LA incentive to limit cellphone use in restaurants hailed in Gulf

August 31, 2012

A decision by a restaurant in Los Angeles to offer diners a discount for leaving their phones with the receptionist has been hailed by young people as a positive move, but resisted by others as “intrusion into private lives.”

According to a CNN Money report, Eva Restaurant will deduct five per cent from the bill if the customer hands their mobile phone to the receptionist before sitting down to eat.

Chef Mark Gold, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Alejandra, said that 40 per cent to 50 per cent of their customers had opted to ditch their phones since the policy went into effect more than a month ago.

“Eva is really about family and being at home. That’s what we want to exemplify,” Gold said in the report. “We just want people to connect again.”

Hiba Kemal said that the decision should be emulated in other countries where mobile communication was overwhelming.

“This is a great idea as it gives people some respite from mobiles in restaurants, the business management student said. “Whenever I walk into a restaurant, I am always baffled by the extensive use of mobiles. People do not seem to communicate with those around them, but rather only with those in distant places.”

For Yosra Mohammad, a teacher, the overuse of mobiles has turned into an annoying habit.

“It is nice to live in a connected environment and to be an active element in the global society thanks to communication,” she said. “However, the situation has become frustratingly ridiculous with people totally oblivious of their surroundings and focusing on social networks and the blogosphere. At schools, students focus on the use of their mobiles much more than on their studies, and outside, the situation is the same,” she said.

Tareq Ahmad said that he appreciated the restaurant manager’s decision and wanted the same concept to be applied in Arab capitals.

Comfort zone

“It is about time to draw lines that must not be crossed,” said the IT technician. “Even inside mosques, people are having problems because of the mobiles. You no longer feel the sense of spiritualism we have had for a long time. People keep on texting until the last minute when the imam starts the prayers and many in fact forget to silence their mobiles or to switch them off. The result is that people pray under tunes by Arab, Asian or Western singers,” he said.

However, Aneesa Ahmad, a postgraduate student, thought that telling or inviting people to ditch their phones was an intrusion into their private life.

“People are free to use their mobiles or iPods as long as they do not bother others with loud music or conversations,” she said. “It is not fair to claim that the sight of young people texting messages or surfing through the net is bothersome or disturbing. It is part of their private lives and this could develop one day into telling people what to wear or how to behave,” she said.

For Mohammad Sultan, an account, people are expected to be part of a social group and to communicate openly with others.

“However, some people find their comfort zone in using mobiles either to talk or to remain connected and they should not be made feel guilty for their wishes,” he said. “There are of course public places where discretion is required, but there should never be a policy that divides people into mobile communicators and non-mobile communicators,” he said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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