The Twelve Dollar Haircut

There may be people out there wondering if a bargain haircut is worth the risk. I would like to take you through my personal experience, so that you can make your own mind up about how much to invest in a hair cut, and perhaps be aware of those little ‘warning signs’ that crop up along the way that indicate you are about to make a HUGE mistake that will take months to grow out.

I had the opportunity to get head shots done for free as a promo through Starlit photography. I was SUPER excited. Money is tight but I want to get back into acting and free head shots are basically the best thing ever. However, after scheduling the date, I realized it had been almost a year since my last haircut and I was in desperate need of one.

Warning Sign #1 – Are you desperate? Before getting your hair cut for $12, ask yourself if you are allowing your desperation to cloud your good judgment. If the answer is yes, maybe take a step back and ask a friend with good hair if you’re making a horrible mistake.

I needed some place relatively inexpensive, but reliable, so I took to Facebook to ask around if anyone of knew of any traveling or in-home stylists, since it’s pretty hard to get your hair done with two kids in tow. I got some names and called around, but no one could fit me in the same day, or Friday morning. So I had to think of something else.

Warning Sign #2 – If the hair salon your are considering has a bakery, pharmacy and produce section, and toilet paper is being sold directly outside the salon entrance, you should probably move to a classier joint.

There is a salon in Superstore and they offer cheap cuts and you just walk in, no appointment necessary. I knew that because my mother-in-law was taking care of the kids during the photo shoot, she could come a little early so we could fit in a haircut as well. As a kid my mom used to take me to a Jimmy-Trims which is basically the same idea, and I never got any awful cuts so I figured it couldn’t be all that bad. (If you don’t know me, now is probably the time to point out I am an eternal optimist. Like, I just told you that Jimmy-Trims cuts aren’t that bad.)  I ignored the warning that the salon is in a grocery store, noted the great sale on toilet paper, and walked right on in.

There is a stylist eating lunch in the back room. I ask if she had time for a haircut and she shoved a few forkfuls of spinach in her mouth and silently ushered me into a chair while still chewing. I told her I could wait if she wanted to finish her lunch and she swallowed, then told me she was finished and it was fine.

I knew the $12 price was just for a cut, and since I had a photo shoot that afternoon and possibly hadn’t showered in a few days, (I will not confirm or deny that…) I thought I’d splurge and go for a wash and blow dry as well. But she never offered, and had the scissors in her hand as she put the cape on me, so I decided not to push it.

Warning Sign #3 – If you feel the need to tell your stylist that you want it to look nice, because you’re pretty sure that doesn’t go without saying for her, you’re rapidly approaching the danger zone and need to GET. OUT. NOW.

She asks how short I want it. I indicate somewhere between my chin and shoulders, and – because I am a very trusting eternal optimist – told her to do whatever she thought would look the best. She didn’t ask anything about what kind of *style* I wanted, just length, so I felt it necessary to explain that I needed it to fall nicely, so a few layers were important.

She nodded, and started to cut. We were about two minutes into the cut when I suddenly realized my hair was parted right in the center. I never part my hair in the center as it looks awful, so I stopped her and said, “Oh no, is it too late to tell you I don’t actually part my hair in the middle, but to one side?” She shrugs and says that unless I’m getting bangs, it doesn’t matter. I accepted this answer since I’m an eternal optimist and I figured she’d be adding lots of layers and doing the styling later… right now she was just working on the main length – maybe the part really doesn’t matter then?

A few minutes after that, a woman pokes her head in the salon. She makes motions indicating she wants a haircut, but can come back later. My stylist replies, ‘Five minutes and I will be done.’

Five minutes? FIVE MINUTES?  I have literally been in the chair for less than that amount of time, and this hairdresser is already claiming she is close to finished.  I have in the past, when it included a wash and dry, been in a stylist’s chair for TWO HOURS when no colour was involved. HOW CAN SHE POSSIBLY BE DONE IN FIVE MINUTES????

DANGER ZONE. We are well past warning signs now. I mean, I have driven past all of them and then bulldozed my way through the cement barrier, and there is no going back now.

She makes a few more cuts, brushes out my hair, and then asks me what I think.

I look in the mirror at my considerably shorter, wet hair and wonder what exactly she means. She’s just asking about the length, right? I mean, there’s no possible way she could be done cutting AND styling my hair, right? So I hesitate slightly before saying, “You mean the length? The length is great!”

I now expect her to start actually styling it now, rather than just hacking off length. But she brings out a blow dryer and a round brush, and I’m like, ‘OH MY GOSH SHE IS ACTUALLY FINISHED?’ Then the optimist in me pops in and says, “Hey, at least she’s going to blow dry and style it!” (Silver linings…)

So she blow dries it a little bit, and I kid you not, used the round brush ONCE on the front section of my head, and then says, “Ok, what do you think?”

At this point, I know the unspoken meaning is, “… of the cut and style?” and all I can think to say is, “Um, It is still a little damp, so it is hard to tell.” She waits for a more satisfying response, so then I just kind of look in the mirror and fluff my hair around a little bit trying to tell what is happening. Something is weird in the front… it’s not looking right. I point to the problem.

“Um, there’s something odd happening on this side. Like, I’m not sure if there are less layers here or… I don’t exactly know but it doesn’t look the same as the other side.”

No word of a lie, her response came back: “Oh, did you want it to be even?”

I sat in silence.  Surely, that was a rhetorical question? But I don’t know anything for sure at this point so I say, “Yes. Yes, hair stylist, I would like both sides of my hair to be the same length, thank you very much.”

So she chopped a little off the other side, said, “There you go!” and removed the cape.

I nervously stood up, paid the $12 plus a $3 tip because I’m Canadian and I just can’t NOT tip, and wandered out of the store just as my mother-in-law was making a pass by. She said it looked cute. I stared at her in disbelief. It couldn’t possibly be anything but horrible. I had to go home and blow dry it, immediately, to see how bad the damage was.

Once home, I got it wet, dried it, and styled it and discovered it was not as bad as I thought. In fact, with the right brush twists, I was actually feeling pretty good. It was definitely not my best hair, but it was also, surprisingly, not the worst cut in the world.  I was just starting to convince myself that, in fact, my $12 haircut had been a pretty decent bargain until my husband arrived home and casually asked if I knew there was a gap at the back of my head where a chunk of hair was missing.

Turns out you get what you pay for, ladies and gentleman. You get what you pay for.

(Side note – thankfully, Kelsey is a wizard photographer and the head shots look great.)


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