Archive for the ‘Manners’ Category

Service of Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Photo: Merriam-Webster.com

I asked our hosts who are giving a Halloween party this weekend whether Frank and Mary [not their real names] were coming. They weren’t invited this year because Frank had been such a pain before last year’s celebration.

Photo: pinterest.com

In addition to decorating their house with fantastic collections of goblins, ghosts and grinning jack- o’-lanterns and treating guests to a delicious dinner, they show a frightening flick in their home’s movie theater. Frank told them that he didn’t like chilling movies and asked if they could show something else. And he didn’t say it once, he kept bringing it up. We all enjoyed the movie and company of good friends last year, and expect to again on Saturday, but without Frank and Mary!

And one of the best reasons for striking someone from your dinner list happened to friend and colleague David Reich. One of his guests sat down and put a loaded gun next to his plate. David quietly asked him to remove the gun.

I had a friend who’d ask what I was serving for a party and would remark, “I don’t care for that, can you make something else?” Irritating.

The first time I invite someone for dinner I ask if they are allergic to or despise anything. There’s no reason to serve a strawberry dessert or a mushroom soufflé if you know that one of your guests will break out in hives or faint simply by sharing a room with the offending food.

Have friends or relatives tried to impose their druthers on you, expecting you to change your tradition or menu when they are your guests? Did they win? Can you share examples?

Photo: justataste.com

Service of “I’ll Pay,” No “You’ll Pay”—Who’ll Pay?

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

 

 

Photo: groupon.com

Tinder is a popular app where singles meet, [it boasts a million subscribers], and it—and websites like it–has changed the dating landscape as people tend to have many more first dates than before. Khadeeja Safdar wrote about the new dynamic in “Who Pays on the First Date? No One Knows Anymore, and It’s Really Awkward–First dates multiply in era of Tinder, and those tabs add up. Some women are wary the fake ‘reach’ for the wallet won’t be turned down.”

Photo: zoosk.com

The title and subtitle of this Wall Street Journal article tell the story.

Safdar described some of the prickly endings timed around restaurant check arrival time.

  • Before the check came the date excused himself to visit the WC and said, “I’ll wait for you outside.”
  • A woman ordered two entrees, ate the pasta and asked the waiter to wrap up the grilled fish. When she was in the ladies’ room her date, a well healed physician who had planned to pay for dinner, asked for separate checks because he “didn’t like feeling used.”
  • Having met for drinks, the woman asked her date if they were planning to order food. The response: “Don’t you have food at home?”
  • When a college student got home from dinner initiated by her date who chose the restaurant, he sent her an “invoice via the mobile-payment app Vennio for her portion of the meal.” She didn’t pay and blocked him.
  • One date proposed splitting a burger and fries, cut the burger unevenly, taking the far larger half. When the check came, the woman “performed the ritual reach for her credit card, and he agreed to let her pay half without any hesitation. ‘Even the waitress looked at him, like, are you serious?’”
  • The date who forgot his wallet’s an oldie but still happens.

 “The rules aren’t complicated, according to etiquette experts,” wrote Safdar. “‘If you invite, you pay,’ said Diane Gottsman, author of ‘Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.’ ‘But the reality is that the other person may not know the rules or realize it’s a date.’”

Photo: meetville.com

This is what I think: To avoid uncomfortable moments establish who pays for what before the date takes place. Who wants to pay for one or two meals with a stranger the cost of which is five times your restaurant budget for the quarter when the other person chose the preposterously pricey venue? On the other hand, if you can afford to watch the scene play out and if you have a strong stomach for discomfort, the way a person acts in this situation tells a lot about them and whether or not you’ll want to see them ever again.

Can you share examples such as those above or ones that turned out nicely? What do you think the answer is for a seamless first date? Does age have anything to do with the outcome?

Photo: marketwatch.com

Service of When Technology Lets You Down—Or Is It The People Running It?

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Playing Bus Catch

I was depending on a bus to get me inches from our apartment one Saturday morning. The stops for the so-called First Avenue and 42nd Street Limited aka express bus and the local are almost a block apart and neither are on 42nd. An electronic sign reporting the whereabouts of upcoming busses [photo above] stands between them.

I ran away from the local stop to read the sign. Great: The local bus I’d hoped for was two stops away. When I turned around to walk back, the local was just pulling out of the stop. I whirled around and just then the sign changed from “2” to “0” stops. I’d missed the bus. So what was the point of the electronic sign?

Guessing at Travel Schedules

A day later I was upstate heading into the Metro North Dover Plains station’s parking area half an hour early. Two busses were leaving and I waved at one of the drivers who didn’t stop. Without advance notice [the day before there was nothing online about busses replacing trains on Sunday], the RR line substituted a bus for the first lap of the trip to NYC.

So what, you say? This switch makes a big difference to riders: when the 12:37 train changes to a bus, departure is at 12:03. The next bus? Two hours later at 2:03 according to an MTA employee who saw me and my car and the busses and sat like a lump in a white sedan with MTA logo.

I jumped out of my car where I’d stopped it to wave down the bus driver and rushed over to him asking if he could stop the bus. He shrugged. He didn’t even say “I’m sorry.”

[One of the other passengers noted that the online info on Sunday, when the MTA got around to posting the change, reported a 2:06 bus departure. If you’re on the wrong side of the 2:03, three minutes matter.]

Missing Adult & Information

In the course of that weekend, I was driving through Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties, the Bronx and Manhattan as well as around Long Island. I saw the same electronic sign on all the highways asking drivers to look for a “missing adult in a black Honda.” On Saturday the license plate number given was longer than any I’d ever seen: Clearly a mistake. By Sunday this was fixed. What didn’t change was the “adult” reference. Were they looking for a man or woman?

Can you share examples of where technology—or the person operating it–has let you or someone else down?

Service of the Language of the Lazy: Name-Calling Beats Learning the Facts

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Lazy 2

As a child I often heard the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” but I never believed it because if someone slung a nasty name at me, I always felt insulted. And once when I was very young a bus driver was abusive to my mother. I don’t recall his exact words, but I have a vivid memory of the feeling in the pit of my stomach left by his name-calling. That’s probably one reason some adults continue to resort to this technique.

But there’s another: It’s the language of the lazy. The slothful version of “When you leave your shoes all over the house I find it both unattractive and dangerous–someone could trip and fall,” is to point at the sneakers and loafers and grunt, “You’re a pig.”

Instead of saying, “I wish that more devout Muslims would explain how they feel about ISIS and what they suggest the most effective way might be to arrest the movement,” the lazy version is “Muslims are evil.”

Photo: blog.lawcanvas.com

Photo: blog.lawcanvas.com

This is Trump’s specialty, from the cruel nicknames he gives political opponents to the childish rant he snapped at Secretary Clinton during the last debate, calling her a “nasty woman.”

It’s also a foolproof technique to avoid having to know more than a few words about any subject. The easy answer to “What is your policy about ______” is “what a stupid question.” Conversation over.

Why bother to explain your position when you can resort to one of the names he called columnist Marc Thiessen: “failed.” Failed, failing–or some version of the word–is a Trump favorite. Thiessen is in good company. Trump also tweeted this description of The New York Times, Jeff Zucker president of CNN, The New York Daily News, John R. Allen, retired US Marine General, The National Review, to name a few who haven’t seen eye to eye with him.

George Will. Photo: washingtonpost.com

George Will. Photo: washingtonpost.com

Who is the “really dumb puppet?” The editor of the Fox News Channel, Chris Stirewalt. Chuck Todd of Meet the Press is “pathetic;” members of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board are “dummies;” columnist George Will is “broken down, boring and dopey;” Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore is “a joke” and Donna Brazile, DNC chairwoman is “totally dishonest.” Isn’t name-calling easier than parrying with facts to address what each of these organizations, reporters, columnists or executives may have written or said about him or his proposed policies? I’ll say.

Thank you to Jasmine C. Lee and Kevin Quealy of The New York Times for collating “The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List,” the source of the name-calling noted above.

The technique was effective enough to land Donald Trump as the Republican Presidential candidate. Why do you think so much of society today finds this appropriate behavior to be praised and rewarded? What happened for this to be so? Will this approach impact how we all interact going forward?

Photo: Parade

Photo: Parade

Service of Wine Swine Who Take Advantage of a Host or Hostess

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Photo: Pinterest.com

Photo: Pinterest.com

 

Another Lettie Teague Wall Street Journal wine column caught my attention: “When Your Dinner Guest Orders a $700 Bottle of Wine: An Etiquette Guide.” I’ve covered her refreshingly no-nonsense column before. The subhead for this article was: “Learn how to deal with wine hogs, shameless business associates and more with these top etiquette tips for oenophiles behaving badly.”

I object to people who take advantage of others. It goes far beyond instances of rude guests making selections of inappropriately pricey wine which is the reason the topic especially appealed to me.

Some of her examples:  

  • Three dentists went out to dinner, one claiming to be a wine expert. The so-called authority ordered three bottles of Napa Cabernet which cost $1,000+ and let the others pick up the tab. [Teague’s dentist was one of the patsies.]
  • Guests who bring an expensive wine to a dinner and hog it allWine as gift or people who down what’s in their glass as the waiter approaches to refill to ensure they get more than their fair share.

If her friend, author Paul Sullivan, is hosting a dinner and his guests pick a ridiculously  extravagant wine his strategy is to say: “That’s a fascinating choice, but I don’t know if it will go with what we’re having.” He calls over the sommelier, names the extravagant wine and asks for “something over here that’s more interesting,” while pointing in the direction of more reasonably priced choices. Teague writes that a good sommelier will catch on.

Removing cork from wine bottleAnother of the reporter’s friends, an ad exec, calls ahead and selects the wine to be served to avoid a preposterous dent in her expense account when entertaining some clients who take advantage of her agency because they know it picks up the tab. However, she told Teague: “I’ve never had a client who had a sophisticated palate take advantage of a business dinner.”

While infrequently, and not recently, I’ve also been hijacked by guests—clients or friends–whose pricey or excessive choices in the alcoholic beverage category have landed heavily on my credit card. Have you? Do you have successful techniques that parry greedy tendencies of others involving wine or any other thing?

Pouring wine

Service of Hello

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Hello Bonjour

We once lived in a very nice apartment with a view of the Chrysler Building. It had a great kitchen and two large bathrooms but the door staff could be surly. We couldn’t wait to move from this rental [where, by the way, we were paying a fortune]. We’d leave or come home and few returned our “Hello” or “Good morning.” There were days I didn’t want to come home.

When I enter a taxi I say “hello,” or “hi,” and am often greeted by silence.  The driver might be foreign but he is working here. There’s one librarian who never responds to my greeting when I walk past her desk at the entrance. It happened again this Saturday. It’s not because she thinks people should be quiet in a library: In fact, she speaks at the top of her lungs when she deigns to address someone.  All the other librarians are responsive and pleasant. Her attitude rankles as she knows better.

Vintage ParisSo I was surprised when Emily Monaco made such a big deal about having to say “bonjour” in her Wall Street Journal article, “In France, Learning to Say ‘Bonjour’ a Lot.” She wondered why she was having trouble being accepted by her colleagues at her new job at a small media company in Paris. She was annoyed that the grin she used in the States didn’t hack it as a greeting in France where smiles, she wrote, are saved for close friends. A colleague told her she was expected to say “bonjour” to her officemates.

Liberte, egalite, fraterniteHer reaction struck me as whiney and naive, especially for a woman who claimed that she has lived in France for nine years. [You can hardly enter any place in France without being greeted this way.] Isn’t almost a decade enough time to learn the social ropes? Monaco wrote that having to say “bonjour” to all those she encountered every morning “seemed like a waste of time to me,” and explained that the custom “was rooted in that all-important French concept: égalité, equality.” She continued, “Modern France was envisioned as a country of equality; bonjour is an acknowledgment of your interlocutor, a nod to your coexistence. Omitting it isn’t just rude, it’s a refusal to see the other as an equal.”

Balderdash. Not to follow local custom is rude in France, rude in America, rude everywhere, period.

Most people like to be acknowledged, whether it’s Eric the security guard at the office who always says good morning and I always respond, or Luis the morning doorman at our apartment who always wishes me a good day and I wish him the same, or my husband who says good morning or hugs me when I return home at night.

I also think it’s important for a foreigner who wants to fit in–regardless of the country–to find out what basic greetings are expected, make them, stop complaining, criticizing or analyzing, or leave. And you?

Tipping hat

Service of You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Bus with Selfish Passenger

This post is similar to “Service of Chutzpah” that I wrote this winter: In spite of the greatly improved weather and beautiful long summer days, the clueless, thoughtless bug is still in the air.

Bus Stop

I was on a bus when an able woman in her 40s entered with a marketing cart bulging with purchases. I empathize: I don’t have a marketing basket but after a visit to Trader Joe I often carry two heavy shopping bags. On the style of bus we were on that day, I’d head for the connecting area between the two sections where there’s plenty of room to stash bags, suitcases or a marketing cart—on the metal floor in the photo above.  

If you look carefully, you can see her shopping cart hogging the aisle in the front of the bus. The subsequent logjam resulted in frazzled nerves and delays. When the bus driver asked her to move the cart, she didn’t budge until she got out four stops later.

I don’t have that kind of nerve.

The Show Must Go On

Here are two early July head-slapping examples involving members of NY theatre audiences.

Patti LuPone ripped the phone out of a woman’s hand without missingShows for Days a beat as she played a diva, Irene, in “Shows for Days.” She’d been texting throughout the star’s performance at Lincoln Center. According to Beckie Strum in the New York Post, her co-star Michael Urie said her performance, “…was good and it didn’t disrupt the momentum of the play.” Lupone told Playbill that the LED smartphone screen disrupts audience members and actors alike. She was particularly annoyed because earlier that day the matinee performance was punctuated by ringtones and the screech of a faulty hearing aid.

Before a performance of “Hand to God” at the Booth Theatre another audience member jumped on stage to try to charge his cell phone on what turned out to be a prop that wasn’t plugged into an outlet. Robert Viagas wrote on playbill.com, “It’s nice that people feel at home at Broadway theatres — but perhaps they shouldn’t feel this at home.”

Behind the Curtain

And in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Pia Catton wrote “Phones Rankle Offstage, Too.” In just one example she described a typical incident. “Opera singer Jennifer Rowley, who performs at the Metropolitan Opera and London’s Covent Garden, said she once auditioned for a director who, exasperated by her chosen song, started out barely paying attention. ‘He immediately pulled out his phone and starting texting while I was singing,’ said the soprano, whose high notes ultimately proved more captivating than his screen. ‘When it got interesting, he stopped.'”

I can’t tell if these people—none of whom are kids–are stupid, feel entitled, are unconscious, suffer from extreme selfishness or come from a different planet. And you? Have you noticed or read about other such incidents of late?

Jennifer Rowley, photo: classicalvoiceamerica.org

Jennifer Rowley, photo: classicalvoiceamerica.org

Service of Silent Guests

Monday, January 12th, 2015

woman at desk

What is it about responding to invitations? Ellen Byron wrote about the chronic avoidance in The Wall Street Journal with two titles: In the paper, “Please. Pretty Please. R.S.V.P,” and online, “Nobody RSVPs anymore.” The “anymore” in the latter title was a head scratcher given that this breach of manners has been happening for eons in both my personal and professional lives.

Byron reported that one company hired a person to follow up with 3,300 travel agents to avoid last year’s holiday party glitch in which 30 guests weren’t served and 60 ate in the hallway because so many showed without responding.

Come to my partyOne event planner reported that an additional 33 people appeared at a wedding to which the caterer expected 456. The staff ripped into bolts of fabric to fashion last minute tablecloths and scrounged for chairs to accommodate the guests.

Committment issues are to blame say some manners pundits. Being invited to too many events was responsible for silence according to others. Take children’s birthday parties. Parents are urged to invite the whole class so none of the children feel left out which means a parent with two young kids might be faced with 88 RSVPs if each child attends a school with 45 in each class. [While a great concept, in practice it has flaws: Can every parent afford to host and feed 45 kids and to buy 44 gifts? There must be a better way, but I digress.]

Hosts are told to follow up with guests many times even after they’ve said they are coming. I am annoyed writing this tip. Doesn’t the guest have a calendar and/or memory?

Stack of invitations 1Some respondents are so dumb they return a printed RSVP card without noting their name. For this reason hosts are told to number the cards lightly, in pencil, to match the number with a guest on the invitation list.

There should be a master list of people who chronically show up unannounced or don’t show up when they say they will so that they are omitted from invitation lists forever.

Why is it up to the host to do all the work? Doesn’t the invitee have any obligations? Short of never entertaining, do you have other suggestions to help reverse this breach of etiquette? Are you a chronic delinquent responder?

stack of invitations 2

 

Service of Thanks II

Monday, April 14th, 2014

woman reading a paperStudent texting

It’s not often that I read an article that contradicts my experience so dramatically. In fact, when I read Guy Trebay’s “The Found Art of Thank-You Notes,” in The New York Times I was working on yet another post about the lost art of thanks even when gratitude makes business common sense.

The Times article seemed to have been written either by a person associated with a luxury stationery industry trade organization pushing pricey engraved note cards, or perhaps Rip Van Winkle’s great, great, great grandson–someone who just woke up, having learned of a vintage art and in awe of the fresh, new concept. Another reason for the discrepancy between the experience of stationers and others he quoted and the reality I continue to face is that Trebay said that the reemergence of elegant thank you notes sent via USPS has been launched largely by the fashion industry. I am not associated with it.

The direction of the original post was based on an email conversation between me and Erin Berkery-Rovner. I shared my astonishment at how few scholarship applicants I’d interviewed for a generous industry-sponsored program had sent an email afterwards to thank me for my time to prepare and for the conversation itself. Each one of them had my address. I thought she’d be interested and surprised given her work as college career development executive/alumni job counselor/ headhunter.

student texting 2Most of the applicants were grad students and only one mentioned anything about my business, information easy to find on my website [in the signature template on my emails] or in a two-second Google search. I’m not the only stickler for this kind of acknowledgement in a business context. The scholarship committee chairs instructed us to let them know if applicants thanked or referred in any way to our careers. Those who didn’t were on the cutting room floor.

Erin responded: “I can’t believe some didn’t write back! I thought that type of note was normal-but apparently it’s a thing of the past. It’s pretty crazy!” She added: “I’m also surprised that only one looked up anything personal about you. Very strange!”

She continued: “I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I did an informational interview with a woman and gave her a lot of telephone interview 2information on getting into higher education. I asked her to send me a list of schools that interested her. She never did. And then one of my colleagues at a prestigious school mentioned an open job, and so I emailed the woman. By the time she got back to me it was too late–the job had already been posted and had been in interviews. And I even asked for follow up, and nothing, no thank you no nothing. It’s really odd to me.”

In your dealings with people who may want something from you—such as applicants for scholarships or jobs or advice-seekers you help pro bono—where do you see the pendulum swinging: Towards written notes, tweets and texts or no acknowledgement whatsoever? Have you, like Guy Trebay, seen an uptick in bread-and-butter letters?

hand written thanks

 

 

Service of Updating Information

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

 

Checklist 2“Beadwildered” in New Jersey wrote me to share her recent experience at a small store – an incident that gives major clues to why, apart from the major changes in retail and the stress of having to close a business–this one hit the skids.

Central to this tale is the lackadaisical way in which some update business information on websites, which ends up frustrating potential customers and wasting their time. Reminds me of the NYC hotel at which a friend booked a room over the Internet. Only by luck did I call the place before she arrived to learn that it was no longer in midtown, [which was essential to her stay].  I can’t blame it on the web either. The days of print-only weren’t much better. Arriving at movie houses in NYC only to learn that the movie was no longer playing or the showtime hours were incorrect taught me: Call before going.

This is what Beadwildered wrote:

Beads on black dressI needed to buy some small jet beads to replace beading that has fallen off a cocktail dress.  Once upon a time, they were easy to find at a fabric or craft store.  But try finding a fabric store in the suburbs anymore. And the craft stores are all big-box stores out on the highways.  As it happens, I do have a local fabric store, but the owner said he can no longer get small packets of beads. He recommended a bead store three towns away. 

I looked at the website and the photos showed packets of beads.  While I drove the 20 minutes to the store it began to pour. When I got to the store, it was partially dismantled. 

A woman inside came to the door to find out what I wanted.  “I hope you’re not closed after I drove all this way,” I said. 

“We’re closed for good,” was her reply.  But she reluctantly let me in out of the rain. 

“Hadn’t you seen the sign? It was up for 19 weeks,” she said in a very disdainful manner.

“I live three towns away and rarely get over this way,” was my defense.  I drive out this way once in a while, but this is not the kind of store that stands out and catches your eye. 

Bead storeI told her what I was looking for, mentioning that I’d seen packets of beads on the website and didn’t think to call as a result.  “We haven’t had those in years,” she snorted.

She reluctantly let me poke around but kept saying I wouldn’t find what I needed.  As I looked, I commented that it must be hard to run a bead store in today’s world.  She indignantly said she’d been in business for 19 years but it was done now. 

Finally, she asked if I had a sample and I showed her one of the beads I was trying to match.  She snorted more loudly that they had nothing of the kind.  

As I went back out into the downpour, I reflected that if she’d always been this nasty and arrogant, she did everyone a service in going out of business. Granted, since she was no longer selling I no longer qualified as a potential customer.  But how hard would it have been to be nice?

Store closing signThe bead store owner had 19 weeks to note on her website that she was closing the store. Depending on one vehicle of communication–a sign–is never enough. And she obviously didn’t update the information on the web if she hadn’t carried the featured bags of beads for years.  In addition, the advantage of a small business is service. Granted closing a business that’s been in your blood for almost two decades is tragic. Beadwildered might not have thought twice about the inconvenience of her fruitless trek had the owner broken down to lament the loss or apologized that she’d gone out of her way for nothing. 

Retail is grueling, even when a business thrives. Retailers have nerves of steel to survive the whining and bilking that some customers depend on to chisel and defraud businesses big and small.

Are you acquainted with small retail businesses that flourish or any that have closed in large part for reasons they cause? What are some businesses that do a remarkable job of updating their communications with customers? 

Communication skills

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