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Can a seven dollar haircut really be that bad?

bad haircut

It can be pretty bad

bad hardpart

My husband is spoiled. He forgot what a bad haircut was like.
I've been cutting his hair and trimming his beard for years, so he has taken for granted the fact that he receives premium ($45 + tip) free services every two weeks. He never has to look in the mirror, because my work is consistent, I take my time and the outcome is always going to be exactly what he wanted. I don't want to come off as narcissistic, it is merely confidence. I am a licensed barber who has been cutting for years, and I have always preferred quality to quantity.
One day we received a coupon in the mail; Supercuts "$7.00 For Any Style". 
He asked, "How bad can a seven dollar haircut really be?".
I told him to go find out - he didn't.
Living in the growing city of Austin Texas, I often find myself with new clients that have recently moved to town. They remark at how hard it has been to get a good haircut, and I always follow up by asking them where they have gone.
The responses vary; some will tell me they went to SuperCuts, Sports Clips, Bird's Barbershop, Floyd's Barbershop, A high priced salon etc. And then I explain my theories.

Depending on where you live bad haircut
in the world, the cost of living and commercial rents will impact the price  you will pay for a haircut.

For example, you will most likely pay more for a haircut in the heart of San Francisco vs the suburbs of New Hampshire. However, there are other factors that need to be considered.

Barbers/ Stylists are paid in one of two ways. They either receive a commission (anywhere from 40-70% depending on the shop- 50% is typical) or they pay a weekly booth rent (anywhere from $200-$400 a week depending on the shop. $300 a week is typical in Austin).

There are pros and cons to both methods. Booth rent is a better option for someone that already has an established clientele, as they will get to keep a higher percentage of their service income. However, even if they take off work for a week or two, they are still obligated to pay. Booth renters are usually considered self employed for tax purposes. You don't usually find booth renters in chain shops; they know that as a shop they will make more money with commission. Most commission shops generally start their service providers with 40%, making them work up to 50%. Some will grow from there, but it can take a very long time to earn more. Commission service providers are usually employees, but sometimes can also be considered self employed for tax purposes.

You are probably wondering why I brought up how barbers or stylists are paid.

This is really important when understanding why a seven dollar haircut is probably not going to be very good. Let's say the person cutting your hair is doing a $7, $10, or even $15 dollar haircut. Most likely you are in a Supercuts, Sports Clips, Cost Cutters or some place similar. They are most likely paying their staff a commission of 40-50%. Meaning they will only receive $3.50 + tip for that seven dollar haircut. And if you are a bargain shopper (I understand we all have our budget, so some must cut corners where need be)- You paid for your seven dollar haircut with a ten dollar bill and told them to keep the change. This service provider now earned $6.50 for that cut (before taxes). If they live in an area such as Austin, you will want to make at least $20 an hour to live modestly. Thats a lot of haircuts in one hour. Which means your barber or stylist is going to try to get you in and out of that chair as fast as possible. Maybe it's possible for some, but for myself personally, there is no way I could give someone a proper haircut in 15 minutes. 

Another factor to consider is skill level. 

Is a highly skilled barber or stylist going to work in a place where they are barely making a living? Or is a highly skilled person in demand and more than likely working in a place where they can make a livable wage? Just something to think about.

bad haircut
 But you didn't go to Supercuts you say.
You went to Bird's Barbershop or Floyd's and paid $30 for a     haircut, or you went to a high end salon and paid $70 for a haircut. Why did that haircut turn out so horribly?
(I get this question often).
It's important that I throw out this disclaimer: Not everyone that works in these places is going to give you a bad haircut. There are needles in that haystack, but if you haven't done the proper research before hand, it is going to be a roll of the dice. 
Anyhow, I digress. (Sidenote: If you don't know the difference between a barber and stylist, be sure to read this.) However, the number #1 reason why that high end haircut came out like Lloyd's, is because your haircut was done by a stylist and NOT a barber. 

Before making an appointment or walking in anywhere, if you are looking for a short men's haircut you should ensure your service is being provided by a barber. 

Another important factor to note- Floyd's, Bird's and Finley's might label themselves as barbershops- but more than likely your provider is a stylist. They hold duel licenses and have a lot of chairs to fill, so to them the name of the game is quantity. Can't find a licensed barber, hire a stylist. Generally these places have time limits and their service providers have 30 minutes to complete your haircut, shampoo and shoulder massage. That gives them 15-20 minutes for your actual haircut. How good is it really going to turn out.
In my shop I get an occasional walk in that barks when they see my prices.
$30 for a haircut?!
To be honest, I think I am underpriced for the services I provide; however, I try to remain competitive within my area and shops of a similar nature. While I can do a solid haircut in 30 minutes, I prefer to book 45 minutes per haircut appointment. This ensures I don't have to feel rushed and in the event I have a difficult client (I will elaborate on this in a future post as well), it ensures I won't fall too far behind. There are no shampoos (unless you ask for one and pay an additional $5), because they aren’t really necessary. There are no shoulder massages, because you are here for a good haircut, I'm not a masseuse. I spend 45 minutes giving you a quality haircut perfecting every detail, finishing up with a neck shave and a hot towel. My shop is a small local shop, and I provide free beverages to all who enter. We have only four chairs, ensuring my staff is of the highest caliber and experienced professionals. 
I'm not explaining all this to sell myself- I'm explaining this so that anyone who wonders what the difference is between a $7 super cuts haircut and a $30 barbershop haircut is, might have a better understanding.
If you get anything out of all the mumbo jumbo you just read, the most important things to consider before sitting down in the chair in order to avoid a bad experience:
  1. Price (and how much of that money your service provider actually keeps. The cost of living in your area, and how much time are you getting for that price?) Time is $, and if you want 45 minutes of my time for a perfect haircut, you are going to pay for it.
  2. Time (how much time is spent on your actual haircut. How much time is spent on shampoos or added services. Does their shop give them time limits for completion )
  3. License (are they are barber or a stylist)
  4. Size (how big is the shop? Do they have multiple locations? The bigger they are the bigger the chance their main concern is quantity not quality. Quality control is much easier to maintain in a smaller scale shop)
And last but not least, do some research. Read reviews- but also keep in mind that a negative or positive review regarding one person shouldn't dictate your attitude towards the shop as a whole. Look at images. In this technological age you can find photos on Facebook, Instagram, Google and others. Most barbershops/barbers/stylists will have some type of social media presence and will offer you a glimpse into their world.
Side note: Be cautious. Look at the images and reviews and be wary of anything that looks too perfect, as photoshop can give you unrealistic expectations. While not that common, it does happen. 
Hope this answers some of your questions and best of luck with that next haircut.


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