42 Comments

  1. Most people agree that there is a special place in the afterlife for those who run out on their restaurant tabs. Waitstaff may have to make up the difference, and (here in the U.S.) lose out on the vital tip.
    That being said, I once ran out on a tab.
    Several years back, I took a date out to a nice restaurant in NYC. It wasn’t a busy evening, but our service was slow (had to go find the waitress for drink refills, etc). When the food was eaten, we sat for about 15 minutes. No waitress. I placed my bright orange credit card to the side so that any staff would know I was ready to pay, but no waitress showed. After around 35 minutes (I kept checking my watch), my date volunteered to locate our waitress. He returned saying he’d found a manager who would find the waitress.
    No waitress.
    After just over 40 minutes, we gathered our things and left. I felt horrible, and I assured my date that I did not believe our course of action was correct, but we had someplace else to be. He said that if they wanted our money, they had nearly an hour to get it. I still feel guilty about this. Was my date correct, or did we commit an egregious error?

    • Country Girl

      I’m going to have to side with you, in that I don’t believe leaving without paying was the correct move, even in this completely scattered situation. While certainly the tip should have diminished to close to (if not completely) nothing, walking out on a tab is still a form of stealing whether shoddy service/time restraints contributed to the reasons or not.

      I worked at a restaurant for years, and I know that most point-of-sales programs used by restaurants allow for any waitstaff member/manager to close out any tab. While another waitress typically doesn’t do this because it may confuse that table’s actual waitress, this situation was a little more dire so I’m sure they would have made an exception and helped you out. Other things I may have tried if another waitress/waiter refused to help: either search for an ATM so that you may been able to leave cash or contacted the manager a final time to let him know that you had waited a ridiculous x minutes/hours for someone to close your tab out, but needed to leave immediately. If no staff was willing to help you within 5 minutes unfortunately you were going to have no choice but to walk out. (That hopefully would put a fire under someone’s behind.)

      If this incident had happened more recently, you might have contacted the restaurant’s owner or write a letter via their corporate address shortly after to let them know of the situation. You might offer to pay for you meal (though I’m sure they would refuse) and let them know that you were very disappointed in the whole experience and that you are normally not a person who resorts to measures like walking out, but you HAD (after all) made several attempts and waited an entire hour and a half. If I was a business owner supplying a product and an employee of mine was giving such poor service that it was causing customers to walk out without paying me for that product, I would really want/deserve to know. That employee should have been reprimanded instead of being able to say to management “Those jerks walked out on me for no reason.”

      • I have left cash on the table before in instances where I’ve been in a rush. However, this was one of those restaurants that has seating outside on the sidewalk, and that’s where we were. By the time we were finished, we were the only customers outside, (which is why my date went inside to find the waitress) and cash on an unguarded table is an easy target. He did find a manager, but the manager simply said “I’ll go find your waitress,” then nothing happened.
        You’re right, I should have contacted the restaurant via letter/email.

        • Country Girl

          Oh no! I definately feel for you, and agree that cash on an outside table would have been worse. I have actually been in similar situations and it’s funny how some restaurants seem to forget about their outdoor patrons. Out of sight out of mind? :) Yes, this definately would have been a situation to let the owner know about. Who knows how many other customers have received this same poor treatment from both staff and management?

    • Elizabeth

      It seems to me that this is an ethical question more so than a question of etiquette. Have you ever read the column “The Ethicist” in the NY Times? This is exactly the kind of question that they deal with. I think “the Ethicist” would say that you have to reasonably exhaust all possibilities to pay before giving up and walking out. It sounds to me like you came very close to that. I completely understand your frustration and probably would have done the same thing. It’s possible that the waitress had an emergency of some kind and her coworkers did not pick up the dropped ball, so to speak. Given this possibility, it seems as though a phone call the next day would have been appropriate, and it would have been shocking had they actually asked you to pay the bill after all of that.

      I hope you are not losing sleep over this – you seem like a very conscientious person. It’s hard to think clearly when you were A)on a date and no doubt having to negotiate that, B)under pressure to go on to your next scheduled event, and C)extremely frustrated at the poor service. These conditions would conspire against even Mother Theresa!

      • Vanna Keiler

        I agree with Elizabeth. Although under normal circumstances leaving without paying would be considered stealing, JustLaura and Company went that extra step in attempting to find the wait staff, even informing the manager, before being forced to leave to keep their schedule. As soon as he was informed, the manager should have made it a priority to ensure the meal was paid for, by quickly taking care of this issue himself. I think it was a complete lack of service on the restaurant’s part, from junior staff through to senior staff.

        I had a similar experience myself, when I was a young adult (teen) and after 1 hour we left the restaurant. We were livid with anger and frankly felt held hostage by the restaurant for so long. If it happened to me again in the present time, I would probably stress to the manager the urgency in getting the bill paid, and indicate I will be leaving in a certain period of time. I would not return to my seat. The manager should take that as a visual cue to get things done quickly!

    • Tru_Believer

      I am sorry to say I do not agree with your course of action. While I am certain you received sub-par service you took something and did not pay for it. Your date should have informed the manager he wanted to pay and then handed the manager the credit card. You or your date should have been more pro-active. Then, as it is suggested below follow-up with a letter to management.

      • I don’t know why you’re apologizing for not agreeing with me; as I said, I’m not certain I agree with what I did. I think I’m most upset with the manager who wouldn’t run our card because he wanted the waitress to do it, but certainly I am not blameless here. That’s why I posted, and if this ever happens again, a follow-up letter has been the best suggestion I’ve seen.

  2. Jen

    While this sounds like a very frustrating situation and the tip should have reflected the poor service, why didn’t your date just find the manager(again) or another waiter/waitress to give it to? Obviously this should have been followed up with a letter to the restaurant.

  3. Country Girl

    Wedding websites are becoming more and more popular, yet there is not much written in term of etiquette on use of these sites. I am wanting to hear some opinions on this matter.

    I recently had a friend in another state collect a bunch of email addresses from many of her friends/aquaintances and send out a blast email with her wedding website. (The site contains what I find to be typical of a wedding site: how we met, wedding party, gift registery, date and location of wedding etc) Problem is the wedding is still a 6 months down the road and there is some confusion among friends to if receiving the link to this site will equate to a wedding invitiation or not. I know brides only needs to allow for 6 weeks before the wedding to send an invite, but many of these friends who received the wedding page link would rather ask for time off/book hotel & plane tickets in advance/buy a gift since this is out of state if they are in fact invited. So I was wanting to get some feedback on the confusion….

    1) What are general feelings toward these websites?

    2) Should you send a link to your wedding site to only those who you plan to invite to the wedding?

    3) If you are sending this link to folks who you won’t be able to invite is it ok to keep a registery page/date location/hotel information on the site?

    4) (I am personally against this, but some friends have questioned) If you receive a wedding site link is it ok to ask the bride if that means you are invited?

    5) (Again, my thought is no, but friends have discussed) If you receive a wedding link but not an invitiation, is the bride still expecting a gift?

    • 1) I have very negative feelings, but I recognize it’s my opinion only, and not necessarily the correct opinion.
      2) I believe so.
      3) I think not, because I would feel left out and saddened if my friend sent me all this fun-sounding info, then told me I’m not included.
      4) I don’t see why not, if I need to make significant travel arrangements. What if it’s in a foreign country, and I need to update my passport? That can be time consuming.
      5) If there is registry information on the site, then yes.

      What an interesting topic! I bet this will get a lot of varying opinions.

      • I’d like to follow-up on my number 5: Though I believe the bride is expecting a gift if registry info is included, as Alicia said, you are not under any obligation to give one.

    • Alicia

      1) What are general feelings toward these websites? It depends in moderation and targeted directly to those attending or at least invited they can be a nice way to diseminate info about hotels and travel and photos afterwards. But in many cases totally self congratulatory and gift begging. It varies.

      2) Should you send a link to your wedding site to only those who you plan to invite to the wedding? Absolutely. Well maybe to a friend also planning a wedding if they specifically know that they are not getting invited.

      3) If you are sending this link to folks who you won’t be able to invite is it ok to keep a registery page/date location/hotel information on the site?Do not send the link to those not invited to the wedding

      4) If you receive a wedding site link is it ok to ask the bride if that means you are invited?I would assume that you are invited but I would not make travel plans based on this without getting a save the date or an invite.

      5) If you receive a wedding link but not an invitiation, is the bride still expecting a gift? Who knows if they expect a gift or not but you are under zero obligation to get them a gift. People expect al sorts of things. But as a polite friend you do not need to get a gift unless you want to or get invited to the wedding.

  4. Gertrude

    Hello! I am a bride-to-be. I think the whole idea behind a wedding site has its ups and downs: It is a good way to network, but it can border on “tacky” really easily. The majority of wedding sites seem to be done by brides that want to gush about their wedding, and disclose every single detail (From where they got the place cards to who will be catering… Some things are better left a mystery!). They seem one-sided (usually made by the bride), and are basically a way to brag while begging for gifts. I think the main problem here is that it seems the bride-to-be here mistakened an e-mail for a “Save the date”! I think that the only place that a wedding site should be listed is on the save the date. Even then, the wedding site should be tastefully done, and the main point of it should not be “THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN BUY ME STUFF”, but rather “here are the directions to our wedding, here is a picture of the location, so you can find it well, here’s how we met”, etc. But to send out an e-mail with the wedding site, and for that to be the first you are hearing of the wedding is not in proper etiquette, in my humble opinion.

  5. Marianna

    Whenever my regular mailman has a day off, his substitute gives my mail to my upstairs neighbor. I’ve told him several times not to, but it hasn’t helped. My neighbor only checks her mail about once a week. Would it be acceptable for me to check my neighbor’s mailbox when mine is suspiciously empty to see if my mail is in her box?

    • Graceandhonor

      While it seems sensible to check your neighbor’s box, this is unlawful. What if her mail goes missing? You should file a complaint with your substitute carrier’s supervisor. His refusal to do his job properly is the reason for your problem.

    • Camille

      What I might suggest is when your regular mail person comes back, give them a card and a note explaning what happens when they are off. I find that my mail carrier is pretty protective over her route. My office mail carrier is equally as concerned about his route. I think the regular mail carrier can show/tell the replacement about how your specific address works and they may go to the proper person if it happens after that. This is especially so if you are on good terms with the regular person. It is illegal to open another persons mailbox I believe – even if it is for a good reason.

  6. Nina

    Here’s one I’ve never thought of before: this morning, at the top of a long, steep flight of stairs (in the subway), a woman asked me for help carrying her shopping buggy down. I am a normal-looking woman, but I have very little upper-body strength. However, the buggy didn’t look that heavy, and I don’t like to say no to a request for help, so I did. My mistake: the buggy weighed a tonne, and I almost dropped it several times! I would have been horrified if it had crashed to the bottom, and it might well have. Clearly, I should not be agreeing to help strangers carry heavy things.

    But how to avoid it? I don’t know how I could have asked, “Well, maybe I’ll help you carry it; what’s in it?” Nor can I really imagine carrying it a couple steps then abandoning her when I realized it was too much for me. The only option I can think of is pretending not to see her, which, to my shame, is what I did when I saw her get off at the same subway stop as me, at the bottom of another long steep flight of stairs.

    • Kiley

      Hmm that is a bit of a predicament. How nice of you to want to help though. I would probably say something like “Well I’m not a very strong person, but let’s see if it might be something I can do for you.” Then once you give it a go and realize the task won’t be something you are capable of performing, perhaps take a look around and assit her in enlisting help from someone else (hopefully really strong looking ;) ).

      • JB

        Nina,
        I can relate to your predicament. For four plus years my daily routine consisted of physical and occupational therapy, acupuncture appointments, medical visits, etc. for a computer related arm injury that affected not only both arms but also my shoulders and neck. While I looked completely “normal”, I was not able to lift or carry anything. I did have neoprene sleeves I would wear on both arms, but people obviously did not think anything of them, especially in terms of possible injury … I even had one man grab my arm to look at my sleeve closer and ask if I used it for biking. (It takes all kinds!) I learned I had to be very protective of my self, which was difficult, given that it is second nature to me to hold doors for those behind me, pick something up if someone drops it, etc.

        A perfectly appropriate response, should something like this happen to you in the future, would be “I’m sorry, I’m not able to lift things. ” You do not owe anyone an explanation as to why, how much or in what capacity. Accompany your denial with a friendly smile and tone, rather than a brusque response and hurrying off. If you are so inclined, you might add “But let’s see if we can find someone to help you.” And then take a moment or two to secure assistance from someone else. While you are not able to be of direct help, your friendliness and indirect assistance will be appreciated … and you can walk away feeling that you did a good thing.

      • Elizabeth

        Not to keep bringing up Europe, but – when I returned home from a 2 month stay in Berlin last summer, I had amassed quite a bit of stuff – mostly heavy books purchased during my stay. I had two huge bags and a couple of carry-ons that were hanging off of them. There are subway stops all over the city that have elevators, so I was completely shocked to realize that the subway stop closest to the airport did NOT have one. Luckily, a friendly guy helped me carry one of my bags up, or else I’m not sure what I would have done… probably would have had to do them one at a time, leaving one unattended – not a good idea in any city. I did notice that mothers with baby carriages were often helped by strangers, though they were usually younger men and women who could clearly handle the load. I think there’s nothing wrong with demurring if you feel like you can’t handle it – plenty of people have back injuries or other problems that are ‘invisible’ but make such an activity undesirable and dangerous.

        • Nina

          Thanks, everybody, for your very helpful responses! And, just as Elizabeth was, I am always shocked by the number of subway stops in my city that don’t have elevators–including the one I was at yesterday. This makes life very difficult for the wheelchair bound, those with strollers and buggies, and anyone who is frail enough to struggle on long steep flights of stairs–in other words, lots of people! It’s really unfortunate.

          But enough about infrastructure! I really appreciate everyone’s sympathy and good ideas. I will definitely try JB’s response next time–for this happens fairly often in this low-on-elevators city.

          Thanks!
          Nina

  7. Vicky Nay

    Re: The use of Funeral invitations (not the announcements). Has anyone used these? What type of situation would these be used in? I can imagine that they would be sent out fairly regularily in the case of memorial services, but non-cremation type funerals are usually much more time-sensitive. Personally, I had never even heard of them, but googled it and apparently they do exist. Could you tell me of your experiences with these? Thank you so much!

    • Graceandhonor

      They are used most often for funerals of the famous or celebrities in order to control attendance of persons unknown to the deceased or his family. Until this age we are in, people generally knew when their attendance would be inappropriate, i.e. acrimonious relationships, cheating business associates, murder suspects and their victims. Public outrage is not the policing factor it once was, so sadly, there is a corresponding increase in funeral invitations. However, I suspect a greeting card company, in partnership with Funerals R Us, is behind this movement.

      • Vicky Nay

        Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply. That is indeed a valid reason to use a funeral invite, I had not thought of that.

    • Alicia

      I recieved one and only one. This was a case where my friend was someone who had national name recognition. Several thousands of people stood outside his funeral. Only those with invites were allowed to actually get inside the church. I think they are only used in cases when those that the descesed did not know might show up.

      • Vicky Nay

        I am getting the idea that this is the proper use of these funeral invitations, that they are not really a tool to notify people, but more of a tool to eliminate or limit guests. I just want to say again how much I appreciate the replies, they have helped me greatly.

  8. Elizabeth 2

    I am a recently divorced woman of 43 who was married for 20 years. I was recently invited to my younger (in his 30’s) cousin’s wedding. The invitation was addressed to me and my children without the (ex)spouse, so apparently someone in the extended family told the groom’s parents that I am divorced (groom’s father was the officiant at my wedding).

    Problem: I am in a serious relationship to a new person (engaged and to be married after an appropriate amount of time) and my extended family does not know this. I know you do not take a guest if he/she is not invited on the invitation but what about this situation? Should I email the groom’s parents and let them know I have a “significant other”, who is upset he was not on the invitation.

    • Graceandhonor

      It makes no sense for your s.o. to be upset with someone who doesn’t know of his existence. I suppose you could call and explain you’d like to bring him to meet the family, but I would think it more important for you to properly announce your engagement and make sure your s.o. understands no one is to blame for him being left off the invitation but you two.

      • I agree. How could the groom know to invite a person of whom he’s never heard? Perhaps that problem is that your s.o. is upset you haven’t told your extended family about him. As Graceandhonor said, logically it’s time for them to meet him! But if they do not extend a belated invitation to him (if the wedding guest list is already set in stone, for instance), then don’t be upset. Again, they can’t be blamed for what they never knew.

  9. Erik H.

    I am reading “great get-togethers” By Anna & Lizzie Post.
    On the topic of ‘Chargers’..it says remove the first course AND the charger, and then serve the main course on its own plate. Is this correct? I’ve always thought the main course can be served on the charger as well. And both are removed before desert. It makes no sense to me to set a beautiful charger..for the first course only.
    This question is important to me as I am a novice party planner.

    • While it seems to sound strange, I too have heard from several sources (including our dear friend Emily) that the charger is to be removed. I believe Miss Manners says the same thing, as do many books on the topic. I can’t give you the “why,” but I assure you that this is not a new/rare table rule.

    • Elizabeth

      Well, chargers are used for very formal meals and very formal meals often include multiple courses. A salad course, a soup course, and a fish course (for example) could all come before the main plate and would all be served on the charger. It doesn’t seem so strange when you look at it that way. I believe the charger is removed before the main plate because the charger acts kind of like a placemat – smaller plates/bowls are placed on it and after a couple of courses, food has fallen on to the charger (and not the tablecloth!). Usually the dinner place is almost as large (or as large) as the charger, so it wouldn’t make sense to put a clean large plate on top of a dirty charger, which it will (almost) completely hide anyway.

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