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Servers on Cell Phones?

I frequent a local, small restaurant and have for over 20 years. Prices are reasonable, food is very good, and service has always been solid.

The last time I went, the server was walking by the table talking on a cell phone. He said, "Hold a sec," and asked if we were ready to order. OK. We gave him the orders. Before he even took a step from the table, he told his cell phone buddy, "OK. Back . . ."

We didn't get drink refills with spicy food, because our server and a couple of others were sitting at the bar area chatting on cell phones.

I briefly considered mentioning it to the manager, but he, too, was on his cell phone when we went to the register to pay. He told his friend to wait a minute and then rang us up and said he hoped we enjoyed the meal.

Perhaps I am getting old, but, as a patron in any restaurant, I turn off my cell phone and check messages later. I give my friends, guests, and servers my full attention. After all, it's only an hour out of the day. Calls really can wait (although I know there would be a few exceptions - but not many).

This is the only time I've had this experience in any restaurant, so I was wondering if I just hit the odd one where it apparently is fine to chat on the cell phone while interacting with diners.

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  1. I'm a restaurant professional. It's the height of rudeness for a server to be using a cell phone in the public areas of a restaurant. Period.

    I'm also not too happy with the people who arrive at our restaurant to pick up take-out and transact their business *while on the phone.*

    1. I'm of the school of thought that it is unacceptable to chat on the cell phone while you interact w/ anyone.
      And maybe you are getting old but being offended by this behavior is not a reflection of it. You'll need more proof.

      1. I'm with lucygoosey....it's rude in ANY situation. It's long been a peeve of mine when anyone in the service industry (including supermarket clerks etc), continues talking to another party either by phone or in person, as if you simply weren't there, while they are serving you. I've checked entire cartloads of groceries through without the clerk saying one word to me, but at the same time gabbing away to the next person over. Have also had it happen in restaurants.

        I don't expect servers to sit around with glum looks on their faces and never speak to anyone else, but to give an example just last year, when my elderly mother fell from an unlighted booth step in a restaurant, and was barely noticed because all the staff were over by the bar, engrossed in other conversation. The brief notice she did get, was quickly followed by them returning to their perches. Sure left a bad impression with me, and I wouldn't go back.

        Anyway, back on topic, yes, height of rudeness. I'd probably follow through with an e-mail or something to the owners. I can't imagine getting away with something like this where I work. The cornerstone of the service industry is human interaction, and people shouldn't be made to feel as they are some unwelcome nuisance or infringement on the server's time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: im_nomad

          I'm glad to hear this is not becoming common or OK at restaurants.

          I was pretty surprised, but I also think it's strange for anyone to be on the cell phone when interacting with someone in person. I've never had a cashier at the gas station or grocery do that, but I see customers pay while chatting. I was brought up to say "hello" and "thanks" and that sort of thing when having an interaction with another person.

          I haven't been inclined to go back to the restaurant. If the manager had not also been on the cell phone too, I would have just made a quick mention of the issue. He's knows I eat there often, never cause any problems (wrong dish - OK - I'll wait - no biggie), and tip well. I can tell that he and the other servers who have been there a while like me.

          There's not an email. It's a small local place. Perhaps I could write a short note and mention how much I have valued the good service in the past and that I hope they will consider a cell phone policy during working hours.

        2. I have also been at the checkout with the cashier talking the whole time on the cell. I have no idea if they make a mistake. I also recall working at a pizza counter and people would come for pick ups or place an order, all the time on their cell. It's very rude and I don't want to stand there waiting for them to give me the time of day.
          Patients in my office take calls throughout their exam, yelling 'I'm in the doctor's office' to everybody who calls. Why not just turn the flipping thing off??

          26 Replies
          1. re: smartie

            I call a patient out of the waiting room in our office, and they hold up a finger, and tell me to wait because they are on the phone. So rude.
            We were in Fl last year, and watched a husband and wife out for dinner. Through out the whole dinner the husband was on the cell phone. What is that important?

            1. re: catrn

              There are those rare cases, but mostly I think the real people standing right there in front of you (me) take top priority, but I did say I was old or old fashioned. So be it. If I ever took or made a cell call while with others, it would be absolutely critical like 911 for an emergency. I like to enjoy my dinner with others and like to talk to the server or the grocery clerk or gas station register worker.

              1. re: catrn

                So the patient is supposed to sit in the waiting room for 10, 20, 30 minutes, but isn't allowed to make a phone call because they might be on the phone when you're ready for them? Five seconds of your time is worth more than half an hour of theirs? I don't think so.

                Once you're face-to-face with somebody, it's rude to make or take a phone call. I don't care if you're a doctor, a patient, a server, a patron, or the President of the United States. The person you're talking to deserves your undivided attention.

                But to expect someone to abstain from all contact with the outside world because you might - MIGHT - be ready to talk to them at any given moment? That's every bit as self-important as persistently interrupting a meal / examination / meeting to take calls.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Do you think you can go 10, 20, or 30 minutes without talking on your phone? Notice smartie was speaking of people who talk on their phones in the middle of the exam, not in the waiting room. Honestly, when did we become a society of Pavlovian labratory dogs that have to respond every time the phone rings? What did we all do before the cell phone? We were a lot more thoughtful about the people around us for one. If I had been in the same situation as the OP, I would have called the manager over and demanded better service. If that got me nowhere, I would have made a show about asking for the owner's/corporate headquarter's contact information. That type of behavior, especially in the service industry, is not to be tolerated. Why must people be constantly on the phone? We didn't have any problems staying in "contact with the outside the world" before we had cell phones. Is the world going to come to a screeching halt or your head going to explode because you neither make nor answer a call for an extended period of time? I once saw an episode of Nanny 911 where the mom was more tuned in to her phone than to her own children (hence the need for emergency nanny intervention). The nanny insisted that the mom turn her phone off for an entire 24-hour period and pay attention to her out-of-control kids. The mom acted like a heroin addict going through withdrawal; she was more upset about not being able to use her cell phone than she was about her kids eating out of the dog food bowl (no joke). People, you have become slaves to your cell phones. Liberate yourselves from the bondage of the electronic age; step away from the phone and interact with your fellow human beings while you still remember how to do so.

                  1. re: kchurchill5

                    I don't have a cell phone, would you believe?. So it is possible to survive without one.

                    1. re: Sharuf

                      I didn't have one for the longest time too, then with my work a few years ago I had too. Not by choice. I do like it when I travel and drive sometimes late at night alone. Otherwise when I go out to a restaurant, I hate it when people are on the phones. A client of mine likes to meet at Starbucks and I can't stand the place, the coffee or just about anything. I go there for a nice cup of coffee and can't even hear ourselves talk cuz everyone is on their cells. To me very annoying.

                      But at work as a server, NO way. And yes you can live without a cell phone and I do mostly now.

                    2. re: SDgirl

                      Calm down, already.

                      If you had bothered to read at my post, you'd know that I think it's inexcusable to interrupt an examination or any other face-to-face interaction to take a phone call. And for what it's worth, I go days at a time without talking on the cell.

                      But one of the times I will use it is when I'm sitting around waiting for someone else. If I'm tied up in a doctor's waiting room for half an hour, you'd better believe that I'll get out my phone and review voice mail messages, respond to a few emails, touch base with the kids, and/or talk to my wife about our plans for the evening.

                      Look at the top right of my response; it wasn't directed to smartie, but to catrn. She's a nurse who thinks it's "so rude" for a patient to be on the phone when she calls them in to see the doctor. In my book, it's just as egocentric and presumptuous for medical personnel to expect patients to wait eagerly on the edges of their seats for the moment when they're called in to see the doctor as it is for a patient to take a call in the middle of an exam.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        I jut think it's inconsiderate to the other patients waiting to have to listen to the conversations. I was recently waiting at the dentist while another patient was having an incredibly loud conversation with an insurance agent. There was nowhere for me to go while I waited since her conversation was loud enough that there wouldn't have been any improvement if I were to move to another area. I just want to have a peaceful waiting experience, as I am sure the others in the waiting room did as well.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Sorry Alan- I wholeheartedly agree with Queencru - and the nurse above!

                          I think it is incredibly rude especially if you are in the confines of a waiting room - to subject everyone else to your personal conversations!
                          AND it is certainly rude to hold up a finger to someone who has just called your name in a medical waiting room. (because you are on a personal phone call!!)
                          I am simply amazed that anyone would consider this ok behavior.

                          1. re: NellyNel

                            Me too. I am happy that many types of waiting areas have banned cell phones.

                            1. re: NellyNel

                              Replying to both queencru and NellyNel...

                              >>"I jut think it's inconsiderate to the other patients waiting to have to listen to the conversations."<<

                              >>"I think it is incredibly rude especially if you are in the confines of a waiting room - to subject everyone else to your personal conversations!"<<

                              Um, no. When a couple comes in together, or an adult child drives an elderly parent to an appointment, or two friends bump into each other in the waiting room, are they supposed to sit mute until they cross the threshold on their way out? Not a chance. It is perfectly normal and acceptable for them to chat until the doctor is ready to see them.

                              It is rude to subject other people to a loud or obnoxious conversation. But that's true in any public place, be it a restaurant, a doctor's office, or the train. And it's true whether the person you're talking to is in the chair next to you or on the other side of the country.

                              The problem isn't cell phones, it's lack of consideration. And in my experience, somebody who's rude while on the phone is likely to be rude while off the phone. Maybe technology has given them more opportunities to be rude, but banning the technology is a silly and ineffective way to try to address this problem.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                I agree with you, Alan. I understand that some appointments take longer than others so there might be a wait in the doctor's office waiting room. However, I've made an effort to be on time. If the doctor is not also on time, I shouldn't need to twiddle my thumbs silently waiting for my turn.

                                That said, some people are extremely loud while on the phone. If I'm on the phone, I keep my voice only loud enough to be heard by the person on the other end of the line and, hopefully, low enough not to bother those around me. Consideration of others goes a long way.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  You know what works? Turning your head and leaning ever so slightly in the cell phone person's direction, hanging on every word. If more than one or two people in the room do that I guarantee they'll either hang up or go outside.

                                  To the OP- yes, it's horrible manners, and you should definitely tell the owner what happened without naming names. Tell the owner you don't want to get anybody in trouble, but this is the behavior you saw and you think it's just awful. They will agree with you.

                                  Young Son (he's my one and only- that's not his name) works at a locally-owned high end bakery and restaurant. They are flat-out forbidden to use cell phones on duty. It's a firing offense, and that's the way it should be. I mean, come on, if you're a server you need to at least give the impression of paying attention to your customers. Same thing if it's a doctor too, now that I think of it.

                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    Since it happened again tonight, I did mention it to the manager. The manager of Monterrey's Mexican Restaurant of Salisbury, NC told me that he also talks on the cell phone while waiting on tables and that it's not a big deal. No one else has a problem with it, so it's MY problem.

                                    They just lost a 20 plus yr customer who tips at the 20 to 30 percent rate with the exception of tonight. In all these years, I have never complained about one thing. Tonight, I took a stand on it, but the manager blew me off.

                                    If anyone does know who owns the place, yeah, they really ought to know. I would want to know if I owned a small restaurant. They only had two tables filled tonight, and I think I know why. The food is good, but the service has hit rock bottom.

                                    I don't think it would have helped to have pretended to listen in. The server was not even making eye contact. He clearly did not care. And, the manager took up for him and the practice of chatting on the cell phone while serving dinner.

                                    I will never go back to Monterrey Mexican Restaurant at 2094 Statesville Blvd, Salisbury, NC - (704) 630-0045‎.

                                    They must not need the business. I don't need any food bad enough to put up with the service and the attitude.

                                    1. re: CyndiA

                                      Good for you, CyndiA!

                                      Completely appropriate response!

                                      1. re: CyndiA

                                        There are a ton of Monterrey's in NC/SC/TN/GA, so I wonder how much of a "chain" it is and if there's some corporate office you could send a complaint.

                                        1. re: deibu

                                          No. I did some research and called the Environmental Health Office of Rowan County. This a small, private restaurant. The owner is named Solario. He also owns Casa Grande in Salisbury, NC.

                                        2. re: CyndiA

                                          Thanks for actually posting the details, all too often we get posts on the board that complain about something but don't actually help you avoid it.

                                          On the flip side, when I used to work for a major Unnamed Air Line years ago one of the most annoying things was trying to complete a transaction with someone while they yakked on their cell phone. The banality and trivialness of the conversations was mind boggling but they had to be self important and show everybody they had one. I finally took to takng the next person in line and telling the offender I'd hep them as soon as their conversation was over.

                                          1. re: Scrapironchef

                                            I didn't name the restaurant initially, because I hoped it was a one time thing. Annoying. But, I hated to ding them if it was not typical. With a second instance of the same cell phone serving and with the manager defending the practice and saying he does the same, I felt people should know.

                                            Avoid Monterrey Mexican Restaurant of Salisbury, NC unless you want really poor service and a bad attitude from the manager who thinks that as long as you get the food - "What's the difference? No one else complains."

                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                        In my experience most people on cell phones are *far* louder than two people sitting next to one another, who usually speak in a more hushed tone just so that they *don't* bother other people.

                                        1. re: DGresh

                                          In my experience, men tend to be louder than women. Does that mean that men should be barred from public places?

                                          Perhaps the average person on a cell phone speaks more loudly than the average person carrying on an in-person conversation. But there are plenty of courteous cell-phone users, just as there are plenty of people who are obnoxious without that technology.

                                          The focus shouldn't be on gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, cell phone usage, or anything other than manners and common courtesy.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            I don't care what you do at your table. If you are waiting my table, then I do not appreciate being included in a cell phone conversation and not even being able to order dessert on a birthday. That has nothing to do with gender, ethnicity, or any other "born" trait. That is just rude - plain and simple. I do not expect special treatment at a restaurant, but I expect to be able to speak to the server. If he/she is chatting on a cell phone while waiting the table, then it is quite impossible to even get a refill on a drink.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                (-: I thought we were off the topic I posted a bit. I was not complaining about customers. This was my server. He did take the order as expected. From that point on, he was talking on his cell phone every time he stopped by the table. He did not even ask if we'd like to order anything else, and I would have with it being a birthday meal. He was chatting away when he walked by and stuck the bill on the table. He did not ask about more drinks or dessert or if we enjoyed the meal or anything. I felt really bad, since it was my son's birthday. The only time the server spoke to us was when he first took the orders. The other two times he was on his phone gabbing and picked up plates and dumped off the bill.

                                          2. re: DGresh

                                            "In my experience most people on cell phones are *far* louder than two people sitting next to one another. . ."
                                            Cognitive scientists assert that the reason it is annoying for us to listen to a cell phone conversation (and perhaps why it SEEMS louder) is because it is a one-way conversation. This type of discourse is difficult for the brain to process because we are not able to hear the the other's responses.

                                            1. re: globocity

                                              that theory makes sense -- at least for an inveterate eavesdropper like me!

                            2. It sounds very rude to me. I wonder if the restaurant is in good shape financially. I've seen signs asking guests to stay off the phone while placing to-go orders or picking up orders, etc. You need a similar type of sign!! Unfortunately, I am noticing incredibly rude incidents/people on a daily basis - unrelated to cell phone use - and it's really very sad and disappointing. Two underutilized expressions: "Excuse me" and "thank you." But I digress. On the issue of the cell phone, I am guilty of answering. I have the ringer turned off so that it vibrates and if an incoming call shows no caller i.d. then it oculd be my parents and that could mean an emergency. Or, I was recently at the determatologist and I had an incoming call from a neurologist - waiting for tht call for awhile - so the convenience is sometimes not an option. I can't always turn off my phone for an hour and check messages later. But unless it's very important, I let the call go into voice mail.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Bite Me

                                Sorry - I did not reply to the restaurant part. I would think they are solid. They have been around a long time and as I mentioned, they have good food and prices. The atmosphere is nice other than the new cell phone stuff. This really has never come up before. With the economy bad, I would think they would try extra hard. I'll probably go back, since I know and love this place. A first timer, I doubt they would ever go again.

                              2. I just wanted to add another vote in your corner. This is pretty rude, but in my experience, entirely uncommon (so far at least)!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: enbell

                                  I was sure hoping things weren't going that way. This is a small town, so we are usually the last to see trends. I thought, "Well, maybe it has gone to this, and I just didn't know about it." I do really like to talk to restaurant folks (not overboard), but I find most servers and others members of the team delightful when they interact. I am also the one to tip well and also perhaps even call back later and mention someone who did an exceptional job.

                                2. The server's behaviour is pretty shocking, I must say I've never encountered it before. I'd have mentioned it to the manager when he said he hoped you'd enjoyed the meal. I don't think it's fair to assume that because he was on the phone, too, he'd be OK with the servers doing it (his call could have been business related).

                                  Most businesses don't allow employees to constantly use their cellphones while working, at the very least they'd get decreased productivity, and are more likely to have accidents or errors due to inattention. I wouldn't be surprised if this was an unusual incident, speaking to the manager might give you some explanation.

                                  1. Makes ya wanna grab the phone and smack them with it, right?

                                    I think common courtesy will continue to decline the more people find it 'ok' to run a business and actively tweet/text/talk when they should be making their customers feel welcome, respected and well taken care of.

                                    Also don't think I would have remained hush about it- I'd have flagged that guy down every 2 minutes "Oh I'm SO SORRY to INTERRUPT your PHONE CONVERSATION but we need extra napkins..." "Hey- still on that call? Ok, EXCUSE yourself for a second because I never got a fork and I don't want to use my fingers tonight..."
                                    (Actually, I dunno if we would have stuck around long, I'm kinda big on good service...)

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                      If a server came to my table while on his phone, and asked the caller to hold while he took my order, my first request would be 'please .... finish your call .... I'll wait ...." and then smile sweetly. Or, since he/she has brought the caller into our "situation", I might ask "who are WE talking to? Is that your mom?" Put him/her on the spot, in a non-confrontational manner. I would take the same position with a cashier who is on the phone while making my transaction. I might feel the need to interrupt him/her several times to ask "is this the correct change?"

                                      There are times when one MUST take the call .... When I call my boss, he always pick up regardless of where he is or what he is doing, so I try to NOT make his calls go to voice mail unless absolutely necessary. That said, I certainly would not make OUTGOING calls while standing in line anywhere (except maybe the post office where the lines are long and the time is truly wasted...) But a server is ON DUTY -- his/her cell phone should be OFF while on the floor. I dont know (and dont care) what they're doing back in the kitchen, but when they are with the public, we deserve 100% of their attention, or their gratuity will suffer (and I would not hesitate to write down WHY on my charge slip)

                                      1. re: Cheflambo

                                        > [..] a server is ON DUTY -- his/her cell phone should be OFF while on the floor.

                                        Bingo. When you're in the Public's Eye, you are judged accordingly and tips will reflect that. Perhaps if enough patrons made it known through reducing the tip because of this boorish habit it would nip it quickly in the bud.

                                        To the OP, keep fighting the good fight. There are more than just you out there that think this is worth noting and not being a party of.

                                        1. re: Cheflambo

                                          The suggestions are good (-: I had to laugh. Really, I was caught totally off guard. I never had anyone take my order while on a cell phone call before, so I was just kind of rattled. My kid (16 yr old) loves to eat at this restaurant and would have been real disappointed if we'd left. He's at that age where he doesn't care about service. He just wants the food and lots of it.

                                          1. re: CyndiA

                                            i'm in the restaurant business nearly 20 years. i don't care how small or casual the place, i would have gone BERSERK. internally, of course, lol. if he put his personal call "on hold", i would have said, "i'll order when you get off the phone."

                                            if it had been a member of my staff? they would have been fired on the spot. cellphones must be OFF while on the floor.

                                            the manager on his phone? i would have waited for him to finish and then told him how i felt. if he somehow thinks it's ok, there is no way to two-face his staff and tell them no. egregiously offensive.

                                            big city/small town -- manners and professional service are a constant. the guest is not an after-thought.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              I'm with you, hotoynoodle. I manage a tiny restaurant in a tiny town, but if I ever saw a server on their cellphone??!! in the dining room???!!!???!!! while taking orders?????!!!!!?????

                                              That said, it is a constant struggle with kids, (aged appx. 18-25), to get them to turn off their phones. They want to keep their phones on in the server area and think it is perfectly ok to text while working. Or they keep the phone in their pocket on vibrate and "step out" every so often to get some air. It drives us, (owner and me), crazy.

                                      2. Hi:

                                        Please help us keep this thread on topic by discussing on servers in the food industry on cell phones, rather than employees in doctors' offices and other non-chowish businesses. We've had to remove quite a few posts that were off topic.

                                        Thank you.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                          Didn't see this, sorry o en espanol lo siento.

                                        2. Servers who are that cell-f serving should be fired then and there.

                                          1. I would do one of two things:
                                            1) get an inexpensive "business card" printed up to leave in place of a gratuity telling the server why they didn't get one, or
                                            2) turn my wife loose on them, having her tell them she'll give the server her order when they give her their attention.
                                            I think cell phones are the worst invention of the 20th century. They give people the ability to inflict rudeness and inattention to others while buried in their own self-involvement.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: podunkboy

                                              Bravo, podunkboy, I couldn't agree more. The Eiffel tower was engineered with Keuffel & Esser slide rules, the 1969 lunar landing happened before hand held calculators, but waiters need f**king cell phones to do their job? Splain it to me, Lucy.

                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                i think it's pretty clear the server wasn't using a cell phone to *do* his job, but somehow thought it ok to multi-task.

                                                his phone should have wound up where da sun don't shine.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  Among my varied golf groups, there is a very clear rule that if a cell phone rings during a swing or a putt, the aggrieved party may retrieve the perpetrator's cell phone from his golf cart on the next water hazard hole, and toss the phone to the fishes. I have witnessed 8-10. And we mean it.

                                                2. re: Veggo


                                                  I always bring my Picket Log-Log slide rule to most restaurants, though I realize that you did not see it last time. I had it in my brief case. When the server picks up their cell phone, I pick up the Picket and began doing my calculations. Should they inquire about the arcane device, I mention that I am calculating their tip to 10 places, and they are not doing well so far.


                                                  PS I use this for my golf scores too!

                                              2. He would not be working at my restaurant. If an emergency, tell the staff and go out back and make a call, never ever makes call in a restaurant or while serving or hosting. Personal call are done in back on your break, or if an emergency arises, make sure someone can cover and then go and tke care of the call away or out back.

                                                I can't believe the restaurant allowed that.

                                                1. I'm a server at a restaurant where some other servers have been suspended for being caught texting while on duty.
                                                  We also have it printed on the menus (along with a small sign) that says "No cell phones in the dining room." We basically don't care if people are quietly talking or texting, it's for those people who think the entire room needs to hear their one-sided conversation.
                                                  Also, we don't wait for guests to get off the phone. We don't stand at their table hoping they'll make eye contact with us. Basically, until they get off the phone, they get ignored.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Azizeh

                                                    Honestly, I this may sound bad, and I apologize in advance but if I could one of my servers at the restaurant on a cell, BYE BYE. Unless he can state that it is an emergency family member ill etc. Otherwise sorry. I don't keep mine with me and I wouldn't answer it unless an emergency. That is just rude. In a restaurant. Mine is on vibrate and unless an emergency I don't answer I hate that. There are other opinions but I just don't like that. Same if I go to a meeting, or any event. But a server ... no sorry your ass would be out the door.

                                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                                      Any "other opinions" on this would be absolutely off base. I've never seen a personal cell phone in use by any staff member at any restaurant and I think my head would explode if I did. If allowed at all............on vibrate, for emergencies only; checked only when out of guest view!!!

                                                  2. I consider myself just about as server-friendly as they come--I don't run my restaurant experiences on the demerit system, keeping track of infractions and their consequent tip deductions, I'm patient and relatively self-sufficient when servers are busy, understanding when they're obviously harried or tired, and relatively sanguine about most stuff short of consistent rudeness. That said, this would be an absolute non-starter for me. No. No way.

                                                    1. I have never encountered this. If any of my servers have spent time on their cells, it has been out of my sight, and I would hope the sight of any other patrons.

                                                      Not being much of a cell user, I might have the wrong attitude towards their use. In the few instances, where I've acutally had a call, each was an emergency, and I excused myself and left the room, or the area to take those calls. Were I serving anyone, I would have done the same thing, with a major apology, and then dealt with the emergency, probably by explaining to my employer and asking that another take over for me.

                                                      My wife is in a totally different situation, and is on-call 24/7. Still, she would never think of taking any call, while in the presence of others. Yes, I have had to place her dinner order (gentlemen once did that for their wife, or date), but she's never taken a call when amongst others. If the regional contact for the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency can refrain, a server can do the same.

                                                      Were I in your situation, I would have brought it to the attention of the owner, or the manager, and then left, to make my point. I would hesitate to return, but might if there were changes and the food was great.


                                                      1. I'm going to take it a step further: it's not appropriate to be on a personal call while you are working, regardless of whether you have customers in front of you. You are being paid to work, not to socialize. If it's an emergency, that's one thing. But chit-chat and arranging your social calendar should be saved for when you're on your own time, not your employer's!

                                                        17 Replies
                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          dunno, there are a lot of possibilities between idle chit-chat and emergencies. my workplace is one that i'm not allowed to bring a cellphone in, due to security reasons. At the present, my father is going through a number of tests for cancer, one of which he's had an adverse reaction to. While not always an "emergency" , communication with my family right now is of utmost importance to me. Suggesting someone in a similar situation wait until the end of their shift would be a bit of a stretch.

                                                          And i'm sure many CH'ers can come up with a number of examples of non-emergency necessity calls . Personal calls are not always social calls.

                                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                                            What did people do before cell phones? They survived. If someone has an important call, they don't have to wait until the end of their shift -- they can take a break. If a person has a desk job, they can take a minute or two out without disrupting their work now and then during the day, but if they have a customer service job, then they'll just have to wait. "Important" and "immediate" are not synonymous. There's no way someone should be taking personal calls in front of a customer: even if it's an emergency they should excuse themselves.

                                                            1. re: im_nomad

                                                              but the example cited by the o.p. was that the server was on the phone at the custo's table, barely aknowledging the o.p. to get the order, immediately returning to the call "on hold", and then being neglectful.

                                                              but i sure as heck would've made a point to speak to the manager.

                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                yes, but Ruth said she was taking it "a step further" and saying that NO personal calls should ever take place at work, whether there's a customer in front of you or not. This means it wouldn't even matter if the employee was on the house phone in a back office somewhere taking a call. I hope I never work for an employer that would expect me to wait until I had a formal break to find out about an ailing family member.

                                                                I agree that people shouldn't be gabbing away about their social lives on the phone in front of a customer or otherwise, but having to "suck it up" because you happen to have a customer service job and wait til later just doesn't sit well with me. If I ever were a customer in such a situation while the employee was taking such a call, *I* would wait. And if I were such a person's co-worker, i'd also step in to allow them to step away.

                                                                It's just not all black and white is all i'm saying.

                                                                1. re: im_nomad

                                                                  I still disagree. The human race survived and thrived without being available 24/7 for millenia. Just because you *can* be available on the phone every moment doesn't mean you *should* be. If you're with a customer, let your phone go to voice mail and reply on a break, or ask people to text you instead. The world is not going to end if you don't answer the phone! I actually find that being constantly plugged in actually just breeds stress and anxiety -- the more you talk about something (especially something you can't do anything about), the worse you feel. Forced time off the phone focussing on something else is better in the long run.

                                                                  If your personal life is really in such chaos that you have to be on the phone more often than reasonable breaks allow, then take a personal day. But it's not fair to either the employer or the customer to be pretending to work (and getting paid) when you're really focused on personal business.

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                    If I am working or out for dinner I have my phone on vibrate especially in a public place. I make sure if it is an emergency and my family or immediate friends know to text me 911. I will then call. Otherwise NO, it can wait.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      I'm with you n this, I've always defined "emergency" as burning or bleeding anything less can wait and the person calling you should probably have dialed 911 instead. The idea that you're going to resolve some life or death situation be taking a cell call is a bit ludicrous.

                                                                      1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                                        (-: Agreed.

                                                                        Also - I am 100% certain that it was just a basic chit chat cell phone call. There was no indication that the discussion involved anything more than gabbing with a family member or buddy.

                                                                        Plus, the manager changed tales at some point and said, "Customers on the phone. Customers here. All the same." I was thinking, "Well, who's handing you money and who isn't buddy?"

                                                                        If it's all the same anyway, I'll just call next time and chat with them while I eat some tacos at home.

                                                                        1. re: CyndiA

                                                                          >>>"""I'll just call next time and chat with them while I eat some tacos at home."""<<<

                                                                          CYNDI! that is one of the funniest lines i've seen here in a very long time. brava!!!

                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                            Glad you enjoyed it. That was what I was thinking, but I didn't say it though. Prob should have.

                                                                        2. re: Scrapironchef

                                                                          Now, I am not the usual cell-user. I get one legit call per month. When mine rings, I do expect the "burning, or bleeding." Even with those possibilites, I excuse myself and take the call in private.

                                                                          Now, my poor wife is in a different situation. She's on call 24-7 for her hospitals. Things do happen. She's also the US Govt. contact for the state Emergency Preparidness, so does have many more emergency calls that I ever will. Still, when dining, or similar, she excuses herself and talks out of earshot of all diners. If she can do this, so can others.


                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            I would not have a prob with a fellow diner needing to take an emergency call. But, that is nice that your wife excuses herself to do so. That's my style too. But, it would be rare that I would ever have a call that could not wait.

                                                                            The server was just "multi-tasking" as some like to call it. He thought it was fine to talk to a friend and plunk the bill on the table without asking if we enjoyed the meal or would like dessert. Since it was a birthday meal, we likely would have ordered a dessert, but the server really was unavailable. Did not even make eye contact.

                                                                            Since the manager thought that was fine and said he does the same and that no one else complains, I don't see it getting any better. So, I'll take my business elsewhere - along with a large family and friends.

                                                                            Pancho Villas in Salisbury, NC has good service. The manager makes the rounds and double checks with customers. That's a few extra miles on the drive but worth it in my book. They are the newer kid on the block here, but they don't talk on cell phones while waiting tables. In fact, they seem to be glad to have the business. So, it's an easy switch.

                                                                      2. re: im_nomad

                                                                        I am with Ruth on this one. The likelihood that you'll be receiving urgent phone calls on your cell phone at work is pretty slim. I think within any workplace environment, be it customer service or otherwise, people who insist on talking on the phone at all times are inconsiderate of their fellow coworkers who often have to pick up slack for them, and for the customers/clients that they're ignoring.

                                                                        In most cases of true emergency, most people will try multiple times via multiple numbers to attempt to contact the person. Anything less probably means that the call doesn't need to be taken immediately. The reality is that work time is for work, and offtime and breaks are the proper time to deal with personal issues.

                                                                        1. re: queencru

                                                                          I live in an Air Force company town. I've had occasions where the waitress, obviously a little spooked, has apologized in advance during the drinks order because she needed to leave her cell phone on that night- she was supposed to get some sort of word from her husband 'over in the sandbox' to let her know everything was going okay.

                                                                          In this town at anything short of really fine dining and under those circumstances, you nod and say that you understand and hope that all is well with her husband. If the technology had been there during Vietnam/Korea/WW2/WW1/the War of the Roses, I'd hope that a diner would cut them some slack too.

                                                                          1. re: beachmouse

                                                                            This is different from the typical situation. Most people are not awaiting news as to the life/health of a relative or loved one, and I think most people would be okay with an interruption in that situation. This is also not a situation where it would be appropriate to receive the news in front of the guest, as was the case in the OP's situation. Clearly when everyone working in the restaurant is chatting away on the cell phone in front of the guests, this is not a life or death situation needing immediate attention.

                                                                            1. re: beachmouse

                                                                              I think people have different expectations now vs. even 20 years ago, nver mind WW1. Everyone expects to be connected immediately. In the 80's it was OK to leave messages at work or home, even for emergencies, and a call back within an hour was great. I had a cell phone then, the size (and weight) of a brick with a fixed antenna sticking out, no way I could carry it around in my pocket.
                                                                              I have an iphone now, in my pocket, and reply to important emails within minutes and everyone expects me to.

                                                                              1. re: hsk

                                                                                Disappoint them. Really. Really. You can change people's expectations more than you think.

                                                                  2. Print this post and mail it to them. If I am the owner of this establishment I would be having a meeting with my staff. Cells phones are for personal time, not for their time on the clock.

                                                                    1. cyndi, what's changed in this resto that you've been frequenting? new owners? new mgmt.?

                                                                      i hate that service professionals engage in personal matters when they're supposed to be "serving". i've had this done in a checkout line (an obviously "social" call), and i just stand there and stare at the person (who will of course studiously avoid my gaze). when they're done, i'll say, "hey, everything ok? i mean, i wouldn't want to interrupt your personal life." then they give *me* the dirty look! <shaking my head in wonderment....>

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        There is a simple solution - just walk out. I've done this many a time.
                                                                        If I'm being ignored because they're too busy chatting with friends, or on a cell call, I just stand up
                                                                        and leave. I won't spend my money in such a place. I've also had a checkout clerk at the supermarket ignore me completely while ringing me up, talking to the someone else. I usually interupt them and tell them they just lost my business, and leave. I try to inform whoever's in charge as well.

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          Hi Alkapal - I can't think of any change. It's the same manager who has been there years - at least 10 I think. Same crew out front with perhaps one or two new hires in the last 6 months. The only thing I see different is that they all seem to have cell phones suddenly and seem more interestered in clearly buddy phone calls than taking orders or in checking back on drinks etc (whcih I seldom need - but stil). I enjoyed the, "Hi. How are you?" much better than, "Ready order?"

                                                                          1. re: CyndiA

                                                                            bummer, dudette! have you addressed this with the manager, even in the form of a "friendly" inquiry about "hey, what's up with everyone's cell phones?"

                                                                          2. re: alkapal

                                                                            It's the same manager who has always been professional and knows me by sight, and I'm sure he knows I tip well too.

                                                                            There are a few new employees, but the one chatting up on the cell phone (sounded like with a girlfriend) was not one of the new ones.

                                                                            So, I don't know what was up with that.

                                                                          3. I cannot fathom someone being on a cell while waiting tables. I am not sure I would be able to hold my tongue. Unless they are dialing 911 to report a kitchen fire or a customer having a heart attack and all the power has gone out rendering the house phone useless... I do not want to see that contraption anywhere near their ear or ringing from their pocket.

                                                                            I must be an old person... or maybe it is that there is nobody I am dying to talk to that badly. The only time I use my cell is if I am picking someone up at the airport or to ask my husband if he wants something from the grocery while I am out. I get freaked if it rings. Yep. I am old. Good for me.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla


                                                                              I'm with you 100%. However, we cannot chalk it up to youth, as I am probably as old as your dear parents. While I embrace technology as much as a 13 year old, and work in it every day, I do not see my cell phone as anything but an emergency communication device. I had one of the old "brick" phones, but only use it in an emergency.


                                                                            2. Just the other day I went to breakfast with my Dad, his Bday and the girl came to our table and her cell buzzed. She politely said (something like) Can you please excuse me I need to take this. My mother is very ill and in the hospital. She came back very shortly and apologized and explained her Mom was is a very bad car accident and was in the hospital and they were to call her with her condition if it changed. It was good new and she woke up. The server was nice, polite and excused herself nicely. She again said how sorry she was for the phone ringing, but she couldn't afford to take anymore time off so she had to keep the phone with her at all times. And yes, we heard part of her conversation and she was being honest. You couldn't ask for a more apologetic sincere statement. I didn't mind at all and completely understood. Things happen to us all and I can sympathize with that. That call was an exception

                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                ""That call was an exception""

                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                  I agree, I see nothing wrong with how this was handled............however there are some who would argue that this is not an "emergency".

                                                                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                    Well, important if not a literal emergency. However, note that the server wasn't walking around the restaurant talking on her cell phone. She excused herself briefly to take a call and apologized and explained. She wasn't acting as if doing her job was interfering with her personal life!

                                                                                  2. re: alkapal

                                                                                    100%. Emergencies do happen. Technologies allow us to better deal with them.


                                                                                  3. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                    OK, kitchen fires, heart attacks and mothers on their death beds. Those are the exceptions.

                                                                                    I sure hope her mom is recovering well.

                                                                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                      Yes. It is the server, whose conversation goes like this, "oh nothing. Just waiting on some scabby tourists, who will probalby stiff me. What are you doing? Hey, sounds great. I'll probably dump this joint early and these peons, and join you. Maybe we can shoot some pool?"

                                                                                      I encounter similar in Costco all too often, "oh nothing. What are you doing? Oprah, I forgot that I'm missing her. Hey, the 55 gal. barrel of mayonaise is on sale for $35.00. Do you want me to pick one up for you? Look, the entire palatte of French's yellow mustard is going for $200. Do you want to split it with me?"

                                                                                      And God help me, if I have to get past the various food stations with each person on their cell describing every taste to someone on the other end.

                                                                                      I can see the mystique of Twitter, where there are tens of thousands, who hang on every minute aspect of someone's life. I am not sure which is worse, the people who think that the world wants to know every aspect of their lives, or the people, who actually do.


                                                                                    2. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                      Oh. I'd have no prob with that and would glad her Mom woke up. It was good she let you know what was going on in case the call came. I think most people are tolerate and understanding and caring.

                                                                                      1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                        cranky opposition here: i don't want to know about my server's personal life.

                                                                                        if her phone buzzed in her apron, i didn't need to know and the 30 seconds it took her to get off the floor would not have changed a thing in her life, nor mine.

                                                                                        i am not an ogre and i'm happy her mother is better, but i'm sorry, that is tmi.

                                                                                        1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                          That server should teach cell phone etiquette.

                                                                                        2. Sort of related to this post...The owner of a local family-owned indian joint has an app on his iPhone that he uses to take orders and transmit them to the kitchen.

                                                                                          It was a little off-putting when he walked up to our table, phone in hand asking us what we'd like to order. But super techy cool!

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: soypower

                                                                                            The real test comes when the phone rings while he's taking an order!

                                                                                          2. The situation described by the OP is extremely unprofessional. I can help but wonder when then are that bad in the front of the house it make me wonder what's going on in the back.

                                                                                            1. There are legitimate emergencies that require employees to make personal telephone calls during work hours outside of their allotted breaks.

                                                                                              However, this is not what's happening. The inability of people these days to go more than 5 minutes without talking on the phone or texting has reached epidemic levels. Who are they all talking to? Why? And about what? Are they just trying to get the most of their free minutes?

                                                                                              Customers have to start responding with their wallets. The last time I encountered this I was at the bar of a so-called four star hotel in mid-town Manhattan. The bartender was blind to the world as he parked himself at the end of the bar engaged in an animated conversation with what sounded like his wife about repairs to his roof.

                                                                                              He'll be a little more challenged paying for that roof repair since I left him zilch for a tip.

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: taos

                                                                                                You may not like him talking on his cell phone, but it fine for you to pay enough attention to hear the details of his conversation and determine it was his wife and a roof repair? That's funny.

                                                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                  When you're around typical cell phone gabbers, the only way to avoid paying attention to their conversations would be to stick our fingers in our ears and chant "la la la la" very loudly. We're all prisoners of these motor mouth pests and what someone has described as their second-hand yak.

                                                                                                  1. re: mandycat

                                                                                                    In the instance above, the bartender was at the end of the bar away from the patron.....not next to or across of him. It's arguable whether the bartender was paying attention to taos, or not.....but taos was paying attention to the bartender's conversation on the cell phone.

                                                                                                    btw....I'm from the camp cell phones can and should be turned off,left in the car or only used for emergencies......when dining out or in a bar......Employees in any business should not use personal cell phones on company time.

                                                                                                2. re: taos

                                                                                                  recently went to the bar at a mccormick & schmick's around 4:30 in the afternoon on a friday. there was a large group in the center and a few deuces. the bartender and 3 servers all were texting on their phones at the service end of the bar. if the place had zero guests, maybe i wouldn't have been so put-off, but i seriously could not believe it. they would go to table, do a little thing and then go right back to the corner and text. i am amazed that the managers, the gm and corporate tolerate it.


                                                                                                3. I returned to the restaurant with cell phone servers and hoped the last time was a fluke. It's my son's birthday, and he loves the food at Monterrey's of Salisbury, NC.

                                                                                                  Our server today didn't even bother to have his caller hold while he put the ticket on our table and grabbed as many dishes as he could hold while holding a cell phone in his other hand.

                                                                                                  The manager asked if everything had been OK, and I told him, "No. Our server was talking on a cell phone while waiting the table." The manager replied, "So what's the differnce. I talk on the phone while I wait the tables too. No one else complains."

                                                                                                  I told him that I did not leave a tip due to the lack of service. He informed me that was wrong when I had good service but didn't like cell phones. I like cell phones just fine but not while I'm eating. I told him that, no, in fact, the service had not been good. The server tried to take our order when we first sat down. When I asked for a couple of minutes, he must have taken me literally; he was back in about 2 minutes to the second. Even my teen son (who knew what he wanted) commented that they sure were in a rush (and with only two tables seated in the whole restaurant). The mood certainly suggested that taking orders and bringing food was a bother and an interruption of the server's evening on the phone.

                                                                                                  I've been a regular customer of Monterrey's for over 20 years and tip 20 to 30 yrs. Over all these years, I have never complained about anything. Is it always perfect? Of course not, but they used to make an effort. So, I didn't sweat some small details.

                                                                                                  The manager will not have to worry about me being the only one to complain about servers on cell phones while waiting tables, because I will not be going back. Perhaps that's why his restaurant was almost empty tonight.

                                                                                                  If you want good service at Monterrey's of Salisbury, NC, perhaps you should call, and they can talk you through your meal. After all, as the manager says, "What's the difference?"

                                                                                                  Monterrey Mexican Restaurant
                                                                                                  2094 Statesville Blvd
                                                                                                  Salisbury, NC
                                                                                                  (704) 630-0045‎

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: CyndiA

                                                                                                    Yikes! I guess that's the unfortunate downside to the wonders of modern communications technology: it encourages people to believe that they are the center of the universe and that everything else should take a backseat to their need to share every thought in their head with their social network.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                      "it encourages people to believe that they are the center of the universe and that everything else should take a backseat to their need to share every thought in their head with their social network."


                                                                                                      You must have gotten the memo - oh wait, that is so '80s - let me try again please, you must not have gotten the tweet. They ARE the center of the universe. The news is out - eveyone, but you and I, are the total epicenter of all things important. At least that is the way that it certainly seems. [Inset big grin here]


                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                        And sadly with diners who have no interest at all in being part of a personal conversation while eating out.

                                                                                                    2. my thoughts? it's the height of unprofessionalism in any work environment to be spending time not giving your work your full attention. I would call the owner, explain my feelings clearly, and let it be known that TIPS is an acronym for 'to insure prompt service." I've managed a restaurant dining room and it's darned near impossible to troll constantly for servers shirking their duties and neglecting their guests. The best thing is to make an example of a couple of them! i also had a busboy who i had to tell every day to pull up his pants and tighten his belt so they stay there. No one pays to go out for an evening to see his drawers. Can you believe it? I say 'vote with your dollars and your feet.' Call and express your disappointment with any bad service. The owners should care to know. Then tell your friends..............

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: lil magill

                                                                                                        If I owned a restaurant, I'd sure want to know about such service. Maybe I can round up the owner's phone number, since I've never known him to be at the restaurant.

                                                                                                        The manager actually had a clear view of the serving area so had to know the server was chatting on the cell phone. Also, the manager clearly stated that he does the same thing and it's my problem if I don't like it.

                                                                                                        OK. I don't like it - one bit. I won't be back to Monterrey Mexican Restaurant of Salisbury, NC again, and I have passed the word to family and friends. This is a small town, and they just lost a lot of 20 plus year cutomers.

                                                                                                        1. re: CyndiA

                                                                                                          cyndi, you are cracking me up!

                                                                                                          would that be the "Monterrey Mexican Restaurant of Salisbury, NC " you are referring to?


                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                            (-: Yep. I give credit where it is due. It is, in fact, Monterrey's Mexican Restaurant of Salisbury, NC on Statesville Blvd at the Food Lion shopping plaza - not to be confused with the ka-zillion other Monterrey restaurants where they prob do not talk on cell phones during the meal.

                                                                                                      2. O God, what's next. I have had the checkout girls at CVS Pharmacy on personal cell-phone calls while they were checking me out (you can't ask them the question you wanted to ask). I have seen a person chatting on her cell phone while interacting with the teller in the bank. Today's paper has an article by a frequent business flyer who hires limousine transp to and from the airport and has begun a clearly stated policy of "no tip to the driver if hes talk on his cell phone" on the theory that if he is paying a professional driver to take him through major expressway traffic, he wants full professional attention given to traffic conditions. And of course you can't offer a polite "good morning" in the elevator because everybody's ears are wired. But, a restaurant server? Bad, bad. I am waiting only to hear of a doctor who's talking on his cell phone while he listens to your heart.