The Brainy Barber:
Smart tips & tricks for skillfully cutting hair & managing your own barber shop

Bad Haircut? Tactful Barbers Don’t Criticize

You’ve got a new client in your chair with a very bad haircut. You know you can make him look so much better, but if you want to build a good relationship and earn a repeat customer, hold your tongue! You may be sorely tempted, but resist saying anything like:

  • Did you cut your own hair?
  • Wow! I haven’t seen that style in years!
  • Did the last guy who cut your hair forget to wear his glasses?
  • Have you looked at the back of your hair lately?
  • You would really look better without hair hanging over your eyes!
  • It must have been a long time since you had a haircut!
  • You’d look much better without a comb-over!

Why is it such a bad idea to criticize the cut a client comes in with? He owns it! He’s been walking around looking like this for who knows how long. He will consider it an insult. He’ll be embarrassed and feel uncomfortable about coming back.

What should you do instead? Start by asking the client the type of cut he would like. He might point out the flaws in his current cut without you saying a word. If it’s clear that he doesn’t notice what’s wrong and asks for a similar cut, be very discrete. To start with, think of something good to say, like:

  • Your hair looks very healthy and thick.
  • You have hair that could be styled in a variety of ways.
  • It looks like your hair grows quickly. That gives you a lot of options.
  • You came to the right place to make the most of the shape of your face.

It may be possible to fix what’s wrong without saying anything about it at all. Or you might say something tactful like, “Many people have hair that grows faster on one side than on the other.” You can blame an obvious flaw on irregular hair growth and suggest that you make that side a little shorter than the over-all cut. Set yourself up as the expert who knows how to fix naturally occurring changes to a person’s hair like thinning, receding hairline, or male-pattern baldness on the crown. Show the client how a good cut can make thick, unmanageable hair behave itself. You might even suggest that the client consider the mood-boosting power of a new style.

The client wants to leave your shop looking better than when he came in. The smart barber won’t comment on the “before” look, but will compliment the client on how good he looks “after” your cut and invite him to come back often to keep it looking that way!

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