Two years ago, Avi Shenkar, founder and CEO of BLO/OUT blow-dry bars in Philadelphia, overheard one of his stylists talking about her last client.
“She blatantly told her ‘I don’t want to talk.’ After surveying some of the other stylists, I found out that many clients weren’t interested in having a conversation. You can tell because you get one-word answers when using the standard conversation-starting questions.”
“Personally, I usually prefer to avoid conversation while getting a haircut so I totally understood,” Shenkar admits.
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His light bulb idea, he says, was the next logical step: a free service called the “Zen Experience,” which involves a simple sign that denotes a client isn’t interested in conversation. “When checking in, clients can request it and our Hair Traffic Controllers hand the stylist a small sign that says, ‘Shhh…I’m enjoying a Zen Experience.’ The sign is placed at the client’s station, notifying other stylists to respect the client’s wishes for a quiet environment. The stylist will only inquire about style-specific information, and will avoid any small talk or conversation unless initiated by the client.”
While Shenkar says there’s definitely been interest in the service, he wouldn’t describe it as overwhelming. “Many clients tell us they actually love the conversation and have built relationships with our stylists. Those who do request it are usually professionals who are working on their laptop during their blowout, reading a book or listening to music with earphones.”
In the age of the super fast, in-and-out blow-dry bar boom, the question is, Why now?
“Silence is the best tool for peace of mind and mental clarity,” says Lauren E. Hack of New York’s Lauren+Vanessa. The duo recently introduced the Crystal-Infused Chakra Therapy in their downtown salon, a scalp massage-meets-blowout that’s a lot more holistic than harried when compared to your typical blow-and-go. The service isn’t cheap (it’s $250), but it’s intended to be more like a spa treatment that lets you relax, de-stress and just take a moment, and conversation is kept to an absolute minimum. “We live in a world that is constantly moving and we forget to take a moment for ourselves to just breath and disconnect. It’s when we slow down and turn inward that we feel calm, refreshed and focused,” Hack says.
As for the “silent treatment” giving way to a bigger salon trend, while Shenkar thinks it’s a great option, he doesn’t predict it’s going to become the norm. “Stylists are like bartenders, they are there to listen, provide feedback and be an outlet for many people.”
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