He had an unruly mop on his head. He hadn’t been in a salon for more than 3 months now. Don’t judge. Unless you are from a middle-class Indian living in Boston for a year on a student budget. Coz then you know what I am saying. A fucking haircut costs $20. That is fucking INR 1100 (even in pre ‘we are UPA-2, we will screw you’ times). Ten times the price in India. If that isn’t already enough, you have to tip at least 15%. Sorry, but no sorry. ‘Long curls are in.’ He was going back to India in a month-and-a-half anyways. ‘Get a haircut then.’
That evening he got a call from a management-consulting firm for a position in their risk advisory vertical in Boston. He could kill for that job. He convinced himself to get groomed. ‘It is an investment. But, I will not pay the tip.’
The barber was a middle-aged guy from Uganda who had shifted to US 15 years ago and had been in this profession since. He tried to strike multiple conversations, from frivolous to philosophical, but there was no point, not with this client anyway. Whatever he said, the client disagreed with. Client was determined not to tip, you see. At every opposition, the barber nodded and smiled, the way one must in the service industry. Unless he found a patch of common ground he was sure to lose his tip.
“You know,” the barber said, cleaning a scab off the client’s neck, “I don’t like Pakistani clients. They never tip. Unlike Indians, who are graceful and generous. It is hard to believe they were ever the same country.”
The client chuckled. ‘He was a seasoned professional. He has earned his tip. Not for what he said, but for the sheer effort he is put in. Pakistanis would be his faithful clients too, but what would it hurt to pretend otherwise.’ The client got more value than just a neat haircut.