others (say, those with extremely long arms and legs) are not required to pay for two tickets to fly.

    In the third – and quite possibly most offensive – place, no airline that requires fat people to buy extra seats has a set policy on the poundage or measurements that will require me to buy that second seat. It’s an entirely whimsical proposition. One time flying Southwest, I may be told I need to buy a second seat. Mr. Twistie may or may not also be required to buy one. He’s a foot taller than I am and roughly equally fat, but an employee might look at me and consider me the fat one. Or they may consider him the fat one and make him pay double while not requiring it of me. Or they may make us pay for four tickets between us while offering us two tickets worth of service.

    Please tell me any way in which this is fair.

  12. JS August 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Thanks, Twistie–this is helpful. I completely agree with you that the policies are poorly and arbitrarily applied. If you are required to buy two seats, of course they should be together–that’s the whole point! Nor should you be any more likely to be bumped or have the extra seat you purchased taken away from you–that’s just ridiculous. And there does need to be some standardized way to determine when a passenger should be required to buy two seats. I don’t know that it should be poundage, for exactly the reason you cite–measurements seem to be the better approach, but again, it should be standardized and clearly spelled out. People should not be subject to the whims of whomever is manning the counter that day.

    But I do disagree with you on some points. First of all, I don’t think that when we buy an airplane ticket, we are only paying for transport. We’re also paying for the space the seat provides. If there is a person sitting next to me who is encroaching on the space I paid for, that’s not fair (this could theoretically also apply to people with longer arms/legs, but my understanding is that most of the problem for tall people is their own discomfort as their knees are jammed into their ears, not that they encroach upon the seats next to them). Similarly, if I paid for a seat that is broken such that I can’t sit in it, that’s not fair either.

    But space on airplanes is sold by the seat. If someone takes up more than one seat’s worth of room (for whatever reason), they should have to purchase another “unit” of space. The extra “service” that person would get for the extra fare would be the extra space.

  13. Twistie August 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    @JS: According to your logic, then, fat people should also pay double for the privilege of: taking the bus, riding a train, going to the theater or any sporting event. I am fat. I still cannot use two chairs at once. Overwhelmingly, fat people make less money than their thinner office counterparts. And yet it is somehow fair that I pay double to get where I’m going or to enjoy a bit of harmless entertainment? Because that’s where your ‘fat people should pay extra for the extra space they take up’ argument leads.

    And believe me, I’ve spent long flights being poked by the elbows of the person next to me, or having their knees take up my leg room because there’s nowhere else for that person’s limbs to go. It’s uncomfortable for me, and for the long-limbed person next to me trying not to get too tied up in muscular knots. I don’t think that person should have to pay double for the opportunity to get where (s)he’s going. Sometimes that person has even been my fat, long-limbed spouse. His hips fit the seat just fine, but his long arms couldn’t cram in there with him. Heck, I’m 5’2″ and sometimes there isn’t enough leg room for me!

    One person, one seat. If the seats cannot accommodate a reasonable cross section of humanity, then the problem is not with my butt, but the seat that doesn’t fit a slightly fatter than average person, and that doesn’t provide enough leg room for a vertically challenged Munchkin.

  14. JS August 31, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    I would definitely agree that airlines need to adjust the size of their seats generally, since those things are ridiculously uncomfortable. But I don’t think your recap of my position is accurate–I don’t think all fat people should buy two seats for plane trips, sporting events, etc. I think people who take up more than one seat (for whatever reason, including some, but not all, “fat people,” and I’d also add that if long-legged people cannot fit their legs into their seating area, they would fall under this category as well) should pay for the extra space.

    Your argument doesn’t lead to “one person, one seat,” either. It leads to “one person, 1 1/3 seats and one other person, 2/3 seat.” How is it fair that a person who pays for a full seat doesn’t get the full value of what they paid for?

    If airlines aren’t providing seats that fit a reasonable cross section of humanity, then they should start doing so. But note that your approach pushes the cost from one passenger to another, not onto the airline.

  15. Rubiatonta August 31, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    I’m not going to get into the particulars of JB’s argument, because I think Twistie’s already done an admirable job (twice!) of addressing them — but I’d like to ask a question. Why is incumbent upon passengers or theater-goers to fit into an undersized seat? Does it not make more sense for the service provider (airline, theater, etc.) to provide seats into which the majority of people can fit?

    In other words, provide seats that are geared to the needs of the highest common denominator, not the lowest. (Oh, I know they won’t be able to make masses of money that way, but still, a reasonable person can dream, can’t she?)

  16. raincoaster August 31, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    Airlines are not going to adjust their seats until you pay them for it; there aren’t big profit margins in that industry.

    The airlines are offering for sale one seat X inches wide. If you cannot fit into that, you need to negotiate, or you need to organize to pressure the airlines. That’s the way the business works; it does not sell “one flight to a person.” It sells seats.

    And by the way, what the hell kind of chair doesn’t hold 200lbs?

  17. JS September 1, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Exactly, raincoaster. And given that reality, my concern is that Twistie’s position screws over the people who lose the space they paid for, and these are not the people who design the airplanes.

    Word on the chair–that’s just some shoddy craftsmanship there.

  18. raincoaster September 2, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    Well, just like when you buy a car, they allow you to pay for it. Being able to use it is your responsibility, as far as they’re concerned.

    “We have this…do you want it?” The problem comes from a misunderstanding of what “this” is.

  19. Fabrisse September 3, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    JS Said:First of all, I don’t think that when we buy an airplane ticket, we are only paying for transport. We’re also paying for the space the seat provides. If there is a person sitting next to me who is encroaching on the space I paid for, that’s not fair (this could theoretically also apply to people with longer arms/legs, but my understanding is that most of the problem for tall people is their own discomfort as their knees are jammed into their ears, not that they encroach upon the seats next to them).

    So the five year old behind me who keeps kicking can be taken off the plane? Please? (Seriously, my mother would have backhanded me to the next country if I’d done some of the things to an adult that small children have done to me on transportation.)

    Within five years, the current standard seating on planes will be a bad memory based on some of the newer designs I’ve seen. By staggering the seating slightly and angling the seats, they can now fit more people on a plane with greater leg and arm room. I hope this will help all the problems people have from the basketball players to the seatbelt extenders.

    The problem is, we still have five-ish years before current planes are likely to be retrofitted (for the ones that can be).

  20. JS September 7, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    Oh, for real, do not even get me STARTED on kids who, because of bad parenting, ruin the flight for others. I get that it’s hard to keep kids distracted on airplanes. But repeated kicking of the seat in front of you? Is not cool, should not be tolerated by parents, and flight attendants should be backing that up.

    But I think there’s a bit of a difference here between the kid who starts kicking the seat mid-flight and will not stop (or the guy who gets drunk and pukes on you, or the woman who decides that she NEEDS to take off her stanky shoes and leave them off the whole damn time) and passengers who demonstrably cannot fit into their seats without encroaching on the seats purchased by others: generally, you can’t tell which kid will be a horror-show, or which frat boy can’t hold his booze, until the flight is in progress, when there’s little that can be done. But you can tell who cannot fit into a seat prior to take-off (I also think that kids who are freaking out without pause prior to take-off can also be removed from the plane, but don’t hold me to that).

    In any event, here’s to newer designs!