The County Stores in south-west England says on its website that visitors will be able to find, among its many offerings, “a bakery, our delicatessen counter, a small and friendly butcher, quality chocolates and coffee.” They’ll also find a notice informing them that should they approach a cash register while talking on a mobile phone, they won’t be served.
Staff at the store, which has been in business since 1836, have become so fed up with distracted customers yakking away on their handsets that in the end the notice seemed like the only solution.
“Quite simply, if someone’s on their phone, we’ll serve the next person,” store assistant Sharon Kidd told the Daily Mail. “People refusing to hang up when it’s their turn to be served is happening increasingly, and…..the queue can get quite long.”
Kidd said that on the whole that the policy has been well received by customers, with only one or two visitors getting upset after being ignored.
The owner of the store, Hugh Duder, understands his workers’ disgruntlement at visitors who appear unable to take a break from their mobiles, saying, “It’s disrespectful to be on the phone when you want to get served, and the counter assistants shouldn’t have to put up with it.”
The store isn’t first in the UK to adopt such a policy. Earlier this year Darren Groom, owner of a coffee shop in Norwich in eastern England, decided to “strike a blow for basic manners” by putting up a sign indicating that he would refuse to serve customers talking on a phone.
Groom explained that he’d become fed up with people expecting him to be able to lip read their order.
“In the shop we need to ask a few questions, like whether they’re having it in or taking it away, whether they want whole milk or not, sugar or not,” he told the BBC, adding “When people come in we like to say ‘hello’. It’s nice if people respond to that. They should have the basic manners to converse with us.”
In the case of retail stores, it’s possible the issue of customers talking on their phone while at the cash register is a bigger annoyance than many people realize. However, beyond sticking up notices, there’s little staff can do. If only cell phone jammers weren’t illegal….