Splitting Hairs: A Third of Canadians Admit to Cheating on Their Hair Stylists

No available appointments. Rising costs. An inconvenient new location. These are the top reasons that nearly a third of Canadians gave for “cheating” on their hairdresser or barber, according to a national survey by payments company Square. When it comes to our hair, our loyalty can be fleeting.

“Conventional wisdom has it that most people have their go-to hair stylist and, if it’s not working, it can be really tough to break up, so clients secretly cheat with someone new,” said Karisa Marra, business expert at Square. “We’ve taken a closer look at the sacred hair stylist–client relationship and found it’s often operational changes including availability, costs and location that fracture an otherwise solid and happy relationship.”

It’s not you, it’s usually them.

While hair infidelity is fairly common, it turns out that for many it is a last resort. For nearly a quarter of survey respondents (22 per cent), when it became too hard to get an appointment with their hairdresser or barber, they decided to see someone else. For 19 per cent of respondents, they gave up on their hair stylist when the price of the service became too expensive.

Other less loyal customers offered these reasons for straying:

  • Too many bad hair days: 18 per cent cited a bad style as a reason for going elsewhere.
  • Out of sight, out of mind: 17 per cent of respondents or their stylist moved too far away.
  • You never listen to me!: 17 per cent said their stylist didn’t listen to what they asked for.
  • Wanted more silence: 12 per cent found their stylist too chatty.

Are open hair relationships the way of the future?

The many reasons one may cheat helps to explain why over a quarter of Canadians (27 per cent) prefer to avoid commitment and are in open hair relationships, not seeing any stylist exclusively. Ontarians are twice as likely to be in open relationships as their Atlantic Canadian counterparts.

The majority of Canadians, however, are in “long-term relationships,” with 17 per cent of respondents describing themselves as having a lifelong commitment to their stylist. Another 17 per cent have been with their hairdresser for three to five years. The lion’s share (39 per cent) have had fewer than five stylists in their lifetime.

Fidelity with wandering eyes.

It’s no wonder that some Canadians think about who else might be out there. In addition to those who have cheated, another 13 per cent of Canadians surveyed haven’t, but have thought about it before. But according to Lena Reitz, owner of Hair Boss in Calgary, AB, those that do see someone else come back. “Sometimes clients need to explore a bit to learn and gain a better understanding of your value,” said Reitz. “Stand behind your quality and don’t take it personally. They might sometimes secretly go elsewhere, but it’s like a boomerang, and they almost always come back.”

Reitz’s experience is far better than most: Nationally, among those who have cheated, less than half realized what they lost and went back to their original stylist. Twenty-one per cent stayed with their new stylist, while another 36 per cent decided to avoid commitment altogether and play the field.

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You’re only lying to yourself.

For those with a steady stylist, cheating often leads to lying. Less than half (43 per cent) of those who admit to cheating have the courage to come clean. Despite the fact that only 40 per cent believe they got away with their dalliance, the majority try to pull off their deception by either lying outright (16 per cent), or saying nothing and hoping no one will notice (41 per cent).

That’s unlikely, according to Paul Donnici, owner of Paulie’s Barbershop in Vancouver, BC. “There are a lot of styles of cutting and you can notice if someone different did the last cut,” said Donnici. “But I totally understand that there are a number of reasons why clients may cheat and I never want someone to feel like they need to avoid me because they sought out another shop.”

Loyal clients will go the distance.

For those extremely loyal clients, such issues will never arise. While distance was a reason to cheat for a handful of respondents, a two-thirds majority won’t let a little distance destroy a meaningful relationship. Perhaps distance does make the heart grow fonder, with 13 per cent willing to travel an additional hour, and seven per cent even claiming they would get on a plane if they had to.

Data source: The survey was conducted via Google Surveys between January 20–29, 2020, and comprised 1,000+ respondents from across Canada.