Is it rude to wear AirPods when ordering something?

Recently a barista refused to serve a customer not because he was on the phone, but because he was wearing AirPods. With the etiquette surrounding the devil plugs unset, it’s our responsibility to be adults. Or not.



There’s no denying the popularity of AirPods…and their polarising impact on how we listen to music, social status and even fashion. However, innovation may be outpacing human evolution in this regard, as the etiquette of AirPod usage is something we haven’t quite figured out.

One such example of this is a story that emerged from the Chicago-based culinary site The Takeout. A reader named Kevin wrote to the site’s etiquette columnist, The Salty Waitress, to ask if he was in the wrong in a certain coffee shop encounter with a pair of the divisive devices.

He wrote “Dear Salty, I was at the coffee shop counter, and the cashier wouldn’t take my order until I took off my AirPod! And it was only in one ear! Am I the asshole here?”

Reasonable? Unreasonable? The columnist’s sided with the former, replying “I am trying hard here to give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you were in the middle of a very important phone call/podcast/guitar riff that could not be paused for the thirty or so seconds it takes to order a cup of coffee. In which case, you very politely step aside to conclude your business and then order your coffee.”

She also mentioned that Kevin could make his way to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or “another coffee shop that is very proud of the way it has harnessed modern smartphone technology, you order your coffee on the app, and then you pick it up silently and efficiently, without having to interrupt whatever it is that is so important you cannot stop to speak to another human being.”


The Salty Waitress’s reasoning was that the cashier was a human being, just like Kevin, and would probably appreciate his undivided attention while they perform a service for him. If nothing else, it would probably be wise to listen closely to see if the cashier takes your order correctly.

Perhaps the new and challenging AirPods barrier has something to do with its social-standing representation. 



Sure, owners will sometimes forget to take them out, now that the inconvenient reminder of wires stemming from their heads is missing. However, many will opt to keep them in, even when not in use, as the product has become somewhat of a status symbol. Most of which, in an unfair way, leading the non-AirPod wearer to make mid-conversation judgements and adjustments. 

Not all service workers are bothered by it though. Rob Casey at Fellow Barber in NYC told BuzzFeed that a customer wearing AirPods while he cuts their hair is, to him, akin to a customer coming in with a newspaper.

He wouldn’t recommend it, as some barbers could view it as a slight. But he believes that “at the end of the day, you have to respect their privacy. Some people don’t feel like talking.”






Share via