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Sexist no more: Vernon salon to charge by time not gender

Spruce Salon owner Katie Matheson. The salon is moving to time based pricing, and not by gender.
January 20, 2020 - 7:45 AM

It's possibly the last place on the high street where open discrimination is simply the norm.

While charging different prices for men and women in any other business would be seen as strange and probably illegal, hairdressers across the country openly charge different amounts based on gender and age.

Vernon's Spruce Salon is starting to buck that trend.

The business is moving from charging its customers based on age and gender and instead implementing time-based pricing.

"I think people see it as a progressive thing to do in the year 2020," Spruce Salon owner Katie Matheson said. "It makes sense."

Traditionally the salon has charged different prices for men, women, teenagers and those under 10-years-old. While a man may pays $30 for a haircut, the same thing for women would cost them $50. The gender-based pricing starts young too, with girls 11 to 17 years old paying $40, while boys of the same age pay $28.

The salon's new pricing strategy is to charge per 15 minute intervals, regardless of gender or age. While the concept sounds simple, Matheson said she's been working on the changes for the last year and is rolling them out gradually over the next couple of months. She's even taking the time to explain the changes individually to each client.

"There's not a standard amount of time that genders are spending in the salon anymore," Matheson said. "We found that gender didn't necessarily reflect a big difference in time and neither did age."

"Some of our teenage clients that come in, take longer than a lot of our adult female clients, yet we are charging a significant amount less for them," she said.

While some salons have moved to charging based on short, medium or long hair, Matheson said the method has its drawbacks.

"Different techniques require a little more work... and then different types of hair require more work as well, thick versus thin, long versus short... some of my longest work is shorter hair that requires (a lot of work)," she said.

Stylist Katie Dilts working at Spruce Salon.
Stylist Katie Dilts working at Spruce Salon.

While there would be uproar if the price of a trip to the dentist, chiropractor, or massage therapist was different for men and women, hair salons have continued to base price on gender without any backlash. However, answering the question as to why the hair industry has remained this way is no easy feat.

"Let's speak to the fact that it took me almost a year to implement this properly," Matheson says. "I spent a full year working on this because the other thing is how do we create a price that doesn't massively increase for some and massively decrease for others?"

Matheson said as a business decision it was more complex than people may think.

"You run through every scenario, how will this affect my existing business?" she said.

Around 20 per cent of the salon's clients are men, and between five and 10 per cent are under 18, and prices may change for these groups. Clients also pay different prices depending on the amount of experience of the stylist, and while more senior stylists may charge more, they generally cut hair quicker. So changing to time-based charging is not as cut and dry as some may think.

The sheer amount of mathematics involved from a business standpoint may explain why the industry has kept with the status quo.

Talking to those sitting in the chairs at Spruce Salon the change of pricing doesn't seem to be an issue.

"It doesn't matter to me," one lady says. " I don't get my hair cut based on price." Another female client echoes the same sentiment.

"It's an even field... it takes all the fluff away and simplifies it," Marie Hill says while Matheson cuts her hair. She then adds, "how come it took us this long to get here?"

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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