Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Okay, so maybe I'll sound like a rube who should get with the times. Afterall, everyone's busy so we gotta do as much as possible in as little time as possible. It's called multi-tasking right?!

But there's one thing that I really try to avoid whenever possible: Talking on the cell phone while being assisted by someone.

You know the story. You're in a checkout line and your phone rings. So you answer it and in the meantime you've gotten to the front of the line and need to checkout. What do you do? Here's the options which I think most people likely consider:
  1. Give a smile to the checker and act like you feel guilty that you're on the phone, but you remain on the phone. You may talk to the checker if absolutely needed, but your focus is on the other end of the phone line, not the other side of the check-out counter.
  2. Give a smile to the checker, tell the person on the phone to hold on a second and finish your business with the checker. The whole time the phone is still on and you resume your conversation as soon as you're done with the checker.
  3. When you get to the front of the line, tell the person on the phone that you'll have to call them back and hang up.
  4. You get out of line while you finish up your conversation and get back in line when you're done.
  5. You don't take the call, finish up with the check-out, then check your voicemail and/or call the person back.

I'm sure that you can guess which option I usually take? Number 3. I used to take option 1 or 2, but at some point I realized that I was being inconsiderate to both the checker and the person on the phone with either of those options. Now, if I was being totally considerate of the entire situation, I'd just let the call go through to VM and call the person back. I only do that if I'm about to start my checkout, but normally, I'll pick up the phone and tell the person I have to hang up when it comes time.

What's my main reason for doing this? Honestly, the first thing I think of when I see someone take option 1 is that they're treating the checker like a servant. Yes, obviously, the checker is there to serve you the customer. But do you have to treat him or her like a man-servant?

I just saw this in the cafeteria this afternoon. What drove me to finally blog about this is the attitude the customer had with the checker. Not only did she continue with her phone conversation, but when the checker asked her what she had (a salad and chicken), she looks dismayed at having to tell the checker a second time. And in between telling the checker what to ring up, she's apologizing to the person on the phone for asking him/her to repeat what was just said.

Seeing that just makes me feel bad for the checker. She's doing her job and you can barely give her the 30 seconds it takes to complete a transaction? I personally feel guilty if I do this to someone and rather than make a stupid face to the checker, make the checker dislike me, and still feel bad about it, I just slow down and give each person the time and respect they deserve.

I've expanded this to regular situations when I'm with a friend. I'll usually not answer my phone unless I know it's going to be short or if the person has called me a couple of times. Even then, I still try to tell the person I'm with that I need to take the call and why I need to take it. It's the least I can do.

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