Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Willing to Be Flexible

I really like the woman who cuts my hair. I've been going to her for years, she does a good job, and I've come to see her as a friend. As I've mentioned before on this site, she used to work out of her own home salon, but now that she rents a chair in a bigger salon, I've started tipping her. Aside from it just being customary, it seemed like the right thing to do, given that I knew that her personal circumstances had changed in a way that meant she could probably use the money.
But here's the interesting thing: in a tough economy, I guess a lot of people start to want to cut corners on things like hair care. I asked my stylist how her business had been and she said things were down a bit but not too bad. And the last few times I've seen her, when I am paying, she always says something like "this is still ok for you?" I remember her saying something like that after September 11th too, when she lost a lot of clients: "You know, if you ever got laid off or something, just let me know and we'll work something out. I don't want you to ever stop coming to me just because it's too expensive."
I know it can't be easy for her to volunteer negotiable rates when times are tough, but I think it's smart of her to do it. A customer who pays less is better than no customer at all. I think it also probably makes people feel even more loyal to her. And it may even have some kind of reverse psychological effect, as I think it has on me. I find myself thinking, yeah, times are tough and should I really be spending close to $1,000 a year on my hair? But then I think, hey, I have a steady job with benefits and plenty of other ways I could save money if I have to. I would feel ashamed to plead hardship and accept a discounted price from someone whose life is a lot more complicated than mine right now, and whose income is a lot more at risk in this economy.
Are my assumptions about her true? On an hourly basis, she actually makes more money than I do, but she has to pay for health insurance, equipment, a space to work out of, etc. and she can't necessarily fill 40 hours a week with work. Of course it's not just about which of us makes more money, or which of us feels like she is struggling to make ends meet. She can raise or lower her price as she sees fit and I can decide to pay it or ask for a discount or just stop going. But it's nice to feel like we each want to make it work for the other. And I do love my haircut!


Anonymous said...

Your hairdresser sounds like a real down to earth person.... I almost want to say "human." Imagine if everybody acted as their brother's keepers, like she is!

What its sounds like she is offering you if you were to be laid off is not a hand out, but a chance for both of you to keep your dignity in continuing your relationship. A lesser person would jump at the opportunity to get "more for less."

You are putting your money where your mouth is. If you didn't value your hair or the job she does so much you wouldn't get a decent hair cut or keep your hairdresser. Its a mutual relationship, and its not meant for any one of you to come on top..... it's a way of making sure both your needs are met without any inconviniences. Aint no shame in that.

Anonymous said...

Surprising, my girlfriend's hairstylist here on Long Island says his business hasn't slowed down one bit.

We're all looking at our expenses, but haircuts are somewhat a part of personal hygene. I could never trim and cut corners on my hygene just to save a few bucks.

That being said, my mens haircut costs $10 and I tip the barber $10, and now that things are tough I questioned cutting my tip in half, but decided it wouldnt be the right thing to do.

I feel I could cut costs that seem on the surface to only affect myself, like buying generic brands, vacationing less, buying a used car, but cutting the cost of which you pay people that directly perform a somewhat personal service for you seems indecent.

Likely in this economy your hairdressers fixed costs have not changed, and certainly her price for her time has not been diminished. Keep getting your haircuts that you enjoy, we dont want to see you around the office picking your deadends.

Anonymous said...

I actually just had a haircut, and since I don't have a regular hairdresser in this city, it was tough to just find a an acceptable place that wasn't too expensive. So far I had tried the hairstylist school (cheaper, but be prepared to be there for at least 1.5 hours), and a salon at the closest mall that ended up being more expensive than I had been expecting.

This time, I actually took the time to call about 20 salons close to my place to get prices so that I could pick a better place.

My point being: having your own hairdresser is something great, and once you have them, it is something worth keeping.

Adrienne said...

Here's the thing. Everyone has to allow themselves at least one luxury that they won't get rid of even in downtimes. Mine is Starbucks on the weekends. Without it, life just isn't the same.

There was a lot I thought I couldn't live without (cable, law mowing services, etc) but tried it and found out I could. Starbucks wasn't one of them.

Interestingly enough hair care was. I'm African American so hair care is a BIG DEAL. But thanks to the wonderful world of YouTube I found I could relax and style my hair at a TINY fraction of the cost to go to the salon. Like you, I ADORED my stylist and felt horribly guilty about leaving. But finances are finances and I couldn't justify the $75 (plus the hefty tip) just to ease my conscience.

I need a trim though so I may call her soon. THAT I will not do on my own.

MtnMama said...

I think, like some of the comments say, that it is a question of dignity and the relationship of service. There are lots of ways to cut back, but personal interaction with another human being should be last. I don't color or perm or highlight, so I only get basic cuts, but I tip well. Then I save in other areas. I've been on the server end of things and I will never forget what it was like.

Thrifty Gal said...

Your hairdresser sounds like a great person! Do her and your friends a favor and recommend her to them!