I thought of this story when I read a piece about tipping, and this one still tweaks a bit with shame, even though it’s been well over 25 years since it happened.
I was probably 16 or 17, I can’t recall exactly, and I had made it a habit at some point to get my hair cut at a salon in a department store in our local mall. I’d like to note that while I was still living at home, our situation was such that I pretty much had to pay for all the things that I needed done on my own dime (with the exception of medical things, major purchases, etc., though I had even paid for my own car when I started driving). Though I was not a stupid girl, I had no mother or other women in my life to advise me of such things. I remember being told by someone that you could get your hair cut cheaply there, and as I kept my hair relatively short then, I went there every few months. It never took very long, as the fashion for me, at the time, was to have my hair “feathered.” I didn’t have a specific stylist, I just signed in at the front, and when your name was called, you go back to whomever is available.
While I knew how tipping worked at my age, I was ignorant enough to have the impression that it was just servers in restaurants who received them. I think you can see now where this is going. On my last visit at this salon, the stylist, who was a man, took approximately a minute and a half to butcher my hair, working very, very quickly, and then turned around without a word and walked across the salon to confer with two other stylists who had apparently watched the whole thing and then pretended not to see what was going on, murmuring quietly amongst themselves. I sat there stunned for several seconds, trying not to cry, before I figured out what had happened. Mortified, I quietly got up, paid my bill and departed, burning with shame. I had never seen a cup labeled for tips there, any of the times I visited, but it was too late now to remedy the situation. While I had gone there several times, I had not gone often enough to get to know any of the stylists, or know them by name. But I had apparently gone enough times that they recognized me, and this was their way of letting me know I was not welcome to come back, because I was unaware that people tip their stylist. I let my hair grow long after that, and had friends trim it for me. 0525-14
You can take comfort in the fact that this male stylist and his cohorts were unprofessional scum of the industry. While stylists aren’t thrilled to not be tipped, they still get paid for the services they give. To knowingly butcher a client’s hair is exceptionally unprofessional and career suicide as business is generated on the basis of good reviews and happy customers who tell other people. A haircut is a walking advertisement and a deliberately bad haircut is going to elicit questions from friends and family which the butchered client has the deserved right to publicize where he/she got that abomination of a cut.
The way hair stylists deal with the rare but unwanted client (particularly the ones who repeatedly schedule a lengthy appointment such as a coloring and never show up/never call) is to simply decline to be available for any appointments. “I’m sorry but I am not available on that date and time.”