Should I go back to this hairstylist?
September 12, 2019 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Hairstylist gave me an amazing haircut, was also weirdly hostile and rushed. Should I go back to them?

I have really bad hair. Finding a stylist who can cut it well is like winning the lottery. I've been to someone a few times who does a really good job. However, particularly at the last appointment they seemed to be grouchy at me in an off-putting way. Am I blowing things out of proportion? I don't want to write off a fantastic hairstylist because of a minor disagreement.

First of all, when I book the appointment online it tells me that the cut will be a certain price. The stylist always charges me $10 more than that price (not counting tip). I was taken aback the first time, but the price they end up charging me is still good for an amazing haircut, so I am happy to pay it.

I showed up for my most recent cut with my hair freshly washed and dried, flat and devoid of product. The stylist seemed disappointed that it looked the way it did. “Is this the way it always looks? You don’t like it the way I did it last time?” The thing is, I had showed the stylist pictures of the way I wanted it last time, which was very straight and close to my head, but after they finished cutting it they tried to style it so it was very poofy and curly, which I hate. Whatever, it was still a good cut, and I’m used to stylists trying to make my hair do certain styles which I then go home and wash out anyways.

After that, though, the conversation devolved into me explaining (in an attempt at humor) that my hair does whatever it wants on any given day and I just go along with it. This seemed to actively upset the stylist. They stopped cutting my hair and said something to the effect of “I hate it when clients tell me that. That is a choice you’re making. If I can get your hair to do what I want, you can too.” Which annoyed me, because, uh, you’re a professional hairstylist who is looking down at my head, and I’m just a schmoe without much style sense, who is clumsy with hair implements and who actually prefers a understyled look. I have tried tons of products through the years, as well as different styling methods, and am never successful like I’d like to be. I felt like the stylist wasn’t meeting me where I’m at.

Following this exchange, the stylist appeared somewhat rushed to finish. At the beginning of the appointment they were running several minutes late with their previous client, but when they finished with my cut they were several minutes ahead of schedule. I don’t mind my cut taking less time than I’m scheduled for—in fact, I’d prefer that, as long as the cut is a good one. However, they also didn’t offer to show me the back of it, which I think is pretty standard. Overall, it contributed to me feeling rushed along.

I’d hate to write off this stylist because I was too easily offended at what was maybe not as harsh of an attitude as I took it. I cannot emphasize how difficult it is to find someone who can actually do a good job with my hair. I’ve suffered many a bad, expensive haircut through the years in search of this. Does it sound like I’m overreacting to the situation?
posted by whistle pig to Human Relations (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm torn. I don't need my hair stylist to be my bestie, but I need someone who will listen to what I want. Your stylist sounds disdainful to a degree I wouldn't be OK with. But a good stylist is hard to find. How often do you go? I'd be more forgiving the less I have to see the person.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:56 AM on September 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I don't think you would be overreacting to not go back to this stylist. I also don't think you would be underreacting to go back to this stylist while silently thinking 'this person is such a dick, I wish they were nicer'.

It's a trade off between an unpleasant half hour in a chair and rewarding a jerk but having nice hair for a few weeks or finding a nicer stylist but probably enduring the bad hair that will likely result.

Either decisions is ethical or appropriate. Only you know which you value more.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:58 AM on September 12, 2019 [17 favorites]

Go back to this stylist and ask to see the back of the cut next time and don’t let her style it a way you hate. It sounds like she’d be happy to give you styling tips or lessons if that’s something you want, but she communicated it badly.
posted by momus_window at 8:03 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

You mention a lot of things you dislike and each time you say you don’t mind, but it sounds like you do mind. It’s ok to mind things even if other people would not. And then you finish the question by asking whether you are overreacting, not whether you should leave this stylist. It’s perfectly ok to dislike your hair stylist and yet keep going to them because they do a good job. It’s perfectly ok to question your stylist by asking about the price compared to the website, and to still keep going to that stylist even if they say “tough shit” or whatever! It’s perfectly ok to say “hold on a second, could you please show me the back of my head?” or “hold on a second, I have a couple more questions for you.” You don’t have to like your stylist as long as you like the job they do for you. But it’s also perfectly ok for you to stop going to a stylist for any damn reason you please even if that stylist does a good job on your hair! It’s your hair and your money and time! You have no obligation to optimize your hair for the benefit of others around you. I’ve stopped going to stylists for big reasons and for small ones (not as convenient location, annoyed me by chatting so much, running late, etc).
posted by sallybrown at 8:11 AM on September 12, 2019 [18 favorites]

All these irritations are worth it for a good haircut. Don't be ashamed to say you won't style beyond the basics. Be clear that you like the haircut, and want tips to keep it the way you like.

I mean, not everyone styles their hair before getting a haircut. Maybe some society or professional types who can't ever be seen looking "off", but I don't think its the norm.

Its not personal, its just their personality. A stiff drink before a haircut may help you tolerate the indignities. Lord knows I need one before most beauty appts.
posted by perdhapley at 8:15 AM on September 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

If this is the first time they have been condescending like that i would give it another go. If in general they talk down to you like that all the time, I would find another person. Life is too short for that.
posted by domino at 8:17 AM on September 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a feeling that being a stylist is an extraordinarily emotionally-taxing job; I'm a teacher and I get many of the same vibes you talk about in this question from students who I don't necessarily gel with but still need to work with. It's mortifying, but we still meet once a week and still need to get through the material, through the sighs and the eye-rolls.

Similarly (to me at least), a stylist needs to be able to listen and translate visions and ideas about something people can be unpredictably utterly nonchalant or pretty emotional about, hair, while also not having the time or tools to properly help the person they're working with succeed outside those last minutes of the cut, when a customer's already looking at the clock. In 30 or 60 minutes in the chair a customer isn't really spending even 5% of the time focusing on the styling or cut or products; half the time you might have your eyes closed or be reading a magazine. To fit everything the stylist wants to tell a customer about their hair into the last 90 seconds or five minutes or whatever must be tricky for anyone - let alone this stylist, who perhaps hasn't mastered the communication style you prefer yet.

I also wonder if the shortness in their voice is a result of stress; perhaps this person works at multiple salons and is constantly in need of more hours; perhaps they overbook themselves to make sure they have enough work to survive. If they had three hours to cut your hair in your home, with time to spend working with you through the routine and products? I bet you'd have a much better experience even if every snip of the scissors was identical, because they'd have more time.

So if I were in your situation I'd consider doing my best to keep the cut/hair in good shape the day of the appointment (almost like homework?), show up, make small talk, enjoy the good cut, and then nearish, but not fully at, the end, ask questions showing you're interested in making it work. I'm not saying you need to do more work here, but I think this stylist could just be the kind of person who needs a little more visible evidence that you're with them during/near the end of the cut.

However! All that aside: it's the extra $10 that sticks in my craw. Why should you pay more than what's listed? Does the salon know? Are you being charged $10 more because you have 'difficult' hair, or because it takes more time, or something else? At the very least, I'd like to ask the stylist why I was paying more. That alone would make me walk (but then my haircut is only $10 to begin with).

Good luck! This sounds irritating.
posted by mdonley at 8:19 AM on September 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

You're not wrong or overreacting, but I think you're asking a good question: can or should I put up with this person's not-to-my-taste personality if I get a good haircut out of it?

For me, I'd probably go back and just plan to not talk much, make jokes, or interact more than necessary. You now have a good bead on what will set her off, so either style your hair before you go OR pre-empt her with something like "sorry, I normally style it but I had to shower in a hurry".

I have found that really good stylists do tend to be in a rush all the time (I just got a great haircut, for once actually the haircut I asked for, by someone who I think wasn't actually supposed to work at that salon that day but the software messed up, and came flying in 10 minutes late with her rolling bag of gear and her 8-year-old and his breakfast), and they probably also catch various energies from the people they finished with just before you. So you may never see them that agitated again, or you'll only cross paths with it one out of every half-dozen haircuts, and by the time it comes around again you'll have more of a relationship with them yourself. I think it's worth giving at least one more shot.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:22 AM on September 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

I've had a LOT of people cut and style my hair and in my experience I'd say 75% of them were judgemental, insulting, snobby, and outright mean about my hair. So I feel like you really can't win, and if you're getting the cut you want, go on back!

Maybe get a pal to take some good, natual light, clear pics (front, sides, back) of how you like to wear your hair after the next cut has had a couple days to settle. I also usually go to the stylist with no product or style, but I've found that we do start off on a better foot if they see my hair looking great. I mean they chose to go into a visual, appearance-based profession; that's gonna be something they value, so it kind of makes sense.

And it's ok to wear headphones and zone out rather than engage with the stylist. And, depending on your communication style, even to explicitly say things like "Ha, well you're a hair professional. I'm good at my job too! But my skill set just doesn't include wielding hot styling tools! You let me know if you have any computers that need programming and watch the tables turn!"
>> I've had to say stuff like this to my accountant, too, when he was getting judgey about my shitty spreadsheets. People often think the things they're good at should be obvious to others.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:23 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

“Is this the way it always looks?" is a very rude opener

"You don’t like it the way I did it last time?” The honest answer to this question is that no, you didn't like the way she did it last time. You gave a polite, deflecting answer. However, you could have also said "I don't have time to blowdry my hair (or whatever styling thing it is)" or "I shower before bed" or "I really like my hair like this and I also really like the cut you gave me last time"

I just want to mention this because in the response you gave her it isn't WILDLY rude for her to respond that people can learn to style their hair in a different manner. The way she said it ("I hate it when...") is still rude.

I think you are going to have to have the minimum conversation about what your hair is like and what you want from the haircut each time so I don't think you can say "I prefer not to talk." You could try being very direct while still being polite. I think something along the lines of "I really like my hair like this and I also really like the cut you gave me last time" is best.
posted by CMcG at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

She speaks bluntly with you, maybe try doing the same with her:

Is this the way it always looks?

No, I just washed it and didn't bother styling it since I was coming in today for a cut.

You don’t like it the way I did it last time?

I love the way you cut it, but I don't like the poofy curly way you styled it. I prefer a less styled look, as in the picture I showed you.

And yes, as sallybrown says: Hold on a minute, could you please...

That said, I have left perfectly adequate and pretty great hair cutters for any number of reasons:

One stylist reacted with scorn when I asked about an eyebrow wax because "people who wax off invisible peach fuzz drive me crazy! It looks fine!" (Um, they are my fucking eyebrows and they look better to me with the fuzz waxed away.)

Another time I went back to a salon with a satisfaction guarantee because while my hair looked ok when I first left, I couldn't get it to look right at home. When I went back my stylist seemed angry and hurriedly sat me in a chair with no cape, aggressively grabbed up fistfuls of my hair and starting chopping. It was a little scary and I seriously thought she might be taking revenge! It turned out to be amazing but I just could not bring myself to go back.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you get a great haircut,get a friend to take a ton of pictures, before and after any styling, because even if you don't go back to that haircutter, you will want that cut again. If I got a fabulous cut, I'd go back.
posted by theora55 at 8:44 AM on September 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

There may be two different things at play here and my suggestions assume that the hair cuts really are that good.

One, you two don't seem to gel very well. That's fine. I have, kindly, explained to my stylist that I had a really long week and short night and would like to apologize now in case I end up nodding off here in her chair. Sorry bout that, please feel free to wake me up ;). My point is, it is ok to make an excuse and not be chatty. Don't be rude and tip well regardless. If you make it clear you're not upset with them I have a suspicion that many a stylist might be relieved not to have to discuss another person's vacation plans.

Two, she may have had a bad day and that may account for the noticeable lack of professionalism at the last appointment. We all have them but her job is customer facing so unfortunately, she really can't have many noticeably bad days. If this last visit was noticeably more tense for you than normal I'd go back to allow for the possibility of a bad day.

If you do go back, when you arrive, just ask about the price difference. Maybe they simply need to update their site for a price change or she became more senior. Or they simply like to charge people for extra treatments that you were probably asked about during your appointment but didn't realise were going to be extra. In any case, the time to ask is when you arrive so you can be clear on the price before anybody touches your hair.

It is also ok to brief your existing or new stylist with some variation of the following: I have no time and/or interest in styling my hair myself and I need a cut that allows me to look good with little effort/air drying/use of no more than 2 products...(That's why I need the good cuts you give me.) But I am also happy to let you style my hair later because it gives me some reference for what my hair could look like. (Would you be able to give me some pointers how to achieve X at home?).
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Huh. I may be an outlier, but I always go in with my hair unwashed and unstyled ... why would I do anything when they're going to shampoo it anyway? As suggested upthread, get really good pics of the cut when it's looking how you like, and take them to someone else if you don't want to put up with her 'tude.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:05 AM on September 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

It is also ok to brief your existing or new stylist with some variation of the following: I have no time and/or interest in styling my hair myself

One time where I did draw the line was when I said this to a stylist and she responded that that was not acceptable because my hair was a reflection on her “art” and her talent. That one I actually got up from the chair and left ;-)
posted by sallybrown at 9:10 AM on September 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

She's good at her job and you're happy with the work. Just chat less and let her do her thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2019

Right, so, there's a lot of tension between wanting someone to be invested in the job they do, enough to do it well, and wanting someone to sort of have no opinion about the outcome!

That is to say, that my experience is that people who really care about what they do tend to be prickly at times. They are overly controlling about the product of their work and they get peeved if they feel that it's not being cared for or appreciated.

Now: this is on your head! So obviously she does not get to control it. At the same time, she seems to be some kind of haircutting genius, and I do not necessarily get that you have a lot of respect or appreciation for what she has done from your post. I am sure you are trying to be totally respectful, but you might want to go back again and from the start, treat her more like an equal who does an extraordinary job rather than someone to half-coddle, half-ignore. That is to say, you don't have to style your hair how she likes it, but you should be a bit more appreciative of what she brings to the table and of the fact that she cares how you look.

In sum: I actually think neither of you was rude at all, although you were a bit condescending to basically make an excuse instead of just telling her that you, in fact, didn't like it curly.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:22 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, the price is totally irrelevant to her attitude/competence. She probably has no control over the site and she is probably better than the other people at the salon anyway. Most people in non-desk-job kinds of professions have a demon of a time dealing with IT and I wouldn't take such a small difference personally or make a fuss about it. At most, I would mention to the receptionist that the price on the website is different. Don't overapologize about it, just say "by the way, just wanted to let you know that they have the wrong price on the website, in case you wanted to fix it."
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:26 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

The only reason I was sad to move away from Tennessee was that I had to give up my stylist. She was awesome. I have thick wavy hair and I, for the most part, always wear it straight. She understood that and made sure to cut my hair appropriately. She also knew that I was lazy as hell about getting back to the salon to touch up my color, so she chose hair dye and colors that would fade well so I could get the most out of my color. When I brought in a picture of a style I thought was cute, she was honest and told me that it was contrary to my hair's natural desire and if I wanted to do that style, it would take a lot of work.

I sent my friends to her with absolutely no reservations. One friend, who was the roll out of the bed kind of person, was very intimidated by the entire getting your hair done process. My stylist asked what her realistic routine was every morning. And she gave her a cut that made her look like she'd just been to the salon when all she did was roll out of bed and brush it.

I don't care if my stylist is rude or dismissive, but I do want them to listen to me and understand what I want out my hair. Since I left my best girl, I've had 3 meh stylists, 1 awesome one, and one who's young enough I'm training her to be awesome. Life is too short to pay good money for not awesome hair. Also, if you're in the Nashville/Murfreesboro area, my girl's still there. Go to H20 and tell Stephanie I said hi.
posted by teleri025 at 9:41 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sounds like she gave you what you wanted, you just did not like the personality. I pay people to cut my hair the way I want it. I do not pay people to be especially nice to me. I assume being nice is a common courtesy.

I would assume good haircutters are not particularly rare, but it may be difficult to find the right one. You have "bad hair". You found someone who apparently can cut bad hair to your liking. I would assess the likelihood of finding another person who can cut your hair to your satisfaction. If you think you can find someone, leave. If not, stay.
posted by AugustWest at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2019

You're not wrong or overreacting, but I think you're asking a good question: can or should I put up with this person's not-to-my-taste personality if I get a good haircut out of it?

Yep. I am someone who gets very few haircuts because I cant really deal with the push-pull of what I want versus what someone who is a hair professional wants. We don't want the same thing, often, and how do you negotiate that? For me, having to wrassle with someone every time i am in the chair would not be worth it unless there were really few other options. I think you can find someone who can cut your hair and also someone who isn't a jerk to you. But! Maybe she was having an off day and maybe you took things a little more seriously because getting your hair cut is a challenge? I guess I look at it like this

- overcharging - I agree she has no dominion over the website, but someone does. Mention it politely and give them a chance to fix it, but if they don't, next time just say "I'm paying what is on the website"
- not showing you the back - just ask to see the back, I think this is on you?
- "I hate it when" - this may just be a bad day but also now you know. This stylist doesn't really like the way you talk about your hair, plan accordingly
- "You didn't like..." - this is also a time for you to stand up "I loved the cut, but I styled it a little differently because of my skills/abilities/etc"

Ultimately if it wasn't a great experience but it was a great haircut, I'd give it one more shot. If it was a bad experience and you didn't like the cut you got this time (once you saw the back etc) I'd move on.
posted by jessamyn at 11:29 AM on September 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Just want to point out that the poster used gender-neutral pronouns, many responses are assuming "she/her"-- I'd say fully half the stylists at my salon are men!
posted by DeadliestQuack at 12:15 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

You don’t have to kiss a rude person’s ass. They went into this heavily interaction-based profession voluntarily, I trust. If you think you can get an equivalent cut elsewhere, don’t go back. Otherwise, try to give short polite answers and let them do their thing. The idea that there are so many layers of intention and meaning and whatever else in these interactions that you must decode to be doing your part “right” seems like way too much work.
posted by 41swans at 1:17 PM on September 12, 2019

Think of it this way: If you hadn't had this last experience, would you be considering ditching them? If not, I'd give it another shot (incorporating the suggestions you've seen here) -- anyone can have a particularly bad day.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:32 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Go back. If they say that sort of thing again, ask them to show you how they do it. You may well have just hit them on a bad day. Now if they make you feel uncomfortable again then decide if it's worth it for good hair.
posted by wwax at 1:33 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone, I appreciate the different answers.

I wanted to mention, since it might be unclear, that I do have immense respect for their hair cutting abilities--that's the only reason I'm even writing this question. They are a standout hairstylist, but I left the salon feeling emotionally crappy about myself. So it's a very strange situation. Do I suffer a half-hour of feeling like a dolt every six weeks in order to have amazing hair the rest of the time? I am quite sensitive to rejection (thanks, crappy childhood) and never know if I'm overreacting or underreacting.

It's enough to make want to either give myself a buzzcut or stop cutting my hair altogether.
posted by whistle pig at 1:35 PM on September 12, 2019

And yes, maybe they were just having a bad day. I was too, actually. It might be worth one last try.
posted by whistle pig at 1:37 PM on September 12, 2019

The next time this hairdresser makes a mean comment about you not being able to do your own hair, just laugh in a friendly way and say that if you could, they’d be out of a job! Then make a point of getting out your magazine and ignoring them. They’re rude but that doesn’t mean you can’t push back. You don’t have to engage in every comment they make either, you can shut them down in other ways. Raise an eyebrow and give a long pause, then say...Really?! Trust me, the message will get across.
posted by Jubey at 2:15 PM on September 12, 2019

I never wash my hair before getting a cut. It's their job, and they can then see what it looks and feels like naturally, and use the good products they have.
I tell them I've never been one to mess with hair. I will blow it dry, and that's the limit. I expect them to be the expert. Give me an easy haircut. That's all I want, and I know salons generally take their beauticians for granted, so I always tip, in cash and in person. It's also important to tell your cutter that you love what they do to your hair. It relaxes them and makes them feel confident, and you will be a welcome customer.
posted by Enid Lareg at 3:25 PM on September 12, 2019

Aw, whistlepig, Im sorry the hairstylist made you feel rejected or "less than". One way to think about it so maybe it hurts less is that the stylist sees a dozen, or maybe even two dozen, clients a WEEK. You see them once every six weeks. Their impact on you versus your impact on them is just going to be hugely imbalanced.

This is not to say you should be treated poorly. This is just to say it wasn't personal, really? It's just how this person is and they really only know your hair, they don't know you, the real whistlepig. Their opinion is based on very little info, and none of that info has anything to do with how good or nice you are. It just has to do with your ability to use hot tools. And also a mistaken belief that you like curly hair. But you dont! So they don't even know that about you!

Chin up. The world needs to see your haircut.
posted by perdhapley at 3:45 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you're really not happy there, why not get a good picure and try somewhere else? You're not overreacting of you just can't handle going back there because of anxiety. I'm sensitive and cry/freeze up easily; I'd struggle to go there too.

Get a good picture and then do research to find a stylist who can work with your hair. Talk to people. Shop around. It's okay to try different stylists until you find one you click with. It's also okay to decide that hassle is too much and go back to this stylist.

If you're bothered enough that you've thought about getting a buzz cut, it sounds like this isn't something you're able to deal with right now! That's okay! You're not being too sensitive or overreacting. You don't need to give this person your business.
posted by Amy93 at 3:53 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

“Is this the way it always looks? You don’t like it the way I did it last time?”

This is a technical question & an attempt to clarify what service they should perform, not a bid for a compliment! the thing to say was what was in your mind:

after they finished cutting it they tried to style it so it was very poofy and curly, which I hate.

not what you thought you had to (?) say:

me explaining (in an attempt at humor) that my hair does whatever it wants on any given day and I just go along with it.

you can say and should say to a hairstylist whose skill you have already verified: I don't like to wear my hair curly and I won't be doing that at home; please style it flat and close to my head. If that is how you feel, that is what you should say. They need clear instructions and in this case they were asking for some.

there's a big difference between I don't spend more than 10 minutes on my hair, so instead of showing me how to style it, please cut it in a way that looks ok when left to air dry versus I don't know how to style my hair so it never looks right except when you do it. it's fine to say either thing to a stylist but they can't guess which one you mean, they hear both all the time. a good and polite hairstylist is not being unreasonable to counter an "I can't" with an "I can teach you," so if you really mean "I won't" it has to be stressed.

if they make you feel too uncomfortable, don't go back. but I personally would take a good technician with no people skills over the reverse any day.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:21 PM on September 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

Feh, the older I get, the less patience I have for people being rude to me. I also have no time for rationalizing just why it was okay that someone treated me in a way that made me feel bad. You were there and know the tone and unspoken message you heard behind your hairdresser's words; we can only speculate. But FWIW, people can be good at their job and not make you feel tense or uncomfortable or bad about yourself.

If I were in your position, I think I'd be stressing out a bit before every hair cut, in addition to the uncomfortable time sitting in the chair. For that reason alone I'd give them the boot - it's just not worth it (and I'll be honest, I have truly atrocious hair, but even if I found someone who somehow made it look awesome, if they were making me feel crappy I'd sooner have my dumb looking hair trimmed at by anybody else than have to put up with some huffy jag every six weeks). Like others have said, I don't think there's truly a "wrong" way to go here, but I wanted to validate you if you're leaning towards not going back. You're not the only one who might do that - I would!
posted by DingoMutt at 9:42 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

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