What’s The Best Way To Handle The “Hold On, I’m On The Phone” Customer?

There is a special type of bad consumer that is the bane of both retail employees and other customers waiting in line — the person who not only blabs away on their phone while waiting in line but also holds things up by refusing to pause their call when they get to the head of the line. So what is the best way to deal with this problem in a way that just won’t slow things down even more?

The Unicorn Cafe in Evanston, IL, trains its employees to handle customers with attitude through some role-playing exercises that place them on both sides of the counter. And over at StarbucksGossip.com, barista readers have shared their advice and experience on the matter.

“We used to have a single rule for these kind of people at my old store,” writes one commenter. “Back of the line, please.”

Another barista is less certain:

I am afraid of being written up if I dare to say anything about this problem to the customer. I do not know what is allowed by Mgmt. And if the customer, no matter how wdong he is, calls the Office, which they all do, the Company will fault the Barista because the customer is always right! It does offend me when I cannot get their attention because they are on their cell, and when I simply take the next customer, the person gets all huffy! I worked 3 years with a Mgr. wgo always sided with the customer and never with the Barista, and the result is a write up for “unacceptable” service toward a customer who is rufe in the first place. How do I win here?

Adds another, admittedly former barista, “I would show her one of my fingers too, it just wouldn’t be the same one she is showing.”

While others say they simply ask the finger-wagging phone-talker to step aside until they are done with their call.

“The customer is a very tricky species,” Unicorn Cafe’s Tracie Dahlke tells Consumerist. “Our goal with the Customer Service Refresher Course (CSRC) was to take our employees on a spiritual journey to both sides of the counter, to examine in depth all of the many scenarios that could occur during a common daily transaction. This two-pronged Employee/Customer role playing ensures that our staff understands inner operation of the minds working on BOTH sides of the counter, ensuring that any possible scenario that may arise leaves at least one side of the equation a pacified mannequin.”

We want to know from the Consumerist hive mind how you handle these bad consumers, not just at coffee shops, but in all situations where their phone use puts a damper on everyone’s day.

Do you politely ask them to step aside? Do you just step ahead of them? Or do you grab their phone and see if there is a Blendtec behind the counter?

Share your thoughts in the comments, but please keep the line moving.