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What Do You Tip a Barber?Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2010, at 9:32 AM
Overheard from the back room was a conversation regarding the gratuity given to one's hairstylist. Back in prehistoric times (when I was young) this would be a conversation between two of the female persuasion. But, no, this debate occurred between our No. 2 son and Dave, a 42-year-old 6 feet 7 inch ex-Marine retaining military haircut type guy.
The world has changed considerable since back when I was young and men went to barbers and women did not.
Not only do I not know any hairstylists. Not only had I never considered the subject of tipping a barber (don't they have a price list?). But, I don't even know what either charges these days.
My ignorance traces back to a foolish and ill-spent youth when I once attempted to be a commissioned salesman. This meant we had to live off what came in the mail, which was not just a whole lot.
One day following a not so memorable commission check it was obvious a haircut was in order if I hoped to make any future commissions. This would have been about 1969, and to that point mostly had my hair cut by professionals (always, always, a man). All things considered $5 was too much to spend that day on unneeded hair. Kay had seen haircuts given her brothers by her mother and it couldn't be that difficult. She started in with a pair of scissors and a razor blade (yes, No. 2 son, once upon a time disposable blades came without handles).
The deal was done. From that day forward Kay has cut my hair. So consistently, in fact, I can almost remember the few times she has not. We've gone through about six clippers, and the one she is using now was used on her brothers (they don't make things like they used to, do they?). How much do you suppose my in-house "hairstylist" saved us these 40-plus years?
Decided to do some field research on the subject and stopped by to see the friendly guys of Timberman's Barber Shop at 2 E. National in Brazil. Now this is a barbershop. A real man-cave place with a blood and bandages barber pole, sports magazines and paraphernalia (including several mounted deer heads), and no girl stylist young enough to be my granddaughter. Suppose they'd accept a tip, but don't expect them.
The going rate is $11 for a haircut. Adjusting for inflation since 1969 this seems more than fair. Doing some very rough calculations seems I'm behind on payments to my barber by at least $3,936. Sorry, Kay, I spent it all on the riotous living and frivolity of rearing five children.
I'm always reticent about asking Kay for a haircut because she does so much for me. But about last Wednesday things came to a head (as it were). Not only was it to the point of bothering me, Kay couldn't stand it anymore. She cut my hair and assured me I was as beautiful again as the picture I make them use on this blog.
Which begs the question: When you're in debt to her for four-grand, what do you tip a barber?
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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