“Feel free to text message to your heart’s content while enjoying Soak, though please do your cell phone talking before or after visiting.” This polite suggestion functions as the cell phone policy for Soak Nail Spa and Lounge in Reno, Nev. “We want to create an atmosphere that has more of a spa feel and loud phone conversations can disrupt other guests,” says Soak’s manager Amanda Pequeen.

Most of the time, clients don’t talk on the phone during services, or they answer but talk very briefly and quickly hang up. However, if a client does talk for an extended period of time, or raises the level of her voice, a staff member from Soak will gently address the client by saying something such as, “Excuse me. We have a cell phone policy so all guests can relax during their services.”

In the last five years, cell phone use has exploded, and in many ways, the lines of social etiquette have blurred. Just a few short years ago talking on the phone in front of someone would be universally viewed as rude. Now, people are more tolerant. The lines are fuzzy, so making a phone policy has become necessary not only for clients, but also for staff.

“We have a lengthy agreement we go over with all new staff,” says LeeAnne Swor, owner of L Spa in Sarasota, Fla.  “And cell phone use is a big part of it. I want 100% of the attention to be on the clients, so cell phones are not allowed on the salon floor.” Swor says all phones remain in the back room with ringers turned off. Technicians can check and answer messages during their breaks. Swor says she has no trouble with the policy because any employee who had a difficult time with it is no longer with her. L Boutique has a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy. “I know some people have a hard time detaching from the phone,” explains Swor. “But to me it’s rude to use a phone in front of clients.”

Techs at Sundrops Nail Spot in Phoenix abide by a similar standard. “Phones have to be on vibrate and left in the back,” says manager Melissa Aros. It may seem harsh to require the phones to be off the salon floor, but a vibration coming from the pocket or drawer will likely be a distraction for the client, and most certainly to the tech.

Sheila Winckler wouldn’t have built her business if she adopted those policies. As the owner of Atmosphere Nails•Hair in Rockford, Ill., she understands the need for techs to be available to clients. The independent contractors who work in her salon use their phones as essential business tools. Each person manages her phone use according to her own standards. “If we are in the middle of a pedicure with lotion all over our hands, we will let it go to voicemail,” says Winckler. “But if we’re at a point where we can answer, many times we do.” Winckler says she has noticed a marked difference in both the attitude people have about phone usage and in the way phones are used. “It used to be considered rude to answer the phone during a service,” explains Winckler, “but now clients are more understanding. They want the technician to pick up when they call, so they don’t get upset when a call comes in during their appointment.”

Whether you’re a salon built of booth renters who utilize the phones to conduct business throughout the day, or a salon owner who implements a policy to complement the atmosphere of the salon, you will likely see one use of smartphones as an exception to the rules: using it to promote the salon.

“The exception to phones being allowed on the floor,” says Pequeen, “is when a manager asks to take pictures of clients and upload them to Facebook. We also encourage our clients to take and post pictures during their services.” In this way, clients can promote the salon as a go-to social destination for friends or as a quiet and relaxing retreat.

We may never develop a universal standard of social etiquette for smartphones. In the meantime, help clients and staff navigate the expectations in your salon by creating a workable policy. And keep watching for changes in our social mores regarding phones. Smartphones are used to instantly and effectively promote businesses and generate buzz, and that’s a feature nobody wants to silence.  

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about