I am a notorious cheap-skate. And nowhere more-so than when it comes to hair cuts. No doubt this originates in early family life, an era when my dad gathered my brothers and me out in the yard or basement once each month and went at our skulls with an electric shears that we later learned was borrowed from the local farmer—who at one time used it for shearing the manes and tails of his work horses.
Commercial haircuts in those days were about $4, and the $12 a month it would cost to cut three brats' hair was significant money to a beginning schoolteacher in 1960. So I understand fully why my dad chose this homespun route, and it perhaps explains why even today I'm loath to pay more than $15 or $20 for somebody to simply cut my hair. I actually kind of envy balding men who can save lots of cash by simply shaving their heads.
But this weekend I stumbled on a new hair salon catering to the sports enthusiast crowd. It features a bunch of big-screen TVs playing a variety of sporting events, a decor making use of metal lockers and signed portraits of sports stars, and stylists wearing mock team uniforms. All told, just a fairly routine and slightly comic marketing strategy. But since the basic haircut was a mere $17—well within my geezer cheap-skate budget—what the heck? I stopped in.
As a new-comer, I learned that I qualified for a free up-grade to something called the "MVP package." Again, what the heck....it was a free upgrade, after all, so I was perfectly game. The haircut itself was actually quite good as these bargain stylists go. But then we got to the post haircut fun. First, I was led back to darkened room and seated in a comfortable lounging chair that vibrated delightfully according to whatever whim I dialed into the controls. I was then reclined over a sink oozing sensual music from speakers built into the sides of the cabinet. A warm, moist, slightly scented towel was placed over my neck and face, and then the stylist performed an ever-so wonderful shampoo with some kind of tingling solution, in which the aim was not so much clean hair as a really diligent full massage of the head and scalp. Her fingers worked my scalp and temples for a full ten minutes or so—although frankly, my out-of-body experience made it hard to judge time.
Then I took my chair back out in the main styling room, where my hair was blow-dried, and then the coup de grace delivered: a final vibrating massage of the shoulders and neck. My, my. And what is the regular cost for this extra package? I asked, dreamily.
The MVP package, it seems, is a mere $5 upgrade to the basic $17 haircut. Good god above: what have I been missing all these years?
Talk about a brilliant marketing ploy. I typically put off haircuts, grumpily, for three or four months at a time. But I can suddenly see myself quite willingly getting haircuts considerably more often.
On the way home, I decided to wash the car clean of the late February slush and grime. This is usually an action where my normal cheapskate instincts requires me to pump quarters into a machines to scrub my car by hand with brushes, but in my newfound hedonism of the moment, I decided on a drive-through version where robotic machines do all the work for you. Scalp tingling delightfully, shoulders and neck fully relaxed, a great haircut reflecting back at me in the rear-view mirror, I watched the machinery do its thing. At one point, nozzles spray a tri-colored solution of blue, purple and yellow foams all over your car. Senses already aglow, I found the dripping colors mingling on my windows to be both hypnotic and just a little hallucinogenic. It took me back to the day of watching the film Fantastic Planet in college while under the influence of herbs.
I have decided to change my ways and get haircuts more frequently. I am, however, going to limit it to no more than two or three each week.