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The Long and Short of Haircut Gratuities

The familiar barber shop pole with its red, white, and blue stripes is easily recognizable as a place for a haircut and other services. As in other places, a man in the old West could stop in for a haircut and shave, and finish with some bay rum after shave. Many years ago, barbers also performed surgeries, hence the red and white stripes on the pole. Eventually, they only medically-related practices they performed were tooth extractions and the barbaric practice of bloodletting.

Gratuities are expected in many services. This includes barbers and hair stylists. The amount varies, but when we feel cheated, we find someone else.
Credit: Pexels / cottonbro

On a side note, by ignoring Leviticus 17:11, bloodletting contributed to the demise of President George Washington. There were many factors in his illness, but since the life is in the blood, he may have survived it if they had left more of it in him. But we can't expect doctors (and barbers) in 1799 to know modern medicine — and people in medical science are still learning.

Traditional barber shops have become a rarity. Today, barbers are men and women that often work in multi-purpose facilities. They do basic haircuts as well as elaborate styling on both men and women. They must pay for their education and their own supplies, even in the large establishments — where they often rent workspace. Hair cuttery as a whole brings in a passel of revenue. Like many services today, a gratuity is expected.

A gratuity (fancy word for tip) was originally a gift for excellent service, but it is now a part of their wages and must be declared for income tax purposes. How much do you tip? There are guidelines, but not exactly clear cut (see what I did there?) and have other factors to consider. Someone who wants an elaborate style will not only pay more, but it takes time, so a larger tip should be given if the service is good. If the customer is a problem child by being demanding or less than pleasant, it's another reason for him or her to give a larger tip.

I want something simple: make it shorter. The barber can crank out my basic conservative haircut in just a few minutes and then move on to the next cut-stomer. Sure, I can grouse over how it's unfair and I shouldn't have to pay not only for the haircut but the barber's wages, but that's just how things are. Indeed, I still give a reasonable tip and mayhaps some extra because I like the barber. Recently, I've felt cheated.

Before the lockdowns and restrictions because the election year virus (conveniently supplied from Wuhan, China) has been used to control the populace, I had no problem getting the short hair I wanted. There were times in recent weeks where I came home and my wife remarked that my hair wasn't much shorter. Is it reasonable to assume that some of these places are trying to make up for lost revenue (due to forced closures) by leaving the hair longer so people have to go back sooner? In fact, the Number Four attachment and the clippers I usually experienced went unused — it was scissors-only.

More frequent visits may generate more revenue for them, but we are also expected to give tips more often, and for less-than-satisfactory service. I believe in paying a reasonable price for good products and services, but when I feel that I am not getting what I pay for, I go elsewhere. This applies to hair services and others. Things may get better later on. The next time I go to a professional instead of having my wife hack it away with the clippers I bought (which I refer to as the hedge trimmer), I'm going to be adamant about having them make it short.

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