We often develop personal relationships with the professional waxers, dry cleaners, locksmiths, cleaning ladies, masseuses, tailors, piano tuners, carpet shampooers, shoe repairmen, and other technicians that keep us functioning on a daily basis.
While it’s great to feel a connection with these people, the sad truth is that these relationships don’t usually last forever—even after years with someone, or if you’ve already blurred the line between professional and personal, you may feel the urge to seek out someone closer, someone better, someone cheaper, or simply someone new. And sometimes, there are certain clear signs that it’s time to move on.
He’s Become Too Busy
When you first started seeing your doctor, you could get an appointment within days, but now you’ve learned to schedule your checkups at least eight weeks in advance. A growing, bustling business is great news for the business owner, but it can leave some customers feeling squeezed out.
For technicians whom you see rarely and whose services you are able to schedule far in advance, a busy schedule ma not be a problem, but if a doctor, plumber, or mechanic can’t work you in at the last minute, it may be time to gently explain that while you’re happy his business is thriving, you need to find someone whose schedule is a little more accommodating. And no matter what service someone provides, if his busy schedule has resulted in multiple last-minute cancellations, missed appointments, or late arrivals, it’s time to find someone new.
You’ve Outgrown Her
When you were twenty-three, you loved seeing a hairstylist who specialized in edgy, punk-inspired ’dos. Now that you’re thirty-five, however, it’s okay to look for someone whose salon offers babysitting services. As people grow and change, their needs change, too. It’s okay to reevaluate what you want out of the relationship and start seeing someone whose specialties are more in line with your current priorities.
He Ceases Being Convenient
If a provider loses the feature that sold you on him, don’t feel bad about shopping around. Perhaps the dentist who used to offer evening office hours starts cutting back, or maybe your bargain nail salon doubles its prices. The shoe repairman near your office may be friendly, but he’s no longer convenient when you take a job across town. Unless you’re getting such spectacular service that you couldn’t possibly imagine entrusting anyone else with your incisors/scissors/stilettos, feel free to switch to someone more convenient or less expensive.
She’s Unreliable or Flaky
There’s nothing worse than being canceled on. If you frequently find yourself arriving at the salon only to find out that your manicurist called in sick, or if your carpet cleaner is notorious for showing up an hour late, it may be time to find someone more punctual or reliable. Don’t look elsewhere without explaining your frustration and giving the technician a chance to improve her timeliness, but if things don’t change, don’t feel guilty about finding someone who keeps her appointments. You’re expected to show up on time, so it’s not unreasonable to find a service provider who’ll make every effort to do the same.
You’ve Been Dissatisfied for a While
If you’ve been going to the same hairstylist for a while, you may occasionally get a so-so cut. The dry cleaner can’t get out every single stain. The babysitter might occasionally leave toys strewn on the floor. Unless it’s a truly egregious offense, most mishaps aren’t worth jeopardizing a long-standing professional relationship, and people should generally get the benefit of the doubt.
However, if you’ve consistently voiced concerns about the quality of service but things haven’t changed, or if you’re plagued by feelings like “I could do better,” or “This isn’t working for me,” thank that person for everything she’s done for you and explain that a change is in order.
Breaking up with a hairstylist or a babysitter can feel more difficult than severing ties with a romantic partner, but moving on shouldn’t feel like brushing off. If you decide to seek a fresh start with someone new, here are a few suggestions to keep the separation amicable.
* Be honest. If you’re moving on because of a simple matter like convenience, she’ll know not to take it personally. If you’re turned off by flakiness or persistent miscommunication, she’ll see how her actions directly affect her customers and will perhaps be motivated to change. No matter why you’re leaving, it’s best to avoid awkward “Why haven’t I seen you recently?” moments later.
* Be positive. Focus on all the great service you’ve gotten over the years, instead of on the fact that you’re moving on.
* Be friendly. If you see your former hairstylist or former plumber around town, don’t cower and run the other way. Acknowledging each other and exchanging pleasantries makes it less awkward for everyone, especially if you ever need to call on that person again in the future.
Remember that no matter how long you’ve been going to your hairstylist, how well you know your mechanic, or whether your babysitter is your best friend’s daughter, you are paying these people to perform a service, and if you’re not 100 percent happy, you’re free to find someone else. Turnover is natural in business—they’ll get over it. Another person’s previous, dissatisfied clients are probably happy to take your place.