Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Urban vs. Suburban Living - Haircuts

Everyone knows that the cost of goods and services is generally higher in urban settings when compared to prices in the suburbs. Which is why I typically shop for household stuff in the suburbs either before or after church, even though there's a Target and Walgreens within walking distance of my condo. But for things like haircuts or dry cleaning, I generally bite the bullet and pay city prices.

This past weekend, I was complaining to a friend about my hair stylist, who works at an upscale salon in a trendy neighborhood. The first time that I got my hair cut by the guy, he did a wonderful job. But the next 5 or 6 cuts were pretty terrible. $45 for each visit, and all he did was trim the ends. My mom, who was training to be a beautician when she first came to the U.S., kept insisting that the guy was ripping me off. And before that, I went to a salon in Chinatown. But my regular hair stylist seemed to give everyone the same cut, regardless of whether it flattered the person's face or not.

Since my friend and I were out the western suburbs for a church leadership meeting, she had pity on me and offered to take me to her Korean hair stylist in the northwest suburbs. I figured it couldn't hurt to try something new. I was feeling pretty desperate at that point. Nothing like heat and humidity to make my hair go crazy.

Anyway, because my friend is a regular customer, the woman agreed to squeeze me in without an appointment. And boy, she did wonders with my hair. She only took maybe an inch at most off of the bottom, but she trimmed my bangs and put in some nice, long layers. So, now my hair lays nicely in the back instead of the crazy poof ball thing that it's been doing for the past few weeks. All this for $18! Plus a $7 tip because she did such an awesome job. I am definitely *not* going back to my old hair stylist.

One could argue that the total cost of the urban vs. suburban haircut was the same, when you take into account gas, wear and tear on the car, and the amount of time that it took to drive out to the suburbs. But I've gotten multiple compliments on my hair in the past few days (even my mom, the perfectionist, approved). So when all is said and done, the suburban haircut was worth it.

1 comment:

mapgirl said...

My hairdresser in San Francisco explained to me how high end salons work. Basically they 'rent' the chair in the salon and are expected to have their own customers that follow them from salon to salon.

Often the price listed is discretionary. He used to charge me about 2/3rds what he charged his other clients because I took ice skating lessons with him (Gold medalist at Men's Senior Nationals). He was also extremely accommodating about the times when I could get a haircut. For instance, he'd cut it Sunday morning for a Monday job interview if that's the only time we could match on our schedules.

Time spent on cutting is frequently an issue of maintenance. He'd yell at me on the rink saying I'd waited too long to cut my hair and that he'd have to recut all the lines again. If I had gone in a week or two earlier, he'd only have to follow the lines and trim.

Frequently the issue of high prices is the cost of renting that chair or the retail space for a salon. The Korean salons my mom frequents are in low rent areas and are priced accordingly. Downtown rents are expensive. I guess the trick is to run your errands in a way that lets you amortize the cost of your suburban excursion over a few items and not just one?