In this week’s episode of Getting People to Stop Acting Like Jerks and Start Acting Like Human Beings, a restaurant in Beirut has decided they’re going to start bribing customers to put down the smartphone and interact with actual people at the actual table.
Bedivere Eatary and Tavern, located on Jeanne D’Arc St in Beirut, has decided enough is enough when it comes to dealing with your family or friends ignoring you in favor of a smart phone when you head out to eat. The restaurant is offering a 10 percent discount to anyone will to give up their phone while eating. Actually, the sign says, “Will give you 10% discount if you leave your phone in our custody & socialize.” This restaurant would really like it if you would just settle down and meet some new people.
The discount comes at a time when we, as a society, have started to realize we’re getting more screen time than face time and it’s probably not a great thing. You learn a lot from human interaction. Things like empathy, social cues, facial expressions, and context can all be indicated by real life interactions. Additionally, going out to dinner/lunch/drinks with someone and paying more attention to the phone than the story about a 15-pound miniature poodle stealing kitchen tongs from your dad [true story] is just plain rude.
There are a few different popular methods for getting people to put away the phones. One is phone stacking, wherein everyone stacks their phones in the center of the table and the first one to check the phone pays for a round of drinks or the entire bill. It’s a novel approach, but I have mixed feelings.
Honestly, I’m an adult and if I want to sit on my smartphone and ignore the rest of my party, I’m not sure the restaurant should have a say in it. I think the people around me should say, “Kasey, you’re being rude and we won’t love you any more if you continue.” That, at least, points out how ridiculously rude I’m being and hopefully that lesson will stick.
Secondly, what if there is an emergency. Most of the time, my phone stays in my purse and if it vibrates, I check it and either excuse myself to take a call or ignore it. Sometimes I’ll get a work email that must be answered and I have to respond. I’m not being rude, but if answering the email is what allows me to be out at dinner and not tied to my computer (or allows my friend to do so), I say go ahead and answer the email/call/text. We live in a 24/7 world and sometimes things are going to pop up at unexpected times. Plus, if I get an emergency call and miss it to save 10 percent, I'm going to feel awful.
Now, that doesn’t excuse the people who absolutely refuse to put away their phone and can’t live without it. I’m talking about normal everyday use by normal people not that friend who has to check-in, check facebook, send a tweet, text an entire conversation and then send emails. That person is annoying and you shouldn't go out to eat with them.
Do I wish we lived in an instagram-free world? Yes, but we don’t. But a gentle reminder about not being rude should suffice. We shouldn’t have to reward grown adults for not playing with a toy at dinner.
Finally, you’ll have to excuse me for not wanting to hand my $600 phone containing emails/banking information/private conversations to a total stranger at a restaurant. That’s going to get a pass in my book.
Obviously you don’t have to do any of this to eat at the restaurant, but I’m not sure we should be rewarding people for simply not using their phone at a tavern.