The Haircut, The Follow-Up
My barber Tom calls me six weeks after every haircut to remind me that it's time for another one. I really like this system, as it relieves me from the duty of having to judge this on my own. Before I found Tom, I would wait until someone else cued me to get a haircut. My parents would visit, and my mother would suggest it. Maybe someone at work would ask about my hair in a neutral way that would make me think about getting a cut later: "Gavin, growing your hair out, huh?" Oblivious to the message, I'd say, "No", but later it would occur to me that my follicles needed clipping.
So the reminder system works for me, but it doesn't work perfectly for Tom. You see, he ALWAYS calls six weeks after the haircut, but I usually procrastinate calling back for a couple more weeks. He has a little card file on his table with all his clients names, and he writes down when it's time to call for haircut. This system also helps him predict his cashflow.
As I was getting my haircut last month, he asked what took me so long to call back and get a cut. I said I was low on cash and wanted to wait until I got paid again. Then he said, "Aw, who cares about Tom's cash flow?!" He was quite serious, but I couldn't help chuckling at his bringing this to my attention. I agreed that I didn't care about his cashflow, and that I was in this relationship for haircuts purely at my convenience. He didn't love it, but he knew it was true.
Earlier that morning I realized I was going somewhere that weekend and I needed Tom to clean me up. I called him and he conveniently fit me in that day. The problem was that I didn't have any cash, and I didn't have time to get more prior to the haircut. Tom doesn't take credit cards; his patrons pay in cash without complaint. So after he finished, I told him I didn't have any cash on me, but I could pay him tomorrow. Of course, this wasn't a problem, and we worked something out so that I could come by the next day.
The following day I saw he was open, so I dropped by and saw some old dude sitting in my barber chair. After years of haircuts and never seeing anyone else getting a haircut, the chair kind of starting to feel as though it was mine. Tom's an older guy, and the guy in the chair was old, and Tom gives out the BS like nobody's business, so I decided to dole some out myself.
I hollered, "Tom, your haircut stunk, so I'm paying late and I'm paying HALF." Neither Tom nor his patron looked amused. Tom just calmly said, "Oh, hi Gavin. Why don't you just leave the money on the counter."
Maybe they didn't understand I was joking, I thought. Better lay it on thick. I thumbed the old guy's direction and said, "Is this the guy you practiced on before you hacked me up last time. My condolences!" Tom and the old dude just exchanged glances. Neither seemed to think it was funny. Here I was, clearly in the old man, universally accepted, BS-certified barber forum, and I was apparently not pulling it off. Maybe I wasn't old enough, not quite ready for the barber shop BS club yet. Or maybe this was a new customer that Tom was trying to impress. Yeah, it was probably that one. I'm sure it's real easy keeping customers as the sole proprietor and operator of a cash only business in this economy. Well, it wouldn't be the first time I'd put my foot in my mouth.
Seeing this wasn't going over well, I said meekly, "Tom, here's $22 plus a little bit more. Nice work on the haircut. Call me when it's time again." And I left.
Sorry, Tom. I'm sure I'll hear about this one later.