Salons & Quality Haircuts

Happy hair salon client
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Q: I move quite frequently and finding a new hairstylist in a new city is often hard. What I want to understand is: how can I be sure that a stylist is giving me a thorough haircut? For example: a few months ago I went to a salon and a girl named “Leslie” cut my hair. She basically just held my hair down flat and trimmed the bottoms all the way around my head, then pulled some hair forward from each side of my head to my jaw bone to see if it was even.
The cut and blow dry lasted less than 25 minutes and cost $39 + tip. When I was styling it in rollers myself the next day I found that the ends were all uneven. I went back to the shop and complained, and a different stylist “Jennifer” spent half an hour “fixing” the cut by combing it up over the top of my head to even out the layers and ensure that the sides were even. I was very happy with Jennifer’s cutting techniques, and went to her twice more with satisfactory results.
Unfortunately though, yesterday I went back to “Jennifer” and received the same type of hair cut that “Leslie” gave me the first time – snipped around the bottoms, pulled the hair to my jaw bone, cut and blow dry lasted less than half an hour. I’ve started to call this the “Hair Cuttery technique”, except not at Hair Cuttery prices!
Am I wrong to be upset? What is it that I need to request to get a stylist to actually spend some time cutting and shaping my hair? It’s not that I have a fancy style or anything, but for 40+ dollars, I feel like I deserve a quality cut… can you give me any advice?

A: First of all, I think you are definitely within your rights to be very upset. When you go into a salon, you expect to receive thorough, competent service for the price you pay. You have the right to expect the stylist to check on the evenness of the cut (especially if she/he is the one who previously performed the cut). Since a good stylist knows that each individual hair grows at its own rate of speed and therefore a good haircut (even a maintenance cut) should include checking for uneven growth, even in a layered style.
It sounds like you ran into a couple of instances of “lazy stylists” who assumed that just because you have a layered cut you only needed a minimal trim. I can actually understand “Jennifer” giving the type of trim you describe more than “Leslie”, since “Jennifer” had previously (and properly) cut your hair twice, while it was “Leslie’s” first time cutting your hair. She should have made an effort to check the layers before letting you leave the chair.
The best advice I can offer is to keep doing what you’ve been doing and stand up for yourself. If you are unhappy with a service whether it’s a haircut, color, perm, or any other salon service, make your dissatisfaction known. If you feel you aren’t being heeded by the stylist, ask to see the manager.
If for some reason the manager is being less than helpful, ask to see the owner or get contact info for the owner and pass your dissatisfaction up the chain of command until you feel your concerns have been addressed. In some salons, especially if they do a high volume of traffic, the managers may be unaware if a stylist is “cutting corners” and will appreciate your bringing it to their attention.
If you can’t get satisfaction when you perceive a problem, even from escalating to the manager or owner, then go to a different salon. Look at it this way: if you go on a “normal” schedule for a maintenance haircut (every 4-6 weeks - some women go more often if they have shorter hairstyles) and pay $40 (plus standard 20% tip) at each visit, you will spend between $400 and $600 each year with the salon.
This may not seem like a tremendous amount but imagine if the stylist’s poor performance is left unchecked and the salon loses one client per month from dissatisfaction with the service. Within a year the salon stands to have lost over $7,000 in potential revenue from haircuts alone. It all adds up, and a good manager will see that.
If you do go to a new salon, explain the previous trouble you’ve had so that the stylist is aware of what you expect. In addition, when you go in for maintenance cuts, be sure to tell the stylist that you want him/her to “check the layers” as well as having “just a trim”. Making sure you are clear in your instructions can often help to avoid problems and will let a stylist who might otherwise cut corners with you know that you expect a thorough cut.
See also: Why can't I cross my arms or legs during a haircut?