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The Great Debates Cell Phone
Usage in
Restaurants



Original Article:

The Wonderful World of Cell Phones...
By Bob Bradley and Steven Shaw

I can remember in the not so distant past how impressive it was to see important people sitting in a restaurant at a table where they actually had phones. You just knew that the guy talking on that phone was a major player, and everyone else had to use the coin phone next to the cloakroom. Now, any idiot can own a cell phone, and the idiots can be seen in restaurants all over America - conducting major business deals (or whatever) while having dinner.

First of all, itís a shame that restaurants take the brunt of this discussion, as cell phones ring everywhere. This is one problem that restaurant owners donít need, and probably never even thought about. But it is becoming an issue, so it simply has to be addressed.

Steven Shaw's New York Restaurant Review is a wonderful presentation on dining in the Big Apple. Even though I disagree with him on the subject of cell phones, I appreciate his viewpoint that is presented below. He sounds like a true gentlemen, and he actually has respect for other people ("When I receive a call, I generally excuse myself and talk in an out-of-the-way location"). But guess what Mr. Shaw, there is a significant segment of the population who have zero regard for other people, and these people have caused cell phones to become a problem. Not everyone is considerate and polite, and when dealing with the public, you must assume the worst, and you usually get it.

*****

Opinion: Anti-Cell-Phone Mania Strikes New York!
by Steven Shaw

I can only conclude that there is an epidemic of control-freakishness going around town this season. All of a sudden, everybody is all worked-up about the use of cellular phones in restaurants. Danny Meyer (one of my heroes, who should know better) wrote an anti-cellular-phone diatribe (complete with incendiary words like "scourge") in a recent Union Square Cafe newsletter. And all the local papers and magazines are running cellular-phone stories (as though it's some sort of news-flash that people use cellular phones in restaurants), and restaurants are banning cellular phones left and right (one wonders how they plan to enforce this). Even glorified pollsters Tim and Nina Zagat have chimed in with a silly "Diners' Bill of Rights" that includes the so-called right to a cell-phone-free environment.

Hello? Just what do these people think cellular phones are for? Although I've seen the occasional person get loud on a cellular phone, and although I hate it when they ring (I think people should put their phones on silent/vibrate, as I do, when in a restaurant), I can't see any other rational argument against their use--it's nobody's business whether I talk to my dining companions, a person on the other end of a phone, my dog or my imaginary friend Billy. When I receive a call, I generally excuse myself and talk in an out-of-the-way location, but I don't demand that anybody else follow that procedure. If you keep your voice down, you're okay by me. I should also point out that, having dined in many other countries, I can state with authority that cell-phone use in American restaurants is extremely low by the standards of the industrialized world.

Opposition to customers who make a lot of noise (be it via use of a cell-phone or through being loud in some other way) is perfectly legitimate. But an a priori objection to cell-phones used at normal conversational volume levels just seems petty. It says more to me about the opponents' inflated sense of self-importance (as though a restaurant meal is too sacred to be interrupted by petty business concerns) than it does about cell-phone users.

Plus, who do these rabid anti-cellular-phone restaurateurs think is keeping them in business? People with cellular phones, specifically business people, that's who. Take me, for example. As a small businessman with a solo law practice and no secretary, I find the cellular phone to be an essential liberating tool. Having the cellular phone allows me to go out (dine out, take a walk, drive my car, whatever) at times when I otherwise would have to sit by my phone all day and wait for a call from a judge's chambers, client or opposing counsel. I can see it now: "Gee, Phil, sorry you had to spend the night in jail, but my hero Danny Meyer said I had to shut off my phone." And it's not just the professional crowd. What about expectant fathers or people with sick loved-ones? Heck, what about people who just want their friends to be able to reach them? Is that so horrible?

If I can't bring my phone to a restaurant, I won't eat there at all.


Reader Feedback:

Page One  (KH, Evan G. Spiegler, Marie Watts, John Kukulica, vellura@hotmail.com)
Page Two  (Matthew O'Brien, Rivers Janssen, Rocco Coyne, Unsigned, Patrick)
Page Three  (Steven Shaw, Joan Cusack, Dave Gavin, John Bray, Jim)
Page Four  (Mel Fabregas, Leslie Sternlieb, RoseMarie, Lori B, Bignorthsky)
Page Five  (Clayton M. Dover, N/A, Amanda's, Kelly, mcgent, Carl, Rob)


Your Turn:
If you've got something to say, we would love to hear from you. Please visit the Great Debates Feedback Page to send in your comments.


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