Improve Your Cell-Phone Manners
Talk about your Olympic moment. During the opening ceremonies of the recent 2002 Winter Games, while President Bush stood amid U.S. athletes, figure skater Sasha Cohen abruptly handed the president her cell phone. Cohen asked Bush if he would say a few words to her mother. Caught off guard, the president obligingly took the phone with a smile. It was a silly, spontaneous moment that delighted millions of people watching on TV, not to mention Sasha’s mother.

If only all cell phone interruptions were this well received. Unfortunately, they’re not. And building service contractors, who are connected to their companies 24/7 with cell phones and pagers, often are among the worst offenders. Many BSCs answer work-related calls anywhere, any time of day, because they want to be on top of their customers’ accounts, but they’re forgetting the people right in front of them.

More and more, the questionable manners of seemingly oblivious cell phone users are coming under attack. Nobody knows this better than Jacqueline Whitmore. As etiquette spokeswoman for Sprint PCS, Whitmore’s job is to right the wrongs of more than 121 million American cell phone users. And it isn’t easy. She has a number of horror stories to share, including one about a pallbearer carrying a casket with one hand while flipping open a ringing cell phone with the other.

The fact that Whitmore has become the “Miss Manners” of mobile commerce illustrates the concern of several carriers about the need to teach cell phone users some basic manners.

Just how bad are things? Well, consider that a recent survey by Wirthlin Worldwide found that nearly 40 percent of cell phone users said they would answer a cell phone while using the bathroom. Such lack of basic etiquette is creating a backlash against rude users: Amtrack has banned cell phones in some cars. Add to the push for cell phone etiquette, a site devoted to promoting civility between cell phone users and the people around them.

Carriers are stepping in, attempting to head off even more problem when, as analysts predict, cell phones will be in the hands of 70 percent of all Americans.

Cingular Wireless uses gentle humor in its 15-second movie trailer – shown in 160 movie theaters – which urges people to put their phones in silent mode. If a phone rings, the trailer warns, the movie will be paused while the owner is asked to stand up and other moviegoers are encouraged to pelt him with jellybeans and chocolate-covered raisins.

Nokia has joined the fray, partnering up with various cities, including San Diego, to create unofficial “no cell phone zones,” where people are politely asked not to power up. But then, nearly every carrier has some type of courtesy outreach. Many, like AT&T Wireless, combine driving safety tips with courtesy tips. Most carriers also slip courtesy tip sheets into monthly phone bills.

“It is getting out of hand,” says Dorothea Johnson, director of the Protocol School of Washington. She predicts that one day all the carriers will have an etiquette spokesman.

Until that happens, perhaps we can all heed the tips originally written for Sprint PCS customers:

• Let voice mail take calls when you’re in meetings, restaurants, courtrooms or other busy areas.

• Speak in a regular conversational tone rather than raising your voice.

• Use the vibrate function or turn off phones in public places.

• If you’re expecting a call that can’t be postponed, alert your companions ahead of time. And if you receive an urgent customer call that you must take, excuse yourself and move to a more private location to take the call.

• For office calls, consider using two-way messaging or short messaging services when you’re with others.

• Use discretion when discussing private matters or certain business topics.

• And most of all, remember that the people you are with should always take precedence over the call you are receiving.

Simple enough. At least it’s reassuring to know that it doesn’t take an Olympic effort to practice good cell phone manners – only a little common sense.

Paul Kennedy is a business and technology writer based in Mosinee, Wis.

SCSSA Helps Members Get Involved
The Southern California Sanitary Supply Association (SCSSA) has updated the information it has available on its Web site.

The site includes a complete membership listing contractors can use to find a distributor member closest to them, along with contact information for association officers. There also is industry news for the region, an events calendar and a membership application. In addition, information about the SCSSA’s scholarship foundation is available.

State Hubs Supplement NFIB Website
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) now offers access to up-to-date information about small business issues for individual states. Each state now has its own hub helping building service contractors and other small business owners stay current on state legislature, regional small business issues and NFIB state agendas. NFIB has exclusive programs and events designed especially for NFIB members, including grassroots involvement tips.

To find out what is happening in each state, click on the listing under "state issues" on the main page.

IT Solutions

Starting a new business or upgrading your infrastructure to meet new hardware and software needs can be daunting. Instead of trusting your bottom line to the hit-and-miss method, CDW, a one-stop technology solution that provides system software, networking, PCs, storage and telephony, can help create a complete system that will take the guess work out of the process. The company’s business model focuses on small- and medium-sized businesses with 96 percent of sales derived from commercial accounts.

Digital Camera Reviews Online
Looking for a way to personalize your marketing campaign or to add visual aids to training programs and proposals? A digital camera can help streamline these tasks. The latest digital camera technology and products are discussed at ("dp" stands for digital production). The site caters to "prosumers" — photographers who fall between the categories of consumer and professional — but has advice that can help anyone interested in learning about digital cameras and their accessories.

The site also includes helpful links to other information and buying guides that compare current prices. There are active forums where Internet users can discuss successes (or failures) with digital cameras. Galleries showcase a variety of camera models, and there is even a glossary of terms so that the average person will not be lost in the vocabulary that accompanies the world of digital cameras.