Barbershop Etiquette
July 19, 2013 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm afraid I don't understand the ways of the barbershop. Perhaps you can help?

I go to a very traditional barbershop in Queens. I have been going there for almost four months, since I moved to the area. Previously, I went to modern, "edgy" barbershops, so this is new territory for me. The first time I went, a fellow we'll call Alex cut my hair. He did a nice job and I was satisfied. Since then, with the exception of one time when I was in a rush and he was already occupied, I've had him cut my hair every time. I get my hair cut every couple weeks.

Today while I was waiting for him (he had another client) another barber came over and said, "Why don't you give me a chance to cut your hair?" I politely demurred but he was very insistent. I finally told him that was okay, but only if it was okay with Alex. Alex nodded, but was somewhat unenthusiastic. I let this other barber cut my hair, but I wasn't particularly satisfied with the result.

Anyway, my questions are 1) Is this a normal thing? 2) Is barber loyalty not expected or accepted? I thought it was somewhat common to have "your" barber, but perhaps I'm wrong. And 3) If it is okay for me to insist on waiting for my barber, how can I do that politely in the future?
posted by jaksemas to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
the hard sell is always a thing but if you have a regular barber, feel free to be firm and say "hey, i'd rather wait for alex, if you don't mind!"

finding a good barber is an amazing feeling that is worth holding on to.
posted by raihan_ at 6:22 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Maybe call and say you'll be there in 10 minutes? Though a lot of barber shops don't do reservations, they'd probably wait a few minutes for a regular to show up.

Also, I've found that if you keep saying just "No." with no explanation (beyond the first, I'm waiting for Alex) it gets to the point rather quickly. If you go ultra nuclear it's "Listen. (five second pause) No."
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:40 PM on July 19, 2013

A barber shop is not a salon, you're not making an appointment with a specific person, you're walking in the door and getting whoever is available next. But, like raihan said, it's probably fine to wait for the person you prefer...

Reminds me of "back in the day"...

relax, as long as you're not rude, all will be fine
posted by HuronBob at 6:52 PM on July 19, 2013

The barber who accosted you was out of line, and I'm surprised your regular barber put up with it.

Having a preferred barber is totally normal. You can wait until his chair is free if you like, and you don't have to let anyone else cut your hair.

Such is the law of the barbershop.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:22 PM on July 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

I go to a traditional barber shop and go with the first available. But I have a number 3 on top and a 2 on the sides that is hard to screw up. Many who go wait for a particular barber. That is just as reasonable. I have never seen a hard sell like NOT Alex did. I think it was out of line. One quick, hey if you are in a hurry, why not give me a shot? would be ok, but the hard sell, not so much. Even with you asking Alex, there was no way Alex would say no if he wanted to preserve the relations within the shop. He was put in a difficult position. Do the Nancy Reagan, just say no.

KokuRyu is spot on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:35 PM on July 19, 2013

I go to an incredibly old-school barber shop. (The guy who opened it is celebrating his 60th year in business this year. Still gives a great haircut.) Here's how it works there:
- Most regulars there have a preferred barber. All the other barbers defer to the customer's request.
- If you really want Alex but don't want to wait around you call ahead and see when Alex is free.

To answer your questions
1) No.
2) I've never seen any of the barbers even blink at someone waiting for their preference. However you kind of got yourself into this one. You punted the decision to Alex. And Alex is always going to say Yes because he has to work with these people every day. Saying No would have caused friction. If you had stuck firm, it would haven't been an issue. (Except for Jerkface, but screw Jerkface.) But I am a bit surprised that someone in charge didn't tell Jerkface to back off. Maybe the boss wasn't there?
3) I think this one had been covered well above, but now if Jerkface wants to cut your hair again you can tell him that no, you weren't happy with the cut he gave you, you'll wait for Alex, thanks. Hopefully a less than satisfactory haircut will give you the endurance to hold your ground next time.
posted by Ookseer at 7:51 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I used to go to Astor Place, pretty much anyone could do a great job so I was rarely concerned with who cut my hair. I'd previously gone to a place on St. Marks, which was also a sure thing. Then for years, I went to a two chair barbershop on Christopher St, with one guy who was terrible and the other awesome. Early on, I'd let whoever was free cut my hair since it was usually happening on my lunch break. But after a short while, I had no problem saying, "no, I'll wait" for the guy who got it right every single time. I wan't concerned about hurting anyone's feelings though, so maybe that's different. I just wanted my hair cut the way I wanted.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:44 PM on July 19, 2013

The insisting was too much, he crossed a line to take advantage of your politeness. But don't make the incident important, just move on with your regularly scheduled program of having Alex cut your hair.

Replies to pushy dude trying to push can be in the vein of "naw man, thanks, but I've got to wait for Alex" punctuated with vague truism fillers such as "you know how it is." Deliver with no drama, using the sort of smiling but uncommitted tone used for perhaps chatting with a stranger on the bus about the weather.
posted by desuetude at 12:04 AM on July 20, 2013

Yeah, dude was out of order. If you prefer one guy to do your hair, then insist on that guy. I would have said, "Hey mate, I'm sure you'd do a great job, but I'm a stick-in-the-mud. And Alex does my hair."
posted by Decani at 10:24 AM on July 21, 2013

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