Open Thread

by EPI Staff on May 16, 2011

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This open thread is your space to use as you like.  We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura May 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

Good Monday morning, everyone. I hope a great weekend was had by all. On Saturday, while visiting friends in a large city, we encountered behavior from a waiter that made the ladies at the table a little uncomfortable. Now, we’re pretty laid back. If an older man calls me “sweetie” or “honey,” I don’t mind. But when we ordered our drinks (Asian beer since we were at an Asian place), the young waiter looked at the [medical doctor, married 30-something] woman across from me and said, “Are you sure you want a beer? Wouldn’t you rather have one of our fruity, girly drinks?” She frowned. “Nope, I want a beer.” Her husband mentioned a minute later that he was too surprised to say anything.
At the end of the meal, though I asked for the check and I had my card out to pay, he presented the checks to our husbands.
I was floored by this from such a young man. An older gentleman may have grown up learning this habit, so personally I would look the other way.
I was vexed, but didn’t speak up. What would you have done? Should we have just kept our mouths shut?

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Alicia May 16, 2011 at 10:03 am

I would have lowered my tip , said something like “I’m the one who asked for the check and if you want it payed I’m the one you need togive it to”and asked to speak to his manager. Mentioning issues to a manager at a resturant is the only way to ensure it does not become a patern that results in others having bad service as well.

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Country Girl May 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Having been there, you obviously know the true tone and intent of what was said. But I might offer a possible “devil’s advocate” synopsis for these situations.

Is it possible that this waiter was new(er) at his job? I have often come across newer waiters/waitresses who are both nervous and very awkward at conversing with people and tend to try too hard to break the ice with their tables by making ill-timed or somewhat inappropriate jokes before thinking, which ends up coming across as ignorant and rude. The waiter could have been trying so hard to get you all to like him and get a laugh, that rubbish just spouted from his mouth.” Is it also possible that, in his haste or stress, he forgot that you had asked for the check?

Of course it is possible as well that this waiter is sexist and was purposefully insulting.

If the first scenerio seems possible, pehaps you could write a gentle letter to the manager saying “We dined last Saturday and had an awkward experience. So-and-so was our waiter and it appeared that he might have been new and perhaps needs a bit more training in order to become a great waiter and a good representative for your company.” Then explain what happened. If you go the sense that he was just a rude person of course your letter will go much differently.

I don’t think saying anything directly to the waiter would have helped too much in either case, and I agree with Alicia that a letter or personally speaking with the manager is the best way to clear this up and ensure it won’t happen in the future.

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Rusty Shackleford May 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I agree this is very unprofessional conduct on the part of the waiter. Giving the check to the men is possibly more indicitive of conditioning then a presumption on his part. And the drink suggestion may be a requirement by his manager. Restaurants frequently place quotas on their waitstaff to sell higher priced alcholic beverages, wine, etc. Bottom line, although I agree the waiter was very rude, and has alot to learn about service, I wouldn’t take it personally. I also wouldn’t allow it to detract from the fun experience dining out with friends can be.

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Elizabeth May 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

Dear Laura,
How annoying! I would also be unappreciative of this waiter’s manner if I were in that situation. But it’s not too late to do something! If I were you, I would call the manager and explain that one of his waiters has some strange notions that he should be disabused from. When customers order something, their choice should not be challenged -whether on the basis of gender or even price (it also sounds like he was trying to get you to order something more expensive). He should also be directed to hand the bill to whoever asked for it or to simply place it in the middle of the table. Directing it towards the males at the table could be awkward in many situations (in which a woman is interviewing a man and paying for the meal, for example.) I think if you were to describe it to the manager as the waiter having some non-standard customs that made you uncomfortable, I would bet that the guy would be talked to and instructed differently very quickly.

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Jody May 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

Sounds like this waiter may have been trying to be friendly and joking but his efforts were definitely misguided. I agree that a private word with the manager is in order. It’s always possible that the waitstaff was directed to be friendly and joking with customers, but the manager should know that remarks/treatment such as you received are not always appreciated or appropriate.

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Florida May 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

This is a sensitive issue that isn’t sitting well with me; I’m not sure how to proceed. This may not be an etiquette issue, but I don’t know what to do.

My cousin went into premature labor with twins this past week. After an emergency C-section the little boy was fine, but the little girl was in serious condition. After a few days on a respirator she didn’t make it. The funeral was a private ceremony with just the parents (my cousin and her husband) and my aunt and uncle.

We have been told, through my aunt, that we are not to mention the little girl. By that, I mean we are never to mention her. My father then explained to me that my cousin and her husband want to pretend that the little girl never happened.

I hope that this is just a state of shock. Of course I can and will respect their grief right now and follow this request, but I don’t feel right about this. I don’t know how to explain that I feel this is wrong, but at the same time I don’t know what the right thing to do is.

My husband told me that the next time he sees her he plans on congratulating her on their son and offer his condolences for the loss of the daughter. He said he will never pretend that the little girl never existed, that she lived for four days and deserved to be remembered.

I’m torn. Like I said, I hope this is simply a stage of grief that will pass, but I see my husband’s point. Can my cousin dictate that we never mention the child?

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Just Laura May 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I am sorry that this joyful event was marred so severely. Your cousin and her husband, the people who are likely experiencing the most emotional pain, prefer to focus on the son at this time. Postpartum depression frequently occurs after even healthy children, and I’m sure it’s magnified here. Please understand that she is coping the best way she knows how – putting this personal tragedy behind her and her family. I bet in the future she and her husband will want to talk about the little girl (and I hope someone is there to listen). I hope right now you and the rest of your family can let your cousin grieve in the manner she’s chosen.

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Jess May 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Hopefully it is just a temporary way of dealing with the loss. My father’s youngest brother died after only 7 hours of life, but he still mentions him (he was given a name at birth) and talks about it, 50 years later. So the little baby’s 7 hours on this earth was never forgotten by his siblings.

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VickyBee May 16, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Our 40th wedding aniversary is coming up next year. My husband wants us to throw a big reception for ourselves. Is it proper to throw your own party? I think our children should do it. What do you all think?

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Just Laura May 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Did you throw your own reception for your wedding? Receptions are celebrations, and it sounds like you’re due for another one. You made it 40 years! I think that’s rare and great – definitely something to celebrate. Please don’t expect your children to throw you a party – it’s generally poor taste to guilt others into having parties for you.

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Alicia May 17, 2011 at 8:03 am

I think throwing a big anniversary party is a great idea. I agree with Laura that this is yours to throw not your kids. Although in context it is the exact same and the party can in all other ways be the same, I also encourage you to call it an anniversary party not a reception as your guests will be people whom you have been socially connected to over the last 40 years not new folks that you are just now receiving you.

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Just Laura May 17, 2011 at 9:09 am

I see by my post that I inadvertently suggested calling it a reception. Please listen to Alicia on this one – “anniversary party” is a better name for it.

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Mary May 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm

As someone who just got married, I think it’s always easier when you do the planning. Maybe ask for suggestions from your children and parcel out the work amongst them, but keep the reins and decision-making for yourselves. I had the worst time planning my wedding shower. I had to balance the wishes/schedules of my mom, my new mother-in-law, my new step-mother-in-law and my maid of honor/sister… It really took the fun out of it all. Even simple things, like deciding if the menu should be more like brunch instead of lunch, suddenly involved checking in with several people. Our combined bachelor/ette party was really easy to plan. We found a place that we liked, picked a date and sent out the invites ourselves. Unless someone steps up and wants to plan it all for you, I would do it yourself and get your kids to lick stamps and make phone calls.

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