Mother's Day pampering visit turns into nail salon nightmare

Mother’s Day pampering visit turns into nail salon nightmare

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – Constance Zelaya had been looking forward to a day of pampering.

“It was something I wanted to treat myself for Mother’s Day,” the metro Atlanta woman said of her visit to Nail Talk in Lindbergh Plaza on Piedmont Road. “That was a gift to me.”

The next day, however, her middle finger began to throb. “I had a sharp pain that just wouldn’t go away,” she said, recalling her finger soon swelled up to an abnormal size. “And that’s when I realized that something wasn’t right.”

Zelaya returned to the salon where, according to her, she was told she had not received the manicure, even though she had a receipt.

“I took the nail off myself and then I just left the salon,” she said. “The pain was still persisting, so I went to the emergency room” where a doctor drained the infection.

“I didn’t even recognize my finger,” she said. “It was huge.”

What happened to Zelaya is not uncommon.

A CBS46 investigation has uncovered hundreds of complaints against Georgia salons and only a dozen inspectors responsible for overseeing them.

Constance Zelaya says the photo on the right is her manicure right after she got it and the photo on the left is the day after.(Constance Zelaya)

CBS46 Investigates went to the people who oversee nail salons for the state and they said consumers need to be their own advocates. That means asking questions and not just blindly trusting those with a storefront.

According to the Secretary of State and the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers, 613 complaints have been filed so far this year; 2,022 complaints were filed in 2021. Those statistics include any type of cosmetology complaint, not just those at nail salons.

Look up your nail or hair salon on the Secretary of State’s website.

Kay Kendrick is not surprised by the number of complaints. She heads the state cosmetology board – and also runs a Thompson, Georgia, hair salon – and said there are only 12 inspectors responsible for making sure thousands of salons are following the rules.

“Sometimes, complaints fall by the way side,” Kendrick said. “It’s limited on how fast they can get to every shop and inspect every shop. And if somebody doesn’t tell us [about a complaint] before an inspector gets to that area, we may not necessarily know until there is a problem.”

If you see something, say something. Kendrick encourages consumers to file complaints with the state cosmetology board.

Kendrick also reiterated that it’s up to consumers to be their own advocates. They should only visit nail salons with licensed technicians who follow proper sanitation guidelines.

Cosmetology licenses are also supposed to be displayed prominently in salons. Each technician should also have their own cosmetology license.

Click here to see if your favorite salon is properly licensed.

CBS46 investigative reporter Rachel Polansky stopped by Nail Talk, where Zelaya believes her finger was infected.

“Is the owner or manager here?” Polansky asked.

“No, the owner and manager are both on vacation,” a worker said.

Cosmetology licenses were not displayed and only one technician would show Polansky her license.

“They’re supposed to be posted somewhere. Everybody whose work should have a license and it should be posted in a public area,” Polansky said.

Polansky also pulled ten years’ worth of Nail Talk’s inspection reports and found a number of violations including operating with “unlicensed persons” and “failure to comply with disinfection standards.”

When Polansky asked them about that, she was told to leave.

Zelaya has since hired personal injury attorney Nicole Thomas, and they’re working with the salon’s insurance company. But they said they’re prepared to file a lawsuit if they can’t reach an agreement.

“She is currently still in treatment. She is going to follow up with a hand specialist to make sure that there is no permanent damage to the finger nail,” Thomas said. “We have to figure out how much damage Ms. Zelaya has, as a result of this injury.”

“I don’t want anyone else to go through this,” Zelaya said, “and I want them to be held accountable.”

Polansky called Nail Talk a few days after her visit. She was told the owner and manager were still unavailable. However, the employee said state inspectors had since visited the location.

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