JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Businesses fight back against 'cell yell'

Date

David Wilson

Hang up ... companies are clamping down on  a lack of mobile manners.

Hang up ... companies are clamping down on a lack of mobile manners. Photo: Reuters

Australia now has 6 million more mobiles than people, according to telecommunications industry analyst Paul Budde

The build-up of mobiles potentially means lots of maddening “cell yell” in commercial service areas - if business owners allow it.

Have you banned mobiles in your business? Tell us why by leaving a comment below

Countering the assumption that the customer is always right, some owners ban customers from mobile yakking. Meet Northern Beaches fitness guru Rebecca Mountford, who has two gyms at Narrabeen and Mona Vale.

Since founding her business more than five years ago, Mountford has run a permanent ban spelt out in the contractual terms and conditions signed by each new member. When members “do the wrong thing”, they are personally, politely asked to stop. Usually, offenders are “embarrassed and apologetic” - instantly complying, they promise not to do it again, she says.

If customers defy the ban, Mountford puts the request in writing. She may also put up mobile ban signs. One version politely asks visitors to refrain from spoiling others' “quiet enjoyment”. The alternative, tougher sign, which Mountford describes as “sarcastic”, advises clients to take their mobiles outside for “crystal-clear” reception.

According to Mountford, her strategy works and reflects most customers' wishes. If a “tradie” pacing the weights zone is allowed to gab through a handset about a job to a colleague, or if a “lady” on the treadmill can freely have a good mobile “chinwag”, customers will complain, Mountford says.

Besides making other gym-goers “uncomfortable”, conducting a phone call while galloping on a treadmill is dangerous, Mountford says.

James Pirina, who runs Pierre's Patisserie at Turramurra on Sydney's north shore, also opposes mobile chatter. Pirina first posted a mobile ban sign in his bakery a 18 months ago, after seeing a customer on a call at the counter just pointing at items.

“I thought there and then, enough is enough,” Pirina says.

At first, he just granted his staff permission to ask active mobile users if they minded putting the phone down while placing orders.

Because that tack flopped, Pirina put up signs politely asking customers not to use their mobiles when ordering. Only some customers took notice. Pirina's next step was to write signs that bluntly read:

"If you are on the phone you will not be served."

Placed at the cash register, the hardline signs grabbed attention and worked.

“Some customers are still very arrogant and don't get off their phones, but most seem to be compliant with the request, so the overall result, I think, is good,” Pirina says.

According to business coach Alex Pirouz, mobile phone bans in service spaces are broadly acceptable because conducting a call there “is just rude”. The exception, Pirouz says, is a clothes shop where a customer may reasonably want to have a video chat with a friend for their view on a garment.

Any mobile ban that a business owner imposes should be couched in a manner that's “safe and humorous and inviting”, Pirouz says. Further softening the blow, he notes, some mobile ban signs wisely feature smiley emoticons or depictions of full smiling faces and an explanation for the ban, which winningly shows respect.

Be diplomatic and customers will see that you are “not trying to be bossy or dictate rules – that's what people hate the most”.

Etiquette experts in Australia and beyond share Pirouz's view that a ban can be justified. In an April 8 report, Norwich, England coffee trader Darren Groom told the BBC he was "striking a blow for basic manners" by refusing to serve any customer who placed an order while on a mobile.

A source for the British etiquette guide, Debrett's, Liz Wyse, praised Groom for his "brave stand" she described as “a public service”. The English newspaper The Daily Telegraph said that, for banning bad manners, Groom deserved a medal.

13 comments

  • t is fair enough to be offended by serving someone talking on a phone, but you are serving the customer - what they do is insignificant, they are always right and you are wrong - this is just the reality of retail. As far as business banning staff from using mobile phones, that would last about 10 minutes in Australia, mainly because most of our work is now done on smart phones.

    Commenter
    Berty
    Date and time
    October 11, 2012, 4:30PM
    • I'm with the traders. God I hate people who think their phone is more important than the person serving/helping them.

       

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 11, 2012, 4:57PM
      • As a receptionist in a medical clinic I have three points regarding mobile phones and their use:
        1. It is extremely rude by our patients when they conduct phone conversations when I am trying to tend to their needs. If mistakes are made in our industry the consequences may be catastrophic. When you approach my desk I will ask for your name (to make sure we have the correct patient) along with which doctor you are to be seeing. Speaking to me whilst having a conversation on your phone is incredibly rude. I don't talk on the phone and try to communicate with you as well.
        2. When sitting in our relatively small waiting room with many patients, a television and kids making plenty of noise in the play area, you having a conversation on your phone adds to the noise. When not tending to patients in the waiting room we are dealing with enquiries from specialists, radiology and pathology companies as well as scanning and filing documents and completing requests from our doctors to ensure we have your records current and correct. I feel unprofessional and rude when I have to put a surgeon (who is talking to me between operations) on hold because I cannot hear him/her due to you having a loud and at times inappropriate conversation in the waiting room.
        3. As you walk into the doctors consultation room please heed the sign asking you to turn off your mobile phone. He/she is giving you their full attention when in consultation where the subject to be discussed is you. Please afford them the respect they deserve by giving them your full attention, not that which is second to your mobile phone.

        Commenter
        B
        Location
        Vic
        Date and time
        October 11, 2012, 5:16PM
        • Bravo! To go into a meeting or private consultation and feel you have the right to ignore the person who's time you are taking is unbelievable. As a society we need to get over ourselves. They should also be off at meals with family or friends, unless there is an understanding that you are expecting an important call or are "on call".

          Commenter
          bkayton1@aol.com
          Date and time
          October 11, 2012, 9:39PM
      • Its pretty simple. If you need a phone for your work you will be supplied one and expected to have it on you at all times night and day. If you are not supplied a phone then you will not be required to have one on you during your work hours including personal cell phones. Regardless people need to be aware of their environment when talking on mobile phones. Of course it just gets back to common decency and consideration for those around us. Sadly many in the modern society fail at this.

        Commenter
        eyeswideopen
        Location
        earth
        Date and time
        October 11, 2012, 5:23PM
        • unless you are an American please refrain from calling it a cell phone,here in Australia it is a mobile phone

          Commenter
          Screamer
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          October 12, 2012, 7:25AM
      • Reason #462 not to own a mobile phone.

        Commenter
        Rainy Day
        Date and time
        October 11, 2012, 5:41PM
        • Although I will generally try to avoid talking on my phone when being served somewhere, it occasionally happens. I think common sense does have to apply and @John, I don't think my phone is more important than the people serving me, but I just might think that the person on the other end of the line is. I do always apologise and I wouldn't do it where I needed to actually communicate something to the person at the counter.

          Commenter
          andyjay
          Location
          Docklands
          Date and time
          October 11, 2012, 9:24PM
          • As a Doctor, I am amazed at the (thankfully) small number of people who (1) answer their phones in the middle of consultations and (2) continue to talk on the phone for a few minutes and put everything on hold. Of course, I understand that sometimes answering your phone is unavoidable. Indeed, when my own phone interrupts me from time to time when I'm seeing a patient, I make sure I apologise and keep it as short as possible. But please

            In fact, it really doesn't matter whether someone is seeing their Doctor, in the queue at the local supermarket or ordering a coffee at the cafe. Please don't expect people to provide you with service if talking on your phone is more important than giving them your full attention, which is respectful and the right thing to do.

            Commenter
            globulus761
            Location
            Melbourne AU
            Date and time
            October 11, 2012, 9:24PM
            • to berty, get behind a retail counter and see how bloody disrespectful it is. the customer is not always right and i have no problem kicking them out the door if they loudly want to yack on the phone in their own world.and i have.conversely some customers apologise whilst on phone,talk quietly and pay and leave quickly.no problem.i will decide who does business in my shop and not you. by the way business is growing. why? because customer support and my service level is based on a mutual respect.

              Commenter
              pc
              Date and time
              October 11, 2012, 10:06PM

              More comments

              Comments are now closed

              Ask our Experts

              Want to know how to manage your business?

              Ask our Experts

              Featured advertisers
              Small Biz newsletter signup

              Small Biz newsletter signup Small Biz news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

              Sign up now