No mobiles while ordering take-away coffee: Phil Xu from Katipo cafe in Bondi.

No mobiles while ordering take-away coffee: Phil Xu from Katipo cafe in Bondi. Photo: Edwina Pickles

The consumer is always right. That is, until they start talking on a mobile phone.

Workers in cafes and shops across Sydney are refusing to serve customers who are talking on their mobile phones, saying it is rude and they deserve more respect. In many stores signs have been placed to remind customers of their modern-day manners.

But Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, said in today's economic climate retailers shouldn't risk snubbing customers, even if they were on the phone.

"Business is pretty tough and I don't think that a retailer can afford to ignore any customer," Mr Zimmerman said. ''To simply say, 'I am not going to serve you if you're on your mobile phone' is a little bit harsh."

Global headlines were made this week when a shop assistant at a Sainsbury's store in Britain refused to serve customer Jo Clarke, 26, while she was on her phone. After complaining to the store, Sainsbury's has since offered Ms Clarke an apology, throwing in a few gift vouchers for good measure.

But Australian retailers are less apologetic about their mobile phone bans.

Cafe owner Phil Xu from Bondi's Katipo has no problem turning away customers who are on their phones.

"It's human respect," Mr Xu said, who took over the cafe four months ago. "We are here to provide a service … it's not a supermarket."

Mr Xu said he would ignore customers who came into his small Bondi Road cafe until they put their mobile phones away.

The cafe's no-phone policy was enacted four years ago by the previous owner, not only to gain respect for the staff, but to eradicate simple ordering errors by customers who were not concentrating.

But busy consumers are not so happy about the no-phone policy.

Sophie Coles, 25, was asked to leave a store in Sydney after talking on her phone.

''I was browsing clothing and the shop assistant said: ''While you're talking on your phone can you leave,'' Ms Coles said.

"I wasn't even talking loudly. It was just really awkward.''