I’m a long-time barber and I’ve owned my shop for over 40 years. Not only do I love cutting hair, I was born into it, so it’s the only thing I know how to do. I love being a barber.
Now, unfortunately, I have to announce I'm quitting.
Here’s my story.
About 15 years ago I was happily cutting my customers’ hair. Some were going to the hot new salon in the suburbs, and business wasn’t what it used to be like, but I still had my core customers.
I was making a living and I was happy.
One day in the 1990’s a government man in a suit came into my shop and told me he had a new idea.
“There’s a new hair product that’s been passed by the government for sale,” he told me. “I want to sell this product in your barber shop to your customers because the public doesn't want us to sell it to school kids. If you agree, I will give you 20% of whatever you sell.”
I had done similar before – I sometimes sold scissors and combs to my customers and took a commission - but this seemed different.
“What’s the catch?”, I asked.
“Well, this new product allows hair to not grow quite as much, so your barbering business will suffer. People who came to get their hair cut once a month, will now come once every four months. That’s why we’re giving you 20% of what you sell - it will hurt your business” the man said.
Since my business wasn’t doing really well, I decided to allow this product to be sold in my store. I might lose customers, but I may end up making more money than I had been, if this product was as good as they were saying.
It was. I ended up having a healthier business. I hired new people to sell the product, I invested in new products, I supported my community, I did everything I was supposed to do that was set out in the deal with the government man.
The downside was that my old customers were not coming back, just like the government man told me would happen. This was very sad for me. As my customers died off they were not replaced. My shop wasn’t as busy as it was.
Then, one day, out of the blue, the government man came back to my store. He had some curious news.
“I am not letting you sell the hair product anymore. We’re pulling it off your shelves and we’re giving it to someone else to sell.” he said.
I was shocked.
I could not believe that the government man would license a product for me to sell – a product he knew would destroy my core business – then one day he'd come back and say “goodbye, your business is over”.
Thankfully this was not in front of the public yet, and I thought when it was they’d be on my side. They don’t like when the government does bad stuff to private businesses in our country. They were sure to be incensed.
The next day, though, I was listening to the radio. I couldn't believe my ears! The government was running a radio ad against my barber shop!
It said that my business deal with the government where I sold their hair product for them was a subsidy and it likened me to taking taxpayer money. It also said I was a “fat cat”, like a Wall Street banker gone mad.
They were even controlling the airwaves too. I am a simple barber. I don’t even know how to respond to them and all their money and consultants.
Since that time I’ve tried to reason with them. I tried to ask them how destroying my business is a good thing after all we’ve been through together. I have gotten no answers.
Last week I closed my doors. I laid-off my staff, I stopped buying scissors, shampoo and other products from the wholesale place down the road (the owner told me he was going to go out of business too). My career is over.
And that’s why I am not a barber anymore.