All I wanted was a local haircut

Illustration by Ricky King

So it’s 5:00 on a Friday afternoon and I have a date at 7. I’ve already scraped and scrubbed and chosen my outfit and all that fun stuff. Nothing left but to tame the mane. And for that I hop in the car and go to find a pro. Oh yeah, there’s that new spot on the hill downtown. So away I go.

5:20 I’m walking through new spot’s door. There’s a guy in the chair, one on the bench, so it doesn’t look like it’ll take long. Then some guy at the counter asks me if i’m there for a cut. I bite down on the sarcasm and say yes.

‘I don’t think we’ll be able to fit you in,’ he tells me. ‘We close at six, there’s one in the chair and one ahead of you.’

I was flabbergasted. Getting turned down from a barber? What, they don’t want the money? remove my hat to show him what they’d be working with.
Hair and sideburns, none of which is more than 3/8’s of an inch long. Every barber I have ever gone to had me out of the chair in under 6 minutes.

‘We’re open tomorrow.’ was the comment I got, and the only reply I could offer was ‘I guess I’m going elsewhere.’

And that’s exactly what I did.

This is what happens when I try to support local businesses. They don’t want my money, they don’t want my business. I must have told twenty people about this since it happened.

Rant by HadToGoToAChain


Big R Restaurant

69 Harvey Road, St. John’s -722-2256 201 Blackmarsh Road, St. John’s – 722-6549

8 July 2008

  1. nikki · July 8, 2008

    customer service is lacking here in NL. better to go with chains from outside the province that have actual standards..

  2. Darcy Fitzpatrick · July 8, 2008

    That’s unfortunate, and you had my sympathy up until that last paragraph, but did that really merit taking a potshot at local businesses on the whole?

    If this genuinely is what happens when you try to support local businesses, then maybe the problem lies elsewhere. Or do you really think every local business has a gripe with serving customers?

  3. SmartGirl · July 8, 2008

    What did you expect them to do? Rush through the two customers ahead of you to squeeze you in, or stay open late simply to accommodate you?

    Friday afternoons are notoriously busy at salons/barber shops (date night, party night) so waiting until so close to the close of business was not a great plan. The staff were upfront about not being able to fit you in, so I really don’t see what you have to complain about.

  4. W · July 8, 2008

    I am a hairstylist. The quickest I can do a mans cut is 20 minutes, that’s if I rush. I will not do one in less time then that, I want my work to be good, that’s why I allot 30 minutes for each mans cut. I appreciate that you wanted your hair cut. I recommend, if you’re looking for a quality cut, book an appointment next time, they can ALWAYS fit you in then. You know you get your hair cut every three to six weeks, so you could even prebook the appointment before you leave the salon!

    It may surprise you but the fellas working at that the local barber shop downtown, or the girl working at the local salon, or chain salon for that matter, do have lives outside of work. They have families, pets, children, partners and friends. Sometimes they have plans… sometimes they don’t. Don’t fault someone for wanting to enjoy their lives outside of work, just like you wanted to. It’s unfair to expect someone to be completely at your beck and call. They probably worked all day on their feet for nine hours, maybe they had a lunch break, maybe they didn’t… But don’t take it personally when they say sorry, we can’t book you right now, but we have lots of other times to offer.

  5. bbb · July 8, 2008

    What did you expect them to do? Stay after close to accommodate you because you couldn’t be bothered to phone ahead first? Maybe customer service wouldn’t seem so bad if people didn’t assume that the world revolves around them and their $20 haircut. Unbelievable.

  6. totally_gay · July 8, 2008

    Boo-fecking-hoo pretty boy, guess you’d better plan your dates a bit better next time.

  7. Tom Servo · July 8, 2008

    Things take longer when you go to a local place. Get used to the fact that people tend to take more time to do a good job, actually spend time in interaction with their customers, and have a lot on their plate after the last customer is out the door. And if they don’t, they will care about it a lot more than a chain place that serves people like some fast food place and doesn’t bother to even talk to you.

  8. Blackstrap · July 8, 2008

    I went to the Family Barber Shop for years.

    When the boys retired, I bought myself a pair of clippers…

    A haircut down there used to be part of an enjoyable routine dating back to childhood. A little bit of a social exercise, too. When that formula got messed up for me, I decided I’d rather save money and shave my own head from now on.

    Even if I was looking for a barber, though, I don’t think I would enjoy going to Fogtown. It doesn’t seem like it’s my style. (And I will hazard a guess that it is fairly expensive)

    They are definitely a huge improvement over generic unisex salons and budget franchises, though… I also applaud Fogtown for their retail endeavours and for returning a barber to the area.

    With all that said, I don’t think they were out of line for letting you know that they were closing. If it was me, I’d probably try to squeeze you in, but I’d put up a closed sign to avoid further confusion. Who knows – the guy probably had obligations right after work.

  9. Jon · July 8, 2008

    Poor you. Maybe you shouldn’t have waited until 1.5 hours before your date to get a hair cut. Ever hear of making an appointment for these kinds of things? Reminds me of the saying “Bad planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part”. I’m sure these employees wanted to get out on a Friday evening as much as you did. Get over it, it’s only a haircut. I wouldn’t criticize all local businesses because of an experience at one.

  10. rzarro · July 8, 2008

    Man alive, you sound like a right pip. You remind me of when I worked retail and I’d get obnoxious self absorbed jerks arriving two minutes to close, not any sort of regard for the people around them. Did you stop to think that maybe you’re getting crappy customer service because you’re a crappy customer?

  11. Steve · July 8, 2008

    I hope those 20 people you told were honest enough to tell you how much of an ass you sound like!

  12. Gordon Gekko · July 8, 2008

    This idea that we should accept slower service and higher prices to support local business is a pile of horse shit. I hold all businesses to the same standard. I don’t care about who owns the business, I go wherever I get the best service and value for money. Sometimes that means buying local, sometimes it means going to a chain, it really doesn’t matter to me.

    Also, the line between “local” and “chain” is usually a lot thinner than a lot of hippies and elitists like to believe, but that’s a whole other debate.

  13. Lark · July 8, 2008

    So I guess you didn’t get laid.

  14. OP · July 8, 2008

    What do I expect them to do. I expect them to cut the hair of someone who shows up while the doors are open and it’s 40+ minutes to close. On in the chair, one in front of me and a six minute cut on me. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation. You don’t want clients walking in the door then put up the closed sign or close the door. You know, like most other businesses do.

    I would have called for an appointment, but the barber in question states clearly on their website that they refuse to take appointments.

    I apologize for taking my frustration out on all local businesses. I clearly tarred too many people with the same brush. Post, for instance, I go there a couple times a week and have never had a bad experience.

    So to the local businesses that I inadvertantly insulted, I apologize. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ll never darken that barbers door again.

  15. lobF · July 8, 2008

    Fogtown are not expensive, and give a damn good haircut.

  16. lobF · July 8, 2008

    They have other customers to brighten their doorway…
    A small business like that does not merit a rant… Have you ever dealt with Rogers?

  17. curiousCat · July 8, 2008

    I am a little tired, so while I read your rant, I didn’t read the comments above, so please excuse me if I’m being repetitive.

    I guess for the most part I’m confused, then i think of the bigger issue, and I’m annoyed. Confused as to why you didn’t make an appointment. Annoyed, because, let me guess, you don’t assume hair styling is a profession.????I think it’s great you want to support local businesses, but how about you treat them like what they are…a business. Make an appointment, DO NOT come in on a Friday evening, an hour before closing, expecting to me accommodated solely because you’re from the area, making an effort.
    I think you can relate, if someone came into your workplace, so close to the end of the day…rough times. Let’s keep an open mind.

    For no reason at all, except a complete stranger putting it out there, how about you give that place another shot. If honour of an open mind. Happy Summer to all! xo!

  18. curiousCat · July 8, 2008

    I’m surprised by this comment. Where do you normally dine?

  19. OP · July 8, 2008

    Again. They dont take appointments. So It’s not that I wouldn’t make one. It’s that I couldn’t.

  20. W · July 8, 2008

    Going into a hair salon/barber 40 minutes before they close and being told they are full regardless of the fact that they may or may not take appointments happens. I checked Fogtown’s website and it says, ” Walk-ins only but feel free to call ahead to see if there’s a line on the barber chair. ” Fogtown isn’t just a barber shop, so the fact that there was two people working, does not mean there was two barbers, this is also a good reason as to why they may not have placed a closed sign on the door. I could be wrong, but I believe the days of your six minute hair cut are over. People are offering quality over quantity today. As for the rest of it, I suggest you refer once again to my previous post.

    Also, FYI, most of the salons/barbers in this city are local businesses.

  21. D. · July 8, 2008

    Is the store open? Then fucking serve me. It’s your life decisions that led to a career in retail. You want to finish up five minutes early, just ’cause you wanna? Too bad, it’s your job to serve people whether you feel like it or not. Talk about crappy customers, I think there are more crappy retail servers, or clerks, or ‘sales associates’ or whatever you want to call yourself. If I have to run into a store last minute to grab something, I don’t expect someone to stand at the end of their aisle with their arms folded watching me, giving me the stink eye. Yes, this happens.

  22. Zinc · July 8, 2008

    If I were this guy’s date and I found out he was the one who posted this (and let’s be honest, he probably went off about it on the date at some point) I would think twice about seeing him again. People who don’t treat people in the service industry with consideration and respect are a definite dealbreaker.

  23. Gordon Gekko · July 8, 2008

    This wouldn’t have happened at First Choice, which is seriously the best place to go for a simple haircut. The people working there are friendly but not elitist/pretentious, I’ve never had to make an appointment, and they stay open late. Honestly, why would a barbershop close at 6 on a weekday? Many people work until 5.

    Local is not always better. Although to the best of my knowledge First Choice is a locally owned chain (and the only chain hairstylist in the city as far as I know), so I’m interested to know where that fits in on the hip and trendy scale, Scope readers? Would they be okay if they only had one location? At one point of expansion does a local business become “uncool”?

  24. Gordon Gekko · July 8, 2008

    Actually I can think of plenty of small local businesses who merit a rant. I don’t understand why some people think we should put up with poor service and high prices just because a business is “local”.

  25. OP · July 8, 2008

    See, that’s the funny part. I myself work in the service industry. I regularly get people who show up at my place of business or off-site work within five minutes of close while I’m trying to get everything put away so I can get the hell outta there or get the helll home.

    But what do I do? I doesn’t matter what sort of plans I have, I turn with that business smile on my face and see if I can make one more sale for the day. Beccause it’s my job. It is what I do. It pays my rent. I stay late because I have a customer service ethic.

  26. w · July 8, 2008

    the world of the customer always being right doesn’t really exsist anymore. It’s a two way street. I chose and love my profession, I’ve been working for 10 years and ya know what, sometimes I say no. I work late sometimes, I work my days off for people. I know what good customer service is. I make my clientele happy, but I’m a person to. When you’re all enjoying your Christmas parties and holidays I’m slugging 9-12 hour days, 6 days a week sometimes with only 5 minutes to hawk down a meal. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying, have some consideration… we’re human, not slaves, you’re not the only person out there.

  27. Darcy Fitzpatrick · July 8, 2008

    I doubt anyone thinks that. If a particular business did you wrong, have your say. It’s the notion of lumping all local business into one group when the complaint is really directed at a particular business or businesses that doesn’t make any sense.

  28. Gordon Gekko · July 8, 2008

    I’m not necessarily agreeing with the OP about anything, I was making a more broad statement about supporting small “local” business. There are people out there who believe that supporting “local” should come before all else, and I disagree with that. A few posts up from here Tom Servo made a comment to that effect while showing a clear bias against “chain” establishments. I also responded to that comment, however the Scope censors haven’t cleared that one yet.

  29. Bryh · July 8, 2008

    First Choice Hair Cutters won Best Place for a Haircut (Male) in the Best of St John’s Readers’ Survey published last January.

  30. seaguy · July 8, 2008

    And what if someone came in during that transaction? Then another and so on… Would you just stay there all night? If so good on you but nobody expects that…

  31. rzarro · July 8, 2008

    It’s people like you that make me glad not to be in retail anymore. You sound like a real charmer, presuming that anybody in retail must be making a ‘career’ out of it. By and large, I get great customer service almost anywhere I go. Want to know how? It’s really quite simple. If you make a genuine effort to treat your server with respect,dignity and patience and not like a brainless automaton you’ll usually find people warm up to you better.

  32. the baron · July 8, 2008

    First Choice is most certainly not a locally owned chain. A quick Google search (re: Wikipedia search) reveals that it started in London, Ontario thirty years ago; amassing 400 locations in both Canada and the United States.

    The least you can do is your homework…

  33. OP · July 8, 2008

    What I do is lock the door and unlock it to let them out. If you show up outside of business hours, you’re probably not going to get served. But if you beat the clock, you’re in. Because, well, I work in customer service and I like being able to pay my rent in full and on time.

  34. Gordon Gekko · July 8, 2008

    Boooooo! First Choice is not local. They are going to eat your brains!!!!!!

    First Choice provides good haircuts at a convenient time and a good price.

  35. Take off the rose coloured glasses · July 8, 2008

    The Baron, Wiki is not the best source of information. All of the First Choice locations in NL are owned by a local, born and raised here (I know him) All of the employees that I’ve met there are local. The owner pays a franchise fee and in return gets use of the name, national advertising, and the collective buying power for retail goods that a chain provides. It’s called economies of scale. I recently started getting my haircuts there and the service is miles ahead of the standards that my former local shops offered and my hair looks great – ahem ;)

  36. D. · July 8, 2008

    I’ve worked in customer service, inside and outside the province. And the fact is, as others posters have pointed out, customer service here sucks. I think it’s a left-over attitude from a colonial mentality. You’re no better than me, just ’cause I’m serving you. There’s a story about customer service from Australia where a hotel guests ask the bellhop to bring his bags up to the room and the bellhop says, “What’s wrong your bloody arms?” Same thing here. Customer service doesn’t happen if I’m nice to you (which I generally am, despite your assumptions otherwise), or if you’re in the mood to serve me. It’s your job- career or otherwise. How does the respect, dignity and patience part work when I stand at the cash for 5 minutes while you finish your personal call, or peek out around at the front counter and see customers waiting and going on chatting with co-workers, or carry on shouted conversations with other cashiers about whose break is next, or how loaded you got the weekend, or how you can’t wait for your shift to end. That, and rolling your eyes or standing with folded arms when someone walks in just before closing. Tell me all these things don’t happen here. Because they don’t happen anywhere else that I’ve been.

  37. Maureen · July 8, 2008

    I started going to first choice a few months ago. Best service! I’m trying to grow my hair out (again) and really just need the back cleaned up from time to time. And because a couple of times it wasn’t a whole lot of hair to be trimmed up (I think it was but my hair is at the atupid in between stage and it’s driving me crazy), they didn’t even charge me. I would have to agree that if you want a quick, just gonna pop on in hair cut at a very reasonable price, First Choice is the way to go.

  38. shadowwood · July 8, 2008

    Any time I get a haircut there is always residual hair in ears, amongst the remaining hair, on collar, etc, even with the most anal of barbers or after-cut shake-off. Why on earth would you want to have a cut right before a date? You want your hair falling all over your date, or onto the table, or into your food? It would also appear that the business has better time management skills than you, they know what sort of clientèle they can accommodate within an allotted amount of time, while you can’t be bothered to get your hair cut until the last minute.

  39. YouBelongToAChain · July 8, 2008

    Ok, picture this:

    The world revolves around you, you have unspoken priority because of your self-importance, you’re a very modern man because you want to feed the “smaller guy” – but you want the smaller guy to run laps to earn it.

    Get real.

    You seem like the finicky type that even if you had of gotten in for the chop, you probably would still have had something to say – whether it be about the price, or your incorrectly trimmed sideburns being responsible for not getting lucky on your date.

    The fact of the matter is this –

    That happens at that shop most days. They have a large and loyal clientele who will try to find a spot in line and wait if they must, because, simply, they’re pleased and appreciative of the experience, the service, and the attention to detail.
    The shop has one chair – so, one hair cut at a time. Did you get a look at the heads of those two people ahead of you? Maybe they didn’t have screw-doo six minute maintenance jobs. Maybe they had were getting a shampoo, or a beard trim? and did you know that each cut includes a straight-razor neck shave? The offer of a coffee or a beer?
    For the price and the wait, each cut is treated with attention, detail, and they will literally trim and clean up any hair that grows north of your neck.

    This is the service that they offer. It is quite the experience.
    It is not the place for your six minute, ten dollar, and one quick comment about the weather visit. If that is what you long for, go elsewhere. There are still many old fashioned barbers around (Harris’s, Lundrigan’s, Joe’s, Central, the one on the west end of water St. that doesn’t really have a name)
    All great places, with great barbers. They may suit your tastes!
    If not – maybe you’re a chain kinda guy! First Choice have plenty of chairs, and you can book appointments!

    Also, Fogtown offers more services than just haircutting (hence the retail shop in the front), so maybe next time you “bite down on your sarcasm” for simply being asked what you were looking for in a establishment, your teeth may thankfully get stuck preventing your twenty friends plus date from thinking less of you for being a selfish whiner.

    Business’s don’t owe you anything. Go to a chain.

  40. OP · July 8, 2008

    To be honest, I didn’t know any of that. Mostly because it’s not posted anywhere on the website or where it can be seen while idling on the hill waiting for the lights to go green.

    These services that you’re expounding upon, which I will admit make the place sound even better than before, are not common knowledge. They should be features on the webpage instead of a 6 line blurb that essentially says ‘First come first serve’. Maybe those sorts of attention to detail should be posted on the website. They would and are great selling points for a local barber shop.

    But when the sign simply says ‘Barber and Shop’ that’s not the expectations they’re putting out to the world. They’re basically saying ‘We cut hair, we sell hair products.’ At least that’s how a reasonably educated person would read it.

    I understand now they don’t close the doors because of the retail end. But how hard would it be to make a sign to put up saying something like ‘CHAIR FULL FOR TODAY’ or the like. If I had seen that or something like that, I’d have walked right on past and this rant would never have seen light of day.

    I bit down on the sarcasm because I had walked in and sat in the line-up bench. For a full two minutes before the counter dude bothered to ask me if I was there for a cut. No, he wasn’t serving anyone else at the time. I probably should have brought that up in the original post, but that didn’t bother me enough.

    Honestly, I’ve learned a lot about this barber and shop, and most of what I have learned isn’t written /anywhere/ on their website. Maybe it should be. Maybe then people wouldn’t be walking into the doors with reasonable expectations and have bad experiences. I know if I’d read these comments before the fact, things would have gone very differently from the start.

  41. anon3 · July 8, 2008

    Gekko shows his true colours! First choice! HA!!!!!!
    I suppose it’s Tim’s triple-triple as well?! HA HA!!!!
    the biggest big mouth ever gets his haircut at First Choice !!!!!!
    as for the original post, I agree. 40 minutes, make it work for the customer.
    as for local service, Newfoundland is famous for snotty low service standards, and that has nothing to do with anyone’s opinion. The important thing to remember is they don’t want anyone to tell them otherwise, Newfoundlanders are anarchistic at the core. So don’t expect any major changes anytime soon.

  42. Gordon Gekko · July 8, 2008

    I cut my own hair and I make my own coffee, because I can do both of those things better than anyone else.

    When I did pay for haircuts I went to First Choice because they are the best by far.

  43. totally_gay · July 8, 2008

    Here, have a hero biscuit.

  44. totally_gay · July 8, 2008

    You should do your homework and find out what “Re:” means.

  45. PW · July 8, 2008

    While I’ll have to agree with you many of the establishments in Newfoundland could use some guidance in customer service, this isn’t the only place gaffs like you have listed happen.

  46. bizzle · July 8, 2008

    Well golly, there’s a special place in heaven for people like you!

  47. Rollerbaby · July 8, 2008

    OP, I’m not too sure about that place either. Went in with my husband, he wanted a shave/beard trim whatever you call it, he was told “we don’t do that”. The price for a beard trim was wrote up on the sign behind the counter. Wtf.

  48. b00n · July 8, 2008

    First Choice cuts are walk in too.

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