A Carbondale salon faces a situation almost identical to one that occurred with the same company in California.
Chasity Spencer, a graduate student in professional media and media management from St. Louis, said she went to University Mall’s JC Penney hair salon Oct. 29 and was denied service because no one in the salon was able to style “ethnic hair.” Spencer said she wanted to add highlights and walked into the salon wearing a hat.
“They had no clue what texture of hair I had underneath my hat, which is what made the situation so much more hurtful,” she said.
Sarah Holland, the media spokesperson for JC Penney communications, said in an email the situation appears to be a misunderstanding, and the company is looking into the matter.
“We pride ourselves on being fair and square in everything we do,” Holland said in the email. “Our salons meet the needs of all customers, and we want everyone to have a great experience. The store leader has reached out to the customer to resolve the situation as soon as possible.”
Spencer said the stylist who greeted her asked two other salon stylists if they would be able to style her hair, and each said they could not do African- American hair.
“I asked the woman if there was a difference in coloring my hair and coloring another woman’s hair that is different from mine, and she just stood there with a weird look on her face,” she said.
Spencer said she later emailed JC Penney headquarters and received no response. She then returned to the salon and asked to speak with a manager, who apologized and offered her a $100 gift card.
“I felt offended on so many levels, because I felt like they were trying to buy me off,” Spencer said. “This was the first time I have, and ever will, cry over someone’s remarks regarding the texture of my hair.”
Spencer said she accepted the gift card Monday but will be taking it to her hometown to use.
“I am a student at SIU, and I don’t want to feel that I’m in a foreign place full of discrimination and that I can’t or won’t be served at places here in Carbondale,” she said.
A similar situation occurred in 2008 at a JC Penney salon in Downey, Calif., near Los Angeles, according to information from a Los Angeles ABC News station.
A black woman went into the salon to get her hair dyed and said she was told the employees did not style African-American hair. The woman filed a lawsuit against JC Penney that alleged a violation of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from denying services on account of race, according to the station’s website.
Other area stylists said their salons are equipped with stylists who are capable of styling all types of hair.
“While some stylists are more experienced with certain textures of hair and have more of the necessary tools, all of our stylists are capable of doing all textures of hair for any customer that should need their hair styled,” said Lynn, a stylist at Hair Brains in Carbondale.
Miranda Sanders, a sophomore studying cosmetology at John a. Logan college, said she has styled hair for different textures and lengths since she was in high school.
“I have friends who are black, white and Hispanic, and I’m the only person they let touch their hair,” Sanders said. “If you’re a true stylist, then it doesn’t matter the texture of the hair.”
Sanders said there are people in her classes who have never done more than one texture of hair, but JALC teaches students by using mannequins with several different hair textures.
“If you didn’t know how to do hair other than the texture of your own when you entered cosmetology school, you definitely knew how by the time you graduated,” she said.