To chop or not to chop…that is the question

For all your beauty advice…


To chop or not to chop…Hair cutting chains like Great Clips, Fantastic Sam’s, Super Cut’s, etc. are often referred to in this industry as “chop shops”. Basically that just means that there are many, and a lot of them have a not so good reputation. So, what is the point of the chop shop? Well, the concept is that you can get a quality hair cut at a quality price without ever having to make an appointment. Wow, that sounds great! But, is it true? I know some of the places will take appointments…kind of. It’s not really an appointment so much as a wait list. You can call some of these places, I think Fantastic Sam’s does this, and tell them you’re on your way, and please put your name on the list. I know for a fact Great Clips doesn’t do this…even though customers will try to do it.

When I got my license 16 (wow) years ago, I had a job as an apprentice lined up immediately, thanks to the guys that once did my hair. (Gilbert and Cory, where are you??) They were working at Paul Garcia’s in Cherry Creek. I felt very fortunate that they wanted to hire me as soon as I passed the state board test and train me with all their knowledge. I can’t even tell you how nervous I was to start with them. Hairstylist’s are of a different breed! They, like most artists, can be very temperamental and suffer from ADD. I started working for them and eased into it slowly. It was a lot of shampooing, mixing color and sweeping. While on the job with them, I found out quickly that they were not fans of coming to work every day…really, that’s fine, but a phone call would have been nice. I can’t tell you how many times I got to the salon, got one of their clients prepped for her cut, just to have the receptionist come tell me that they weren’t coming into work that day. More than one of their clients left that place looking like a shaggy wet dog because they certainly didn’t want the assistant to even try to blow dry their hair. I scored a lot of days off, but when you’re working for cash under the table, this is not lucrative…or informative. I remember going in one day and having them hand me their appointment book and telling me to quietly write down all names and phone numbers of their clients. They told me later that we would be changing salons the following week to Charlie Price salon a few blocks away. Worked for me! I hated working at Paul Garcia’s. The stylists were unfriendly and I don’t think Paul Garcia himself ever said one word to me. In fact, I believe he was once voted worst salon by a local magazine! I was excited about our new place…maybe now I would learn something. Nope…here’s what I learned as an assistant: I learned how to shampoo hair (really well, by the way), I learned to fetch lunch/coffee/dry cleaning, I learned how to mix color ( knew that on day one of beauty school…heck, I knew that before beauty school) and I learned how to clean up after 3 stylists. Yes, 3, because now I had started working for one other stylist there. Gina…she was actually really cool and did teach me some stuff. And she’s now one of the proud owners of Blondie’s! Oh, I also learned how to drink margarita’s over lunch and go back to work slightly tipsy…you might want to rethink a 1:00 or 2:00 appointment on a Friday afternoon if your stylist likes to party…FYI. There’s always a chance cocktails were a part of lunch…many times cocktails were lunch! It didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t being taught anything. I wanted to learn, hands on! I decided that I was going to apply at Great Clips. Not really where I saw myself going in this industry, but it got me on the cutting floor and it was giving me experience.

When you first start at Great Clips, they send you to training to learn to cut hair their way. Great! You really don’t learn any technique in beauty school, just the basics, so I was thrilled to learn something. I will give GC props for their training and their method of cutting hair. I still use it to this day. Now, the reality of working there is surreal. I was in a busy spot and on average I think I did 25 hair cuts a day. I cannot even begin to tell you how exhausting that is. I wanted to go full time cutting hair, and boy did they throw me in full time! I was not the best stylist when I first started. Some people are…they learn the basics and their natural talent shines through…I really had to grease my wheels with practice in order to get good. My first few months were not good. I admit that. I am sorry for any haircuts I have screwed up along the way…but come see me now, I rock! The thing about GC was they truly expected you to be fast and good. To them a quality experience included a complete consultation, cut and blow dry all in about 13 minutes. The faster you were, the more you got paid. A whopping few cents more an hour, but hey, it adds up right? Well, not really. The amount they add on to your pay really isn’t a lot so it’s not motivating to go that fast. Plus, I’m just a firm believer that people want and deserve more attention than 13 minutes for a quality cut.

So, the question is, is it worth it to try a chop shop? I would have to discourage you from this. Why? Well, #1 these places have really raised the price of their haircuts in the last few years. At GC, if you start adding on things like a shampoo (that should be included in the price, if you ask me. It’s absolutely gross to just wet down dirty hair and start cutting it. Did that make any of you sick?) or having the stylist just round brush your hair while they’re drying it, you could end up paying very close to what you would pay at a full service salon. #2, the atmosphere in a chop shop is very clinical and pretty boring. I think walking into a place that is edgy or pretty should be part of the experience. And #3, (most importantly) You really don’t know what kind of stylist you’re going to get. Are you getting someone straight out of school that only knows the basics, or are you getting someone who’s been at it awhile? Is the stylist that calls your name having a bad day. Seriously…you do not want to get a haircut from someone in a pissy mood. And, unfortunately, a lot of the stylists who work in chop shops are in pissy moods…all the time! You might wonder, if it makes you so angry to work there, why work there? Well, it’s easy to get stuck in these places, I know I did. Your clientele is there for you, so you don’t have to work on building it up and it’s fast money because of the tips. Plus, I wasn’t in a place where I had the luxury to work at a full service salon and build up my business. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good stylists who make their careers in these places. I worked with one girl who has been there 10 years, Josie at the Colorado Blvd. and I-25 location. She is awesome and she has built up a good customer base, but because she is so popular, it’s kind of hard to get in with her and since GC doesn’t take appointments there’s always a long wait for her. But really, for the most part, you are just going to come across people who won’t be there long and they hate their job, so getting a good cut is just what I said…hit or miss.

Would I go to one of these places to get my hair cut? Honest answer…no. Maybe it’s because I know what truly goes on behind closed doors at these places, but honestly I think  you just don’t know what you’re going to get and if you’re going to spend any amount of money on yourself, it should be at a place where you feel pampered. Beauty is an investment, so do it right!

You’ve been beautified!