I recently complimented a female colleague on her new haircut, but her response was not the usual "thank you." Instead, she lowered her voice, looked around furtively and admitted that her new hairdo, which she liked very much, was the result of cheating on her hairdresser. She had said nothing to the man who had styled her hair for years about her growing displeasure with his haircuts. She simply went to someone else to get something new. And she felt extremely guilty about it.
It made me wonder why so many people -- mostly women, -- have such a hard time leaving a hair stylist. Why do women do this and feel so badly and so anxious about it?
This behavior strikes me as especially interesting because it is totally at odds with the way today's consumers act in just about every other retail or service setting. If the pages aren't straight at Staples, we make them redo the copies. If the clerk at the Loblaws is rude, we talk to the manager. If there's no help at the Old Navy, we shop somewhere else. Most of the time, we feel not a twinge of ambivalence about demanding something better or simply walking out.
Good hairdressers are very much about one-to-one relationships. As bad as people may feel about suddenly abandoning a longtime hairdresser, the change is also a big cause of dismay among stylists.
What frustrates salons about clients who simply stop showing up is that the stylist never knows what the problem was - and I feel for them.
It may sound like bad poetry, but it's a fair complaint. Stylists view their relationships with clients as much less intimate than the clients do, and they need to know for professional reasons what went wrong. The woman in the chair sees the relationship as much more personal -- after all, this is someone with license to touch her and the control to change her looks.
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