Sainsbury's worker refuses to serve woman on her mobile


Jo Clarke

Jo Clarke, a 26-year-old property manager, was shopping in Sainsbury's in Crayford, Kent, and chatting on her mobile phone, when she was surprised to receive a lesson in mobile phone etiquette from a member of checkout staff. The staff member apparently refused to serve her unless she hung up.

Sainsbury's has apologised, and said this is not company policy. But there are mixed views on who is in the right here.


The story was in the London Standard today. Clarke told the newspaper that the assistant had told her "I will not check your shopping out until you get off your mobile phone." Clarke said it was rude and that the assistant had no right to give her a "lecture on checkout etiquette."

She approached the customer service desk, where she was told it was not company policy. A Sainsbury's spokesperson confirmed this, and told the newspaper it had apologised to Clarke and offered her some vouchers as a goodwill gesture.

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However, the response to the story on the site reveals that readers are overwhelmingly supporting the checkout assistant's decision, agreeing that it is rude to continue a phone conversation when you are at the checkout.

Commentators on social media sites are siding with the assistant too. Henry Prior, a property specialist, tweeted "Full marks to Sainsbury's checkout girl who refused to serve rude woman chatting on phone". PR expert Simon Mowbray agreed: "Personally, I think the checkout assistant was right". Political journalist Iain Martin added: "Can't abide people who carry on talking on mobile while another human being serves them in shop. That ‪@sainsburys‬ worker is a heroine." And Gina Davidson, an Edinburgh editor agreed: "I'm with the checkout assistant on this."


There are plenty of businesses which operate a policy of not serving people who are chatting on their mobile phones, including a pizza take-away in Soho, a grocery shop on Taunton, and a coffee shop in Norwich.

When the latter put up a sign informing customers of the policy, an etiquette expert from Debrett's told the BBC: "It's rude to place an order while talking on a mobile phone. There's no doubt about it. You see it all the time. It's like saying to the person who you are dealing with that they are not as important as the person you are talking to on the phone. He is making quite a brave stand and I think he's performing a public service in teaching people about manners."

But what do you think? Is it rude to talk on your phone and ignore the human being helping you? Is it rude to hold up a queue by being distracted on your phone? Or are you capable of multi-tasking? Let us know in the comments.

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