When I first came to work in Hong Kong, I went to a fairly upscale barbershop. After filling out a form with some background information, the hairdresser, Paul, started to cut my hair. He did so in a rather casual and carefree way, and then washed my hair, in a similarly haphazard way.
The way he rubbed my hair, combing it with a few quick and effortless strokes, was worse than not having my hair washed at all. It made my scalp itch. Once it was done, I was charged HK$350.
I later learned such barbershops in Hong Kong were following the style of beauty parlors, better known for ambience and background Carpenter music than their hair-cutting skills.
Several weeks later, I went back to the same barbershop and the same hairdresser helped me with my hair. I went through the same routine, but this time I was charged HK$450. Seeing the surprise on my face, as I am not good at hiding my feelings, Paul explained, "I was promoted this morning from Hairstylist to Senior Hairstylist." So it was natural that his price should increase!
I have another entirely different haircut experience from the US. Having my haircut there was not a comfortable experience. The hairdressers never know how to deal with oriental head-shapes and hair. It happened several years ago. I went into a barbershop in the US where a young hairdresser named Cindy came up and started to cut my hair as soon as I sat down. Her first snips made me flinch. But she was very thorough and patient. I sat there, not daring to move, tolerating the laborious process. Once she was finished, I looked into the mirror. My untidy hair was a sorrowful sight.
Cindy was apologetic. "You are actually my very first customer." Seeing anxious face, I thought, well, everyone had to start somewhere. So I tipped her generously.
Because my hair had not been cut evenly, I had to return two weeks later. But whom should I ask for this time? I reasoned that Cindy might have had more experience by this time, and since it is important to give young people more opportunities, I asked for Cindy. At least I knew she was patient, and familiar with my hair.
"Can I have Cindy cut my hair, boss?"
"Sorry, Cindy quit after her first customer a couple weeks ago."
Was that me? Was I her first and last customer?
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (22 June, 2015).
29 June, 2015