Avoiding Bad Haircuts

September 6, 2008

Thankfully it grows back. That’s what I keep telling myself during and after a bad haircut. But as my hair gets a little thinner, that statement gets a little less comforting all the time. So I’m thinking it might be time to start taking a more active and less passive approach when it comes to deciding who cuts my hair.

The catalyst for this thought is the fact that I recently moved. While parts of moving can suck (boxes, utilities, general disruption, etc), the absolute worst part is finding all the people that you infrequently visit.  People like a new doctor, barber and taxidermist. Being a healthy guy without pets, naturally the need to find a new barber was encountered first.

The need for a haircut tends to sneak up on me. One day it’s not on my mind, the next day it’s screaming at me to do something about. This was the case I found myself in one day last week. So I figured I’d get some work done in the morning and then head out in the afternoon and find a place to get the job done.

One thing led to another and the next thing I knew it was 7pm and not only had I skipped lunch, my hair was still too long as well. Damn. So I knew that the haircut would probably have to wait but I decided to walk downtown and grab some food. I managed to find a mexican place that was so good that it took my mind off of my shaggy head. But then on the walk home I actually found a barber that was open! Unbelievable.

Sadly it was Great Clips. Even sadder is that I went in. Perhaps my judgment was clouded by the food that I just ate or the feeling that I wouldn’t have to sleep with this mess on my head another night.  I’m not sure, but I should know better than to make the mistake of asking, “do you have enough time for another haircut?”.

That question should never be asked. If it’s close enough to closing time where you have to ask if there is time for a 15 minute haircut, walk away and come back the next day. Why? For the same reason you don’t want to order fast food right before they close, these people are anxious to get the hell out of there. And when someone has fairly sharp instruments that close to my head I’d like them to be thinking about the tasks at hand, not the tasks at home.

This wasn’t the only sign that I should have continued on my way. After the woman responded with a confidence inspiring “sure”, she asked me for my phone number. Not because she was attracted to me but because she wanted to enter it into the computer. After telling it to her three times and her still not getting it right I decided that it was best left incorrect. None of this really bothers me, in fact I’d prefer if they didn’t have my real phone number.

The reality of what I got myself into slammed home when she also couldn’t understand the fairly simply description of how I wanted my hair cut. “Tapered up the sides and an inch or so left on the top”, I have a hard time thinking of a simpler haircut that one would actually pay for. After repeating myself she responded by saying, “I love your accent, are you from England?”. You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m from Iowa and the only accent I can even impersonate is a northern one don’t ya know.

What could I do at this point? I’ve got that neck based apron on so it’s hard to just run away. Calling the woman an idiot or actually saying anything that was in my head at the moment isn’t going to help one bit. So I bit my tongue, closed my eyes and told myself “it grows back”.

But if you say that to yourself for too long you’re liable to just blurt it out at some point. So instead of dealing with that awkwardness I decided to think of all the other signs that you’re in for a bad haircut. I remembered this one time I got my haircut in college (also at a Great Clips, what’s wrong with me) by this guy that had the ugliest hair I’ve ever seen in my life, it made mullets jealous. It literally looked like he sculpted his hair into a bird and no, this wasn’t in the 80’s. If someone thinks that style is good enough for themselves, who knows what you’ll walk away looking like.

After remembering that story I couldn’t help but wonder about Great Clips itself. I’m always suspect of any company who’s name implies quality. It just feels a little arrogant and insulting to me, especially because there isn’t much that’s great about them.

Thankfully when I opened my eyes at the end of my haircut the result wasn’t as bad as I expected. She didn’t do a great job, but nobody has laughed at me so by some measure it’s a success. But I’m going to find myself in this exact same position in a few weeks and I clearly need all the help I can get. So if anyone has ideas for other things to watch out for, I’d love to hear them.

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4 Responses to “Avoiding Bad Haircuts”

  1. LaMano Says:

    I got to Great Clips all the time and have found some great stylists.

  2. bkail Says:

    (I’ve been lurking for a month or so ;). A random Google search led me to a mailing list post on Mark Mail, which for whatever reason triggered me to search for your name, which led me to your blog, which was a partial inspiration for me try. Anyway…)

    I also use the Great Clips for my hair. They seem to cope well with numbers (.5in increments). For example, I’ve recently switched my order to “1 on the sides, tight near the top, 4 in back, 5 in front”. They tend to proceed with meaningless questions like “clippers or scissor cut”, but they usually do a pretty good job even near closing time.

  3. Ryan Grimm Says:

    Hey Brett, I noticed your lurking and I’ve been reciprocating it :).

    Wow, they’ve never even asked me if I’d like them to use scissors or clippers, they just dive in. Maybe I’m on the “give this person a bad haircut” list and I doubt this post will get me off of it :).

  4. mary Says:

    Think about it, Great Clips is a mass marketed low budget clipper joint who runs coupons for rock bottom prices and herds their customers in like cattle. They do time their haircuts. The stylist has to move quickly – with a 14 minute deadline on each cut. Quality is not the main focus, money is. Now, while you complain about your stylist…think about who would be willing to work for a massive nationwide corporation with so little regard for their employees as to pay them minimum wage, with promises of big tips – which never arrive – most are 1.00 to 5.00 at best. The whole concept does not attract the type of clientele that by nature are big tippers. Most stylists learn this early and eventually move on to a higher end salon with higher end clientele. Therefore you will always have high turnover in these salons. The company’s marketing strategy is to bring people in based on a price point. The people who think they can get a good haircut for 6.99 are dreaming. A person who is concerned about their appearance will not risk ruining their hair in a cheap establishment such as one who claims to be able to provide a quality cut for less than 10.00. The type of stylist you will encounter in this company are those fresh out of beauty school for the most part who have no practical training or experience. When Great Clips runs these ad campaigns with cheap prices they bring in the bottom of the barrel type people who have not cut their hair in months, some even have serious scalp conditions which make you want to gag when you have to work with it. Bottom line is, if you want a quality haircut go to a quality company and be prepared to pay a quality price. Only then will you have room to complain or a leg to stand on.


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