Should You Ban Customers from Using Cell Phones?

by Kevin Casey on October 10, 2012
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Check out the Yelp reviews for Saad’s Halal Place, a Philadelphia eatery, and you’ll read raves about its shawarma and chicken maroosh. Patrons also strongly suggest that you turn off your mobile phone before you sit down.

“Don’t talk on your cell phone, or Saad will call you out!” one reviewer warns. Saad’s no-phone policy pops up regularly in reviews, and most diners seem to approve. “It’s kinda nice to see people having conversations with each other at the tables rather than yapping away on their phones,” another customer writes.

In the era of ubiquitous mobile phones, we’ve all witnessed someone making or taking a call in a store, a restaurant, or another business. In some cases, this may not be particularly intrusive. In others, everyone within earshot is suddenly inundated with details of the person’s messy breakup, family feud, or unfortunate medical condition. As a result, many small businesses are just saying “no” — and banning cell-phone conversations on their premises.

The rationale for banning phones can be quite straightforward. DrivingMBA, a driving school in the Phoenix area, has a no-phone rule as a matter of safety. “We created a ‘no cell phone’ policy in response to the insanity that has taken over our roadways,” says owner Maria Wojtczak. The rule extends beyond the confines of the car: Phones are prohibited in classrooms, simulation labs, and elsewhere on-site. Many of the school’s students are teenagers, but the rule applies to parents and employees, too.

“Students must turn their cell phones off, and they are placed in a bin until the end of their lesson,” Wojtczak explains. “The reason [is] to teach them that [the] device is not an extension of their hands and that they can live without it for a couple of hours.”

Other businesses prohibit mobile phones as a branding and customer-satisfaction strategy. “We want you to remember the amazing experience you had in our store, not someone’s phone conversation,” says Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing manager at Wixon Jewelers, a luxury jewelry retailer in Minneapolis. At Wixon, the no-phone policy is intended to help foster an aura of luxury and hospitality in the shopping experience.

“Instituting a ‘no cell-phone’ policy in your business can really change the image of your store,” Pretzloff says. “It’s a way to show mutual respect for fellow patrons by allowing a chatter-free experience.”

Implementing the policy was simple, according to Pretzloff. “We have a sign in our entrance that kindly notes that they shouldn’t use their cell phones in the store, and everyone is respectful of that,” he says. “I cannot think of a time where we had to enforce the rule. By notifying [customers] ahead of time to not use phones, it’s worked great.”

Kevin Casey is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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