Commodity?

there is no such thing as a commodityThree years ago, my wife and I moved to a small town, population 7500. New challenges included finding a barber, even though my hair needs are a bit of a joke…because I have no hair on top. Well, that’s not exactly correct. It would be more accurate to say that I have a countable number of hairs on the top surface, with the only remaining healthy crop having set up residence on the sides, in the back, and in my ears. But, unlike many follicly-challenged men who long ago decided to either shave their heads or to simply let those little devils grow indefinitely, I have pursued the path of clean-cropped. I get a haircut every several months, and I want those few topside survivors, as well as what remains on the sides and neck, treated with love and care.

When I first arrived in town I randomly selected one of several local shops. Carol (not her real name) did a nice job, but her hours were unpredictable and she didn’t work by appointment. I often arrived at 10AM, her posted opening hour, and she would arrive at 10:20, or not at all. Then I tried Tom (not his real name). He was at work most of the time, but he was…well, negative. He had a bumper sticker posted on the window opposite the barber chair, facing the customer, with large print that said, “I’m having a lousy day, thanks for asking.” So, to say that Tom was a downer as a conversationalist was to put it mildly.

I heard about a barber shop that had opened very recently, and I heard it was unique as well as expensive. I decided to check it out. We’ll call it Topp’s Barbershop (not its real name). Topp’s had an interesting decor – hardwood floors, a motorcycle suspended from the ceiling, sports memorabilia of all sorts on the walls, and a refrigerator with soft drinks and beer. And they worked by appointment, so you took your chances as a walk-in. As it turned out, they also offered a quality product.

I had heard particularly good things about Mike, one of the barbers, so I went online and made an appointment to have him cut my hair. After three haircuts, he is now my barber. Mike takes my head and hair seriously. And Mike reads his customer well. If I’m quiet, he’s quiet. If I offer a comment, he picks up on that thread and expands. We’ve had several really interesting conversations on subjects ranging from raising children to the trials of traveling west on the Oregon Trail. He has the personality of the salesman you wish you had hired.

I would guess that barbering dates back almost to the caveman era. It has all the earmarks of a commodity in today’s world. But Topp’s demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be. During my most recent trip there, Mike informed me that he was in the process of hiring two more barbers (in addition to the two that are already working there) in order to keep up with the demand. He is booked days in advance most of the time, as are his associates.

No product is inherently a commodity; the owner makes the choice.

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