A Truly Unique Barber Shop Experience

“So how do you want it cut?” Peter asks as I sit in the chair.

“Short on the sides and the top, but watch out for the cowlicks in the back,” I tell him.

“I’ll make sure those really stick up for you.” Peter jokes.

I am not a snob when it comes to getting my hair cut.  I’ve had the fancy-pants haircuts from the salon where they massage your head, wash your hair thrice (once before the cut, once after, plus conditioner) and I have even had my fair share of “supercuts” where my hair was buzzed with a razor in McDonald-esque precision.  But I have never had an experience quite like the haircut I just received from Peter.

The haircut doesn’t look much different than any other, but the process was fundamentally different because of Peter.

“So how did you hear about us?” Peter asks.

1.  He starts by throwing the black cape over me and putting those little protectors over my collar- so it doesn’t get hair on it.

“Actually I was just driving home from lunch, needed a haircut, and yours was the first place I saw.” I tell him.

“We have been in this same location for 30 years.” Peter explains.

2. He proceeds to cut my hair using a combination of 2 different electric razors and 3 different types of scissors, with the best part still to come.

“So I’m guessing this is your place?” I ask.

“Yep, me and Vince over there own the place.”

“Are you from Buffalo?” I ask, knowing the answer since EVERYBODY in Buffalo- except for me and my family- are from Buffalo.

“My family has lived in Buffalo and Western New York for generations.”

3.  After I think he is finished with the haircut, he pushes the button on a very old looking mechanical shaving cream dispenser that nosily pumps out shaving cream (the kind they used back when clients came in for a Sunday morning shave and haircut Peter tells me) and he uses the cream to plaster my ears and neck- then he pulls out a straight razor and makes sure that my haircut is completely clean.

“They don’t offer a shave and a haircut anymore, not even sure if it is allowed.” Peter adds.

4.  After he cleans off the shaving cream, Peter applies the aftershave- which stings a little, but smells like cologne from a different era.

“Great food here in Buffalo,” I add.

“That’s because the restaurants are privately owned and operated, they actually want you to come back,” Peter explains to me.  “Whenever I travel outside of Buffalo, all I see are chains.”

“There is just something different about the Ma and Pop restaurants.”  I say, as Peter nods his head.

5.  He finishes off my neck and ears with a light powder

“How does it look?” Peter asks me as he shows me the back with a large hand mirror.

“Great.” I answered, a little disappointed the haircut was coming to an end.

6.  To clean up he starts with the light brush that takes all of the excess hair from my face and head.  Then he pulls out a larger brush that looks like a mini broomstick and after removing the tabs from my collars he sweeps all of the excess hair from off my shirt.

“How much?”

“That will be $17″  Peter tells me as I quickly hand him the money with a tip.  Peter then hands me a business card, but he has to write his first name on it with a pen.

“We do accept appointments as well,” he tells me.

“Good to know, I will definitely be back.” I tell him as I leave the place.

It was a truly unique experience- which is not something you come to expect from a barber shop.  Are your clients getting a truly unique experience from you?  Do you offer the extra details like Peter did?  Or are you in a rush to get to the next client?  I stumbled upon this Barber Shop completely by accident, but I guarantee they have won a customer for life.  How can you make sure that your service creates a similar response?  How can you make sure that your customers are completely delighted when they finish working with you?

We hear a lot about streamlining the business process and taking the individual out of the equation.  But this strategy doesn’t work very well at barber shops, and it certainly doesn’t work in the social media world.  My friend Tom Larsen recently said to me, “Online it seems a lot like the 1950’s where people used to sit on the front porch and chat with the neighbors as they passed by.”

Or perhaps like the barber shops back in the 1950’s?  I thought as I drove back from getting my haircut.  Peter is a Linchpin, as Seth Godin describes them in the book Linchpin.  People or businesses that offer that kind of service and experience will never lack clients that are delighted not only to pay the bill, but to add a tip.

Adrian Dayton is a New York lawyer, social media consultant, and author of Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition.  Join him ever Friday morning for his FREE conference calls as he learns from professionals around the country who are providing unique experiences to their customers.  Adrian gets his hair cut at Avenue Hair Parlour, 2199 Kensington Ave. Amherst, NY 14226.  (716)839-1020 Be sure to ask for Peter.


13 Responses to “A Truly Unique Barber Shop Experience”

  1. Hi Adrian,

    I loved this story! You did a perfect job describing your experience. I was right there with you the entire time I was reading, and could picture and hear every little detail…nice job.

    What a great display of client service, or treating others with the respect they deserve, and of actually listening to the client to make sure he, in this case, was happy.

    It also reminded me of the conference I attended last year with Alexis Martin Neely and Dave Dee. Part of the weekend was completely focused on creating processes in our businesses that revolve around the client experience, and establishing the bond that you talk about, leaving nothing to chance. This is similar to what you talk about when describing the service these gentleman, these professionals, gave you.

  2. Silus Grok says:

    I good point, well made!

    On the subject of barber shops, though … I swear by them. I’ve been going to the same barber for 15 years. They’re amazing! If your barber (he’s yours, now! how cool is that?! — now you just need a shoe guy and a mechanic!) isn’t on this list, please add him:


    The world needs to know he exists — and where!

  3. I kept waiting for the social media part of the story, but what you delivered was so much more! Nancy is right, all of us need to think about how we’re delivering more to our clients, not only to go above and beyond, but to stay ahead of our competitors as everything begins to drive toward price.

    So now you have me thinking. Whenever we ask clients why they buy from us and why they stay, we hear, “You make the impossible, possible.” That’s all touchy feely and it’s nice to be able to do that, but in a 24/7, hyper-digital world, how do we deliver that same experience online? Hmmm…

  4. Nancy,

    Thanks for your comment, really exceptional customer service experiences stick with you don’t they? It is great doing business with people that go the extra mile for you.

  5. Gini,

    It is funny that you mentioned my post not being about social media. I think sometimes the writer inside of me just wants to get something out- and so I have to appease him. Kind of like your relationship with Pete the Tapeworm.

    You are exactly right though about finding a way to translate this old school experience into the online world. I think the biggest key is PERSONALIZATION.

    Newsletters and mass email blasts serve a purpose, but a hand-written letter or a personal phone call to check in- I guess those are a few ways we can maintain the personal touch when it comes to our services.

  6. Jaimie says:

    I love this story Adrian!

    More often than not people are starting to feel like a number (a credit card number) – get em in, get em done, get em out! And this is regardless of what business is being visited.

    This is an amazing story of pure heartfelt client service and everyone in business should be required to study his ways!



    • Thanks Jaimie, I really think the next decade will be more about personalization and a move away from the automation of the last few decades. It requires more human reactions, but people are willing to pay for those added touches.

  7. Adrian, I agree that the next decade will be about personalization, but to really make it work w/ our lives it will be about systematized and automated personalization. Today an oxymoron, maybe. But the wave of the future.


  8. Adrian,

    Great story. What stands out for me is how the experience is both unique and not out of the ordinary. It was two people have an authentic encounter – great stuff.

    I think the marketer/entrepreneur in us often causes us to over-design “the experience.” We start doing things because we can, or because we want to “change the game.” We forget that at the other end of our experience is someone – a person – who more than likely wants something simple and authentic.

    I’ve always said that the definition of a great experience is giving a customer what they want, when and how they want it, preferably without them having to ask for it. Sounds like the barber did that for you – and we can all learn from it.

    • Thanks Doug, I’m not sure that experiences like this can really be manufactured. This barber wasn’t trying to think out of the box, he was just providing me with his version of a haircut.

      I like your final point as well, the barber gave me what I wanted, how I wanted it before I asked. Our services won’t resonate with everyone, but if we are tuned in- hopefully we can provide our clients with these services more often.

  9. Hi Adrian,
    I love this article, thank you for writing about such a wonderful personal experience. My staff told me about your blog post. Pete and Vince have been great neighbors and friends of ours since 1980, we love the uniqueness of our little plaza’s businesses. We look forward to seeing you next time you get a hair cut.


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