Dennis BeaverJune 17, 2022 • By Dennis Beaver

“It’s a real problem,” I heard repeatedly from teachers at barber and beauty colleges across the country. They were referring to barbers and cosmetologists “becoming distracted by videos, TV news, loud music, and conversations that took their attention away from what they were doing, resulting in harming their customers, or sending them out of the shop with embarrassing haircuts.”

“Alex” had never heard of the term distracted barber when he walked into the same Minneapolis barbershop he had patronized prior to COVID.

“Over the past two years, with just about everything closed, ‘Barbara,’ my wife, became the family’s hair stylist. We all sat on a stool in the bathtub, and momma did a wonderful job for her four “boys.” It was a lot of fun, and we told always her how much we appreciated the time she took to make us look presentable.”

Job Interview the Next Day – Haircut started out Bad

“I had a job interview the next day – and was in real need of a trim. As my old barbershop was now open, I walked in and could not believe how the place had changed. Remodeled, and four large screen TVs were mounted on the walls, showing sports and auto racing videos.”

Alex was greeted by “Steve,” sat in his chair, and said that he “just wanted a trim, and not to cut off too much.” But things did not get off to a brilliant start. “It appeared that Steve could not hear me! I had to repeat myself several time, raising my voice until he responded.”

Hearing loss among hair stylists is well documented, the result of exposure to chemicals used in hair coloring and the constant exposure to 85+ decibels produced by hair blowers.

“We were facing a large screen TV showing a soccer match. I could see that Steve was glued to the game, constantly staring at it, and this scared me.

“I said, ‘Steve, I’m worried that you are paying more attention to the game than to my haircut,’ to which he replied, ‘I know my business and you don’t!’ I should have asked him to turn the chair around so we would be facing the mirrors and not the TV, but felt a bit intimidated and did not.”

Owner Had a Horrified Expression

My reader explained that the barber used mostly electric trimmers, and frequently blew what seemed like too much hair off of him for a trim. But Alex became really worried when the shop’s owner walked over, and looked at him “with a horrified expression, yelling at Steve, ‘Stop, you idiot, look what you’ve done! I’ve told you a dozen times to look at the customer, not the TV!”

Paying more attention to the soccer game than Alex, the resulting haircut –that I saw in a photo he emailed – was something like a Mohawk, but instead of hair going from the back of his head to the front, it was a patch of hair from ear to ear. While embarrassing for Alex, I could not stop myself laughing. He also laughed – which was a good sign.

“The owner apologized, told me to wait for a few minutes while he went to get a hat and cap for me to wear. When I got home and took off the cap my wife and boys at first laughed so hard they almost cried – and then they got mad.”

The Shop’s Insurance Company Did the Right Thing

The owner put Alex in touch with his insurance company and I gave him pointers on how to negotiate a fair settlement in addition to providing him with a few nice hats to wear while his hair grew back.

“Mr. Beaver, I had to apologize to the HR manager and the company’s CEO for wearing a cap to the interview and explained what had happened. They were curious to see what I looked like, and we all had a good laugh when I removed the cap. I think that my positive attitude about the experience was something they liked, and I got the job!”

The Takeaway from this Story

Most people who visit a barber shop or hair stylist never give a thought to the hazards they face in these business establishments. The instructors I spoke with all stressed the importance of not being afraid to ask questions – to speak up – if at any time you feel uncomfortable.

“Dawn,” a Miami barber college instructor stressed, “You will keep the barber or hair stylist on their toes by asking:

— How long have they been cutting hair?

— Where did they study?

— How do you prevent infection?

“Pay very close attention to how they handle the tools that will be used to cut your hair. Ask, ‘Do you sanitize equipment before and after using it?’”

— Is the barbershop clean? Do they sweep hair away often?

— Are the floors wet? Slip and fall injuries are common, serious and avoidable.

She concluded our interview by saying, “These common sense precautions may very well prevent you from having a truly, bad hair day!”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.