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One of my biggest pet peeves is when I call someone and they answer the phone and say “I can’t talk right now, I will call you back.” Then why did you answer the phone? Just let it go to voice mail… if it is important I will either leave a message or send you a text to call me.

Which brings me to the point of this blog, when is talking on the phone not appropriate? I heard recently that Planet Fitness kicked a lady out of gym for talking on her phone.  I am a member at Planet Fitness and I had no idea that talking on your phone while you are working out there is not allowed, in fact, I have taken a few calls while on the elliptical machine (Shhhhhh-- don’t tell anyone).

I am a little offended that this is a rule at Planet Fitness that you can’t take a phone call while you are working out. I am sure that my voice is lower than the two 20-somethings a few machines over who are in the middle of a conversation about a recent breakup (Wow -I didn’t need to know the graphic details).

I also am an instructor at a local community college and last semester (early on in the class) I had a student who answered his cell phone in the middle of class and held a good three-minute conversation.  I was absolutely shocked (my mouth might have actually been wide open) and could not believe that he didn’t know it was not appropriate. After class I did have a conversation about class protocol and what was appropriate and what was not and the issue did not occur again.

So I now want to know -- does anyone really care if a person is on the phone at the gym and what other locations (AND WHY) does it bother you when someone takes a call? Is it ok at the grocery store? In line at QT? Church?

Rachel Brockway
Rachel Brockway
A former HMA Public Relations employee.


  1. Joy says:

    I ABSOLUTELY have a problem with anyone being on the phone in the gym or anywhere where I can’t escape from their conversation. Other examples I can think of being annoyed are the elevator or in a waiting roo. I understand the necessity of taking a quick call, but engaging in a regular conversation is incredibly disrupting to others at places like that. If I’m at the gym, it’s usually to de-stress, not become worked up because of what’s going on in your personal or professional life. Besides, there’s the whole element of never knowing how the story ends…I’m kidding.

    The most disrespectful phone conversation, however, is the one where you are intended to be interacting with others. If you’re in line to pay for something, in class (I can’t believe your student answered the phone!), or you’re supposed to be paying attention to something else! Of course, nobody knows another’s personal situation or the circumstances which might excuse a call, but for the most part, I see it as rude.

  2. Deb says:

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with someone taking a quick call in that kind of situation but long conversations are annoying (although that’s why I wear headphones). That said, specifically because it’s Planet Fitness, I am kind of happy to hear they kicked her out. Isn’t their whole brand built on not being “that gym” where the vain people go to see and be seen? They want to be the place you’re comfortable *getting fit* in – so to me it seems to fit. I’m loving their ad campaigns lately. Come to think of it… perhaps this was staged? 😉

  3. I agree with Joy, there are definitely places where talking on the phone should be suspended. We’ve all been guilty of it, I’m sure. If it is absolutely necessary to talk on the phone, then take it outside.

    And by all means, use some discretion. You know people are listening to you, keep your private life private.

    • I fully agree with Abbie and Joy. Talking on the phone indoor, especially in certain environments like e.g. a wellness center or a gym where you go to relax, decompress and beat stress, can definitely annoy other people. It can be considered as a sort of noise pollution.

  4. Nat Handler says:

    For me, this is just another shining example of the lack of respect and common courtesy running rampant in society today. Cell phones have invaded our streets and offices, our classrooms and bedrooms, and our restaurants and theaters. Do you really need to be or want to be “connected” 24/7/365? In my mind, when it comes to cell phone etiquette, we should be guided by the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  5. Katie says:

    Two things to consider:

    1. Duration of time someone is on the phone
    2. Location, location, location

    Talking on the phone while you’re in class– not okay.
    Talking on the phone in church– again not okay.
    Talking on the phone in an elevator– Joy, I agree, not okay and awkward too by the way.

    My personal take on the topic is that if the conversation is quick, it doesn’t bother me. It’s the long drawn out conversations that have way too many details about topics I would rather not hear about that bother me.

    I don’t need to know what you did last night, who you were with and what you were wearing.

    Now the even BIGGER question– Should you use your cell phone at work?

    • Stephanie Lough says:

      Good question – I think it depends on your position. If I go to get coffee and the barista is on their cell phone I’m not a happy customer. But I think in jobs like ours, where people are often out of the office, it is okay. In fact, clients usually call my cell phone before the office line (not really sure why, but doesn’t make a difference to me!)

    • Rachel Brockway says:

      Great question Katie!!

      I agree with Stephanie it is difficult to not use my cell phone at work. I have clients who like to only call my cell phone and others who prefer communication via text. But there are some industries that I think it would not be appropriate (those where you might be serving the “general” public – ie Starbucks))!


  6. Stephanie Lough says:

    I think we can all agree that people who stay on the phone while using the restroom, flush and all, make everyone very uncomfortable.

    Besides, I prefer text over calling 10 times out of 10. But if you leave the sound on your touch-screen phone while texting (tic, tic, tic) I will personally remove you from the area.

  7. Gone are the days when you “weren’t home” and you didn’t get a call. There’s nothing wrong with not taking a call if you’re busy. In fact, it’s probably better than interrupting two activities/conversations.

  8. Suzie says:

    I think its perfectly fine to talk on your phone at the gym.. I do it all the time. Sometimes I just answer and say I’m at the gym.. I’ll call you back.. and other times I’m the making the calls.. working out to me is boring but its something that we all need to do.. so I keep it interesting with a good convo with a friend.. or even if I’m at a point in my work work where I feel like I just can’t do anymore… so I’ll call someone for motivation!

  9. Fran says:

    If someone else is on the phone…I find it annoying. If I am on the phone…I find it perfectly fine. LOL. I’m one of those who will answer to be sure there is no emergency, but then tell the person I will call them back. I absolutely HATE retrieving VM’s ! Phone convos in small spaces should be short, just enough time to answer, and then excuse yourself and take it outside. At the gym, for me it just depends on how close the person is and how loud their voice is. Everyone needs their space. As for my using the phone at the gym, frankly, I like being away from my phone for an hour.

  10. Alison says:

    If you can hold a phone to your head while working out, then you aren’t doing it right – or you are naturally thin so I already hate you and your phone. And come to think of it; is it a waterproof phone or something? Either that or I am just far sweatier than the rest of you or like the best worker-outer ever?

  11. Alison says:

    Oh, and Rachel – I share a wall with you. Your voice – at least your singing voice – is not that quiet! 🙂

  12. Jennifer says:

    Well, as a parent, I gotta say that I almost always answer my cell when I see it is my son calling. In public places, like the gym, I keep the conversation super short. I’m not a fan of cell phone conversations in public spaces like gyms, stores, the bank, the mall, the line at Starbucks, etc. There is just something different about hearing only one side of a conversation vs. listening to two or more people carry on a conversation. Plus, in many cases, it seems to distract the person having the call from what they are there to do like get through their half hour on the elyptical, order their coffee or pay their bill.

    I like to always remember the words of my 7th grade teacher Dutch Clevenger; your rights stop at the end of your nose. If what you are doing impacts someone else, think twice about doing it!

  13. Bridgette says:

    It gets under my skin when people answer the phone and immediately tell me they have to call me back. Don’t answer my calls if that’s the case. I actually have stopped calling those individuals and only send text messages. In regards to the talking in public, I think people need to use their brain a little. I think its inconsiderate to take calls in a meeting, movies, class, church, etc. If a call is important then the individual needs to step out. I think it’s ok to talk while you’re on the treadmill at the gym but be aware of the people around you and voice level. This was a great blog……#phoneetiquette

  14. Candace says:

    If you can’t talk, I don’t mind being put to voicemail or getting a text saying “I’ll call you back”…just don’t get my hopes up by answering to tell me you can’t talk. There are lots of places like church, in class, and occasions like quality time with your friends/family where it is inappropriate to be on the phone. I personally don’t like to be on the phone when I’m at the gym, shopping, or at a restaurant, but I also don’t mind when other people do it. I’m so desensitized to it that I can usually tune them out.

  15. Roslyn Harrison says:

    Okay, it’s absolutely not acceptable at church! When I am up there preaching, praying or leading other worship elements, I get very cranly when I hear a cell phone even go off. It’s disrespectful.
    Sadly, I’m not shocked to hear that one of your students took a call in class. It seems that cell phones have increased the self-absorption already prevalent in our society. (Can you tell I’m cranky about this topic?!)
    I remember a time when we didn’t spend hours and hours on our phones, and somehow we survived and were even productive.
    Maybe the gym has that policy because it increases the risk of injury while working out? I would ask them why they have that policy.
    There’s my two cents. 😉

  16. Scott says:

    I think taking a call and carrying a short quiet conversation is ok. I generally allow people to talk on the phone in the waiting room at my repair shop if it’s not disruptive or 115 degrees outside. It boils down to common sense, which sadly, ain’t so common nowadays. #getoffmylawn

  17. Billie Walls says:

    A great blog topic. I am not sure exactly how I feel about it , but as an example,, my husband just got up and decided to tell me how computers have changed the world. LOL.. His point,, I used to pay more attention to him when I didn’t have the computer to get on and interact with..( he actually said that ).. Same with the phones now a days, with modern communication techniques so advanced, there is never a time when you can’t be off line,So my take on it,,, turn off your phone every once in awhile, unplug and relax, if it is important , they will leave a message:)

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