Cell Phone Courtesy Signs, Announcements, and Other Ways to Sugar-Coat “Shut-Up!”

Hope you don’t take offense from my post title. It’s catchy – post titles are supposed to be catchy, so that the Voyeuristic Google Monster turns its gaze upon your blog and bestows you with Page Rank. Or something like that.

I have worked in various customer service positions, in various fields, with various types of customer, for long enough to say that, in some pretty significant ways, I am an expert.

For example, I know that:

The customer is not always right. (But it rarely makes sense to point that out.)


Arguing with a customer is about as useful as arguing with a cat. (And customers do *not* need you to open their can of food.

Another thing I learned early on is that you can go a long way toward defusing customer service issues, and generally getting your customers to play nicely in your store, by simply making your guidelines, policies, needs, and wants:

  • Clear
  • Obvious
  • and, written on signs, spoken in interactions, printed on receipts

I am not saying that you want to catch-up your customers in the fine print. But being able to point to the sign on a wall that says:

When using cell phones, please be courteous to your fellow passengers.

Well, it simply gives a stubborn or irate customer a chance to back down, become one of the herd again, and not feel too grumpy about it.

When Hard Problems Go Away

I have to say, when I decided (after several months of grinning and bearing the noise from cell phone talkers during my daily commute) to start working (or at least attempting to work) with NJ Transit management to see about some changes to policy, I did not have very high hopes, and I did not know if I would have the time to really help cause any change. I also had no reason to think that enough people believed in the change I was looking for to be able to justify the self-righteousness I was feeling when I wrote that first email and hit “Submit” on the web form. My first “complaint” was filed innocuously under “Request for Information”. This was sure to be a hard problem.

But as it turns out, the hardest problem has already been solved. NJ Transit, according to management, already has a policy regarding cell phone use on trains. The conductors and automated systems are supposed to make periodic announcements. But they don’t. At least not on any of the more than 100 trips I have taken since I started commuting via NJ Transit last year. Not one announcement, at any of various times. Not a peep.

So now the only challenge is to convince management that the policy, which already exists, is one worth implementing. Less daunting.

But still – I am only an ordinary passenger, writing emails and blog posts. Who cares.

My Response to Their Response to My Response to Their Response to..

Here’s my latest. If you agree or disagree, I would really appreciate your feedback in the comments. Noise issues are going to live with us for the rest of our lives – it will help us all if we can come to some agreement about how to handle it (even if I, personally, don’t agree with the outcome).

Would it be possible for me to speak directly with the General Manager of Rail Operations? I believe this is William Duggan, right?

I really would not want to see any of the conductors, who are doing excellent work every day, be reprimanded for what seems pretty clearly to be a management problem. Certainly the conductors cannot be blamed for a lack of courtesy signage or lack of automated announcements. And since the conductors are on the “front line”, it is critical that they have the full support of upper management, or they will never be willing to “duke it out” with the competing interests of passengers who like or don’t like noise.

I would really appreciate it if you could put me in direct contact with NJ Transit’s upper management. My wife and I are currently renting a house as a temporary living situation while we decide where we would like to settle. Quality-of-life issues such as noise are going to play a part in our decision. I would not want us to end up making the wrong decision simply because there are currently deep-rooted miscommunications regarding what you have said are long-standing policies concerning public courtesy on NJ Transit.

Thanks again for all your attention to this issue.

Wish me luck! (Or hindrance, depending on your own personal stance on this issue.) In any event, I am perfectly happy to compromise, once I feel like the debate between the noise and the non-noise has at least moved to a fair playing field.

I certainly don’t want to become a gadfly on this issue, because as everyone knows:

Nobody likes a gadfly.

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