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New Salon Owners Guide

Introduction
The purpose of this guide is to help new tanning salon owners understand some basic principals and methods of maintaining their tanning beds and business.  Experienced salon owners have probably learned most of these tips by trial and error.   This guide is not exhaustive as is designed to be a starting place only.  This guide is based upon our 20+ years experience but your experiences or opinions may be different.  This page is designed so that you should be able to print it out properly on most computers.

New salon owners WILL have questions that are not answered here.  The purpose is to just give you a basic foundation, so you know what questions to ask when you do call us.  You can call us toll-free anytime during business hours at 1-800-274-1744.

Regulations
Most states have regulations that you must follow in order to stay in compliance.  You can contact your state's regulatory agency and get a (usually) free kit with all the basic information here.  Not all states are regulated, but there are still basic guidelines you should follow to keep your business humming along, and your customers safe and happy.

Lamp Compatibility
Regulated states require that you replace the tanning lamps in your salon's tanning bed only with lamps that are exactly the same as the original lamp, or "recognized equivalent" lamps.  Salons in non-regulated states probably should also follow this advice.  Failure to do so in a regulated state will likely result in you being forced to replace all your lamps with legally compatible lamps, and a loss of business until you do.

When you buy lamps, you should look for lamps that are legally compatible.  Most of our lamps (but not all) come with a "letter of compatibility" included with a full case.  This letter says what lamps the replacement lamps are compatible with.   The purpose of the requirement is to protect the salon customer, to keep them from getting burned by overexposure by lamps that are too strong for a given tanning bed / session time combination.

Changing Your Lamps
Most salons will change their lamps at about 80% of the "life expectancy" rating of the lamp.  This is about 800 hours for a 1000 hour lamp, or around 700 hours for a 800 hour lamp.  The lamps don't usually burn out, they just put out less UV and are less effective as they get older.  For many salons, this means changing the lamps around once a year.

Face lamps (the 400w small lamps behind the purple face plates on some beds) are usually rated for about 400 hours, so they need to be changed twice as often as the standard lamps. 

It will usually save you a considerable amount of money if you buy all your lamps for all your beds at one time each year.  This saves us money with shipping, and the larger the order, the lower the price for your lamps.

Maintaining Your Beds
You should tear down and completely clean your tanning beds about every 200 hours or so (typically 4 times per year).   This would include cleaning the fans, reflectors and wiping off all the lamps.  You should also use Novus #2 at the same time.   This is a cleaner sort of like "Soft Scrub" except it is finer, and designed for your acrylics.  (Don't use Soft Scrub on acrylics, you will ruin them...)  You scrub both sides of both acrylics and clean with regular tanning bed cleaner afterward.

The reason:  UV breaks down acrylic over time.  Your acrylics are not plexiglass, but actually "acrylic".  Plexi doesn't transmit UV well, but acrylic does.  Over time, however, the acrylic slowly becomes opaque to UV.   Even though it looks clear, the UV starts getting blocked.  Only by using Novus #2 and stripping away a microlayer can you solve this.  It is cheap to do, takes about 30 minutes per bed, and will result in 20% or more UV output, so it is a smart way to keep your customers happy.

Cleaning Your Acrylics
You should only clean your acrylics with EPA registered disinfectants that are made specifically for tanning beds.  These are sold in concentrates and are very inexpensive.  Using window cleaner or other household chemicals WILL RUIN YOUR ACRYLICS.   They also cost more, do not disinfect, and are in violation of health regulations in all 50 states.

Even in states without regulation of tanning beds, you still have health regulations.   You must clean your tanning beds after each customer is done using it.  You can not leave it up to them.  You must do this in accordance with the label on the cleaner.  Generally, you keep a mix of the concentrate and water handy, use it in spray bottles, then spray each bed and wipe it down.  This will also keep the acrylics from blocking UV from buildup.

Providing Eyewear
You must provide eyewear for your customers to use.  This must be disinfected each time a customer uses a tanning bed as well, by law.  This prevents the spread of any eye infections from customer to customer, which is something you would want to do anyway.

Some salons have eyewear on each bed, and some keep them up front and ask the customer to take a pair on the way back.  Either way, you should always remind and/or ask the customer if they have their own eyewear, and insure they at least take them back to the room with them.  Eyewear is a big seller for regular customers, since they don't worry about anyone else using them and they are very inexpensive.

Tanning Lotions
Customers should only use tanning lotions that are designed for use in tanning beds.   Other products that have mineral oil, olive oil (and iodine, which some body builders actually use...) will damage your acrylics, and make your life difficult when it comes time to clean the bed.

Good tanning lotions really do work.  Besides the obvious benefit of your selling the lotions and making a profit, they provide two major benefits for the tanner.  1.   They provide moisturization for the skin, which tanning can take away.  2.   Most good lotions have other ingredients that will accelerate the tanning process and help them get darker with less exposure time.

Price is not the best indicator of quality, although there is often some connection.   The key is regular use and skin moisturization.

Session Times
YOU are responsible to insure that your customers do not get overexposed or hurt while in your tanning beds.  Most regulated states require that you attend a certification class and learn the basics of determining skin types and exposure times.  Even if your state does not require this, it is the most cost effective way to learn how to protect your clients and keep your business safe from potential problems.

The key to getting a dark tan is to NOT get overexposed.  Tanning until your skin is bright red not only is not healthy, but it will actually slow down the tanning process.   Sunburns destroy melanin and the ability the tan.  They may see "color" today, but in the long run they are damaging their skin and slowing down the tanning process.  Follow the schedule on the tanning bed, and take a progressive approach to tanning.  Start slow, build up over time.  You are not doing your customers a favor by letting them stay as long as they want, and you are likely violating the law.

Also, many states require a 48 hour period between tanning sessions.  This means the customer can not tan every day.  You need to check with your local and state regulations to make sure you are 100% in compliance with these regulations.

Package Deals
Most salons change by the session, and have "unlimited" packages for periods of time.  Generally, these are monthly or yearly.  Some states require a business to have a bond if they accept "memberships" greater than 60 or 90 days.

Other salons sell packages of minutes, or packages of sessions.  How you sell indoor tanning is up to you, and it should be inline with similar salons in your area.   A little research goes a long way here to make sure you are not under or over pricing your service.

One important piece of advice about pricing:
Do not try to compete by simply having lower prices.  This is a tempting proposition for many new salons, but this is a one way road, and usually to failure.  Pricing your services low makes it difficult to maintain the quality of the experience for the tanner, keep your equipment is perfect working order, and gives your salon a reputation for "discount" tanning. 

We would recommend that you instead price your services competitively, but try to offer higher quality or more services for the same money.  Customers who only use your salon because you have the lowest price have no loyalty:  As soon as another salon drops their price, they are gone.  By building a reputation for quality and customer service, you will develop a client base of customers who appreciate your attention to detail and customer service.  These will be your loyal customers.

Upgrade Beds
Again, each area is different, but it is common to have 2 or 3 levels of service or tanning beds.  Typically this means the regular packages are for the standard 24 to 32 lamp beds, then perhaps an upcharge for each session to use your bigger beds, such as 40 or 50 lamp systems.  This allows your customers to choose the service they want, in their price range, and get what they pay for.  Once again, check your local area and see what is common for ideas on how to proceed, and don't be afraid to charge the same or a little higher if you can provide superior service.

Buck/Boost Transformers
One of the most misunderstood items in the industry.  In the US, most everyone thinks we have 240V service all over, but the actual voltages vary greatly.  Almost all businesses actually have "three phase 208V" service.  The 208V is a nominal rating, and can vary from 205V to 215V.  The problem is, most commercial tanning beds will only operate properly if the voltage is at least 220V. They are usually rated for "220V to 230V".

The buck/boost transformer is basically a voltage stepping device that will adjust the incoming voltage up or down, depending on the transformer itself.  The popular myth is that these are adjusting, and go up and down as your voltage changes, but this is false.  They are a fixed ratio device:  if it is designed to raise your voltage 10%, then that is what it will do.  They are NOT a regulated device (not continuously voltage correcting).

You have to measure the actual voltage at your location to have an idea of what kind of a buck/boost transformer you need.  Keep in mind, when your circuits are busy (when there are several tanning beds operating at the same time) you will also see a drop in voltage, typically 2 to 6 volts.  We recommend getting a transformer to raise your current voltage to the 235V range, so under load, it will get a full 230V.

The usual signs that you need a transformer are that the lamps will not light, or they light up slowly and the lamps are darker than they should be.  You can damage your bed or void your warranty if you do not run it at the proper voltage.

We will add more to this page as time goes on

Last update: 1-16-2006 dlb



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