A Mortgage Payment for a Haircut

I’m hearing that the ladies are finished laying out what feels like a mortgage payment to get their hair done.

I’m prefacing this blogpost not to include those that have engaged in DIY perms, hair colours or other jackass activities that required a salon to bail them out. Nor am I referencing the salons offering an embellished experience beyond their regular services. I’m speaking about the blue-chip salons suddenly introducing cancellation fees while maintaining reasonably high prices for routine services like colours, and cuts. An action that will become unsustainable in this shifting market with changing economics, on both sides. For the ladies, changing incomes and retirement. For the salons, higher operating costs.

Hair salons are now expanding to capture the rising trend in men’s cuts, beards and colours, citing that men can be easier and less demanding. I don’t think that’s true especially with all the new coiffed places sprouting up for them. Meanwhile, many men are either going longer with their hair or engaging in art directed buzz cuts alongside precision facial hair grooming. What I don’t understand is during a time of gender neutrality why that sensibility isn’t being reflected in the prices. Short hair on a woman is priced higher than on a man. The same is true when it comes to colour. Women are consistently charged more for the same services. At our age, luxury has a new paired down appearance based on simplicity, convenience and quiet elegance. This intention is on par with the men, but the inequity of pricing continues to exist for the same services. In some cases, costing a payment a loan shark might otherwise expect.

Our demographic have their signature styles, many opting for shorter hair for ease of maintenance. With hormones influencing thinning, the greying of hair, a busier lifestyle, and a healthy dose of vanity, our hair requires more attention. Regular visits with a skilled and reasonably priced professional make sense. We are a massive demographic and growing. We also have boundaries we will spend within.

Salons aren’t going anywhere, but tastes and economics are shifting on both sides, and like anything else, this industry is ripe for disruption. A friend had her short hair highlighted and cut. The payment equated to a monthly installment on an SUV and she despised it. It didn’t dawn on her that these two services would equate to the price of a sizeable diamond-encrusted hair clip. She blamed herself for not taking responsibility to ask what it might cost but to be fair; the salon didn’t offer to let her know. If you’re new to an establishment, being briefed on the pricing is a professional courtesy. They do that in restaurants when you’re ordering a bottle of wine that’s either not on the menu or replacing one that is.

Another friend, who was a loyal customer for years, ran late by a few minutes. Her salon refused to assist her, sending her away. Stunned, she was unaware of their new policy. She returned for her next appointment, and they tagged the full price of the previous service not delivered on her visit. Not on her watch. She walked. Another friend accidentally missed her appointment and was charged. She walked. Customer allegiance has a dollar value, and you don’t gamble with that. Today’s women welcome the exit door and will happily examine what exists on the other side. We are devoutly loyal to those that honour us stylistically and financially but change the game midway, and you’re rocking the allegiance and integrity of that boat.

As a freelancer, I understand well the frustration and economics of when someone doesn’t show up for an appointment. It’s the responsibility of the client to notify the salon of a cancellation, but full billing rate for services not rendered is harsh for someone who’s a great client. No charge is where I stand as a courtesy to running late or accidentally missing the rare appointment. I know some salons use that tactic to release themselves from demanding clients but others are shooting themselves in the foot implementing that policy with their dedicated clients. Cancellation policies, now posted online, outline the salon’s expectations. For those who are already a client, it’s the salon’s responsibility to make them aware of any policy changes. For those establishments operating without that transparency and dropping that bomb believing they are immune to the repercussions of a bad rating on Yelp. They’re not. We are at a time when the gates to preciousness are coming down. The demand is simple – excellent service by a talented stylist at a fair and reasonable price.

Even though today’s products make it easy for women to colour and style their hair, they’d prefer to go to a salon and get it done but they are deterred by exorbitant costs for hair colouring, conditioning treatments and cuts which don’t work for their wallets. Consequently, they’re looking at doing it themselves, and many are good at it. They’re not expecting Dollorama prices from their salon, but they’re also not expecting billings equating to ‘champagne wishes and caviar dreams.’ Many are now desiring cruelty-free and natural products that the salons don’t carry.

Growing up, my mother frequented the beauty parlour around the corner — a guilty pleasure shared by all the women in the neighbourhood. Kay’s business was robust, and her reputation stellar. She was talented, in the community, and most importantly, reasonably priced. Every Saturday morning, my mother would frequent this veracious vestige for her weekly wash and set which occasionally included a trim.

I had a gifted hairstylist like Kay; his name was Marco. Marco did the hair of the Who’s Who of celebrities and was beloved by his clientele. All tatted, he was glamorous and made us all look gorgeous no matter the hair, kinky, straight or curly. Marco was a magician rich with talent. He charged a reasonable rate for a cut because he believed you need not break the bank to look good. He generously shared his gift and with that came a loyal following.

When Marco suddenly passed away, I didn’t address my hair for months afterwards while my pathetic short mane grew screaming for urgent attention. I wore baseball caps while doing a lot of querying and reluctantly found myself at one of ‘those’ salons. Open to possibility, I left disappointed and swallowed hard paying the bill. I didn’t receive anything close to what I had become accustomed to and commenced being inundated digitally with promotional emails and birthday wishes. The guy sitting next to me with a truly gorgeous mane of hair exited the same time I did, paying considerably less. In addition to the inequity, I wondered whether getting my haircut twice a year was my new reality alongside the excessive email solicitations. Would mediocrity become my new excellence?

I didn’t subscribe to expensive conditioning regiments or buy any products. I maintained a low maintenance haircut not requiring the services of a master stylist. Although, I did try a few as well as others new to the field and was consistently disappointed.

A year later, my phone rang. A friend, who I explicitly trusted, and a previous client of Marco’s, recommended a guy named Vittor, who occupied what looked like a barbershop in the west end of town. His name the sole shingle to his establishment. I had driven by the place a million times, and it was invisible to me. Then one rainy day, utterly disgusted with my hair, my roots a walking yardstick of disregard, I found the courage to go in and take a chance. I received what I had become accustomed to, great hair, at a reasonable price.

Referrals are the best way to find a salon. Today, MANEreviews.com is the Expedia of hair salons. Customers can comment on salons throughout North America, which is especially helpful if you’re travelling. You can shop around and see what each is offering — the consumer possessing the power to choose from a gamut of salons.

Salons will need to adapt to a modern, blunt, and mature clientele willing to stand at a fine line to comb through and part with those not prepared to meet their expectations. They desire a salon brushed with a sensibility that will be hair for them stylistically and cost-wise.