Love your site! I thought I should share my story too… I kindly ask that if you post my letter that you omit my last name, thank you.Recently, I saw an advertisement for the Hair Club for Men on television and it struck me funny because I had actually gone to the Hair Club for Men (or “HCM”) about two years ago and had dramatically different results than advertised. Hence, on this cold and rainy Saturday afternoon and recovering from a nasty flu, I feel compelled to share my story of what went on with that place.
I started to lose my hair around 19yrs old…slowly thinning over time and the hairs on the front of my scalp would just stop growing after a certain length (about 1″). I saw my barber regularly and one day I recalled him telling me, “Well… you better get married early…” which ended up being the last time I went to him. I decided if I was going to go bald, I was going to do something about it at least. A few days later, I called the Hair Club for Men here in Orange, California and set up an appointment for one of their “free consultations”.
I walked in and saw there were two other men sitting in the lobby with baseball caps on, looking nervous. I thought, “Hey, I may have a friend or two here after all.” Ironically, I was called ahead of both of them, and was asked to sit in a comfortable room and watch a video. After the 10min video about who HCM is, what they do, and how it works, I felt confident that they may be able to do something about my ::ahem:: problem. I met with a very friendly older woman who discussed the options with me, what they would recommend, and what it would cost (roughly). After all was said and done, the procedure was to cost $1,300.00 and would involve routine hair appointments to adjust/cut the “matrix” (a glorified toupee that is glued to the scalp..literally). I decided to go ahead with it and in two weeks I was scheduled to return for the procedure. I was soon after escorted into a special room and sat down in a room reminiscent of a dentist’s office (chair and all). My head was measured, a hair sample was cut, and they took pictures of my head from both sides, front, and back. Soon after, I left, and was ready to return in two weeks.
I counted every day on my calendar and when two weeks rolled around, I was ready. I even went so far as to shave my facial hair (go-tee) to try out the “new look” for all it was worth. I went in and with little-to-no wait, I was escorted to a room that looked like a beauty salon. The top of my head was shaved, leaving the sides. They put the Matrix on top, with unusually long hair still attached to it. They would begin to cut the hair shorter and shorter until a semi-reasonable, desired look was achieved. About 30min later, I was done and it looked a lot different than I was used to.
I was scheduled to return in 3 days to make sure that all is going well, and if any adjustments needed to be made. Arriving home, I saw my family and was greeted with smiles and congratulations. Considering I had been struggling personally with the reality of my own hair loss, I thought it was a relief of having to deal with one less insecurity. That night was the most difficult time I had ever had sleeping. The matrix itched horribly and would pull on my scalp if I laid on the pillow in any direction except facing straight up. I was starting to get stir-crazy until I finally learned to sleep on my back the whole time. What an ordeal, but I figured it was a small price to pay at the time.
Probably the first thing I began to notice is that the hairline in the front (and I saw this in the commercials, but carefully photographed) of the hairline is unusually thick…and not natural looking at all. I remember saying something to the girl who was fitting/cutting it, and she said, “Oh, just put some more glue on it..” and was handed a bottle of skin adhesive.. I was starting to have doubts at this point.
A day or two go by, I’m of course noticed at work, but sensitively of course. Later on, I started to feel the itching coming back; I found relief in the sharp end of a letter opener and would periodically poke at spots that would cause me to itch. On the way home, I noticed that the Matrix was starting to come up off my scalp…peeling back. I panicked and didn’t know what to do. I called HCM and told the receptionist what was going on. I was advised to wait until my appt. in 3 days and to just press down on it with a comb if it continues.
When I got home, it was a nightmare… the glue that they applied was actually causing me to itch more. I promptly headed over to HCM and told them what was going on. I was seen right away and they re-applied the matrix w/ a different type of glue they had. It didn’t help, the next day I found the matrix on my pillow almost completely peeled up. Mortified, I called them again and advised them of my problem. I was told, “Well, you’re just going to have to work it out somehow.” I went down to HCM and they took another look at it and did another re-application. Again, the next morning…same problem. I followed every instruction they gave to the letter and was having worse and worse luck. The last phone call I had with HCM was strictly, “We can’t do anything…sorry…just bad luck..”. I asked for a refund, even a partial one, and was told in a staunch voice, “No Refunds, period.”
After I got off the phone, I started to cry… I felt both taken advantage of, ugly, and just plain screwed. I took a walk to the medicine cabinet and proceeded to remove the matrix myself. IT HURT! It took about 20min and a pair of small hair-cutting scissors to get through the glue and hair that was trapped underneath the glue. I think this was the worst nightmare I had ever gone through, and ended up feel so ashamed of myself for this. Not a religious person, I even began to think this was sort of God’s punishment for vanity. Regardless of what it was, it sucked, and I started to think that I couldn’t be the only one going through this. I took a Bic razor to my head and after a good shaving, I was completely bald.
I called my credit card company and explained to them, briefly, my situation. The lady I spoke to at BofA was more than sympathetic to my situation and felt that I had a compelling reason to get a refund if for nothing more than dissatisfaction. I have to say that BofA was pretty cool about the whole thing and seemed to work pretty hard at trying to get my money back. After I called BofA, I contacted the BBB and submitted a formal complaint against HCM for the whole thing. After a few letters were sent, both the BBB and BofA decided on my behalf and I received a full refund from HCM providing I sent the matrix back to them. I suppose I was very lucky because I was told early on to contact both the BBB and my credit card company by my family–I didn’t even want to think about it at the time but they pushed me to fight it.
It is now 2, almost 3 years later and I still see the commercials on the television every so often. I can’t help but remember those two guys in the lobby, waiting nervously as I was to see if they can fix their hair problem. I’m here to say that I neither thought better of myself or my looks by going through that whole ordeal.
Perhaps by writing this I give someone else considering HCM some perspective to what I went through with it. It’s exactly as advertised procedure-wise, but the results are not at all what you see on television. After a while, I began to notice other men and the hairlines they had and would think to myself, “there’s a Hair club job”. Later on, a girlfriend of mine said to me, “What’s up w/ that guy’s hair over there?” I looked and noticed it was a HCM job. I then told her the story of it all and even though we aren’t together anymore, it really calmed my insecurity, “Why? It’s not the only thing we look for, ya know… I’d rather you be bald and who you are.” I guess it’s just hard to know that ‘inside’ and no one can really tell you when you have your mind set on something.
My advice is to just do the best with what you’ve got, save your money, and just stay in good shape and health. Try Rogaine but I found it to dry my scalp, and would cause flakes. I stopped using it after a year or so and didn’t notice much, if any, difference. I’m not saying it didn’t work or that it won’t work for you, but I didn’t have any positive or negative reactions to it other than the dry scalp.
I don’t think the HCM is a bad organization or anything, but I do believe they fill a niche of preying on peoples’ insecurity with a service that (at least in my opinion) isn’t very successful at all. I think the real pity is how many people who have had experiences like mine or worse and not been able to do anything about it.
Best of luck to you all… be confident in yourself–everything else will follow
If you are struggling with Hair Loss and looking for options then checkout our hair loss guide.