In my list of twenty things I yearned for during the pandemic, published at the end of April, a haircut didn’t make the cut (no pun intended). At that point we had only been in lockdown for five or six weeks and my locks were still manageable. Not now, one hundred days on my hair has got to a point that it is just annoying, not that I should complain.
When the government announced that hairdressers would be able to open I felt some relief. I wasn’t one of those however who was at the door at a minute after midnight on 4 July, as I decided to leave it until the initial rush had died down.
My local barbers, Dave’s, had introduced an online booking system, which, after some initial logging in difficulties allowed me to choose the person to cut my hair and a time slot to get it done. The Nearcut app gave very specific details as to the measures Dave’s had put in place to reduce the risk from the virus.
Tuesday afternoon then, there I was sitting on the convenient bench outside the shop, waiting my turn. Eventually my time arrived and I had my haircut with everything going more or less as planned. Indeed, if anything it went too well. Darren, the barber was working flat out. The app was great as a booking tool but took no account of the variety in the life of a barber and it reminded me of what it’s like to have back to back Zoom meetings.
In the good old days, we used to sit and wait on the benches inside
the shop and that would absorb any variety in the system. Not all haircuts are the same, not all people are the same and not all barbers cut at the same rate. The queue would be self-limiting, if the bench was full people would go away and come back later and the first person who sat down would be the first to get up when a barber became free. Also, the more analogue system would allow for the barbers to take a break to have a coffee or go to the toilet.
Having a standard time slot on the app, even though breaks and lunch were built in allowed for no slack or variety in the haircutting system and poor Darren (and all the other barbers) ended up paying the price.
I’m relieved to have had my haircut and am grateful for Dave and the use of the Nearcut app but once again it demonstrated to me that sometimes technology does not always work as anticipated. The app reflected an idealised barber experience rather than what happens in real life.