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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Reader has trouble tuning out the TV in waiting areas

Businesses could turn down volume or show channel with wide appeal.

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, I have noticed that no matter where I go these days there are televisions in the waiting areas and it can be very distracting for those of us who like to read while we wait. What guidelines do you offer to businesses that have televisions on in their waiting areas?

A. There is no doubt about it, televisions are everywhere these days. Physician's offices, hospitals, airports and bars are just a few of the places you might encounter televisions. And for people who like to sit and read quietly, it can be a real challenge to concentrate on a book or magazine. However, for those people who like to be entertained while waiting, it offers a distraction and can make a wait seem to go a little faster.

If your business has televisions in the waiting areas here are a few things to consider:

•Keep the sound low so people who are reading are able to do so without too much effort.

•Be careful about what channel you are showing. Even some daytime TV content is not appropriate for all ages.

•Consider keeping the channel on a world news show that would have some appeal for everyone. But again, be sensitive to what is on the news because some of the top stories can be disturbing for children to watch.

•If your waiting area is large enough, have an area for readers and one for those who'd like to watch the television.

•If your business is health-related, for instance, offer some programming that can educate your patients.

•Make sure the television does not distract your employees from meeting and greeting your clients or patients.

Some other things to consider for any waiting area are:

•Post signs asking people to turn off their cellphones. It is very annoying to others to have to listen to someone's private conversations while waiting.

•Keep magazines, newspapers and periodicals current and tidy throughout the day.

•If possible, offer water and coffee.

•During flu season, offer tissues and hand sanitizer.

•Offer reading material related to your business or practice.

And if you are the person waiting, be sure you are respectful of other people's space. If someone is deep in thought or reading, that's a sign he or she is not interested in chatting. Also, keep your children under control and monitor the tone and volume of your voice while talking to others.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.