After the Cut, Ottawa, April 2014
After the Cut, Ottawa, April 2014

Mark inherited my love of walking, a weird fondness for broccoli and an addiction to cameras.

He also has my hair—soft, fairly light and very thick.

On the plus side, he had never needed a hat in winter to keep warm. On the downside, he needs to have his hair cut often.

I used to love going to salons in France. For around 20 euros (with my student discount), I’d get a nice scalp massage, a cup of hot tea, a cookie, a silly magazine to read and a fresh look—a great pick-me-up treat.

One of the first things I did when I came to Canada in 2002 was to get a haircut. We had just been travelling all around Latin America and my hair was long, uneven and very dry. I was looking forward to a pampering session but instead, I got a very rushed stylist who didn’t even bother looking at me. I was shocked that a ten-minute haircut cost $60—without tip because I didn’t know I was supposed to tip (major faux pas, I know).

Over the years, I must have tried half of Ottawa’s salons. The funny thing is, I don’t care about my hair. I don’t dye it, I don’t style it and I don’t blow-dry it. I want simple and practical haircuts. I haven’t had a total haircut disaster but I have never had a really good haircut in Ottawa either. And I truly dislike salon “etiquette,” from the pressure to buy products to the fuss about making another appointment ASAP, from tipping to staying loyal to one stylist.

I stopped going to the first two salons because getting an appointment with “my” stylist was harder than booking lunch with Barak Obama. The third one lost me when my haircut went from $40 to $65 “because the junior stylist is now a senior stylist.” I stopped going to the fourth one because when I said I didn’t want a blow-dry but just, you know, my hair dried, the stylist handed me the hairdryer and said, “there, you can do it yourself.”

Okay, you got it. I have no luck with salons in Ottawa.

I was hoping things would be different for Mark.

For the first few months, I cut his hair myself. He had his first professional haircut in Nantes last Christmas. The stylist was efficient and in 10 minutes, she fixed a year of “mommy’s haircuts.”

When I came back from Central America, it had been almost three months since his French haircut. I took him to Supercuts where the stylist seemed terrified by the toddler sitting in the chair—Mark didn’t even have the chance to fuss or cry, the haircut was that fast. Unfortunately, he barely cut anything.

Mark needed another haircut. I decided to try Chiquicuts, a salon that specializes in kids.

We dropped by one Sunday, right after the snowstorm, to see if they could take Mark. “Sorry, not today, fully booked.”

“Can we make an appointment?”

“We are booked.”

“All the way through 2014?” I asked.

The receptionist finally looked up at me and sighed. I felt like the very uncool girl trying to join a private party. “We are booked for the next two weekends.”

“How about Monday?”

“I only have 12 p.m.”


Phew. That was harder than getting Mark into an elite private school.

On Monday, at 11:30 a.m., I explained to Mark he was going to have the chance to sit in a cool car and have his hair cut. We arrived at the salon shortly before 12 p.m.

“Hi, I have an appointment for Mark…?”


“… This is Mark.”

“Yeah, you can wait.”

The salon was empty but for two stylists on the phone at the reception desk. Since no one had told us where to wait, I took Mark around, showing him the toys, the cars and the balloons.

After ten minutes, Mark was getting antsy and so was I. Finally, one of the two stylists came over and told me to “strap him in there.”

I am not fussy about Mark. He is a kid, not a special snowflake and I don’t expect people to treat him as a little emperor. But he is no longer a baby, he is a toddler, and we are in a kid’s place—maybe she could have taken a minute to look at him and say “hi.” Her attitude threw me off.

I strapped him in the car and used my special weapon—the pacifier.

“What number on the machine?”


“The clipper. What number?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “We’ve never used a clipper, always scissors.”

“Why? Is there a particular reason for that?”

“Er… Scissors did the job?”

I could sense Mark’s discomfort and I could see the tears coming.

“Just cut his hair a bit shorter.”

“Why does it stick out like that?”

“… Because he needs a haircut?”

She sighed and started cutting.

And Mark started screaming.

Not the “I’m being fussy” cries, the “I’m terrified, please do something” cries. Trust me, I can tell the difference. I have seen him scared before, at the doctor’s office for instance.

It was awful. Mark was trying to get out of the car, struggling and clutching to me like a feral cat, and the stylist just kept on cutting. “Move, mom, you’re in the way” was the only thing she said.

I just wanted it to be over—and so did Mark.

After a few minutes, she stopped.

“You could have told me it was his first haircut!” she accused.

“It’s not,” I said coldly.

“Okay, you calm him down,” she said before going back to the reception desk to make more phone calls.

I just couldn’t calm Mark down. The only way to end this was to leave the salon but I wanted him to have the damn haircut because we weren’t going to go through that every day and his hair was half-cut.

Eventually, she came back and finished the job as I was fighting with Mark to keep him relatively still. He screamed so much he ran out of tears and sobbed helplessly.

His head was wet, and we both had hair everywhere but she pronounced the haircut done.

I handed over $20 and left.

Mark and I stood in the parking lot.

“I promise, we are never coming back. Now let’s have a cake at Starbucks.”

We walked the few blocks to the coffee shop and Mark started laughing again.

Never. Again.


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  1. Silvia April 9, 2014 at 8:02 am

    🙁 this sounds like an awful experience…

    From your posts it seems that finding a nice, friendly hair salon is quite a quest there in Ottawa! 😀

    1. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 11:32 am

      I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…!

  2. Geraldine Green April 9, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Oh my goodness, was that at Chiquicuts?? They’ve never been stellar, but they’ve never been this rude to me or Sam either. That’s really shameful, and I would report it to the owner. I’m not one to complain about things, but this is a Kids’ hair salon, for crying out loud.

    1. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 11:33 am

      I’m still pissed off! It’s the one right on Baseline, you know, behind the Walmart? It’s rare to get awful service in Canada, I was shocked. I was too busy to comfort Mark to even say anything… and frankly, nothing they would have said (or will say) will make me come back here!

  3. Cynthia April 9, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Poor Mark, thankfully he probably forgot about it while eating his cake!

    1. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Oh yes, he doesn’t seem traumatized!

  4. Vad April 9, 2014 at 10:04 am

    wow! I am totally shocked, this is bad customer service. I rarely cut my hair, but when I did in Canada, I never liked it. It is overpriced and I was rarely happy with the result, but had to tip anyway. In France, I found a hair salon in a small town. I gotta to admit, French people really know how to cut hair and it costs me 20 euros, shampoo included, and no tip. Would you try to cut Mark’s hair? All the moms used to do that (in my time anyway).

    1. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 11:34 am

      I used to cut his hair myself but it’s hard because he has to stay still. I’m not an experienced stylist so obviously, I’m slow. And I don’t have the “trimming scissors”, etc.

  5. Lily April 9, 2014 at 11:22 am

    It sounds like a nightmare!!!

    Did you try a hair trimmer? You can still keep his hair pretty long with it and it’s easier than cutting hair with scissors (I mean to cut them evenly). It would save time, tears and money… That experience in the hair salon doesn’t make sense!

    1. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

      I might consider it. Or I’ll just take it to Feng’s barbershop!

  6. Cerise April 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve finally found an awesome salon here in Montreal, with a friendly stylist who does a good job and offers me a latte and has never tried to convince me to dye my hair red or try an “inversed bob” (I’m really boring when it comes to hair, I’ve had it long and slightly layered since I was 15. The only reason I cut it is because my ends split after a while).
    But yep, it’s 50$ + tip. I do miss my French salon where 20 euros got someone to chop off my split ends with minimal fuss (and I’m from Paris)…

    1. Cerise April 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Also, poor Mark! I can’t believe someone would choose to work with kids yet be so clueless about them. My mom cut my hair until I was about 6 and I’ve lived to tell the tale.

      1. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 8:18 pm

        Same here, I visited a salon for the first time in my teens I believe. My mum did a good job.

    2. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Glad to see I am not the only one who feels this way about haircuts in Canada! It’s okay to be “boring”, really. I mean, who wants to spend an hour to style every morning?!

  7. Dennation April 9, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Well, Mark has been to the salon more times in his 1 1/2 years than I have in the past 13 years. He’s more experienced than me! haha

    1. Zhu April 9, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      Just don’t try Chiquicuts when you come home for a visit 😆

  8. La Madame April 10, 2014 at 12:38 am

    Pfff, y’en a qui sont pas fini! 🙁 Un peu de gentillesse ça n’a jamais tué personne! Enfin bref, au moins Mark a une belle coupe de cheveux 🙂 Mais, tout comme toi, je ne retournerais jamais là non plus! 😉

    1. Zhu April 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Oui, au moins la coupe était correcte. J’avais peur du résultat vu le processus!

  9. Mel April 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Sorry it was such a nightmare experience. On the plus side, Mark’s hair looks great. And I see he’s starting to lose the baby cheeks, too! Quite the little man!

    1. Zhu April 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Meh, we aren’t traumatized. It sucked but it’s all forgotten. Now, never buy a Groupon for Chiquicuts though! 😆

  10. noemagosa April 11, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I’m the hairdresser of the four men of the house ! We’ve always had a hair clipper in the house. Since I was a kid I was the one cutting my dad’s hair, and when I married I became my hubby’s hairdresser 🙂
    When we got here we bought a cheap hair clipper (about R$30) because we realized that after the first family hair cut (at R$10 per head at the barber) we’d already saved money !
    As for me I’ve been cutting my own hair since forever. It’s so thick and curly that even if I did a bad job nobody would see it. Plus, I always tie it in a ponytail, twist or braids anyways.

    1. Zhu April 11, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      Wow, I admire your skills! Do they boys (I’m not talking about your husband :lol:) stay still long enough for you to get the job done?

  11. Lyly April 13, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    C’est toujours ma hantise d’aller chez le coiffeur aux US, alors à chaque voyage en France je me fais une virée chez ma coiffeuse pour couper ma tignasse – comme toi j’aime les cheveux au naturel, sans bordel à gérer le matin.
    Pour les enfants c’est une autre histoire… on a coupé les cheveux de Lorik aux US pour ces 2 ans, et j’ai pleuré tellement c’était court! Les prochaines coupes c’est maman qui fait!

    1. Zhu April 13, 2014 at 10:40 pm

      Ouf, je vois que je ne suis pas seule à plus apprécier le coup de ciseaux des Frenchies! J’ai peur de couper les cheveux de Mark maintenant, il bouge tellement…

  12. Christiane April 15, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    OMG it is horrible that she treated you and Mark that way !! I dislike unfriendly hair stylists.

    1. Zhu April 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      Yep, not a place to take your little one.

  13. Ashley May 13, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I am a freelance hairstylist with about 8years of experience. I just came across your post while looking for something completely different online! Lol
    I am very sorry to hear you have had such bad experiences in Ottawa for you hair needs.
    I promise you there are good hairstylists out there! The way you were treated was unacceptable and not okay in any salon.
    If you have any questions or need a hairstylist you can email me and I will send you a link to my portfolio.
    Hope to talk soon!

    1. Zhu May 13, 2014 at 10:31 am

      Are you working in Ottawa?

  14. Simona December 31, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I found your blog Zhu because I was looking for different places in Ottawa to cut toddler hair other than Chiquicuts. We also had a terrible time there and are done with their lack of customer service. Have you found another place or solution by any chance?

    1. Zhu January 19, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      Sorry for the late reply. We actually used regular barbershops (the last one was the one in Saint Laurent shopping mall) and it went just fine.

      1. Simona January 28, 2015 at 7:14 am

        Thanks for the response Zhu! (I just read you are in the midst of travelling.) Were you able to find a daycare solution? If you are still looking I can suggest our provider. Cheers. ~

  15. Alla August 1, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    I had a similar experience at Chiquicuts with my daughter. One of the “senior” stylists at the salon is always rude, and treats other stylists horribly in front of customers. Never again.

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