Jo Clarke, a professional 26yo working in commercial real estate [read GenY], took a call from her brother whilst waiting at the checkout in UK grocery store Sainsbury's. The checkout clerk, offended by Miss Clarke's rudeness, refused to take payment until she completed her phone call. Following an irate letter to management, a pandering offers of gift vouchers and a couple of keen journalists later, this story was listed on front page news across the globe in Australia.
When mobile phones first made their segue into popular culture less than 20 years ago, they were considered obnoxious tools of rich business people with no place in everyday society. The ringing of a mobile phone in a social context was considered so irksome that some restaurateurs sought ways to block radio signals inside their venues. Fast forward to today, and it is unusual to meet someone who doesn't own a mobile phone, let alone carry it with them at all times; from the bedroom, to work, to play and everywhere in between.
This raises some of the same questions from 20 years ago; have we become so desensitized to the rude intrusion of a mobile that we forgo social courtesy, or was the reaction by the grocery store clerk irrational? After all, what is that fine line between social acceptance and rudeness, and who is to distribute the social memo of norms we must all now accept?
If the boundaries are blurred within our own culture, how much more must we be aware of the simple actions we take for granted when working with expats or traveling overseas.