Archive for the ‘Manners’ Category

Service of Theatre Etiquette

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Theatre 3

Erica Martell, an avid theatregoer, proposed this topic based on recent experience in two New York theatres.

Sitting behind her in one was a woman with a nylon coat that made noise when she moved. It took her quite some time to settle down even after the show started. The crinkling was distracting–just writing about it makes me grind my teeth–and it began again farther into the show.

theatre 1In counterpoint to the coat chorus was a five minute period of sorting through her bag to find a candy and then the cacophony of the unwrapping. Erica said she’d had it and made a loud “shush” noise. At intermission a man thanked her for the “shush” as he was equally irritated.

But that wasn’t all. At a critical point in the final act Ms. Infuriating whispered loudly to her seatmate: “What time is it?”

Tweeting in audienceA week or so later at another Broadway show the woman sitting next to her mother texted throughout. Erica didn’t say anything this time. But we spoke about the man in a Florida movie house, about a month ago, who shot someone in the audience for doing just that.

When people tweet about the event they are attending–and are encouraged to do so in some instances–etiquette gets a blow. While the event producers encourage the buzz, they aren’t thinking about others around the person whose tapping on a smartphone or tablet—even the light generated by these devices–bothers neighbors. And what about the speakers confronted with bowed heads? Do you think that everyone is tweeting or posting rave reviews and updates on Facebook? I bet many are responding to texts, checking Tweeting in theatreemails or buying supplies.

I told another friend about Erica’s topic and she shared what happened to her. She had to call over the usher to quiet a couple who were speaking a foreign language nonstop after the curtain went up. She said. “Why would you attend something you didn’t understand?” People attend operas all the time when they don’t understand German or Italian yet they don’t have a pass to speak during a performance even if there aren’t any English subtitles.

Such lack of manners can also spoil concerts, movies and lectures. What causes such breaches of etiquette? Can you share examples and effective solutions?

Broadway

Service of Upside-Down

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

 

Upside down

 

Thanks for the Memories

Used to be that people with the best manners often came from the most advantaged homes but it seems that the privileged are no longer those who regularly write thank you notes, hold doors or act in thoughtful, courteous ways nor do their offspring. I’ll spare you the examples as no doubt you have many of your own.

No Thanks

I mentioned this topic to a colleague whose daughter just graduated from college. She agreed and added another twist: Many of the kids whose parents could cover college costs have no yen to go so they don’t.

You’re Strange; You’re Hired

Jack in the box

Odd behavior was the kiss of death for most careers but not for our politicians. Like Jack-in-the-boxes, they keep popping up and winning, the weirder the better.

 

Cheat and Win

People whose fraudulent mismanagement and insider trading garner headlines are rewarded. The former receive huge bonuses and the latter keep misbegotten gains and feel no more than a tap on the finger. Both garner front row seats at major charity events and photos in the society pages.

What’s the cause of these turns of events? What’s happened? Are we better off? Are these examples the new normal and those who aren’t comfortable are the ones who are upside down?

 what happened

 

 

Service of Civility: Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate Survey and East Hampton, N.Y. Manners

Monday, August 12th, 2013

sir walter raleigh

Sometimes I think I live on the moon. I was reading Nicholas Joseph’s highlights on researchscape.com of a survey of a thousand Americans that KRC Research conducted for Weber Shandwick and one of its divisions, Powell Tate. I’m in sync with the condition but not with the cause to which 80 percent of respondents attributed incivility: Government leaders.

Hot potato gameWhat about parents and guardians? Is this another game of hot potato where nobody wants to be left holding the vegetable when the music stops?

Joseph wrote: “Civility in America remains at a steady low level as 54% of Americans expect civility to continue to decline in the next few years….. With Americans encountering incivility more than twice a day, on average, and 43% of respondents expecting to experience incivility in the next 24 hours, dealing with incivility has become a way of life for many.

“Many Americans believe that uncivil words are provoking harmful deeds: 81% of respondents believe that uncivil behavior is leading to an increase in violence in our society. Respondents view the government, general public, and large corporations as uncivil, while they see local news, small businesses, and their community as civil.

69% of respondents view the government as uncivil

63% think that the American public is not civil

63% also view the media as uncivil”

I’d like to insert easy access to guns also leads to an increase in violence.

FightingToward the end Joseph added: “The level of civility will not improve until government leaders act more civilly and 83% of respondents think that politics is becoming increasingly uncivil.”

Granted, the survey blamed the American Public second after government…but that’s far too fuzzy for me. It’s not the public but a person that lets a door slam in my face as I enter an office building with my hands full; watches the elevator door slap shut as I’m about to step inside or crashes into me on the sidewalk without taking a breath to apologize.

Respondents—70 percent–also directed fault at the Internet. Almost half  have blocked missives from an uncivil offender while Joseph reported cyberbullying has increased 15 percent since 2011.

East Hampton HomeManners are a first cousin of civility and Jim Rutenberg focused on the former in the title of his New York Times column, “Mind Your Manners, Or Else.” Datelined East Hampton N.Y., the first instance he described—of a hedge fund person and Wall Street lawyer trying to scam a local real estate company of its fee by leaving behind notes in one property asking the homeowner to deal directly with them—wasn’t about manners, it was about ethics and honesty.

After mentioning venues that capture unmannerly behavior, such as TheRudeHamptons.com, Curbed Hamptons and twitter character Joe Schwenk, whose handle is @HamptonsBorn, Rutenberg continued: “‘The Hamptons are, first and foremost, the locus of all this stuff: It’s where the powerful, the glamorous, the rich and the exalted go to summer,’ said Neal Gabler, the Amagansett-based author. ‘Because it’s their playground, the place where they can let themselves loose, it’s the place where you are likely to see them do things that they wouldn’t do in their own environment.’

“Mr. Gabler, who wrote the seminal biography of the gossip columnist Walter Winchell (“Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of the Celebrity”), views the sites devoted to reporting on suspected misdeeds as practicing a form of homegrown gossip columnizing, the whole basis for which, he said, “is essentially to equalize and take down the mighty to make sure they know they’re not better than we are.”

Manners apply whether or not you are rich or important or think you are. Some have them regardless, others don’t.

Definitions of “civility” and “manners” widely differ so we would naturally have diverse expectations about each. Is the reason we step on one another therefore inadvertent? I’m also curious about why survey respondents leave themselves out of the equation on the subject of civility and point far away to government and the public.

Your fault

Service of Acknowledging Gifts

Monday, December 31st, 2012

 thank-you-note-1

Erica Martell brought Philip Galanes’ Social Q‘s column in The New York Times to my attention. He responded to grandparents whose nine “wonderful” grandchildren [as described by their relatives, not Galanes], run from 10 to 22. These children don’t live nearby so the grandparents ship the gifts. The children have never acknowledged a single Christmas or birthday present. They ask “Isn’t commanding thanks awkward?”

Galanes suggests: “Be direct. Call the parents of the younger children and speak with the older ones yourself. Say: ‘We’d like a phone call, an e-mail, or even a handwritten note letting us know that you received our gifts and whether you liked them. Otherwise, we will find more appreciative recipients.'”

thank-you-note-2This is tough to do if the parents are divorced for a range of obvious reasons starting with which parent do you approach without causing more trouble. If you are a stepparent, the rules are simple: Stay out of it.

While I think that divorce has a lot to do with why so many no longer acknowledge gifts sent them for Christmas, Hanukkah or birthdays, my husband has a different idea: He says the recipients would rather not receive the gifts.

These days if you send by UPS or FedEx, or pay a supplement to the US Postal Service, you can trace whether or not the gift has arrived so that’s an option. Why should this be a different model than any other–more and more of what we buy is do-it-yourself. If you want to know if the gift arrived, trace it yourself.

thank-you-note-4I have other ideas for these grandparents and any aunts, uncles and family friends similarly frustrated:

**Send donations to charity in the names of each child. Charities generally acknowledge gifts.

**Take a gift-giving vacation one year. Maybe the recipients’ parents will let you know that your package didn’t arrive so at the least, you’ll hear from somebody and realize that somebody noticed that you’d sent stuff before!

**Don’t take care in choosing appropriate gifts for each child [the grandparents who wrote in from New Canaan, Conn. claim that they do] and spend as little money as you can. Go to a dollar store and see what you can find.

**Send each child only a card and donate what you would have spent to a children’s charity, noting this inside.

**Give an anonymous gift to needy children who have written to Santa c/o the post office or pick names off a giving tree that organizations and charities sponsor. You can’t expect acknowledgement in this case so you won’t be disappointed.

Which of these ideas would work best? Would you dare follow through with any? Do you have other suggestions?

thank-you-note-3

Service of Manners 2012

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

curtsey1

We’ve addressed manners before. I’d like your opinions about the following:

Arriving at a [morning] meeting with your own coffee

People do this all the time. Usually coffee is served, but especially if it isn’t, I would feel uncomfortable being the only one slurping. While it seems acceptable, do you do it?

“Let me find out if Mr./Ms. X is inassistant-on-phone1

This is what you say if you want to make the caller feel second class. Everyone knows the person is in and is evaluating whether to speak with you. There are smoother ways to say this.

Please keep your shoes off the examination table

According to both a radiology technician and doctor in an office with brand new examination tables, there are patients who pick a fight over the request to “please remove your shoes.” In addition, the doctor has seen folks with their shoes on the upholstered furniture in her waiting room.

People also do this on a train, thoughtless of others who will sit where their muddy shoes have been. Is this acceptable behavior these days?

How many times should you follow up on a business outreach?

I try calling, emailing and writing and emailing again–with more info–and as deadlines dictate, I take silence as “no.”  It sure would be nice if recipients took a sec to write “no thanks” but I know that’s too much to ask. How many times do you follow up?

Peeking at emails on smartphone or iPad during a meeting

Mea culpa and I know it is rude. If the meeting drags, it’s so tempting to sneak a quick look.

thank-you-note2Thank you notes

A friend in her mid-80s who sends gifts galore shrugged and noted that “nobody writes thank you notes anymore” so “get over it,” she said when I mentioned how many long distance gift recipients send zero smoke signals–no tweet, email, postcard or phone call. I was reevaluating whether or not to send anything to the silent ones in future.

Note: I get thank yous from children, young adults and adults and I write them too. Are we the rude ones?

Grooming in public

I feel queasy when someone clips their nails or flosses in a bus, subway or train. Monday on the train a woman across the aisle used some kind of atomizer to spray the air around her. The scent and whatever else was in the can wafted over to me. Is public transportation the new washroom?

groominginpublic

Service of Celebrity

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

redcarpet

I don’t rub shoulders with celebrities very often but you’d have to be living on a different planet if you didn’t read or hear of shenanigans and bad behavior from that quarter. Some believe their press and think that they are above others and act like spoiled brats. It doesn’t matter that they play, direct or write about humanitarians or that they publicly espouse charitable causes or support and speak out compassionately to save the less fortunate. I never met Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward or Alan Alda but get the feeling that they were/are exceptions. 

I met two other exceptions last week at The Christophers’ 62nd Awards ceremony. The King’s Speech was a winner in the feature film category and just happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

Tom Hooper

Tom Hooper

Academy Award winners Tom Hooper, the director, and David Seidler, the writer, accepted the award. Neither was surrounded by battalions of handlers. I didn’t see any. Seidler was there toward the beginning of the cocktail reception prior to the ceremony and although deep in conversation with another guest, he happily and cheerfully joined several group photos when we asked him to.

David Seidler

David Seidler

And both men stayed for the entire ceremony. I have attended and produced countless events where the “very important” dash out the second their bit is over. With some exceptions [such as when a Mayor must attend a funeral or other unexpected emergency], this conduct for an event they’ve known about usually for months reminds me of the restaurant scenes in vintage films where a businessman or celebrity wannabe tips the maitre d’ to bring the telephone over to their table in the middle of a meal to show how in demand they are.

In fact, none of the 2011 Christophers winners slipped out. Hooper and Seidler were only two of the many writers, producers, directors and illustrators in the publishing, film, TV and cable industries whose work The Christophers recognized this–and every-year. The winners are selected because what they create “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” I think that the film works as well as it does because the writer and director are talented, sensitive and genuinely good souls. Incidentally, The Christophers’ programs are guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Do you know of or have you observed celebrities, the real or the hopeful, who act in ways that enhance their images rather than detract from them?

christopherawards

Service of Lines

Monday, February 21st, 2011

long-lines

We attended a great classical music concert upstate in a stunning concert hall on a college grounds in Dutchess County. We subscribe and go quite often year ’round.

Something must have been in the air last Saturday night as what happened was a first and it occurred three times. While I stood in line at the ladies’ room my husband lined up to get something to drink at the snack counter and we shared a similar experience in our respective lines. A foursome pushed in front of Homer and placed their orders. He said it was as though he wasn’t there. My line was so long that it formed an L shape down two halls. At the bend a woman marched right in front of the person ahead of me and became deaf when we told her where the line ended.

Later, as we drove out of the parking area, a car cut me off in what is usually a smooth departure directed by students strategically placed at crossroads. You can’t miss them: They carry oversized flashlights.

subwaycrowdWe’re used to this behavior in big cities around the world. In New York, for example, you’re poised to fight for a cab, a space in a crowded subway car, your place at grocery store checkouts or some attention in retail establishments.

busstopMind you, we can do lines in the city. I notice neat ones on sidewalks at bus stops and in front of coffee carts as well as polling places. I often see double rows of young children kept in check by vigilant teachers and parents ushering the little ones across busy streets.

At the concert, we were misled by civilized music and the elegant hall in a bucolic setting. The arrogance of cutting in seemed out of place.

Are there line-breakers these days all over the country, not just in big cities? Why do you think this is happening? Are there some cultures that respect lines more than others? When you see a line, do you honor it or break in? Are some lines meant to be ignored?

line

Service of Interruption

Monday, December 13th, 2010

interrupt

At the first PR firm I worked at–a big one–we’d merged with a smaller one and I attended a meeting unlike any before or since. The head of the small agency had asked his account exec to tell us about her client. As she began to speak, he kept interrupting, demanding,  in irritating short barks, the names of media, dates, events and details. She didn’t complete a sentence without another bullet-like barrage of questions. The boss made us nervous and uncomfortable. You can imagine how the AE felt.

Similarly, Steve Martin must have cringed when the powers at the 92nd Street Y in NYC gave the public the upper hand the night he was interviewed by New York Times writer Deborah Solomon. They didn’t let him do what he’s done splendidly throughout his professional life: Engage audiences.

taketemperatureIn “The Art of Interruption,” an opinion piece in the newspaper sometime after the horrible evening, Martin explained: “When I arrived for Monday’s talk, I was informed that it would be telecast on closed-circuit TV across the country. What I wasn’t told was that the viewers were going to be encouraged to send in e-mails during the discussion: what I didn’t expect was that the Y would take the temperature of those e-mailed reactions, and then respond to them by sending a staff member onstage, mid-conversation, with a note that said, ‘Discuss Steve’s career.’ ”

His new book, “An Object of Beauty,” the topic of his discussion with Solomon, an art scholar, is set in the art world. You sign up to hear about a man’s book, movie, play, symphony or TV script, why should you expect to hear [yet again] about his career?

refundWhat’s worse, the Y offered to refund the ticket price to disgruntled audience members who sound like rude people with the attention span of a gnat, incapable of reading the title of a program, folks with the intellectual curiosity of moose and the patience of an infant.

I wouldn’t have returned a penny. My reasons: If I don’t like liver, do I order it and then complain to the restaurant that my dinner didn’t taste good and I want a refund?  If the subject of art bores you, then don’t sign up to hear about a novel that takes place in the art world, by an art collector interviewed by an art scholar. In addition, to give refunds would insult and be disrespectful of my guests, the two people I’d invited to speak.

Martin continued in his opinion piece, “I have been performing a long time, and I can tell when the audience’s attention is straying. I do not need a note. My mind was already churning like a weather front; at that moment, if I could have sung my novel to a Broadway beat I would have.”

How much should the public be allowed to intrude on a program mid-flight? Was this an attempt by the Y to appear hip and in sync with the social networking world? What would you have done? Can you share instances in which interruption has played a role? Can interruptions serve a valuable purpose?

 stopinterrupting

Service of Appointments

Monday, October 11th, 2010

appointment

One of the technicians in my doctor’s office told me what a now retired dentist patient mentioned to her. He said, “I wish that I had been a hair stylist because none of my female customers would have cancelled appointments with me as they did when they had a tiny headache or the inkling of a sore throat. When they didn’t feel perfect, they’d cancel with me but they’d never cancel their hair appointment.”

scardey-catAnd he’s right in my experience although I honor dentist appointments equally as half of the hard thing for me to do is to call up and make the appointment, the other half is to show up and get it over with. Sometimes I wonder if the anxiety over the whole thing is what makes me feel icky on doctor/dentist day. [I’ve noticed that connection with checkup appointments of any stripe. I’m a scaredy cat.]

And I admit to practically crawling to have my hair cut when I’ve felt dog-sick because looking at myself another minute when my hair cries for attention would send me over the edge.

But I’m the type that takes all appointments seriously. Not everyone does.

One person I knew through a professional organization pursued me for months to have a drink after work. I couldn’t duck any longer so we made a date, which she kept changing. This was fine with me as I didn’t want to see her in the first place and don’t like to cut my workday short to meet with someone I don’t particularly want to see. The day came and she pleaded with me to move the appointment from 6 pm to 5 pm which became horrendous for me, but to get it over with, I said, “OK.” I got to the place at 5 and waited. She had the audacity to arrive half an hour late. Throughout our time together, she kept looking at her Smartphone screen and taking calls and to this day, I cannot tell you the reason for this meeting, other than to assure me that my instincts about her were spot-on: She wasn’t worth my time. And I should have left the place when she was 10 minutes late.

churchI’d already written this post when I read the “Left at the Alter” letter to Philip Galanes in yesterday’s New York Times Style section. The letter writer and her husband left the church after an hour when the bride hadn’t yet appeared because they thought the bride was rude to keep a church full of people waiting. She asked Galanes if her action was defensible. I have a feeling that this wasn’t the first time the couple was kept waiting and they were acting out their annoyance at the bride’s incredible self-absorption and probably shouldn’t have accepted to go in the first place. That wasn’t Galanes’ answer.

Some doctors and lawyers consistently make patients wait having nothing to do with emergencies. Friends told me of having to wait at the bar of a well known NYC steakhouse for an hour after their reservation time and there were empty tables which they acknowledged were saved for regulars and celebrities. They eventually stalked out. Going to restaurants with my father was nervous-making because he didn’t care what the place was in the firmament of famous, if he had a reservation and if he was on time, he expected to be seated, period. If he wasn’t, there were words.

How long do you wait when someone is late to meet you? Now that so many people have cell phones, 10 minutes should do it, don’t you think? And unless you are meeting on the street, another option has always been to call the restaurant and ask the staff to give a message to the person you are meeting along with your ETA.

Have you changed doctors or lawyers or other service providers who routinely make you wait? What about friends and business associates who do so? Do you honor all appointments equally?

 clockwatching

Service of Dissatisfaction

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

dissatisfactionDiane Baranello of Coaching for Distinction just sent me, “Are You Being Served?” by James Surowiecki. The information in The New Yorker piece won’t surprise my readers. The author noted that these days almost nobody is happy–neither the served nor the servers. He also pointed out why employers don’t like to pay for service: It’s an expense with zero income-producing value in their opinion, and an easy cut in tough times.

Surowiecki referred to one survey taken a few years ago in which 80 percent of 300 large companies thought that they delivered “superior service” as compared to eight percent of consumers and he wrote “….one study suggests that only six percent of dissatisfied customers file a complaint.”

disgruntledSo what do disgruntled people do? I posit that they vote with their feet, though not all. Do most suffer in silence?

We walked out of a trendy bakery/restaurant the other week where we were ignored for several minutes by three people behind the counter. There was no “Hi,” “Be with you in a second,” or “May I help you?” When I asked my husband “What do you want?” as I was deciding whether a cranberry scone or a blueberry muffin was coming home with me, he replied: “To get out of here,” which we did. The place was almost empty, there were four customers at two tables. We passed by in the car the other day and crowds appeared to be leaving or entering.

Money goes to attract new customers, Surowiecki pointed out, instead of keeping existing ones. True to form, the bakery/restaurant has dotted the countryside with posters directing drivers to it and the place was given great coverage in a New York Times article about a month ago.

pileofmagazinesThis place isn’t alone to spend money to attract new customers and favor them. [We were new at the bakery, but as we were in the door, and there’s nowhere else nearby, I guess we no longer mattered.] Magazines use a model of spend-to-get-new readers and charge more to current subscribers. I refuse to pay the higher price for a magazine renewal for an expensive publication I’ve subscribed to for eons. New subscriptions cost $10 less. With my check, I send a copy of the blow-in card, circle the lower price and enclose a letter. It’s in my computer so doesn’t take but a second to change the date every year. The letter explains that I expect to be treated better than a new reader and to please honor me with the better price. It works. [I refuse to pay for any publication with a credit card. The thought of trying to break off the relationship with their ability to suck out any amount of money from me that they want–forever–gives me nightmares.]

I agreed with the author when he disclaimed the theory that poor service is caused by consumers who insist on cheap prices, thereby eliminating a business’s ability to provide good service. He mentioned Zappos.com, which in this context is the example de rigueur. We had a glitch this morning using FreeConference.com. I heard from Will Reed in customer service in minutes. Turns out we caused the malfunction. And back to the bakery/restaurant, how costly is it to say “hello, good to see you, be with you in a minute?”

I am sure that you can list many other moderately priced establishments both big and small that serve you well.  Won’t you please share? And we’d always like to hear of examples where you were a dissatisfied customer or employee.

fabservice

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