Salon told to change ad looking for 'happy' stylist because it 'discriminated against unhappy people'

Startup idea: Depressed barbershop for depressed people

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Depending on your personality, a trip to the hairdresser or barber can be harrowing. Like any customer-facing role, it's expected of staff to take to the job with a wink and a smile – but then comes the dreaded "small talk".

"Been up to much today?"

"No."

... is how your correspondent's chats with barbers normally start and finish, which is why I've taken to buzzing off what's left of the barnet from the relative safety of my home, and not because of coronavirus.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not some sort of arch-small-talk crusher. I just don't like people very much. But I do understand why a cheerful and talkative hairdresser would be preferable to the following exchange:

"Been up to much today?"

"No."

"I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed."

"... OK?"

Which is why the owner of a hair salon in Gloucestershire, England, has been left baffled by the reaction to the wording of an ad she posted to the Jobcentre Plus website.

The offending passage? That AJ's in the Cotswolds town of Stroud is a "happy salon looking for happy people".

God, no.

The BBC reports that 54-year-old Alison Birch thought the call from the Department for Work and Pensions' job-seeking service was a "wind up".

"They said we can't place your advert because you have put a discriminatory word in it and we need to change it," she said.

"They said you're not allowed to use the word happy, in case somebody thinks they can't apply because they are not a happy person."

Let's just take a step back now and consider why an unhappy person would devote tremendous time and resources to learn how to cut other people's hair, only to then balk at the fact the job involves possibly talking to other people.

On the other hand, a depressives-only salon would be an experience in itself:

"Finished."

"How does it look?"

"I hate it."

"Me too."

True happiness is a lofty if not somewhat unattainable goal anyway. Nobody walks around in a constant state of ecstasy when they have work, bills, kids, and life-threatening pandemics to worry about, and a house that no one wants to buy.

Unfortunately, "contented salon looking for contented stylist who can switch on the charm when a customer walks in" doesn't have the same ring to it.

In any case, Birch was "adamant" that she "didn't want to change it".

"I only want happy people but I am too scared to advertise my job now in case I discriminate against anybody," she said.

"Surely by asking for happy applicants I won't make unhappy people even more unhappy by not offering them a job.

"Anyway I haven't had an application yet and I am still looking for a stylist."

So, "happy" IT professionals, step this way if you need a job switch and don't mind entering Zuck's realm, where AJ's has now been forced to advertise. Or browse our listings here. Only if you're happy, though.

The Department for Work and Pensions told the Beeb: "We mistakenly advised a customer to amend a job advert but have since offered to repost the original copy and apologised for the error." ®

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