Dear Salty, I was traveling this weekend on business and had a tight connection that meant I had to switch airport terminals. Between my two long flights, I barely had time to grab some food to tide me over. So with 5 minutes until my plane boards, I decided to grab a sandwich from a counter-service barbecue restaurant that had no line and barely anyone sitting at its tables. I figured it would be fastest, since there was no line.
I grabbed my sandwich and ran to the register, where the cashier was texting on her phone. She could clearly see me standing there, but finished her text before she rang up my order. Then, as I scanned my card, she took her phone out again and sent another text before completing the transaction and giving my receipt. I know that this could have been an important text about her kid or something, but I was really in a rush, as are lots of people at airports. I struggled to decide whether I should have made a polite cough or something to get her to put the phone down, but ultimately I didn’t say anything. What should I have done? Said I was in a hurry? Or just sucked it up?
In A Rush
Dear In A Rush,
There are those who’d say that a cashier (or server, or bartender) texting while on the job is just horribly rude, case closed. But I think there’s some nuance here, and I appreciate that part of you gave this woman the benefit of the doubt. (How many people with normal office jobs put their phones away for all 8 hours of their workdays, hmm?)
So here’s where I stand on this: Texting while working, in front of customers, is a bad look no matter what type of restaurant you work in. It signals that you’re not busy or concerned with your customers. Even if you’ve waited on someone hand and foot and they don’t need a single thing from you, if they catch a peek of you texting in the corner, they’re likely to see you as uninterested and lazy. This goes triple for employees at airport restaurants, where almost every customer is tired and in some kind of a hurry. So yeah, this employee was wrong to be texting in front of you, especially if you “ran to the register” and were visibly rushing.
And yet. I am sympathetic to employees who only get one short break during their shift, and who might have a sick kid staying with a babysitter or a pet at the vet’s office or be waiting to hear from their family member who’s having a baby. Life happens, and it’s not respectful of when your shift starts and ends. Best-case scenario, the cashier should have asked another employee to quickly cover the register—especially if the restaurant wasn’t busy—so she could duck into a private area to send her texts.
If the 30 seconds it took her to send the text is really the difference between you making or missing your flight, then you could have piped up with a polite “Can I get a copy of my receipt, please?” But it didn’t keep you from missing your flight, right? So take comfort in the fact that you made your flight, got a sandwich, and gave a fellow human being a pass on less-than-perfect behavior. That’s a win, win, win.
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