This did not happen directly to either my spouse or I. We happened to be back further in line and so had the opportunity to observe the interactions.
At our local grocery store, if you want to buy cigarettes, lottery tickets, newspapers and so on, you go past the check-out lanes directly to the customer service desk where there is always one and generally two or three people working. My spouse and I were the third and fourth people in a four person line with two men ahead of us.
We joined the line just as the customer service person finished helping someone with their pictures on the other side of the customer service area. She (customer service representative) came over and the man at the head of the line requested a specific type of cigarettes. She turned and started to walk the few steps to get the cigarettes when the phone rang and she took several steps away from the direction she had been going to answer the phone.
And thus ensued a fairly lengthy phone conversation between the customer service rep and what sounded like a customer who thought they might have left a head of lettuce at the check-out stand. The man who had requested the cigarettes waited pretty patiently until it became clear to him that the customer service person wasn't going to complete either his transaction or the phone call very quickly.
He then said: "Excuse me, miss. Would you please let me buy my cigarettes?"
The customer service person did not look very happy, but she did put the person on the phone on hold, sold the guy his cigarettes and called over another customer service person to take over the phone call.
Then she said to the guy just ahead of us (next person in line): "I can't believe how rude that other guy was interrupting my phone call."
The guy ahead of us responded: "I don't think he was rude. I think you should have put the caller on hold and dealt with the customers standing right in front of you."
This was met with dead silence from the customer service person. That guy finished buying his lottery tickets, we then bought our paper and nothing further was said.
My etiquette questions are:
Was the guy trying to buy the cigarettes rude for interrupting her while she was on the phone?
Was the guy just ahead of us in line rude for telling her he thought she should have dealt with the customers in person ahead of the customer on the phone?
Sorry for the length of the post! I'm trying to get all of the details down and probably wrote way more than I needed to!