Calling for Politeness

Americans are still talking, but less so in public places, according to cell phone etiquette findings from online wireless retailer LetsTalk.

The study, conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide in August 2002 of 1,001 Americans age 18 or older, was similar to interviews that Letstalk commissioned in April 2000. But while some of the questions were the same, the results were significantly different, indicating that American cell phone users are becoming more mindful of how their public conversations impact others.

“Despite an overall increase in cell phone usage, Americans appear to be much more cognizant of their cell phone etiquette,” said Delly Tamer, president and CEO of LetsTalk. “It’s important to recognize that Americans are beginning to self-police their wireless etiquette, especially as leaders evaluate the pros and cons of banning cell phone usage in public places.”

Some European countries have already indicated support of GSM [define] jamming – a procedure that scrambles radio signals and makes cell phone usage impossible within certain locations – although cell phone intrusion hasn’t necessitated such an extreme solution yet.

Despite support for limiting usage, cell phone legislation has focused mainly on driving safety, although the 2000 study indicated that 52 percent were against making it illegal to talk and drive at the same time, but many local laws have been enacted prohibiting the simultaneous activities since then. Almost half (46 percent) of the respondents in the 2002 poll indicated that they found it acceptable to talk on a cell phone in a car, way down from the 76 percent that found the same activity acceptable in 2000.

There was only a slight decrease from 2000 among those that thought it was acceptable to talk on a cell phone in a restaurant – 28 percent in 2002, as opposed to 31 percent in 2000.

Forty-five percent of the 2002 respondents found it acceptable to talk on cell phones while using public transportation, compared to 52 percent in 2000, and 53 percent in 2002 are comfortable with talking and shopping, while 60 percent found cell phone usage in the supermarket acceptable in 2000.

Nearly half (47 percent) of those that were surveyed in 2002 found it acceptable to talk on a cell phone in the bathroom, but only 39 percent approved of the activity in 2000.

The biggest caveat both studies found were in the rates of acceptability for talking on mobile phones while at the movies or in a theater. The practice was unacceptable to 94 percent of those surveyed in 2002 and unacceptable to 89 percent in 2000. Talking on cell phones on school property (including classrooms) didn’t draw the same level of unacceptability – only 90 percent, according to the 2002 poll.

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