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Refusal To Serve Until You Get That Cell Phone Conversation Over

Using a mobile phone at the dinner table or in any other social situation is often frowned on as bad manners.  But when a Sainsbury’s employee decided the embargo extended to the checkout one of her customers quickly took offence.   Jo Clarke complained to store bosses that the unidentified worker had refused to serve her unless she put down her phone.

She said: ‘I was standing at the foot of the till waiting to bag my shopping up, yet the lady on the checkout was just staring at me.   ‘When I stopped my conversation and said “Is everything okay?” she said: “I will not check your shopping out until you get off your mobile phone”.

There is some added complexity in this story in that Sainsbury has no actual store policy about using cell phones during check out and that the employee was rude.   But it does bring up the issue of whether it is impolite to have a cell phone conversation while attempting to engage in a business transaction.   My thoughts are that any face-to-face interaction should have each person’s undivided attention and if the roles were reversed, as in the employee was talking to another co-worker or on a cell phone, that the customer would have a verifiable right to be offended at the employee’s distractions.   Customers on cellphones during financial transactions can slow down the check out for those behind them, the risk of misunderstanding (“Did you give me back a $10 or a$20?”) is greater and it’s just generally rude to dismiss those serving you as not worthy of a moment or two of your uninterrupted attention.

{ 117 comments… add one }
  • cwm July 10, 2013, 8:43 am

    Whenever my sister and I have long phone conversations, we frequently tell the other to wait a moment while we check out at the grocery store or order our food from the fast food venue. Then, as soon as that interaction is completed, we’re back on the phone. You don’t HAVE to hang up to have a face to face interaction with someone else, just tell the other person to wait a moment and then come back to them.

  • Shannan July 10, 2013, 8:43 am

    I agree with admin: ANY face- to- face interaction you have deserves everyone’s undivided attention. If the roles were reversed & it was the employee who carried on a cell- phone conversation, the customer would be irate & would probably never deal with that business again. I think it really shows the ultimate disrespect to businesses when a customer can’t even hang up the phone to pay for services. Doctors & nurses even have to deal with this. So sad..

  • carol July 10, 2013, 8:43 am

    I was wondering if this story would show up here!

    I think that maybe the cashier was ‘in the wrong’ in that she said she was speaking to company policy rather than just expressing her own opinion, but I am still with her 100%. I’ve on rare occasions been on the phone while shopping, but I will either hang up when I get to the till, or tell the person on the line to hold on while I finish my transaction, because I know I should give the cashier my undivided attention.

    I also wondered, when I read the article, what the customer’s real attitude was. She indicaqtes she was perfectly pleasant and reasonable in responding to the cashier’s demand she get off the bloody mobile, but I’d be willing to bet she was huffy or snotty when told she had to end the call.

    I just wish Sainsbury stood up for their employee.

  • Moonie July 10, 2013, 8:57 am

    At my place of employment we not only handle financial transactions, but legal transactions as well. You would be amazed (or maybe not) by the number of people who want to carry on a conversation on their cell phone while completing their paperwork. Our office policy is to not begin the transaction until the person is off their phone. (There are notices posted next to each transaction window). If a person in front of me is talking on their phone, I politely ask them to step to the side so that I can attend to the next person in line, and tell them that once they are done with their phone conversation I will be happy to wait on them next. Amazing how fast most of them hang up.

  • La July 10, 2013, 9:00 am

    If you want to use your phone whilst at the till, use the self-checkout.

    Although: what do you do when your phone goes off in line? Because it’s really conspicuous. (I think the worst time was when someone changed my ringtone to the Creepiest Video Game Music Ever, and I tried to be nonchalant as the screams of the doomed quite obviously rung out from my pocket.)

  • nayberry July 10, 2013, 9:11 am
  • Marie July 10, 2013, 9:13 am

    A grocery store I often visit had a great policy for this. They had two signs that said “We respect your privacy and will not disturb you while you are making a phone call.” Any patron coming in would be ignored until they had finished.

    I personally think it is very rude to be on the phone while checking out. As a cashier, I guess it is more difficult because they are in your line and might already have put their items on the conveyor belt. In other situations where you are served (butcher, baker, grocery, etc.) I would have the policy not to help people that are on the phone. You can always tell them “I”m sorry, I thought you were very busy and did not want to rudely interrupt your call.”

  • Amber July 10, 2013, 9:20 am

    Absolutely agreed. IRL interactions means get off the phone and pay attention. Don’t talk on the phone or text at dinner, don’t talk or text when buying something, don’t do it while driving, etc.

  • Lo July 10, 2013, 9:39 am

    I definitely don’t think the cashier should have refused to serve her because she was on her phone.

    That being said, every time I see someone attempt to pass through a checkout line or order at a restaurant while on their phone it infuriates me. Your server/cashier/clerk is not a machine. You are not entitled to treat them like one. You’re making their job harder by forcing them to compete for your attention. Unless it’s an emergency, put your phone down.

  • Not Amused July 10, 2013, 9:48 am

    this is a pet peeve of mine! Cashiers are not a robots- they are people who deserve a kind word and an attempt at human interaction. I believe it is extremely rude to carry on a conversation with someone else when someone is trying to complete a transaction with you.

    I do not think the cashier handled this in the best way, but I can understand her frustration.

  • Missusmidas July 10, 2013, 9:49 am

    Rudeness goes both ways. I have been at stores where the checker never even made eye contact with me, they just carried on a conversation with their co-worker. On occasion I have said something to them – fairly recently we were checking out and the checker was talking to the courtesy clerk the entire time about someone’s sex life! The courtesy clerk finally ended with “Well, he just needs to get laid,” and walked away. I looked the checker in the eye and said “Did she really say that in front of customers?” The checkers response: “Mmm-mmm-mmmm” while shaking her head. Wow…

    Anyway, I get *really* tired of cell phones. Not just conversations, but people who go into a restaurant and everyone pulls out their phone to text/play games/email/whatever. They don’t even socialize. And in my opinion it is rude to allow your cell phone conversation take precedence over a real-life conversation, even if it is with “just” a checker. Retail and restaurant workers deserve our respect as much as anyone else and ignoring them for the sake of the cell is extremely rude. At least try to make conversation, look them in the eye, and acknowledge that they are doing a thankless job. It’s not that hard to be polite!

  • Miss-E July 10, 2013, 9:49 am

    Thank you Miss Jeanne! I’ve worked at a grocery store for the past 7 years and there is nothing I hate more than someone on their phone (either in conversation or just texting/e-mailing/playing Angry Birds). People can’t even be bothered to respond to my “Hi, how are you today?”. I WISH I could do what that employee did!

    And remember: we can hear your half of the conversation. I’ve yet to hear someone explaining how to disarm a bomb or remove an appendix, so I know these aren’t vital calls that can’t be paused for the two minutes it will take me to ring you out.

  • Cherry July 10, 2013, 9:54 am

    As a former retail employee, this is one of the most infuriating things to encounter.

    Both sides are guilty in this case, but Jo Clarke is milking it for all its worth. It was in several UK papers last week (I can only imagine it was a very slow news week), with Clarke posing in front of the shop, phone to ear. And she says in each case “I can’t believe she would be so RUDE” in a martyred way, completely oblivious to how rude she too was being.

  • Library Diva July 10, 2013, 9:55 am

    The employee should have been more polite, but the customer was definitely rude. By her own report, this was not a terribly urgent call, nor was she using her phone to kill time in a line that moved more quickly than she suspected it would. She went up to an empty line and made the conscious choice to call her brother instead of putting off the call for three more minutes and giving her transaction her full attention. It was very rude of her, and her comments to the reporter did not acquit her well. It’s ironic to me that she complains that the cashier treated her like a child, because that’s exactly how she sounds in the article. I’m just sorry that Sainsbury’s sided with someone who strikes me as the type who complains on a hair trigger to get more freebies rather than its own employee.

  • Lisa July 10, 2013, 9:57 am

    I find it terribly rude to talk on the phone when I’m conducting business with someone in any form. Unless the call is pertinent to the business at hand, the call can wait. I remember one time when I was checking out at the grocery store and my phone rang; I ignored it! The clerk was amazed and mentioned how surprised he was that I didn’t just answer it and actually said ‘thank you’.

  • sv July 10, 2013, 10:02 am

    I work in a very busy veterinary emergency hospital. If I ( or any one of my fellow employees) walk into an exam room and the client is on the phone, I give them roughly 30 seconds to conclude their conversation – just long enough to say, ” Oh, the vet assistant is here, I have to let you go. ” Any longer than that and I am out the door to talk to the next person who is waiting for my time. Most people have enough manners to get off the phone immediately. Not everyone though – the one that stands out best is when I was helping someone with information regarding their animal’s care(sending an animal home after hospitalization) when they began a Bluetooth conversation right in the middle of my discharge instructions. Bluetooth phones are my particular pet peeve, as sometimes it is not obvious to whom the person is speaking. After a few minutes the client then began talking to me again as though there had been no interruption at all. I ignored him and went about my business. When he succeeded in finally recapturing my attention I simply said, “Oh, you mean me? Because when we were talking before you were carrying on a conversation with someone else. ” He had the grace to look abashed and apologised. Cell phones are a wonderful thing, but come on, people – don’t assume employees have nothing better to do but to wait until you are done. And any transaction that involves money or information requires your full attention. Period.

  • Nannerdoman July 10, 2013, 10:18 am

    Absolutely agree with Admin on the rudeness of treating cashiers, receptionists, and other service personnel as though they are of less importance than your (non-emergency) cell phone call or text.

  • The Elf July 10, 2013, 10:24 am

    Ugh, using a cell phone while conducting a business transaction is one of my pet peeves! I’m so glad I got out of retail before this trend took off. When I worked a check-out, my boss taught me to answer the phone there, put the caller on hold, finish the transaction in front of me, and then return to the phone call.

    Why couldn’t this person had called when they completed their check-out? Her brother was waiting – he could have waited another minute or two!

    That said, the employee was not only rude but, had their been a line, also rude to any customers behind her.

  • Kate July 10, 2013, 10:30 am

    I am a server in a casual restaurant, and I have made it my policy (as have most of my coworkers) to not wait on people who are talking on the phone. I simply say, I’ll come back when you’re ready. When they put that finger up, indicating that I should wait a second, it’s very rude. Just because I’m serving you, does not mean I’m your servant. Also, many menu options have questions attached to them (How would you like that cooked? What kind of dressing?). And using the phone at the table is rude to your dining partners! I wish people would put the darn phones down, and talk to the living people right in front of them.

  • momofeveryone July 10, 2013, 10:33 am

    both were in the wrong! the cashier could have been nicer about it and the customer should have hung up. i always get off the phone when i get in line bc you never know how fast the line will go. the customer couldnt call her brother when she got in the car before pulling out? also the cashier couldnt have overlooked the slight and made friendly conversation about hecktec scheduals? maybe figure out what the call was about?

    sidenote: when did people get so self entitled that rudness was an acceptable response?

  • Lauren July 10, 2013, 10:33 am

    I agree with the checkout clerk. She was right to dress down the customer.

    I am just beyond sick of the constant barrage of banal conversations. And before someone says “just ignore it”, it has been shown in a Cornell study that one-sided conversations are more difficult to ignore because they are less predictable and your brain gets caught up trying to make sense of what it is hearing. Please, do not tell me to wear headphones. I have headphones and I listen to music sometimes on the way home, but I need to be able to hear train announcements, and you know, be aware of my surroundings so I don’t get mugged, so I can’t just block out all sound.

    I am begging all of you. Remember all of us who have absolutely no interest in ANYTHING you are talking about and keep it down. Nobody thinks your conversation is interesting or important, or even novel….we all have cell phones and a friend with plenty of time to chat.

    I am so busy sometimes I could cry, and it is getting increasingly difficult to just get lost in my thoughts anymore. I am constantly interrupted by some idiot who can’t figure out which brand of peanut butter to buy without a running commentary from some other moron on the other end of the phone. I have no problem letting my phone go to voicemail or postponing a call until I am in my car, or AT LEAST go away from other people to have my conversation. I just wish other people would think to do the same and keep their private conversations private. Respecting your own privacy is one thing I think is lacking today, and it show me that you have an astonishing lask of self esteem.

  • Merrilee July 10, 2013, 10:58 am

    I agree whole-heartedly with Admin. If you are conducting business with someone, it is rude not to interact with them directly. Period.

    I was with my daughter at the grocery store a few months ago when my phone rang while we were checking out. She asked me whether or not I was going to answer it, and I said that I was in the middle of conducting a transaction and I owed the person behind the register the courtesy of my time and attention. The phone call could wait. The cashier thanked me for that, so I’m guessing that a lot of the time the phone call while checking out or the texting is happening frequently.

    I don’t know why people can’t unplug for a while, and why they can’t practice basic face to face courtesy – as a dinner guest, in the store, texting while driving – it’s insane.

  • Yet Another Laura July 10, 2013, 10:59 am

    This is a good opportunity to create a store policy on cell phones. Many places near me have signs at the register that state that the cashier will wait until the phone call has been ended before they will serve the customer.

  • VanessaGA81 July 10, 2013, 11:00 am

    I have been guilty of being on a cellphone call a time or two, especially if the line was very long and I was bored. However, unless it is a vital phone call, I generally ask the person on the other end to hold on while I finish checking out, so I can respond to any question from the cashier.

  • Jo-Ann July 10, 2013, 11:13 am

    Unfortunately, because the store does not have a policy with regard to cell phone use, the cashier is wrong and probably has been reprimanded. I also think, if the recounting is accurate, that the cashier needs customer skills training. It was interesting to go to the original article and vote–83% agreed that the cashier is in the right. I think it is rude to use a cell phone when conducting a transaction. Local take-out restaurants here will not serve you while you’re using a cell phone, and I am grateful for that. Talking on a cell phone while conducting a transaction slows down everyone waiting in line. I think it’s a case of “I’m very important and I need to make this call. The rest of you can wait.” Her call to her brother could have been made before she got in line, or after the transaction. If it were an emergency situation, one wouldn’t be in a check-out line, period. I’ve been behind cell phone users in line, and have spoken up a couple of times with “would you mind?” and a smile. So far, so good: they hang up.

  • Tsunoba July 10, 2013, 11:16 am

    While Miss Clarke says that she was just making a quick call, the cashier had no way of knowing this. There are quite a few stories on notalwaysright.com that feature customers getting angry at the cashier for various things, such as using the wrong kind of bag, not applying a coupon the customer was still holding, etc.

    And every time, the cashier has asked the customer (sometimes repeatedly) about these things, and received no response because the customer was paying attention to their phone instead of what was in front of them.

    If the cashier has experienced this multiple times, I can’t exactly blame them for personally implementing this policy.

  • Justine July 10, 2013, 11:24 am

    I agree that it needs to be a stated store policy. My local post office has a sign, posted before you enter the que: “We will not serve you while you are on your phone.” They do need your undivided attention. They might be asking questions (i.e. “you have two books stuck together – did you want to purchase 2?”) and you just slow things down by saying “What?”

  • Timothy July 10, 2013, 11:31 am

    Here’s how I look at it, and I may be wrong. It was definitely rude for the woman in line to be on her cellphone while checking out, store policy or not. That said, the method the cashier used in order to get the woman off of her cell phone was just as rude. To me, the most polite way to get the woman off her cell phone would be to politely ask. Say something along the lines of “Miss, can you tell the other person you’ll call them back? I don’t want to have a miscommunication between us.” If that fails, you can be more firm, and only then, if nothing else, should you resort to something as passive-aggressive as this.

  • alex July 10, 2013, 11:33 am

    While the employee could have been less rude about the exchange I think the rude person was the customer on the cell phone. Whenever I am checking out I will not check out while I am on my cell phone as it is rude to the employee. I actually spoke with an employee about that one time while checking out at Target and they mentioned how it makes them feel less human and how a lot of times they can’t even ask questions or say things they need to without getting annoyed looks for interrupting conversations. I have been to quite a few places that actually have signs that mention their policy of not assisting you in the checkout process if you are on your cell phone. I am not offended by the sign and feel like it is a policy in place to ensure that orders are processed efficiently as when a customer and employee cannot converse it can hold up the line behind them.

  • coralreef July 10, 2013, 11:45 am

    I can understand the cashier’s frustration with people who just won’t put the phone down. However, the way she went about it was very rude.

    Personnal anectode : I was waiting in line at the grocery store behind a woman talking on her phone. As we were getting closer to the cashier, I was expecting her to keep yapping away, not paying attention to anyone. I was wrong. Just as the person before her started putting his stuff on the belt, she said “I’m next at the cash, I’ll call back.” And she hung up, greeted the cashier and paid. No muss, no fuss. The sky didn’t fall and it didn’t rain frogs because she chose to hang up.

  • Ramona July 10, 2013, 11:46 am

    I’ve ignored customers until they’ve completed their cell phone conversations before… I’ve got several questions I’m required to ask prior to concluding a transaction (“Did you find everything alright? Did you know about our loyalty program?”) and previous to enacting my own “Cell Phone, no Service” policy, I’ve had customers extend a finger as if to reprimand or shush me, when I’m only doing my job, as outlined by the company. It can actually count as a corporate strike against me, if I don’t ask these “annoying” questions!
    Now if I am brought up by a customer for “ignoring” them, I smile blandly as possible and tell them, “I’d hate to have interrupted your conversation… that would have been RUDE.”

    In fact, I think I perhaps got that sage advice from the annals of E-Hell when I was a bit younger, trying to find my polite retail spine. 🙂

    I do think the Sainsbury employee acted quite rudely, though… there is a way to cope with difficult customers with aplomb, and I would never dream of snidely telling someone “You learn something new every day” when there is actually no policy to back that up. That’s just being crass for no one’s sake.

  • Calli Arcale July 10, 2013, 11:46 am

    It is impolite, no question, and greatly increases the risk of error in the transaction. But as a cashier, it is usually best to suck it up and tut about the matter later in the breakroom; I’m not convinced it is rude enough to be worth losing business over. Especially since by declining to ring her up, she was *also* punishing anyone standing in line behind the cellphone lady. Cashiers have to suck it up for a lot of that sort of casual rudeness — and even for a fair amount of the less innocent rudeness. There are customers that will subject cashiers to a nonstop tirade for no reason whatsoever. I’d rather see *them* not served, frankly.

    I’m not sure where exactly the line should be, and it’s up to the store to draw it anyway. There are things that are worthy of banning customers — letting kids climb on the belt, trying to finagle a freebie that the customer is not entitled to, damaging property. Some stores ban swearing and threatening language. But stores cannot be the ultimate arbiter of manners, and they cannot expect perfect manners from their customers and still get enough business to stay afloat. If I were the cashier, I’d be offended, but I would try not to let it show. I’d just try and get her rung up as quickly as possible so I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore.

  • Allie July 10, 2013, 11:51 am

    I used to work in retail, and transactions could take 3 to 4 times as long, or longer, when people were on their phones. They just wouldn’t answer questions, respond, or be engaged. And then would complain when they thought they weren’t informed or something or just weren’t paying attention.

  • Monkey mommy July 10, 2013, 11:58 am

    I seriously try not to be on the phone at check out, but sometimes it happens. If my husband or children happen to call while I am there, I will answer. However, I often mouth a sincere apology to the clerk, and they are usually understanding. I generally will also cut the call short once it’s apparent there is no emergent need for my attention and will again apologize to the clerk afterwards. However- I would be LIVID if a clerk did do this to me, and believe me, I would make sure they knew it. I likely would never shop there again either.

  • Wild Irish Rose July 10, 2013, 11:59 am

    I am totally with you on this one, Admin. I don’t have a cell phone myself, but I have seen cashiers carrying on conversations with, say, the boy who is bagging my groceries, and they act like they’re the only people in the store until it’s time to tell me how much money I owe. Cell phones have turned us into a very rude society, and it astounds me that people can’t seem to get along without them.

    That said, it wasn’t the clerk’s place to insist that the customer get off her phone. Dictating other people’s manners is rude in itself.

  • Aunt4God July 10, 2013, 12:23 pm

    I was a cashier in a grocery/general merchandise store for a few years. I once had a guy come through my line w/a bag of donuts while talking on the phone (he had other stuff too, but it wasn’t much at all.) Since he used a white bag instead of something I could see in, I started to ask how many he had and what they were (donuts vs. bagels) and he actually yelled at me for interrupting his phone conversation. I then opened the bag (we usually ask first so we don’t have to risk contaminating what’s in the bag) and counted them myself. The whole time I really wanted to stick my finger into each one as I counted it! I didn’t, but it was tempting.

  • Kovi July 10, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I felt the employee was wrong to demand the customer put down the phone, when her place of employment has no official policy on the matter. She basically took it into her own hands to ‘punish’ the customer.

    That said, I do personally think it’s rude to be on the phone while an employee is helping you. Of course, there are people who can multitask it very well, will say, ‘hold on a second’ to the person on the other line, and give the cashier whatever information or time they need. It’s the ones who sit there and ignore the cashier, or worse, complain to their friend on the line that, ‘so and so is just being so rude, interrupting me like this!’ that I feel are far worse.

    When I worked retail, I didn’t have any huge problems with people being on the phone. Most would talk on the line, but watch for when I indicated they scan their credit card, or ask if they needed anything else.

  • Seiryuu July 10, 2013, 1:01 pm

    I feel the situation could have been handled better. While the cashier’s anger was justifiable, at the same time she resolved it poorly. If I were the customer, I would have seen her response as confrontational, no matter how wrong I was.

    A possible solution would have been the cashier saying, “Ma’am, could you please hold your call for a few seconds? I want to make sure your transaction goes as smoothly as possible without any misunderstandings.”

  • Carina July 10, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Sainsbury’s (in the UK) have a rule that a cashier can refuse anyone service as do most UK supermarkets.
    As a retail slave myself (a lovely clothes shop) I regularly have people come up to pay on the phone. I simply smile and scan everything, then wait till they finish so i can tell them their total. Usually with a ‘I didn’t want to interrupt’ or something along those lines. Most blush and stammer but others can get haughty with me. I don’t think they realize I’m an actual human.

  • josie July 10, 2013, 1:37 pm

    Here’s a concept: shut the phone off!!!

  • The Elf July 10, 2013, 1:55 pm

    “Although: what do you do when your phone goes off in line?”

    I hit the button that makes it go directly to voice mail, or I let it ring.

  • Cj July 10, 2013, 2:01 pm

    I refuse to serve anyone on a cell phone at my buisness. If they are in the waiting room I will let them finish their conversation before taking them back to see the doctor. I will reschedual their appointment if they anwser their phone to talk to their friends. A true emergency is another story. But one time I had a girl, okay 30 year old woman, that would not stop texting….I got up out of the doctors room and grabbed my phone and started texting my friends while talking to her…she got upset. Some people are just rude. But seriously just put your phone down at the check out!!! I do it all the time I tell the person I am on the phone with I need to check out and would they like to hold or have me all them back.

  • Annie July 10, 2013, 2:03 pm

    I work in a bakery. When a client has chosen the cake he want I need to ask him three questions: Do you want an inscription, What size would you like and when are you planning to eat the cake ( some are frozen and take several hours to thaw). When a client is having a conversation on his phone and pointing things to me, it makes me want to throw the cake at them. I am a human, not a machine. I understand when they are taking business calls but it’s always personal. I can’t give them a good service because they don’t even let me ask them the three simple questions. Enjoy your frozen, too small cake without the inscription you wanted to eat in ten minutes… Really, it’s simple good manners and I have the right to sometime be pissed after these people. If there are others customers in the stores, I will help every one of them before the person on his cellphone pointing stuff to me. It may be a little rude on my part but it’s not hard to just tell the other person to just wait two minutes.

  • Jennifer July 10, 2013, 2:18 pm

    I worked as a cashier about ten years ago and this was a once mild annoyance that became more pronounced as time went on. I cannot begin to count the number of times I am ignored when I acknowledge the person or get a delayed response that isn’t towards me( as in I’ll say Hi, did you find everything Customer: Hey I’m getting groceries where do you want to go for dinner….). I am in complete agreement with admin that if you are doing any face-to-face interaction that you are not on your phone. Especially if you are purchasing something then you need to make sure that it’s getting bagged the way you want and that things are ringing up correctly and that coupons are used. Most of all it is a basic human thing to acknowledge the person whom is doing a service for you. I think that a lot of people forget that cashiers, and all the other service industry employees, are people and deserve the same respect that you demand. I have had people come through my line going on and on and on their phones without a single word being exchanged between us. This creates a problem when there is something that I need an ID for, cough syrup or alcohol or cigarettes or a game that is rated M, I physically can’t proceed and ring more items in once I’ve scanned it. If it’s a gift card I need to know the amount (and voiding the item will create a need for an override from a manager). I will politely wait a second or two to see if the customer notices and if they do usually I would get just a look and the speaker part of the phone lowered. I am a human being and if your phone call is so important that you can’t hang up then go and stand off to the side somewhere and talk away, which is what I do whenever I need to call someone, or if you are in line have the cashier suspend the transaction and go off to the side and continue the conversation. I have found out more private information about customers through their cell phone conversations than they would ever willingly divulge to any stranger. It all boils down to common courtesy, the cashier was a jerk about the incident but that should not overshadow the main complaint.

  • BagelLover July 10, 2013, 2:24 pm

    I tend to call my mom or my sister while I’m wandering around the grocery store for company, but I always set the phone down when I reach the register. I live in NYC so often the clerks don’t even bother to talk to me or respond when I say “Hi, how are you doing?” but I still always physically put the phone down. No one ever seems offended, although my mom has taken to singing to herself while she waits 🙂

  • Kirsten July 10, 2013, 2:31 pm

    The checkout girl was wrong, sadly; I wish she had had the store policy behind her, because she shouldn’t have to put up with that.

    As for Jo Clarke, what a silly little drama queen she is – she runs to the papers moaning, she poses outside with Sadface (TM), then she threatens to go to Waitrose in Dartford. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. I don’t think she will, because it’s 3 miles away in the middle of town and costs twice as much, so she’s basically whingeing for attention. Running to the papers on this? She needs some perspective!

    The whole of her borough will be laughing at her for this one.

  • Elsie July 10, 2013, 2:42 pm

    I always try to either hang up (sometimes the person on the other end just wont get off the phone! So I just say ‘SORRYCHECKINGOUTGOTTGOBYE’ and hang up. ha.) or at least set the phone down/against my chest (muffle noises, I guess?) so that I can give the cashier my attention. I think it is rude, and if there is a mistake and I am busy talking I won’t be able to catch it. Besides, I like to be friendly to staff, they deal with a lot of rude/mean people all day. Checking out takes what, two minutes tops?

    I don’t think anyone comes out totally graceful here, but the customer is being a real drama queen about it. I feel bad for the cashier.

  • siamesecat 2965 July 10, 2013, 3:04 pm

    Working in retail this is one of my major pet peeves. If someone is just wandering about the store, browsing, I’m ok with them being on the phone. But when it comes time to be rung up, please finish your conversation and give ME your full attention. I need to ask you certain questions, get info from you to pull up your info, and so on. And its quite rude when you’re busily yapping away and ignoring me. I will admit I have simply continued to ask them what I need to know even as they continue to chat, which may be a tad rude on my part, but if there are others waiting behind them to be rung up, they shouldnt have to wait beacsue you can’t be bothered to be polite.

    I love this; its polite but gets the message across.
    “A grocery store I often visit had a great policy for this. They had two signs that said “We respect your privacy and will not disturb you while you are making a phone call.” Any patron coming in would be ignored until they had finished.”

  • Ashley July 10, 2013, 3:05 pm

    All of my jobs that I have ever held in my entire life have been in customer service. Some in retail, some in food service, some at a loan office. ALL of those jobs require more attention from customers than I am used to receiving thanks to cell phones. The ONLY time I was ever okay with it was when I was working at a food place and the person in line was ordering for the person on the phone. Any other time than that, it is disruptive and rude and I HAVE refused to help someone who was on their phone. I’d say “You’re call seems important, can I help the next person in line?” or “I’ll be right over here filling these napkins/straightening these files until you are off the phone”

    I don’t care if people think I’m rude for it, I really don’t, because I wouldn’t have to say those things if people could just hang up and focus for the five minutes a transaction takes.

  • Amy July 10, 2013, 3:12 pm

    If I am on the phone, I always make it a point to tell that person I am now at the register and that I will call them back. The look of gratitude I frequently get from the cashier is enough to keep up the practice. I also find they tend to be much nicer to me and will often tell me if i have missed a “two for” or if I have gotten the non sale item if one was on sale, etc.

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