Salon Communications 2/3

In my first article on salon communications I introduced the idea that salons have a new problem on their hands, which is primarily driven by the cell phone but has gone beyond the borders of a “phone call” problem.

I had ended my last article by saying that we will take a closer into the different ways communication is taking place within the salon but before we do this I would like to step back and consider the social aspect of cell phone usage in general and the perception we have of it, both for others and for ourselves.

As Im sitting in the restaurant writing this article there is a man with his young daughter sitting near to me. Since he came into the restaurant he has been talking on his cell phone. His daughter is staring blankly into the distance completely cut off from her father, even though he is sitting right next to her. Now he’s finished his call but is busy sending a text, or browsing the web or something like that on his phone.

Their drinks have arrived and they’re finally talking to each other.

There are a couple of things in this situation that are problematic. Firstly the man was talking quite loudly, which was mildly annoying for me – partly because what he was saying was not very interesting but mostly because he was invading my space with the sound of his voice, which was much louder than you would normally speak in a conversation with someone sitting next to you.

Secondly this man was not present, his mind was elsewhere. This was a problem for his daughter.  For the time that he was meant to be with his daughter he may have been on another planet. Even though he was there, he wasn’t. He was cut off.

Now, I am well aware of my own hypocrisy at this time as I have on more than one occasion caught myself being very involved in my phone when I should have been giving attention to my wife, a work colleague or a friend in my company.

My wife and I have even been guilty of sitting at restaurant or coffee shop, both busy on our phones and cut off from each other, only to quickly put them down (almost embarrassingly) when we realised what we were doing. I have seen other people do this and Im sure you have to. You think to yourself “whats the point of you sitting together at that table, you may as well be alone”.  When I first got my Iphone my wife even referred to herself as an Iphone widow for some time.

There is something very rude about using a cell phone in the presence of someone else. It either brings them into your own private space without you giving them permission or it cuts you off from them and says to you that there is something (or someone) else more interesting to them than you.

We all tend to get annoyed by other cell phone users when they breach our own perceived cell phone etiquette, even though we do the very same thing ourselves.

What type of offender are you? Do you discuss your private life over the phone when you get into the elevator? Are you glued to your own cell phone at work? Do you make illegal calls while you are driving, or worse send sms, emails or browse the internet while driving? If your phone goes off in the movies do you answer it? When the plane is moving off towards the runway are you still furiously thumbing away to get that final text message off before the air hostess forces you to switch it off?

One of the worst incidents I saw was at the SA Open golf tournament when a cell phone went off just as Ernie Els was starting his golf swing on the tee box. Ernie remained composed and started his set up routine again but the death stares, snorts and other grunts and grumbles the poor offender received would have led you to believe that this lady had just announced that Bryce Lawrence had in fact refereed a pretty good game between South Africa and Australia at last years rugby world cup.

You may wonder why I have gone off on a tangent like this? The reason is to highlight that cell phones (and their associated communication methods) are not perceived in a neutral light. Most people have in their own minds an idea of what is and isn’t acceptable cell phone behaviour. At my church, for example, some of the older congregation members think it is very rude to see some of the younger members glued to their phones while a sermon is being preached. What they may not realise is that in most cases the younger members have a bible on their phone and are actually very present within the service. The problem is that unless someone explains this to the older members then they may walk away thinking that the younger members were very rude and something should be done about it. Now, there were originally “No Cell Phone” signs up at my church but this policy would need to be re-addressed considering changes in technology that make it possible to more than just make calls or send text messages.

SAA allows you to now turn on your cell phone (in flight mode) after take-off and before landing, another example of cell phone policy changing because of usage apart from calls and messaging.

I’m therefore highlighting the fact that we all use cell phones, all the time, for many different things and when drawing up our own cell phone policies we need to keep in mind that we need to acknowledge the effect it has on the general public, the fact that we are just as guilty as our staff and that cell phones are being used for more than calls and messaging.

In many ways cell phone are the new “smoking”. Smoking was very popular in the past until Russell Crowe blew the whistle on the tobacco companies (in the movie). It turns out that smoking is actually not good for you and does not result in lavish ski holidays with other beautiful people and a license plate that says “POWDER”. Those that did it loved it and could share in something with other smokers, which set them apart from non smokers. Non smokers grew to despise smokers, even if they themselves were once a smoker.  “No Smoking” signs began to appear, laws began to change, restaurants partitioned and smokers were banished to congregate in small huddles outside office buildings.

With cell phones we don’t yet know what damage we are causing to ourselves as they have not been around long enough. We tend to ignore those who shout warnings about what damage our cell phone use will cause to us in the long term. I wonder if at some point in the future we will endure the same fate as that of smoking or whether we will eventually end up with a chip implanted in us that allows us to communicate with each other just by our thoughts? Time will tell.

Considering the points made above, we can conclude that cell phone usage is a sensitive and complicated matter. To compound matters further when considering a cell phone policy in the salon you need to remember that your clients also use cell phones and will most likely want to use them in the salon. Despite this fact that they will generally be quite grumpy if they see staff within the salon using their phones. If they share the same double standards as the rest of us they will even be annoyed by other clients using their phones while they try and enjoy a relaxing head massage at the basin.

All of these factors will need to be considered when deciding how you will control cell phone and other communications within the salon.