Friday, February 25, 2011

Haircut Phobia: Solved!

I hate hair cuts.

It starts with the ding-ding of the bell that hair salons often have above the door to notify the stylists of fresh meat (er, a new customer). They shoot you a look of judgment; their silent moans and groans settle any doubts you may have had about whether or not you're welcome, and they go back to what they were doing without saying a word. (I used to think that this clique-ish behavior was all in my head --- after all, what business would risk customer satisfaction by treating them as an unwelcome new employee instead of a person whose patronization pays their salary? It's unheard of. Grocery store employees treat their customers with more gratification, and they're not relying on tips!)

Eventually someone takes the initiative to see what you're there for. This person is usually an old lady with bad eye make-up and a smoker's voice or a younger woman with a chip on her shoulder, sporting emo-hair with pink undertones.

They then ask if you need a shampoo. This is a rhetorical question, to which the customer's scripted answer is "yes".

Yes, I want to pay you the cost of a bottle of Pantene Pro-V (the equivalent of 20 at-home quality shampoos) to wash my hair. I want to do this because 1. washing my hair is such a huge inconvenience; it's not like I shower everyday or anything, and 2. we both know that ultimately this makes your job easier when you go to cut it, and when it comes time to leave I'll have to pay extra to have it blow dried as well. Now that you've added tasks that require the skill of a monkey, you now have reason to expect a greater tip. (Lose-lose situation, much?)

After refusing their offer to wash my hair, the stylist usually heaves a heavy sigh to reprimand me for not sticking to the script, and we move on.

The time comes to explain what you want done. If you're lucky, you can say "just a trim"; but if you're like me, you're still looking for someone to get it right. Often this step is a verbal battle of explaining yourself accurately without losing their attention to boredom or their subconscious decision that you're just a pain in the ass. Then the complaining ensues. My hair is not only extremely long, it's a deadly combination of thick and fine; one big, tangle-prone chore. I've actually caught the hair stylist rolling her eyes and exchanging faces with the stylist next to her. (Um, if you want to back-stab your customers, it helps if you don't put them in a room of mirrors.) Now for the annoyingly rude questions: the first one being, "Do you cut your own hair?" My hair has been cut by 50 different people 50 different ways, so it's no surprise that my layers look like a disaster to the trained eye (or so I'm told). But to ask this question after a series of complaints obviously bears derogatory implications. Regardless of your answer, the goal of the stylist is to let you know that you've made her job harder and, if you did cut your hair, make you feel ashamed for having robbed them of work at some point in time.

Though I don't know what's worse --- a demeaning interrogation, or forcing me to engage in meaningless small talk. "What do you do?" "When did you get married?" "Aren't you kind of young?"

...and do your job.

Why is that so hard?

Earlier, I mentioned that I couldn't understand why someone who relies on a tip would treat a customer as anything less than a welcome guest. But now I realize: they're relying on our obligation to tip. At one point in time, a tip was an expression of gratitude for a job extra-well done by a competent and friendly individual who went above and beyond. But no more: it is now expected. There's no question in their mind (or yours). You will express gratification of what will be deemed a job well done. If I don't tip because I'm dissatisfied --- even insulted! --- I'm made out to be a terrible person. For the fools that tip regardless of the quality of service: know that you do not possess some godly compassion, you've just been peer-pressured by society. Thanks to society, people such as myself shake in their boots when it's time to get a haircut because the ones with the scissors have no incentive to do anything but bare minimum. So shame on me for ever tipping someone who ruined my hair and my day, and on everyone who perpetuates such nonsense.

I'm through with dreading something that should be so painless. I'm sick of sitting in that stupid chair, with a woman's chest two inches from my face, being insulted, fists clenched, face itching, heart racing, flabbergasted that not only am I over-paying for this traumatizing experience but I'm expected to either tip an additional amount as gratitude for snide remarks and impatience, or muster the courage to do otherwise.

So last week when I was dying for a hair cut, I got in my car to go to the hair salon and went to Sally's Beauty Supply instead.

The salon I would have chosen cost $25 for the basic cut. After an upcharge for having long hair plus a tip, it would have came to about $34. Which is exactly how much I paid to buy a handheld mirror, a variety of clips, a spray bottle, shears, and a cute pair of leopard print scissors.

In the past, cutting my own hair was out of the question. I once trimmed the little fuzzies that grow next to my ears because they get on my nerves. When I told a hair stylist what I had done, she said "You did WHAT ?! NEVER do that AGAIN !" Initially her shaming tactic worked; she successfully made me believe I should feel ashamed for trimming fuzzies, which I now realize was absolutely ridiculous, not to mention rude. So unless I have an appointment with the red carpet, I'll do whatever I please and thank you very much to shut your trap.

This example just shows you how hair stylists try to embarrass you for even
thinking about cutting your own hair. If the whole world caught on to the fact that with practice cutting hair is no different from any other routine task that is done to maintain personal hygiene, hair stylists would be out of a job, feel unimportant, and probably regret not going to college.

In my case, I already cut my husband's hair (and do a better job than the last girl who did it "professionally"), and I'm all about DIY and saving money. These facts --- combined with how much I dread going to the salon --- made me wonder why I hadn't thought of this before!

I took about two inches off. If it's not technically perfect, the paparazzi will just have to deal.

It was easy --- and I can already tell it'll get easier. For healthy hair, it's recommended to get a hair cut every four to six weeks. So for the cost of one cut, I saved $300-400 a year (way more if you spend above $20-25 on a single cut). My husband requires a hair cut almost every week, so I already save about $800 a year doing his myself. That's about $1,200 a year out of the pockets of nasty opinionated old women who think they're pretty rad stuff for doing what an inexperienced housewife casually picked up one day, and back into my checking account.

If saving thousands of dollars doesn't impress you, look at it this way: everytime you cut your hair you can take the money you didn't spend at a salon and buy a quality hair product. (Biolage = my guilty pleasure.)

Either way, I would say it's worth YouTubing some how-to.

If any part of this entry made you say "I can relate to that!", then I encourage you to stop paying way too much for something you can do yourself! But if this blog didn't boost your confidence enough to take a pair of scissors to your own hair just yet, then at least tip appropriately --- not regardless of the quality of service received (and be honest about it!). Withholding a tip for rude and/or awful service is not depriving anyone of income; it's asking them to work for it.

*Note: These grievances are not in regard to highly qualified and capable stylists who know the importance of customer service and emphasis satisfaction. I am not referring to qualified individuals who charge top dollar and give you every pennies worth, such as my cousin who works at a higher-end salon in Chicago. However, some people cannot afford high-end and are forced to forfeit customer service at a not-even-affordable price; these are the culprits of my frustration.


  1. I cut my own hair for years a while back. One day I went into a salon with a friend and the girl asked to see my hair (..odd) and she asked who cut my hair to which I said I do. She was like ".....oh...." and I've never cut my own hair again. You're right, they do make you feel embarrassed to cut your own hair. But now I'm still too scared to do it myself.

  2. Brava!You took matters into your own hands and did a great job.I can totally relate and your so right.I'd like to include that every time I find a person who cuts and colors my hair the way I like,she moves on to another shop without a trail to follow.When my hair was long I cut it myself at times.Now that it is short I feel I have to rely on the kindness and talent of strangers.
    Just recently I found someone who actually owns the shop so she should be sticking around.She did not mention how thick my hair was even once.She had her chance when the hair dye ran out and she had to get more.She did not ask me "who colored your hair last". When I asked for four highlites she gave me six for the pre-quoted price.She even dryed my hair without an added charge.I asked her to keep the cut I had and just trim it up.She did not leave it exactly the way it was but it's not bad.I think I have may have a keeper.I will probably not dread my next visit.

  3. this is why i love going to someone who works out of their own house & enjoys what they do.. they take limited customers and really get to know them as friends - i thought i was going to miss the lady who used to cut my hair back home soo much - she does both of my grandmas' hair plus my whole family.. and after i moved i didn't know what i was going to do but have to travel home every 6 weeks for a trim from debbie :) but lo-&-behold, i found someone here who is just as fabulous !! she doesn't charge an arm&a leg [in fact, she's about 1/3 of the price of every hair-place around, b/c when i moved i checked :P], she's fabulous and is happy about what she does.. plus she works out of her home so it's a totally relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.. she's gotten to know me & my hair and knows now how it grows and what it "does" .. .. and i love to tip her :D

    but.. *confession* i have cut my hair before too :)