Rodney Wayne now offers 'no talking' haircuts after Karen O'Leary investigation

  • 14/06/2023

Paddy Gower Has Issues' community investigator Karen O'Leary has scored her biggest triumph yet by getting hairdressing giant Rodney Wayne to change its booking system.

It was inspired by O'Leary's 'new best friend' Tina, who suffers from a level of social anxiety that makes the idea of booking a haircut terrifying.

Tina and other people like her are extremely uncomfortable with the conversations they feel pressured into having with hairdressers.

As she was too shy to appear on camera, Karen got celebrity scientist Dr Joel Rindelaub to read her letter.

"I only get my haircut once a year by a family member who lives in a different city," the letter revealed.

O'Leary was spurred into action and headed to Auckland's Karangahape Road to ask people how they feel about chatting to their hairdresser.

Most people said they struggle with the chit-chat and one even revealed she sometimes pretends to be unable to speak English to avoid haircut small-talk.

"I just point to the photos and say 'this one'," she explained.

To get the other side of the story O'Leary met stylist Sean Mahoney at Auckland salon Colleen, who revealed he has only encountered people actively telling him they don't want to talk "four or five times".

He welcomes customers to openly tell him, but when O'Leary tries a role play, exclaiming "I don't want to talk!", Mahoney said it felt too harsh - so she left to find a better solution.

O'Leary met with psychologist Dr Samuel Clack to learn more about how social anxiety affects people and he illustrated why the hairdresser can be such a triggering situation.

"It's one-on-one and you've got sometimes hours to talk to this person. You've got that black cape over you - you're trapped in," said Dr Clark.

Armed with new information O'Leary returned to Colleen with some new ideas for how clients can tell their hairdresser they don't want small talk. She tried a T-shirt explaining "Don't Talk To Me, Just Cut My Hair Please", a roll of tape that goes over the hairdresser's mouth and finally a confetti cannon where the colour of the confetti indicated how much chat she wants.

After the confetti backfired, literally, O'Leary realised none of these worked.

"I think we need to start the conversation, to not have a conversation," said Mahoney.

"You can go online, book your haircut, and there's a little tick box that says 'don't talk to me' or 'I'd rather have a quiet time'", O'Leary said. And with that, the issue seemed solved - Colleen will offer chat-free appointments on their website.

But O'Leary was not satisfied with just one Auckland-based salon offering this option. She wanted to go bigger and set her sights on one of the most prolific names in hair: Rodney Wayne.

She met with the company's creative and education director, Newton Cook.

"We like to keep everything 95 percent professional and 5 percent personal," said Cook, illustrating how the company already avoids prying chats with their clients.

After hearing Tina's story and realising some people are so anxious it is preventing them from even booking the haircut, Rodney Wayne decided to make a change.

Now, clients can book what they are calling 'No Small Talk Appointments' at any of their 30 salons across the country.

Another week, another massive win for O'Leary.

She is acting as Aotearoa's 'Community Investigator' for the rest of the year and has put the call out to anyone who has an issue, big or small, that they would like her to help solve.

"If it matters to you, it matters to me," O'Leary says.

Email with any issues you would like to tackle.