Archive for the ‘Etiquette’ 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 Miserly Tips

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax reprimanded a couple who complained about their daughter and son-in-law. They meet for a meal once a month at a restaurant halfway between them and their son-in-law embarrassed them when they caught him giving an additional tip to their waiter and apologizing for the table.

The incident resonated when Erica Martell sent me the column because I’ve been there, though I was never caught; I didn’t apologize to the waiter and it didn’t involve my parents. Either my husband or I would slip our waiter extra money to adjust miserly tips left by a generations-old family friend.

Back to the mother who described to Hax her conversation with her daughter the next day: “She told me….[that] our restaurant habits are not very thoughtful. I demanded specifics, and she told me that we split an entree and order water only, so the bill is really low. She also said we are demanding of the wait staff, which is especially bad because we aren’t giving the establishment much money to make up for it.”

The mother said they normally tip 10 percent, 15 if the service is good “maybe 20 percent” [the amount her daughter recommended] “if they washed our car while we were eating or something.” She concluded that she didn’t feel like she was “dining incorrectly,” thought it was rude to “correct our behavior behind our backs” and no longer wanted to meet her kids for dinner.

Hax told the complainants that they were “bad restaurant guests,” noting that a 10 percent tip was decades outdated. “And, hereafter: Always be mindful of the price point and service level of a restaurant before making demands of the staff. You can send back an order that was somehow botched at any level, from Mickey D’s on up, but you don’t fuss over the garnish on a $7.99 entree.”

About the daughter and son-in-law, Hax also suggested that the mother “take a moment to appreciate their sensitivity both to the staff and to your feelings.”

Have you dined with others who leave stingy tips or in other ways embarrass you either by drilling waitstaff or by being far too picky and demanding, making the life of restaurant workers a misery? Do you side with the parents or the adult kids in this instance?

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 My Space: Am I Invisible?

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Photo: businessinsider.com

Photo: businessinsider.com

 

I don’t require a lot of space when I walk through Grand Central Terminal [photo above] or on a crowded sidewalk—no more than an average pedestrian. Even when I’m pulling a large bright red suitcase-on-wheels, I wonder if I’m invisible.

In NYC there are no more unwritten rules-of-the-road for pedestrians that respect the space of others. Nothing’s changed in years: The city has always been crowded with thousands of tourists from here and abroad, all with unfamiliar walking patterns that bungle the pace of natives. But it worked before. Today we are increasingly unaware and unconscious of others.

Red suitcase turnedI’ve previously mentioned a friend who was knocked off her feet on Lexington Avenue in front of Grand Central. She’s short and the business man, engrossed in conversation with a colleague, neither realized he’d hit her nor noticed her tumble, she said. He continued on. Another pedestrian helped her up. Thank goodness she wasn’t hurt. [Over years I’ve also been slammed by angry, clumsy and sometimes nutty pedestrians—or their backpacks, shopping bags and brief cases.]

I’m not small; I know where I’m going so I don’t dawdle or hesitate.Yet at least once a day, especially in midtown, I wonder if someone—old, young, middling, doesn’t matter–is going to slam into me, especially at crosswalks. I find the solution is to stay alert but I am irritated that it’s up to me to defend my space and I miss a time where we respected other pedestrians’ and stayed clear.

NYC crowd turnedNothing new here. I wrote about this in “Service of We Get What We Deserve” in December, 2009: “When someone crashes into me, or my package, on a city sidewalk, I can’t remember the last time I heard an apology. Has ‘excuse me’ dropped from our vocabulary? Yesterday someone slammed into my niece and said nothing to her as she gathered her footing. If you apologize, be sure to check out the crasher’s expression: He/she will look angry at you!”

Is this the same where you live–on sidewalks, in grocery stores, in lobbies, airports or bus/train stations? Do you have techniques for securing the space around you? Do people do this because they enjoy a brisk game of chicken, is it illustrative of pedestrian rage or have we lost our personal compasses?

Crowded sidewalk NYC turned

Service of Being a VIP

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Photo: dailymail.co.uk

Photo: dailymail.co.uk

I found out why I so often hear crickets after I’ve held open a door to wait for a much younger person to pass regally past; why some youthful cashiers at full price grocery stores are comfortable watching me place my purchases in bags while they don’t participate; why there’s silence in return when I greet a young tenant on the floor of my office building or in the elevator of my apartment and why I must fight for a spot on the sidewalk if I’m walking against heavy foot traffic at rush hour. I’m a native New Yorker. I know how to negotiate crowds at a clip. At least I did at a time in which citizens respected each others’ space.

Helicopter parents 2So what’s the reason for the behavior I described above? These people are VIPs. Here’s proof.

David Brooks [below, left], identified them on page 6 of his book “The Road to Character,” [Random House, 2015], which I’ve begun to read [and so far like very much]. He reported responses to a 1950 Gallup Organization query of high school seniors who were asked if they considered themselves to be “a very important person.” Sixty five years ago 12 percent answered “yes,” as compared to 80 percent of seniors asked the same question in 2005.

 David Brooks The Road to CharacterNo wonder I was almost run over by two bikers as I crossed the street corner during a short walk in midtown yesterday. The light was green for me but they were in a rush; I was in the way.

This VIP approach is a striking turnabout for a person who, as a kid, often heard “The tail doesn’t wag the dog.” In the day we didn’t cotton up much to faux VIPs. We’d giggle at young officers who’d swagger or show conceit or arrogance for no reason when I was the 20-something Air Force wife of a lieutenant the same age.

Do VIPs who have earned their stripes resent all this competition? Do VIPs owe consideration to their underlings? Who changes a light bulb in an office full of VIPs? What happens when an artificial VIP disagrees with his/her boss or instructor or when two VIPs are married to one another? Are so many ersatz VIPs only in America?

VIP room

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 Restaurant Dining Etiquette: Don’ts of Restaurant Patrons

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Restaurant reserved

Erica Martell sent me a column, “Dining out etiquette rule No.1: Don’t be a no-show,” from northjersey.com suggesting the topic of today’s post based on Record columnist Elisa Ung’s plea to restaurant customers: Cancel reservations you don’t plan to honor.

Just how financially disastrous it is for small restaurants when eight friends make reservations in three places and don’t bother to call the two they aren’t planning to visit is a loss of a fifth of the revenue on a busy weekend night. Ung focused on New Jersey but this would seem like an obvious repercussion regardless of where the restaurant is located. There were enough restaurant owners in the area she covers who were burned by such behavior to warrant the piece.

Many owners don’t charge a fee to those who leave them in the lurch on a busy Saturday night but some did to the tune of $50.

Patrons also drive restaurant staff nuts. In “Waiters and Waitresses Reveal the Worst Things a Customer Can Do,” Fox News Magazine shared highlights of a Reddit forum. The magazine reported that according to participants you shouldn’t stack plates as you probably won’t be doing it the way the wait staff wants it, causing clearing and cleanup delays.

Restaurant with KidsDon’t bring out-of-control children to a restaurant because it’s hard on staff and other guests. There’s added stress if the children are at a separate table and the waiter is supposed to figure out what children’s food belongs on which adult’s bill. As adults enjoy a quiet meal at another table they expect the waiter to babysit—a no-no.

restaurant kids badly behavedI’ve seen the final complaint Fox covered in this category: A child that tosses on the floor any and all food he gets his hands on from his and anybody else’s plate as well as the bread basket and a parent who makes no gesture to stop the activity, help clean up or to apologize. And when unsupervised children drop pencils, crayons and coins in their drinks, the waiter has to remove it all before the glass is put in the dishwasher or the junk will clog the works.

Waiters worry they will spill stuff on cell phones left on tabletops during a meal and can’t decipher where you want to sit when you use hand gestures while you chat on the phone.

When patrons refuse the table to which they are assigned and ask to be seated across the room and then reject several more tables it is more than annoying: It also affects staff rotation as the first table was most likely in a spot that the waiter responsible is free while others may not be.

restaurant bad tipperShowing up ten minutes before closing, and sitting around to chat with friends after dinner, will force the entire staff to stay up with you. And if you have a coupon, keep in mind that the waiter has the same amount of work to do and tip accordingly. If a $30 bill is reduced to $10, don’t leave $2. Speaking of tips, waiters want money, not religious literature some complained they receive instead. And don’t mess up the bathroom.

Are you guilty of any of these practices and do you have good reasons? Have you observed annoying customer behavior in restaurants?

 Restaurant

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 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

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