Social Question

RedPowerLady's avatar

Is it ever appropriate to talk on your cell phone while eating in at a restaurant?

Asked by RedPowerLady (12571points) October 21st, 2009

I was in a restaurant today, and not a cheapy one either ;), and a gentleman was very loudly talking on his cell phone. I suppose he was trying to be heard over the restaurant chatter. He made no move to get up and talk in a corner of the restaurant and the conversation was quite long. He did not even receive the call but made it himself and he was not dining alone. Apparently he wanted to give his dad updates on his drunk buddies and cage fighting. Now the couple did not look drunk or inappropriate at all so I have no reason to believe that they don’t know proper social etiquette.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Did it annoy the heck out of you? But more importantly is it ever appropriate to take a phone call in this scenario (perhaps a brief call to check on the kids?)? And furthermore what makes people think that it is appropriate (even after receiving nasty looks from other patrons like myself)?

I know a couple people commented on this during this thread but it wasn’t many so I thought I’d ask anyway.

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38 Answers

Darwin's avatar

Being rude in a restaurant is never appropriate. If one patron is doing something that interferes with another customer’s enjoyment of his meal, then the first patron is in the wrong.

However, that said, if you need to get or make a cell phone call in a restaurant, there are ways to handle the situation politely. If you are dining with others, then explain why you need to take or make the call and ask if they mind. If you are in a very noisy restaurant, then you should excuse yourself and go off somewhere quiet to make or take the call.

This particular guy sounds exceedingly self-centered and so feels free to disregard any etiquette he may have been apprised of. Perhaps a word to the waiter, the maitre d’, or the manager could have resolved the situation better.

Lorenita's avatar

I’ve actually done that many times!!! jejjeje .. but it’s definately not appropriate if you have company, you shouldn’t let your cell phone bother you in the middle of a date, or just dinner.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’ll continue to say this, I see no difference between talking to a person or talking on the phone. But, if you are with other people it is not okay to have a full-on conversation with someone on the phone, no matter where you are. A quick call is no big deal, but one should definitely make sure it’s okay with one’s company first.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I’m not a cell phone user by the way so these issues are of particular interest to me, as an “outsider”.

buckyboy28's avatar

It’s only common courtesy to refrain from using your phone and putting it on vibrate. It is completely understandable if you need to take an important call, and ask to be excused, but to talk at the table is really rude. Same goes for texting, too. Don’t text under the table!

RedPowerLady's avatar


So you wouldn’t consider talking loud enough over the restaurant chatter on your cell phone to be rude? I mean considering there are other customers trying to enjoy their meals.

Just a question don’t take it as an opinion either way.

Ansible1's avatar

If you were at TGI Friday’s or something i’d say what did you expect. However, this behavior is inappropriate at any up-scale restaurant. If you recieve a call ignore it, or tell them you’ll call them back. If it’s important you should remove yourself from the dining area to take the call.

buckyboy28's avatar

@Ansible1 Even at TGI Friday’s, I still think it’s rude. Sure it isn’t the fanciest of restaurants, but people go there to enjoy their meal, not to hear other folks blabbing on their phones.

tinyfaery's avatar

People talk loud in restraunts all the time.

peedub's avatar

Strictly speaking in terms of decibels, I find that one’s voice carries further when talking on a cell phone. That being said, it is often loud and annoying to hear someone chatter away (not to mention the fact that what you hear is a hardly intelligible half-conversation) while I am trying to enjoy my dining experience. I don’t care if I’m at Arby’s or Chez Panisse, it sucks.
Aside from sound issues, there is the matter of presence. Is it not enough for someone to restrict their dining interactions to persons present? There is often not any need pressing enough that persons outside of the establishment need to be contacted or somehow involved.
It is a rude practice on many levels and should be avoided.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@tinyfaery Perhaps that is true. This is really my first experience with this so I’m not sure. But this gentleman in particular was talking very loudly. Even if he wasn’t on a cell I think it would have been too loud. But I think the only reason he was talking loud was to talk over everyone else. Anyhow I’m not sure that was just what I observed.

Ivan's avatar

I’ve realized that the only thing that’s ever inappropriate is the use of the word “inappropriate”.

DominicX's avatar

This is why I prefer to text at restaurants. :)

frdelrosario's avatar

I’m going to quickly mark all the “no” answers as “great”.

lbinva78's avatar

I find it more annoying (and a bit insulting) when someone invites me out for dinner and then insists on taking calls that are obviously unimportant. My mother does this when she’s home for visits (she lives out of state) and I never understand it. It doesn’t matter how loud the conversation is; that social call from her friend should be irrelevant.

ubersiren's avatar

I sort of have to agree with @tinyfaery in that it’s not really different than talking to a person who is there. Although, I will say that talking loudly at all would bother me enough to want to say something. It wouldn’t be as bothersome in a Burger King as it would somewhere nicer. Also, it doesn’t bother me if it’s brief. If it’s through whole dinner and the person is talking so loudly that my silverware is rattling, I’d be pissed, cell phone or not. I think the problem comes in where people have the tendency to talk louder on the phone.

shego's avatar

I would be very upset if there was a person sitting near me was yelling through the phone with some bs. I have been to places, where there is an inconvience fee for interupting people while the dine. One place added on an extra $10 dollars. But they only did it if you were on your phone for over five min.

Lightlyseared's avatar

If you are negotiating the end of world war 3 then yes, otherwise no.

dalepetrie's avatar

I have no problem with it IF you keep your voice down so not everyone can hear your conversation. I just as often go to a restaurant, am seated next to a table with 6 people, and ONE PERSON can be heard CONSTANTLY over the rest, and I just want to fucking strangle the shit out of them. But I’ve been for example having lunch alone and my wife calls, or someone calls about a job opportunity or something…usually I don’t get a lot of “frivolous” calls, I’m not much of a talker, and I’ll take it….if the wait person comes by to ask me something, I’ll have the person on the other end hold on, and I don’t talk so loud that anyone at another table can hear me. If it’s too loud, I step outside to talk. My wife even some times takes cell calls from her friends when we’re having dinner out, I’m not offended, and she isn’t heard at other tables, and will leave if she needs to shout. If a person keeping their voice to themselves, it shouldn’t matter to you if they’re talking to a person who is in the room or one who is not. Now those self important pricks who walk around with a hands free earpiece in, I mean, c’mon, unless you’re a fucking heart surgeon, that’s ridonculous. I especially love it when I see a guy in a button down shirt and tie wearing one of these things at 1:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday at Chipotle…yeah, fuck YOU you pompous piece of shit, no one’s impressed with you but you. But I digress.

deni's avatar

I think it’s rude and annoying but there are extenuating circumstances. Last week someone called me back again for help with directions while I was in the middle of a meal. I couldn’t just let them get lost, since they were from out of the area, so I answered, but I was embarrassed and I felt stupid the whole time.

DarkScribe's avatar

A few years ago there was a device sold that jammed cell phones within a thirty or forty meter radius. Shortly after release they were outlawed unfortunately. Their primary purpose was to prevent the use of cell phones in restaurants and theaters etc. I have one and still use it on occasion, just as a prank. The only downside is that it is bulky and draws a lot of power – you need to carry it in a briefcase and use a small motorcycle battery to power it if you expect more than a few minutes use from it. I sometime take one into a coffee shop with me to see just how many people I can get to walk outside looking puzzled.

I often wish that I had it with me when surround by loud and inconsiderate buffoons using phones in restaurants or coffee shops.

Although no longer legal, you can still buy them here.

Jack_Haas's avatar

Oh boy, does that bring back embarrassing memories. I used to have my earpiece on at all times. I only took it off before sleeping and put it back on as soon as I got up. I initially bought it so I wouldn’t waste time in the shower. I’ve never had a problem talking on the phone the same way I do with a physically present person but sometimes I’m way too oblivious to my surroudings.

The most embarrassing moment was at an upscale restaurant in stuffy Luxembourg. I had invited a group of close friends for a last night out the day before leaving to the US. It was one of these restaurants where you can see people’s lips moving but you could hear a fly. Half-way through the evening my phone rings. Several weeks earlier I had reserved a particular car make and model, and the rental company had waited until the day before I landed to inform me they didn’t have that car. Apparently they realized the difference between Deville and Seville at the last minute. After a few minutes of expressing my frustration to the company rep, I was seeing the maitre D’ and my friends look at me imploringly, and it just added to my frustration. In the end I exploded and I screamed something like “look you idiot, I don’t want a Mercedes or a Bmw or a Porsche i have these here, I want an STS because I don’t have these here so find one or go to hell”. Until that point, it looked as though everyone wanted to kill me but afterwards there was no more animosity, everyone was cool (save for my friends). I’m still ashamed of it though.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t see any big difference between having a conversation with someone sitting beside you or someone on a phone. As long as you keep your voice down. It is annoying to be close to people who speak in loud voices period. I don’t like the ringing, but if your phone is on vibrate, who cares. I do think it is rude to have prolonged phone conversations if you are in company, I also think it is rude for people to have headphones (connected to mp3 players) when in company.

Facade's avatar

It’s ok as long as you’re not yelling and disturbing others.

syz's avatar

No. If I have to take an important call, I excuse myself and step outside (or somewhere where I will not infringe upon anyone else).

trailsillustrated's avatar


dannyc's avatar

May be appropriate, just not cool. Says I am uninterested in your co-diner.

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Lorenita's avatar

Well if it’s too loud… yes it might be unappropiate, it all depends on the circumstances, lets say you are in a romantic date, or at the movies, of course it’s going to be annoying. But if it’s a very important call and you MUST answer it’s alright, there are some people who cant just leave the phone and they keep on answering calls, thats’ definately annoying…. but otherwise I think it’s okay to pick up the cell phone as long as you keep it quiet =)

mellow_girl's avatar

i say it’s okay as long as youre talking quitely, if you feel you must talk loudly, then go outside…

Just_Justine's avatar

I hate cell phones they are a pain in the @ss

Darwin's avatar

@Just_Justine – Only if you carry them in your hip pocket.

Kardamom's avatar

Back in the days when they only had pay phones, you would have to get up and go down the hall to make a call. I think that is exactly what people should do today with cell phones. If they need to make or take an important call, they should excuse themselves from the dining room and go down the hall or outside to talk. The only exceptions I can think of, for which most people would probably forgive them, is for a doctor waiting for a call on a patient, a parent or anyone else waiting on an update from a very sick person from whom they are keeping tabs on, or the family of someone waiting on the birth of a child. And even in those cases, there’s no reason why the person with the phone can’t get up from the table and go down the hall or go outside.

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rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t understand why people find this so offensive. What is the difference between talking to someone sitting or walking beside you in a restaurant or public place or talking in to a cell phone? I was in the parking lot of a supermarket/shopping center, just getting onto my scooter when my phone rang. It was an old friend from another part of the country. I sat on my scooter, in the middle of the parking lot and chatted with her. An amazing number of passers bye gave me horrible looks??!! There were people standing in groups of twos or more chatting and no one was giving them dirty looks, what is the difference? I just don’t get it.

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Qipaogirl's avatar

I do no tike people carrying on lengthy conversations at the table on their cell phones. I lunched with my friend who is a real estate agent, and she literally spent 45 minutes of our lunch talking to a client about nothing because she wants this client to buy a house from her, and when I mean nothing I mean nothing purchasing a home related. Apparently, she was upset about her cat’s behavior or something. I never had lunch with this person after that. Who wants to dine with a person who feels it is utterly normal to treat you as if you are not present. If she wants to live and breathe her career, fine, then don’t make lunch dates with friends. I think one should excuse oneself from the table, keep the conversation short, and if it is going to be a long conversation give the remaining party notice, so he or she is not sitting around waiting.

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