Ask The Salty Waitress: Why do I have to remove my AirPods to order coffee?

Illustration for article titled Ask The Salty Waitress: Why do I have to remove my AirPods to order coffee?
Photo: Edward Berthelot (Getty Images), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio

Dear Salty, I was at the coffee shop counter, and the cashier wouldn’t take my order until I took off my AirPod! And it was only in one ear! Am I the asshole here?


Oh, Kevin, you sad, foolish little soul. Where do I even begin? [Takes a deep breath.] I am trying hard here to give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you were in the middle of a very important phone call/podcast/guitar riff that could not be paused for the 30 or so seconds it takes to order a cup of coffee. In which case, you very politely step aside to conclude your business and then order your coffee. Or, if you happen to be at a Starbucks or Dunkin’ or another coffee shop that is very proud of the way it has harnessed modern smartphone technology, you order your coffee on the app, and then you pick it up silently and efficiently, without having to interrupt whatever it is that is so important you cannot stop to speak to another human being.


Because that’s the thing, sweetie pie. THE CASHIER IS A HUMAN BEING! JUST LIKE YOU! Their role in your life may be temporary and functional, but they’ve got feelings and hopes and dreams and aspirations. And like you (probably) they would like your full and undivided attention while you ask them to perform a service for you. (This goes for all service workers, by the way. And it goes both ways.) Not only is this kindness and good manners—and the world could really use a bit more of both of those, pumpkin, wouldn’t you agree?—it’s also a way to make sure that your order is conveyed accurately so that you get exactly the cup of coffee that you want. Which is really the main reason you should remove your earbud—sorry, AirPod. But the Golden Rule part—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—is nice, too.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a question about how to handle customers? Email us:


F.Y. Jones

Sorry salty, you’re in the wrong on this one:

(1) nowadays, there’s a line of hearing aids made to look like Bluetooth headphones (including airpods) because some people are self conscious about the hearing aid look. Baristas should not be making that call, or forcing someone into a potentially embarrassing interaction.

(2) even though this guy was not hearing impaired, he: was not talking on the phone or listening to music/podcast while ordering; and he was only wearing one pod so he could easily interact with her.

Yes, Bluetooth hesdsets can look douchey and self important... But if a person isn't actually using the headset while ordering (or inside), who cares?  How is it any different than an earring or piece of jewelry?