front desk bell

How to Ding a Front Desk Bell

Many businesses will leave a bell at the front desk in their lobby so customers can ding the bell to get the attention of an employee.

We see it all too often—we go into a business, office, or store expecting prompt service, but there’s no employee to be found. You look around, expecting to eventually see someone in charge. “What kind of business leaves the whole lobby unsupervised?” you think to yourself. You feel like you could steal anything you wanted and they’d never know, if not for the strong likelihood of cameras. That’s when you have no choice but to ding the little desk bell.

An annoyed employee yells “Coming!” from a back room. He drops what he was doing and trudges to the front desk. “What was so important you had to ring the bell?” he asked. You want to curl up into a ball and die, and then come back to life and write a scathing review of his business.

Is dinging a bell really in bad taste? If not, how long should you wait before sounding the bell? What is proper etiquette in such situations? It all depends.

How do you know when to ding one of those front desk bells at a business?

  • How big of a hurry are you in? If the matter is urgent or time-sensitive, forget etiquette and ring the damn bell—you’re holding a box of ice with your severed ear in it for goodness sake! If you’ve got time to spare, perhaps consider waiting a moment, looking around for an employee, and then dinging the bell after 15-20 seconds have passed.
  • Where is the bell actually located? If it’s front and center on the desk, it’s expected that you ding it. If it’s tucked away in a corner behind a box of tissues, the staff probably is hiding it to cut back on dings.
  • How long will you give it before ringing a bell? A poll showed that most business patrons give the staff at least ten seconds before dinging the bell. Others will wait a full minute!
  • Remember that once you choose to ding a bell, you now indicate to the employee that you have real business to conduct. Dinging a bell without clear purpose could actually annoy an employee.
  • Consider the type of business you’re visiting. If this is a doctor’s office and there are patients sitting out in a waiting room, you can rest assured that someone will be coming back to that front desk soon. They’re probably making copies or faxing something. If you’re at an airport at a rental car desk and no employee is to be found, you best ring that bell! You got places to be!
  • If you can see an employee and you realize that they simply haven’t noticed you approach the desk, a ding of the bell accompanied by a friendly wave can get their attention.
  • If an employee noticed you enter the store and is blatantly ignoring you, you can either ding the bell or stand at the desk and cause a bit of a scene, showcasing your frustration with a loud clearing of the throat or tapping of the foot. The case could be done if this business has wronged you in the past, or is notorious for never having anyone available to help you.

Okay, great—you’ve decided to ding the bell. But how do you ding it?

Now that you’ve come to terms that a bell must be dinged, you need to know how to actually carry out the action. But if you’ve never done it before, it can be tricky.

  • Simply pushing or holding the bell button down will not emit a dinging noise. One must tap it quickly and release the button immediately for the bell to make a sound.
  • The bell will also not make a noise if you hold it. It needs to be placed on a hard, flat surface to work properly.
  • Dinging it once may not be enough. If you’ve waited for a long time and are at wit’s end, go to town on that bell. “DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING!!!!!!”
  • Consider yelling the bell noise as well. “Ding ding ding, paying customer here waiting for fricking ever to pay for my enema!”
  • Despite its simplicity, the bell can make a soft or loud noise, depending on how hard you tap the button. A forceful ding can create a loud ding, and tell the staff you’re angry. A soft, pleasant ding is a gentle warning to the staff to get their asses in gear and help their customers.
  • If you’ve followed all the instructions and the bell isn’t dinging properly, or still no employee comes to assist you, you might consider actually picking up and hurling the bell at a wall.

My Hot Take

I’ll generally wait at least 20 seconds at a business before dinging a bell, but no longer. The staff probably doesn’t know that I’m there waiting. I know from experience from my college job at an understaffed hotel that it’s not always possible for someone to be at the front desk. I could have been folding sheets or helping a guest who was locked out of their room and had no clue someone had been standing at the desk for five minutes. Wait a few seconds out of courtesy, then ding that bell and get their attention!

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