Cellphone Bans

I have had it with people and their rude use of their cellphones.

During a recent visit to the movie theater near my home – a Regal chain -- a woman sitting in front of me kept taking her cellphone out of her purse to check it for messages or something else. Every time she pulled out the phone, the light flashed brightly in my face. It was so incredibly annoying. I let it go a few times. Then I politely lean over and asked if she could stop pulling out her phone.

She had the nerve to get an attitude with me and said: “I pay my cell bill, so I can use it whenever I want.”

I immediately jumped up and went to get the “Po-po,” as Tyler Perry’s trash-talking character Madea calls the police.

A police officer (not to be confused with a cinema security officer) working at the theater returned with me and ordered the woman to stop using her cellphone. If she used it again, he told her, she would be removed and her ticket price refunded.

She didn’t use it again, but you can imagine the whole scene didn’t make for a great outing.

I’ve had to get the Po-po (who are often working at the theater) on fellow moviegoers several times, making me miss parts of the movie I paid good money to watch.

So initially I wasn’t feeling much sympathy for Pittsburgh Steelers football player, Troy Polamalu, who was recently fined $10,000 for calling his wife while on the sideline during a game. Until I learned that Polamalu had a better excuse than most to use his phone during a banned time. He was calling his wife to let her know he was okay after leaving the game with a head injury.

The National Football League prohibits players from having electronic devices in the bench area from 90 minutes before kickoff through the end of the game, according the Pittsburgh Post–Gazette, which reported on Polamalu’s fine.

I certainly don’t want to infringe on people’s civil liberties, but more organizations need to take a tougher stand and ban cellphone usage. And when I say ban, I don’t mean just posting signs. I mean they need to take more aggressive action to prevent patrons from disturbing other patrons, who have spent their money to watch a movie or a play or eat dinner without having to hear ringing phones or being distracted by phones with screens so bright they could land a plane at night.

I wished I lived near a Wehrenberg theater. The St. Louis-based Wehrenberg theater chain has a zero-tolerance cellphone policy that covers not just the feature film presentation but also the previews, reports a local ABC affiliate.

Moviegoers are asked to turn off their cellphones or put them on vibrate before entering the auditorium. Those who have to accept or make a call must step out of the auditorium. If a patron is caught using his or her phone, the person is asked to leave without a refund.


“Overall we’ve gotten really good responses from it,” said the theater’s manager, Kevin Dillon. “We actually had people clapping. Some people were even standing up and giving standing ovations... Our biggest complaint over the past several months is people would come to the movies, the cellphones would be going off or the blue screens would be lighting up the theaters.”

As Dan Craft, the entertainment editor for Pantagraph, wrote about Wehrenberg’s ban, so many people are being disturbed by “the freedom-espousing moviegoer exercising their inalienable right to maintain the umbilical cord to Facebook, Twitter and/or all the other webbed verifications of our existences, social worth and more. Can’t go 95 long minutes (plus coming attractions trailers) without validation, can we? That’d be risking the fate worse than death: temporary disconnection.”

And get this. Last year, a woman in Chicago sued a movie theater after the armrest hit her in the head as she was bending down to talk on her phone.

When the Chicago Sun-Times asked about her lack of cellphone etiquette during the movie, the woman said, “I bent down so as not to disturb anybody,” reported consumerist.com.

This week’s Color of Money question: “What do you think of a zero-tolerance ban in movie theaters and other public places? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “cellphone Ban” in the subject line.

Chats Today

Join me at 11:45 a.m. Eastern time for my live online video chat.

And at noon my text chat begins. My guest will be Dan Miller, author of “48 Days to the Work You Love,” which was my pick for the October Color of Money book club selection. If you have a chance, be sure to read the review before the chat.

Please send your money questions early or read the archive later.

Good Credit Badges

In an effort to teach financial literacy to young girls, Girls Scouts of America is adding four new finance-oriented badges that their scouts can earn.

The “good credit,” “money manager,” “budgeting” and “financing future” badges are among the 136 badges the organization selected from feedback from scouts, reports Jamie Pietras, contributing editor of credit.com.

Scouts must complete a five-step process to earn the badges. To earn a ‘good credit’ badge, for example, a scout may meet with a loan officer at a bank to learn more about using debt wisely.

The Writing Robber

If you’re going to be a bank bandit it might help to have good penmanship.

Thomas J. Love, 40, is accused of trying to steal cash from a bank in New Castle, Del., reports delawareonline.com. Love reportedly handed the teller a note. But the teller could not decipher what Love had written and handed it back to him, asking him to rewrite it, according to authorities.

Love became so frustrated, they said, that he left without the loot.

Debt Defeaters

Have you finally achieved financial freedom?

Tell me about it. Send me your debt defeater story to colorofmoney@washpost.com stating how much debt you paid, how long it took and how it feels to be debt-free. Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line.

I will send you a debt defeater T-shirt if I read your story during my live video chat.

“It’s A Man’s World” Responses

Last week’s Color of Money Question: “Is it still a man’s world in corporate America?”

Data from research firm Catalyst found that men attain job advancement faster than women and make more money.

Here are some of your thoughts:

Mary Daymont of Burke, Va., says it is definitely a man’s world in the boardroom and that promotions can be openly gender-biased rather than merit-based. “As one female executive told me, Daymont said, ‘Get used to it.’”

Writes Julie Kirk of Damascus, Md.: “Corporate America - and corporations in general - were built around male thinking and behavior, command and control. I refuse to wait for the glacial pace of change in the current structure, which is why I founded a nonprofit to help women start growth-oriented companies. Change will not happen until we activate women, and unleash the incredible latent potential that is out there.”

Victoria Marschner of Boulder, Colo., said: “Most of us in our forties, fifties and sixties believed it. We worked harder, faster and longer and did a better job. But the rewards were never forthcoming or in the same amount as men. Many businesses may be innovative on the product side, but the management side has not changed in 200 years. So, the smart women leave the corporate ranks and start their own business. It is not worth banging your head against a brick wall!”

“Waitress Gone Wild” Comments

In last week’s e-letter, I wrote about two waitresses who vented their outrage at bad customers on their Facebook pages.

This led me to ask, “Should employees insult bad customers on social media sites?”

“My strongly held opinion is that employees should first and foremost look out for their own self-interest,” said Thomas Druitt of Paduach, Ky. “The Charlotte pizza waitress disconnected herself from her job by violating a company policy, which tells me that she took an insufficient interest in protecting her own job security. Blasting the ungrateful customer on a social media site might have made her feel better, but it also cost her. She must decide if the temporary satisfaction gained from her social media temper tantrum was worth the price she paid for indulging emotions. It’s better that she learns this at a young age when the cost of such a mistake is relatively cheap.”

Frances Robinson of Albuquerque, N.M., wrote: “Our lack of common courtesy, and common sense, is appalling these days. When we write negative thoughts about customers and clients for others to hear and see, guess what, we’re going to lose our jobs, and rightfully so. Where did we ever get the idea that we can say whatever we want whenever we want about whoever we want?”

Upcoming Events

--On Saturday, Nov. 12, I’ll be speaking at the YWCA Hartford Region’s 10th Anniversary Money Conference for Women. The organization will be “Celebrating 10 Years of Giving Women the Power to Prosper.” The event will be held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown located at 200 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford, Conn. The event is from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free. For information, click here.

- Tuesday, Nov. 15, I will be moderating The Washington Post’s “Sweet Savings” event, a discussion about finding bargains and stretching your dollars. Panelists include Post Travel section staff writer Andrea Sachs, Local Living staff writer Terri Sapienza and deputy Food editor Bonnie Benwick. The event will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street, NW in Washington. Click this link to register. The event is free for Platinum and Gold PostPoints members who register online. All others must pay at the door. Tickets are $20 for all other guests at the door.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.