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August 30, 2009

Aftermath of my appointment with Salon de Marcus

In a happy, healthy world, I'd be posting a picture of my new haircut, writing about how great my experience was, and sending everyone I know to the hair god that is Marcus. Recall that two days ago, I asked for a discount at a ritzy salon and received a 50 percent off cut with none other than the owner himself, Marcus.

But that was not to be.

I woke up yesterday morning an hour before the appointment to find a voicemail from Liane (unsure of spelling), of Salon de Marcus, calling "about your appointment today."

I returned the call. Here is a fairly close transcription of the call that ensued. (I have experience transcribing conversations, and I did this the moment I hung up. I'd say it's 85 percent accurate. Some contractions might be off, syntax, etc. But the meat is all there.)

SALON EMPLOYEE: Salon de Marcus.

ME: Hi, may I speak with Liane?

SE: This is Liane.

ME: Oh, hi. My name is Roxy. I'm calling about a voicemail I received about my appointment this morning, with Marcus.

SE: Thanks for calling. What day did the girl who used to work here book your appointment for?

ME: She booked it for today, Saturday, at 11:30. Why, is there a problem?

SE: She told you 50 percent off, right?

ME: Yes.

SE: I'm sorry, we can't give you that price. He's not doing that anymore. Marcus got really mad, and she's not longer working here. If you want, he could give you a 20 percent off cut, or you could come in for one of our other stylists. There's one that would be less, and she's really good.

ME: Wait a minute, excuse me. Just to make sure I'm understanding this right. Was she *fired* because she gave me a discount?

SE: Yeah. For that, and some other things. She wasn't supposed to do that. He doesn't do half-off haircuts anymore. She should have known that. It's not your fault.

ME: Ok, well, I'm going to have to think about it before I make a new appointment. Thank you.


By "Think about it," I didn't mean if I should come in or not, but WHAT I should do.

I reflected, and decided to do the following:

I will call the salon back and ask to speak with Marcus.

I will ask Marcus to let me pay full price for a haircut if he agrees to give that employee another chance.

I will tell him that, while I don't want to butt into his business, that employee was courteous and did a great job. Outside offering me the discount, she answered my questions, told me about various options, and made me feel interested in the salon. Thus if the discount she offered is a problem, I'll pay full price and implore him to give her one last chance, if he fired her on account of that discount.

If that doesn't work, I'll ask for her contact info and see if there's anything I can do for her.

I called the salon and was told Marcus would return my call -- Saturday.

It's Sunday as I write, and no news.

Guess I'll go in person, when it opens Tuesday morning.

But if that doesn't work, what next?

You guys are a wise bunch. What would you do? Any other suggestions? The temptation is to unleash the internet hounds, post about this on twitter, yelp, facebook, local formus, and more, and let the word get out. But I also don't want to release forces I can't control. And I don't have the full picture. Maybe she really was a problem employee, and that was the final straw. What to do, what to do, what to do.

August 28, 2009

Letter to the Vice President for Weather and Climate Affairs

Dear Ms. Anchiale,

It was recently brought to my attention by local meteorology authorities and my own overwhelmed sweat glands that the weather in San Diego County has hit triple digit degrees recently, with high humidity to boot.

This is highly displeasing to myself and other consumers of local weather patterns.

I hereby ask you, the entity responsible for these patterns, to please, please make it stop. Pretty please?

I understand you have a job to do, and that if you make the weather too perfect here locals will grow complacent. I am also aware of the Sunshine Allocation Statue under Weather Administration Act Section B Code 43bdsf.39232-F, whereby: "Average daily temperatures for sunny days in the region of Southern California occurring between September 1 of a given calendar year and May 31 of the subsequent calendar year administered in excess to the average of each of the daily high temperatures for sunny days in Worchester, MA, Fargo, ND, and Ankorage, AK, must be matched by an at least double augmentation of cumulative daily temperature differentials compared to those daily high averages, distributed at will by an licensed and appointed Steward of the Weathers to the region of Southern California between June 1 and August 31 of the calendar year in which the latest of the preceding average daily high temperature readings were taken. Notwithstanding, heretofore, andorbut, ad nauseum, etcetera. In aeternam." That's reasonable -- if not, everyone from the colder climates would move to San Diego, and we already have enough highway congestion.

But please hear me out:

I put in my time. Spent the summers in South Texas, growing up, for Phoebus's sake. If I wanted sunny, hot and muggy, I'd be living in Louisiana, New York, Mombasa or Rome.

Instead, I sacrificed the romance of being lulled to sleep by the Mississippi River flowing past my open window and a glass of sweet tea on my nightstand... and the exhilarating tumult of the city that never sleeps... and the novelty and spiritual fulfillment of living in a new country, giving my life to God and teaching English and computer skills to young girls, for that's what I would do if I moved to Mombasa... and the pure bliss that is Rome for... San Diego.

And for what? THE WEATHER!!!

So, with all due respect, Madam, enough is enough.

If this weather does not return to the more reasonable range of 70 to 75 degrees (F), I will have no choice but to complain to your supervisor and, if need be, initiate termination of your contract. I will also file a formal complaint that may result in the revocation of your Weather Administration License. China is now manufacturing custom microclimates, and India is close behind, and I am certain, after seeing your performance this summer, that the City of San Diego would be more than willing to outsource. If the situation does not change, and soon, I will be happy to make that case.

Thank you for your time.


The Daily Asker

ps: If you throw in a week of guaranteed sunshine in Seattle on and around November 22, my sister's birthday, I would consider that as fair and equitable compensation for this current climactic debacle. Alternately, install a giant loopy water slide next to my house and we'll call it a day.

August 27, 2009

Save 50 percent on a haircut?

A few months ago, I was taking a walk when I saw a woman from a distance and I had one thought: I want her hair. I want that long thick mass of spun gold. True, the color would wash me out, but the shape, the look, the line, and the style were absolute perfection.

"Excuse me, where do you get your haircut?" I asked, after following and finally approaching her.

"Oh!" She seemed a bit surprised. "I haven't had a haircut in like three months!"

"Your hair looks amazing."

"Wow, thank you. I get it cut with Marcus. Salon de Marcus. He just opened a new salon downtown, on 2nd and Broadway. He gives the best haircuts I've ever had in my life."

"Sounds good. Thank you!"

A few days later, I walked into the salon to check it out and my heart sank. The broad staircase and Versace style Medusa head above the tall door totally turned me off. They screamed one thing: "Money. I got it, and you better too, if you want a piece of me." So did the "de," which made me think he's wannabe European nobility and probably making his clients pay for the purchase of a title. The only welcoming hint was a "just opened" sign outside. Perhaps they were offering some specials...?

I walked up to the receptionist and asked how much a haircut costs -- "$275" I heard -- and quickly turned on my heels.

No haircut is worth that much. Not that I have that kind of money to begin with.

Fast forward to this evening. I've been looking for a new stylist, because mine is just okay. For $70, she does a good job, but nothing that leaves me ooing and aahing. I cut my hair very rarely, so when I do I need it to be fantastic. I've been spoiled by salons in other cities, but no one to rave about in San Diego.

I figure have two choices: look for someone in the same price range, but better -- or find someone cheaper!! Tough times, kids.

I checked out some reviews, made some calls, and finally, inspired by a coupon I saw online, I gave in and decided to try Salon de Marcus one last time. I opted for a phone call.

"Salon de Marcus."

"Hi. I've heard some great things about your salon, and I'm interested in getting my hair cut with you. What is the price range?"

"They start at $55." That sounded MUCH better. Was the first receptionist just messing with me, did I mishear, or have they lowered their prices since that opening week?

"And would that be with Marcus?"

"No, that would be with one of our stylists."

"Ok, I see. And how much does Marcus charge?"


"I see." Thwarted, again. But, why not suss things out? "That's unfortunately out of my price range. Can I ask you a question? Is there ever a chance to work with Marcus for a reduced rate? I know sometimes salons look for models, or they use guinea pigs to teach new styles. Does he ever do that?"

(This info was new to me. Just today I found out that another expensive salon charges $20 for haircuts with the "master stylist," but you have to be willing to do something crazy to your hair. That's not me. Buying one way plane tickets, eating raw shellfish off the street in Mexico, or volunteering to fix a bus in a hailstorm crazy? Bring it on. But a mullet or lime green bangs? Nooooo..)

"Oh, sorry, actually we just finished all the shooting for our promotional photos." She sounded nice, not annoyed. Keep trying...

"Oh, it's just that I've heard Marcus is amazing, and I'd so love to get a haircut with him, but honestly that's out of my budget. I simply can't afford that. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but finances are an important factor for me. Are there maybe any specials, now or the future?"

"Well, he only charges half price for his first haircut."


"Yeah, the first haircut is half off."


"Yes. Would this be your first time with us?"

"Yes! So that would be $75?" Just had to double check.


"Wonderful! Sign me up!!! Thanks for the scoop!!"

Funny she didn't mention the discount right off the bat.

We set my appointment for Saturday. I don't think I've ever been this excited about a haircut before. Ever.

Result: I will save $75 off of a $150 haircut.

Indeed, it will cost more than my current salon. But that woman's hair looked amazing. And it's with a man dubbed "by far the best hairstylist I have ever been to" on the (alas unreliable) Yelp. And I haven't touched my hair since November!!!

My tresses are in deep need of some expert attention, and I think the money will go a lot further under the exquisite care "de Marcus."

Maybe I'll upload a photo -- from behind. Teehee.

33 percent off this DKNY velvet jacket?

Tonight I went to Marshalls to pick up some sandals. I left with no shoes, but with a picture frame, a beautiful black blouse, a long gypsy skirt, a soft silky self-indulgence, and a cropped red velvet jacket by DKNY. The jacket was unstructured and minimal, despite the rich color and texture.

Yes, I confirm a stereotype, as well as scientific research. I like to shop. A lot. Which applies both to the liking and the shopping.

For evidence research, please consult this nifty interactive graphic from the New York Times about how Americans use their time in a given day. The surveyors isolated the data for different age groups, races, genders, employment situations! Check it out here.

Here's a sample of how a day breaks down, by activity -- very cool! (Click to enlarge)
[from an NYT interactive graphic]

Well, now. Back to that jacket.

There was a small tear at the lining's armpit. And a small white mark (looked like deodorant) on the other armpit. Time for the pitch.

"Oh wait, sorry! Did you ring that up?"

"I did."

"Could you take it off? I'm still thinking about it. Thanks!... [as she rings up the rest] Yeah, I was noticing this hole, and a stain. Could you maybe adjust the price so I can pay for drycleaning?"

"The best I can do is mark the problem areas, in case you decide return it," she replied.

Here's the thing. The defects were outwardly invisible -- and easily solved. It was an originally $400 DKNY jacket, reduced about 8 times. To $15. On clearance to the Nth power. I was sure I wanted it. So I waited for her to finish with the other clothes, and then I added:


"If you can make it $10, I'd be happy with a final sale. It's a great jacket, but it's been here for ages. I would only take it if I got that discount."

Guess she wasn't wearing that "No. 1 Customer Service Winner" badge for nothing. She agreed!

Result: Saved $5. And... scored a gorgeous designer jacket for $10!?? Thanks Marshalls! You rock!! And thanks especially to she who rang me up!

August 24, 2009

Top Three Askings of the Past Three Weeks

A few recent askings, and what came of them:

1. Who do you think you are?

My birthday came and passed recently. How old am I? Almost almost something! (But then, aren't we all?)

Since my license was about to expire, I had to renew it. Since I wasn't eligible for an internet renewal, I had to apply in person. Since I've been on jury duty for the past two weeks, the only chance I got was a morning when the judge let us off. Since it's the DMV, there were long lines. Since I knew there would be long lines, I was prepared to wait. For hours and hours. Which I did.

[From the lovely San Diego Daily Photo]

What I was not prepared for, however, was to see a tall, skinny man dressed like a lay missionary officiously funneling people into the line -- the very front of the line.

It happened once, and I figured he was an employee and had the right to speed people through.

It happened twice, and I figured he was uniting family members (since some spoke the same foreign language and seemed to be interacting like family). Family or not, I started to get annoyed. The line was really really long, and people were holding places for big groups of relatives???

What the f*cking eff?

The third time, after I'd advanced closer to the front, he placed two people directly in front of me.

"Excuse me? Do you work here?" I asked.

"No, I do not."

"Then why are you placing these individuals at the front of the line?"

"I have a service that helps people get documents. We are in a hurry to process everybody as quickly as possible. We have a van waiting."

"Well, I'm also in a hurry. And I am not giving up my place in this line. You need to ask my permission, and then the permission of everybody behind me."

"Please. I am in a hurry."

By then people were turning and looking. One guy spoke up. "Is he putting people at the front of the line?" he asked.

"He is." I answered. "And he doesn't even work here. He's just in a hurry."

"I've been waiting for an hour! This is ridiculous!" someone else said.

I spotted a DMV employee and made a desperate gesture towards the interloper.

And she opened a new line!! Two minutes later, I was out the door.

Result: Justice, and recouped the time lost to previous line cutters. (On the way out, I asked for the man for his info. He works for a nonprofit that helps African immigrants get documents. That's noble, but non profit does not mean non wait. I'm tempted to complain formally, but do I have the time and energy for that??? I think not...)

2. Health insurance info?

I signed up for individual health insurance, since my grad school's place is extremely expensive. Before doing so, I shopped around and asked a ton of questions of the various companies. I recorded their answers, just in case.

Result: I'm even more freaked out about the health system in this country. Even simple questions got vague answers; one company lost track of my application, the employees kept using confusing terminology, and one woman there said there is no public information about how much certain procedures cost out-of-pocket. Then I found the exact material on their website! Sadly, that company had the "best" rated and priced plans available, so I opted for it despite my repulsive initial interactions.

If they act like this now, when I have the money for premiums and I'm young and healthy, what would happen if I God forbid needed their coverage?

All I can say is Vive la France!!

3. Health reform please?

Following that experience, I did something I've always wanted to do: I wrote a letter to my congresswoman, asking her to vote in favor of health care reform that includes a government option. I haven't actually sent it yet, because I want to be certain it's a wise move.

If she answered that simple, essential ask -- health care for all, as a right not a privilege -- that would be sooooo awesome!!

So that's that. Two recent requests, and one almost. What about you? Any interesting discounts or inquiries lately?


I hate it when bloggers disappear for weeks and then come back with a long list of all the more important things they were up to. What does that mean, that the blog wasn't worth their time? Sometimes that's the case, and that's fine. But do I really need to hear that someone was getting the car fixed and negotiating with a roofing contractor -- when the blog is about politics? Do I care?

So, assuming you feel the same way, I'll skip the details.

And let you know, simply, that I've been thinking.

Wondering what comes next.

I asked for a year. Analyzed spreadsheets and made colorful charts. Reflected on the who, how, where and why of asking. Snagged some interviews with Time, Salon, NPR. Reveled in tons of new experiences. Made enough cash to pay for a round trip ticket to China. And discovered that that asking is both complicated and exhilaratingly easy.

Now what?

In the spring I said I'd continue this project, and this experiment proved without a doubt that this daily routine was worthwhile. But should I really do it daily? Should I ask for things even when I'm not inclined, merely because I made a one-year commitment last July? And if I do ask, should I document every detail for you?

Here's my thought today. I shall I reach for a new goal in Year Two. I will still try to ask daily, but not make it a rule. That way I'm always on the lookout, but not feeling forced. Instead, I'm going to ask strategically. And when I report something, it will be good. Either an interesting or significant gain, or a valiant or pathetic attempt, or some sort of revealing or crazy or instructive experience.

And I'll work backwards; rather than seeing where asking can take me, this year I'll see where I want to be and then find out how asking can get me there.

In fact, the more I think about it, there's a long list of things I still want and to need ask, beyond these items. I've just written it up, and I'll put it some place safe.

So, for Year Two, I'm going to work on that list, and fill in the blanks as I go along.

I realize there's one more reason I need to keep asking: I'm not done yet. There are many potential directions I can take this project -- deeper into negotiation, bargain hunting, gender and career issues. But most of all, I need to keep writing. When I sat down at this table after one margarita and far too long a silence and started typing, it felt delicious.

Back again,

La Roxy

August 11, 2009

Ask-o-logy: Who taketh away

And now, the final ask-o-logy installment:

Hopefully you've already taken the quiz from the previous post. It will shed deep insights on your identity, your subconscious proclivities for or aversions to gravlax, and predict within a 99.9 percent correct probability when and where you'll have your next celebrity sighting.

Backup plan: At the end of today's post, you might be able to figure out a little more about why you answered like you did, and what your attitude is toward... Women Who Ask.

Haven't taken the quiz? Click here!!


So, today I want to look at an issue I contemplated throughout this experiment. It's something that gets to the heart of what I was trying to find out. I didn't realize this when I set out, but over time it was a question that gnawed at my thoughts over and over again.

The greed question.

More like questions, actually.

1. There are the obvious questions-that-were-on-many-people's-minds-including-me: Was La Roxy greedy? Asking for herself 365 whole days? In a row??? That chick's got some nerve! People can't pay their rent and she's scoring deals, bargaining when merchants are clearly floundering, exploiting Craigslisters and even a dead sociology professor. Asking waiters for special treatment. Courting favors and exceptions left and right. Just cuz she thinks she's entitled or something. What if we all did that? Wouldn't society go haywire? Where's your sense of decency, Goody Roxy!??

2. Then there are the counter questions: What's wrong with asking, or with feeling entitled to opportunities, instead of apologetic about seeking them? Or with checking boundaries and then pushing them, every so often? So she asked. So she dug up discounts. It's a free country. The other parties could all have walked away. In many circumstances, even when she was denied a discount or privilege, she still bought the product, consumed in that establishment or interacted with that party. No barrels to temples here. And hey, if it helped her practice for a salary negotiation that many women apparently miss out on, if she's calibrating the greed-o-meter to make sure she falls on the side of empowered rather than push-over, what's there to condemn?

3. Then there are the questions about the questions: Why would we characterize someone who asks every day as greedy? What is it about the self-centeredness of this pursuit that might make us -- perhaps even the asker herself -- potentially cringe? How do we define greediness, egotism, generosity? Even when she asked for someone else, on behalf of someone else, wasn't it for her blog? So how can we label anything as either/or?

Also: Are any of our attitudes shaped by the fact that she is a woman? If a guy barged into a restaurant and stated -- not even asked, but stated -- he wants the best table in the house for his brother's last minute birthday fiesta, would we think, "How hot -- look how he takes charge" Or "Moron." What if a guy boasted to his friend, as I heard yesterday, "I'm going to demand a raise -- and they better give it to me, or I'm out of there. They'll have to hire two people to do my job." Do we think, "My, what confidence!" or "Glad you're not working for me." What if rather than a brash young man or woman, someone with broken English asked instead? Or a beloved local business leader? Or is it how you ask (requesting versus demanding, pressuring savvily versus aggressively), rather than who's doing the asking, the deciding factor in our judgment?

4. And then there are the questions behind all those questions: To what extent should we even be trying to measure altruism or egoism? Of course the asker was self-centered. She asked a lot more often than any normal person does with the goal of becoming a better advocate for her wants and needs. That was the point of the experiment.

Before you keep reading, I'm curious: where do you fit? Which of these views most closely matches your own? Let me know in a comment, please! And thank you. ;)

And now, the the final data:

Now that I've sufficiently muddled the waters about a seemingly straightforward question ("Was Roxy greedy?"), here are the three final charts.

1) How often did I ask for myself, for someone else, and for us both?

There were 406 requests, if you recall.

The way I explain this:

"Myself" means I was the reason and recipient. A better parking space when I was alone. A discount on a skirt. And so on.

"Someone else," it means I had nothing to gain. I tried to help someone. My only benefit was making someone else's day a little better (and completing the day's request). For example: asking a guy to move his truck so my grandma would have access to the sidewalk. Or asking a man in a parking lot if he needed a jump start. That sort of thing. All car related. Hmm.

I asked for "Both" in social situations. Mr. A and I were hoping for a reduced hotel rate, La Sorella and I ventured into Seattle's frat houses.

To break this down a little further, let's examine the "myself" category:

So looks like I'm one greeday beeyatch.

Or am I? Wait for it... wait for it...

2) Did I have better chance at scoring stuff for myself or on behalf of other people?

Before looking at the data, I could have seen this swinging either way: either I'd ask more successfully for myself, since I can make a compelling case about what I need/want and why. Or, I ask better for others, because asking for oneself is seen as selfish (so less frequently rewarded), while asking for another is seen as nice and generous (so more frequently rewarded).

(You can click on this to zoom in)

Apparently, asking for myself for non-money was the surest bet, with a solid 80% success rate. Asking for money for myself or someone else were pretty close. I had the worst chances asking for financial discounts for myself and another party.

Beyond the graph's extremes, which are kind of just sitting there and but don't say much, here's what I find most captivating about this graph: I'm a far better asker when I advocate for myself.


So I really am one greedy motherfudger of a beeyatch.

3) But maybe I have one more shot at generosity: For whom did I score the biggest wins -- myself, others, or a combo?

Overall, I gained the most: $2,162.04. For other people, I snagged $669.75. And when we both benefited, the total gained was $1,748.50.

That's fine and dandy, but not as meaningful as understanding how much I gained per request. Because I asked a lot more often for myself -- so of course that total is grand. Let's see what happens when we divide these totals by the frequency, to get an average:

Looks like though I aimed for financial gains for people around me more rarely, and I was rarely succesful, when it did work out, the winnings were juicy.

So based on the kinds of requests I made for myself and others, and the potential payoffs, I'm far more generous with others than with myself. For me, I sought free cookies. For La Sorella, I snagged free internet for 9 months. That kind of thing.

Thus I pursued my own interests most often, but asked most ambitiously, and with by far the biggest average gains, for others.


Am I greedy?


But wait. Wasn't the point of today's discussion to question the assumptions that women shouldn't ask? Wasn't that the point of this project? Do I dare say it's a fine thing that I'm finally focused on asking for myself, after years of not asking?

What about you...

How did you view the pictures from the previous quiz?

Giddy or greedy? Giving or taking? Stealing or saving?

How do you view them now?

And, more importantly, how do you view yourself when you speak up or extend an open hand, and ask?

August 07, 2009

Ask-o-logy: Let's play a game

A quiz game. There are five steps. Ready?

1. Copy (Control-C) these numbers and then paste (Control-V) them into a comment, below (CLICK HERE for a shortcut). Don't glance at the quiz questions. Just jump down, and then jump back up.
2. Get ready to type. Once you write an answer, DON'T CHANGE IT. Just go with your gut. Don't overthink it. Don't strive for consistency. Don't read what other people wrote. Don't fret. Just write it in the comments, below. Anonymously or with a pseudonym, if you prefer.

3. Look at the five pictures below and choose a word (ideally) or short phrase that best describes each action depicted. Adjective, verb -- your choice.






4. Now look at the same five pictures above and decide, rapidly, if each action depicted is: Commendable, Contemptible, or Confusing. Write your selection after each of your previous answers, in the same row. Quick!

5. Hit "Post Comment."

That's it.

What it all means, coming to a blog near you. In the next post.

Thanks for playing.