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In an age where many stores and restaurants offer coupons delivered to smartphones, there are a couple of establishments taking a stand against phone use. Signs that ask patrons to refrain from using their phones don’t work, and neither do pleas from the staff. If you’ve been to the movies lately, you will have noticed that no amount of warnings about turning off electronic devices will convince people not to text, update social media, or take phone calls during a film. A couple of restaurants have decided to appeal to phone-happy customers’ wallets in an effort to have them turn phones off during their time in the business.
Los Angeles’ Eva Restaurant offers a five percent discount to any patron who is willing to leave their cell phone in a box at the receptionist’s desk during their meal. About 40 to 50 percent of patrons choose to leave their phone and get the small discount.
Leaving a phone provides much more than monetary savings; it allows customers to enjoy others’ company and unplug from the outside world for the duration of their meal. It must also be a relief to servers who no longer have to wait until patrons have finished their phone calls to take orders. Eva’s owners, Mark Gold (who is also a chef) and his wife Alejandra, came up with the idea after discussing how annoying it was that people were constantly on their phones. The idea is for “people to connect again,” more specifically, with those who are sharing a table with them, not on the other end of a phone line. “Eva is really about family and being at home. That’s what we want to exemplify,” said Mark Gold. Maybe he’s not aware, but many at-home family meals are interrupted by addictions to electronic devices, too. Still, it’s a nice thought.
The cell phone discount policy is explained on Eva’s menus, and many of the patrons like it. Gold figures that many “people like the idea of being able to turn off their cell phones. They just haven’t been given the opportunity to or thought about it.” Really? As long as there was a way to turn off the phone and your job/family life doesn’t require you to be on-call, everyone has the opportunity to turn off his or her phone. Perhaps people just needed an economic reason to do it.
A deli in Vermont took a similar idea and went in the other direction: instead of offering a discount to the phone-less, they add a $3 charge to the bill of anyone who is on their phone while ordering. A photo of the handwritten sign was submitted to The Consumerist. The sign posted on the counter reads “$3 will be added to your total if you fail to GET OFF YOUR PHONE while at the counter. IT’S RUDE.”
Despite the capital letters and clear message, the deli typically applies the charge to at least one customer a day. Before the policy, there were likely far more people who thought their phone conversation was more important than the people and business in front of them. Lenny, the Consumerist reader who submitted the photo and interviewed deli staff, was told that other area businesses are considering a similar policy.
Since appealing to people’s manners and empathy hasn’t worked to stop rampant phone use, there have to be financial incentives. I think I’d like to see how some of my friends and family members behave at these establishments. Might be time to plan a trip to Los Angeles and make a reservation at Eva. I would be more than willing to trade my phone for the discount.