Our Northwest

The ignorant guy who never tipped his barber

Friday, July 25, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

When former Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh died this week at 91, The Oregonian quoted his barber of 30 years lamenting Atiyeh’s passing.
   Thirty years. That’s a long time to stick with a barber.
   And now it’s time for me to right a wrong with my own former barber. The guy who cut my hair for about half of my life.
   John started cutting my hair in 1978. He owned Bellevue Hair Studio, one of those salons where guys with long, thick hair (which I had at the time) go for a wash, cut, and blow-dry. I followed John around Bellevue to four different locations over the years, paying top price for a good haircut.
   What I didn’t know all that time because of my own ignorance is that you’re supposed to tip your barber.
   I never did.
   Yes, I’m frugal. But that’s not why I didn’t tip. I simply didn’t know that even for a $25 or $30 haircut, it’s customary to tip.
   John is a really good barber. On top of that, over the years we developed a friendship. I’d go in every six or eight weeks and hear about the Corvairs he restores and shows, or about his dogs, or his latest fishing trip. He’d ask me about my wife and kids, friends we both know, work, the usual barbershop banter.
   John moved to Boise about 10 years ago after having cut my hair for 25 years. I shifted to another barber chair at the same shop where John’s longtime colleague, Gail, started cutting my hair. (He still does today.)
   My wife asked me at the time, “Does Gail charge the same as John? And how much do you tip him?”
   I responded, “Tip? What tip?”
   The next day I asked my work friends at the lunch table if they tip their barbers. “Sure!” they all said. “Don’t you?”
   That confirmed my ignorance. And immediately I fretted: Oh man, what did John think of me all those years?!
   This month I’m driving through Boise, and I’m making a stop at John’s current barber shop in Meridian, Idaho. I want to surprise him, just drop in out of the blue. I’ll tell him I wanted to say hi and see how he’s doing.
   And when I leave, I’ll hand him a card in an envelope and tell him not to open it until later. In that card will be back pay for years of overlooked tips, and instructions to read this blog for an explanation.
   John, thank you for 25 years of great haircuts – despite getting no tips!

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Comments on this post

personBrian07/26/2014 09:09 AM
Great post Jon! I can't wait to hear John's reaction. Will you post in comments?

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