When the price of mall barbers became too much to finance from my current account I stepped down several notches and patronised the local community barber shop.
Things went all right the first few times. The barber, a young man with a faint resemblance to dapper looking Clive Owen, cut my hair. A soft-spoken, friendly person good at his job, he soon became a favourite with the ladies. I was passed over to another barber.
Now, let me tell you I like to think I’m broad-minded so I let this new barber cut my hair. She looked and dressed worse than Kelly Osbourne ever did. Even in her most rebellious days. But I mean, to be dressed like this in your very late 30s. Come on, even Kelly has cleaned up her act for reality TV (though I suspect mum Sharon has had a hand in this but I could be wrong as she’s never really tidied up Ozzy’s act).
The problem: not only did this barber look weird but she had an attitude. A chip on her shoulder so big that I trembled climbing into her chair. She looked more intimidating than Edward Scissorhands when she held her shaving razor to my neck.
Sitting erect in her chair, I couldn’t imagine this barber ever playing with Barbies. Instead, I could imagine her sticking pins into a rag doll and pulling off its ears.
The worst of it was that she was sullen, unfriendly and spoke to me with a sneer. Foulmouthed beyond what you’ve ever encountered in a low-class London pub. Worse than a weirdo spiked high on drugs stumbling and mumbling filth outside King’s Cross station.
Goodness knows, just to save some money on a haircut, was this really worth it? I mean, on Saturday mornings you want to relax, do some shopping and get on with your day. I knew the owner of the barber shop but I wanted to at all costs not complain about her lest something untoward happened to me.
Seeking refuge and safety, I came across a small barber shop in the basement of another shopping centre. The place was teeming with customers. Curious, I went inside. Here was a barber in his late 40s and two young clean-cut barbers. They didn’t say anything but motioned with their hands. When I told the young barber how I wanted my hair cut he just nodded. The cut was great, fast and slightly less than the foul-mouthed rebel dresser butcherette.
The next time I visited this barber shop, I managed to squeeze a few words of English from the older guy. He’s from Algeria and he and his protégés speak French. Why come to Johannesburg, I asked. “The money’s better here,” he said. “Besides, we like the people.”
An interesting observation: these barbers from Algeria don’t have a large box labeled “TIPS” staring threateningly at you from the cash register. For this old-style friendly, professional service you feel honoured to hand them a banknote in appreciation.
We don’t buy a haircut, a plate of food or an online course; we are looking for an experience. Bad experiences lead us to good experiences, which makes for better business all-round.