Open Thread

by epi on December 2, 2011

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Erik December 2, 2011 at 2:14 am

So I’m living in a hotel for the next 16 days for a work related business trip. I’m staying downtown and the hotel only has valet parking. I am paying for parking at approximately $20 a day (I guess I should say my company is paying for the parking) . If I was only used valet once, I’d certainly tip the driver for the one time, but I’m taking my car out at least once a day and some times twice a day. If I tipped every driver each time I parked the car I’d shell out quite a bit of money over the 16 days not to mention it’d be annoying to constantly try to have a few dollar bills on hand. So how do I handle it? Do I just give them one large tip and say ‘split it up among yourselves’? What would be an appropriate sum?or is there some other option? Thanks!

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Zakafury December 2, 2011 at 11:52 am

I think getting a stack of dollar bills and tipping each time is going to make your visits to the valet stand more pleasant.

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Nina December 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I don’t have much experience with valet parking, so this might be way off, but I was taught that when you stay in a hotel, the cleaning staff make up your room every day but you tip for the whole stay on the morning you check out. It might not be the same staff that cleaned your room each day, but presumably they have a way of sorting it out.

I actually worked as a chambermaid for a while, and one tip at the end was the standard, insofar as anyone tipped at all at that hotel :)

But I don’t know of that’s still the way things work, or if cleaning staff and valets are similar enough…?

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Scarlett December 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Erik – I hope this doesn’t post twice, as I had technical difficulties submitting the original comment. Zakafury and Ashleigh are correct. You should give a modest (minimum) tip to the valet each time. The same goes for housekeeping staff, who should be tipped each day of your stay. If they do something special, such as leave extra towels, toiletries or fulfill a specific request, then leave just a bit more. :-) – Scarlett

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Jerry December 3, 2011 at 11:51 am

If you are inclined to tip, I would recommend giving a larger tip to the valet captain on the first day, explaining you’ll be there for 16 days, and then tip a few dollars to individuals if they move especially quickly for you/move you to the front of the line, etc. Alternatively, you can ask hotel management at the beginning of your stay if you can add a tip to your bill for the valet service. The potential advantage to doing this is that it you may get your tips reimbursed. The potential disadvantage is that there may be no incentive for the valet to provide superior service unless they know that you’ve done this . . .

On a related topic mentioned by several people: When did it become expected to tip the hotel staff that clean my room? I’m sorry, but when I pay several hundred dollars a night for a hotel room, I expect it to be cleaned every day. Other than restaurant waitstaff (who are completely grandfathered in at this point) I absolutely refuse to tip people for doing their job unless they are going to provide me with some extra superior service. I tip my barber because he never says “no” if I want a hair cut at the last minute; I tip my mechanic because he lets me cut in line. Why am I tipping (i.e., providing extra compensation) to the people who clean my hotel room but who do not necessarily provide any extra service that I have not already paid for?

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Ashleigh December 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm

It is a kind gesture, as is tipping any other service person. I think of it this way, if someone is going to serve me because I am too lazy/inexperienced/whatever, then they deserve to be paid for it. Depending on where you live, your hotel maid could be making as low as $7.25/hr. If my room is a mess and she cleans up MY mess, then a couple of extra dollars to say thank you is not going to kill me, but it will be a nice addition to her pay. If my room isn’t a mess, I typically put the “do not disturb” sign up, then it is a non-issue.

That being said, if one does not want to tip, that is their business. But I know for a fact, if a customer has tipped before, whoever served them (waiter, maid, hairdress, valet, etc) is going to be more apt to provide better service next time.

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Jerry December 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm

I absolutely agree with your second paragraph. And while giving people money is a kind gesture, where do you draw the line? I draw it at waitstaff and people who provide superior service that saves me time. Spending 15 minutes cleaning the bathroom, making the bed, and emptying the trash doesn’t get you extra compensation where I’ve already paid a significant amount for the room.

With respect to the argument that the extra dollars won’t kill me, I guess I have different charitable priorities.

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Ashleigh December 2, 2011 at 10:27 am

Honestly, I would say to give each person a tip each time. As nice as it would be to believe that all people are honest, there is a chance that if you give a “split it up” tip to one person, they’re going to split it up between their pocket and their wallet. If you don’t want to worry about cash every day, I would ask the hotel. I’m sure you are not going to be the first person to ask this question (nor the last!)

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Jodi Blackwood December 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm

It is appropriate to tip each day. The same employee(s) who took care of you all week may not be working the day you leave/check out; waiting until the end of your stay to say thank you for the service may cause the deserving person to miss out.

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Jackie December 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm

I am on a board for a professional organization (my term is actually up next month after 2 years). Today I received a group email from another member of the board who is also a liason for the entire county. She goes to many conferences each year and provides us with ideas, suggestions, help, etc in our field–she is sort of like a consultant, but actually is also member of our profession. She is often disappointed in the turnout at meetings and special events in a neighboring county because many professionals from that county attend our events. Today’s email was in an extremely annoyed tone, wondering why none of us attended yesterday’s event in the neighboring county. She also complained that we never volunteer to lead group discussions at her meetings. In all honesty, we are all in buildings where we need to get coverage when we leave the building to attend these meetings. Some of us also have responsibilities that require us to attend OTHER types of meetings. It is not always possible for us to get out of the building. Some people have responded to her email apologizing and explaining this. However, I now feel intimidated by this individual and I am one of the people who has driven out of my way to the neighboring county’s events in the past. She is not my boss and yet I feel like we all just got in trouble. I understand her frustration, but just our being on this board is a service to our profession. Should I acknowledge her email as a group response, individual response or just let it go?

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Elizabeth December 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Jackie,
You should not feel intimidated. This person has overstepped her bounds. If she genuinely wanted to encourage people to attend these other meetings, there are such better ways of going about it. She could have written an email, expressed concern about the lack of attendance and asked the other board members if they knew what kind of barriers were in place and if they had ideas for overcoming those barriers (such as meetings at different places or at different times). She had no right to try to bully you into doing something that for whatever valid reasons you either couldn’t or didn’t want to do.

I agree with Jodi that it’s probably best to leave it alone, especially if your colleages have already written back to explain the issue. But please don’t let this person make you feel bad or make you feel as if you’ve done something wrong. The rude error is entirely hers.

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SR December 3, 2011 at 12:41 am

Hi,
Is it necessary to tip when the restaurant has charged you ‘Service Charge’ on your bill?
Thanks!

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Jerry December 3, 2011 at 11:53 am

No.

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Elizabeth December 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm

It depends what the service charge is for. Sometimes for large groups, the restaurant will go ahead and tack on 18% gratuity, but usually that’s listed as ‘gratuity’ and not ‘service charge.’ I would go ahead and ask what the charge is for. Did you split a plate, and have they included the split-plate charge as a ‘service charge’? Is it a BYOB place, and is the ‘service charge’ actually a corkage fee? Is it a charge to valet your vehicle? Unless you know what the charge is for, and unless you know that it is indeed the gratuity for the servers, you can’t know that the money is going to the waitstaff who deserve to be tipped.

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Winifred Rosenburg December 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm

No, the service charge is the tip. FYI, you are never required to pay the service charge. You have the right to add or subtract from it as you see fit.

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Jodi Blackwood December 3, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Hi SR,
Often times a restaurant will add a gratuity to your bill if you are a larger party and they may call it a Service Charge. If this is the case, and I would ask to make sure, then no, you do not need to tip in addition to this, unless you would like to leave a greater amount. A written-in gratuity should be no more than 18%; if it is more, than I would take issue with it with the manager. (18% is standard; the choice to tipper a higher percentage is mine.) The reason this is done is so often larger parties will not take into consideration the amount of time and effort their server has spent on them, that they may be his/her only table for several hours, etc. and will under tip. When making a reservation for a larger party, (and this may be for 6+ people) be sure and ask what the policy is of the restaurant.

If you are seeing Service Charge on your bill for just a few of you, I would inquire as to what it is. Again, if it is a gratuity and you are all right with the amount, then pay it; no further tip required. However, I do not feel it is appropriate for restaurants to add the gratuity to the bill because the amount should be the customer’s choice and based on the level of service received. It’s also why consumers need to understand the tipping process here in the U.S. (Please note I am not saying I am in agreement or disagreement with this process, but it is the way it is.) Personally, I would take issue with a restaurant deciding how much I should tip my server and would make the choice not to return — after letting them know why.

If you are told that “Service Charge” means something else — then determine your response accordingly. I have no idea what else it could mean, though, and would seriously question the line item on my bill.

I hope this helps!

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Zakafury December 3, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I find “service charge” to be unclear. A line-item gratuity for a large party would mean you do not need to tip any more, although good service might be worth something extra.

In the case of something like a catered event, I would think that a Service Charge is the basic rate for service, and a tip would be appropriate.

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SR December 4, 2011 at 7:25 am

Thank you all for the inputs.

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Country Girl December 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

There seems to be some confusion. Just to be clear, a service charge is at the discretion of each restaurant and something they will add for things outside their typical “realm” of customer services. Ie. delivery, parties, large groups, bringing in your own wine or cake, or for the restaurant acquiring something for you that is not on the menu (ie. a cake, a keg of beer, etc).

Sometimes a service charge will take your server’s tip into account, sometimes it will not. The charge could be for taking up additional tables or even a separate room for a good amount of time which prevents typical table turnover (thus revenue) for the restaurant. It could be for gas to go pick up a cake or deliver your meal.

ALWAYS ask a manager what the service charge includes.
NEVER just assume a service charge is the tip.
ALWAYS know that if this IS a tip you have the right to adjust the amount. Up or down. (By law, you are not required to pay a tip at all, even if it is already printed on your bill.) However, please remember that your server is not the one who imposes the predetermined tip charge, so do not penalize her for it by becoming bitter or refusing to tip her more for outstanding service!

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Jodi Blackwood December 3, 2011 at 1:42 am

Jackie,
I sympathize with her frustration, and with the position you find yourself in. Often times there are so many meetings and events to attend that it becomes a matter of prioritizing and doing what you are able. She may know that — or not. Should you choose to respond, do so individually; there is no need to start a group discussion. It is nice that some of your colleagues have apologized but I see no need for you to do so; you have been supportive of her efforts and were lumped in to her email simply because you are on the board. She needs to take a step back and recognize that while she is carrying out her responsibilities, you all are meeting yours, and sometimes they do not correspond. Personally, I would let it go and not respond at all, given you have only two months left. Instead, what about sending her a note upon your “departure” expressing your thanks for all of her efforts and work, and your enjoyment for the opportunity to serve on the same board with her. (Pretty note card, something she can put on her desk/bulletin board and look at, rather than email.)

Best of luck!

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Colleen December 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Hello,

I’m new to the apartment scene and with the holidays coming up I’m not sure of the protocol for gifts for the apartment building property manager. I’ve called him numerous times since my move in date and he’s always been very sweet, professional and prompt. I feel like I should get him something for the holidays like a card and maybe a small bottle of his favorite liquor, but is that protocol? Do people do this now-a-days? He’s been a huge help so I feel like I should but I just wanted to know.

Also, do people in the city (living in Philly) get a gift for their postmen? We always did as a family back in CT, where I’m from, but I’m not sure if people still do this is big cities. So any help will be nice.

Looking forward to a response.

Thanks,
Colleen

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R. December 4, 2011 at 12:51 am

I think a card and a small gift (personally, I never give alchol unless it’s a close friend/family member) would be fine but I don’t think it’s needed. I certainly didn’t give the building manager a card or gift when I was living in an apt and neither did my friends. Maybe that isn’t the way here in my neck of the woods (Canada).

As for a gift to the postal worker… we get our mail delivered to a panel of mailboxes for the street, not to our door, and it’s a complete crapshot if it’s even the same person who distributes the mail in our little boxes on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis. So no, no gift to the postal worker. I think it’d be perceived as a little odd. Granted, it might be different for your family in CT, especially if you come from a small(er) town and you see the postal worker on a daily basis plus the mail is delivered to your door.

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Winifred Rosenburg December 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

I live in New York City, and the postal workers here expect at least $10′from each family.

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Alicia December 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I would not have the faintest idea who my postal worker is. I do not give them money at any time. When I lived in apartments I did not give money to the management office except my rent. No annual tips. My friends who live in various places discussed it and it seems like NYC and LA give tips to building managers but not most other places. Doormen who sign in and out guests and get taxis and sign for boxes seem to get tips no matter where but I never had a doorman.
Ask a neighbor or three what they do and follow suit is my best advice but if you do not know your neighbors I would default to no tip unless NYC or LA.

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Marla December 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Last year my brother married a Woman 30 years younger and of a different class/culture. She always brings up her unpleasant health issues while we are dining. I usually turn away from her and change the subject, but each time we share a meal it seems to get worse! Last time, I threw my napkin down and said “excuse me please” as I left the table at the restaurant! She was telling me she had “explosive diarrhea” while my mother and I were still eating. She always wolfs down two plates of food while we are about half way thougth our meal and then tells us how “stuffed” she feels. I don’t want to upset my brother, he thinks she hung the moon, but how can I say something without upseting her? Also, she looked at a photo of my brother/ her husband and asked my 86 year old mother “How come he doesn’t look like either one of you?” Can she really be this stupid and rude? My only idea is to tell her about a “friend” who does these behaviors at the table and ask her how I can handle it…you know ask her advice. What do you think?

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Jerry December 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Tell your sister-in-law that you would prefer she not discuss [her explosive diarrhea], [her recent surgery], [whatever] while you are eating. It is not rude to ask someone to stop being offensive; and you can’t expect your sister-in-law to read your mind and understand what she did or said to make you leave the table. (As far as she’s concerned — even though she’s probably wrong — you’re the rude one who just stormed off while she was in the middle of an interesting story about her trip to Mexico!) If you phrase your request politely — “Sister-in-law, please don’t discuss bodily functions while I’m eating” or “I’d love to hear about this later, when I’m not in the middle of dinner” — she shouldn’t get upset.

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Elizabeth December 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm

With these kind of super-oblivious people, I find it is best to be direct. “Susan, would you mind holding off on health-related topics until we’ve finished eating? I have a sensitive stomach and I’m easily turned off of my food when I have to hear about bodily functions while I’m eating.”

The other two comments you mentioned (about her being stuffed and about your brother’s (non)familial looks), I think there’s not much to be done. Nod and smile. Shrug. If you want to be proactive, you can offer helpful advice: “Susan, dear, the latest research on eating shows that eating more slowly can help you regulate your intake more carefully so you don’t get to that stuffed stage. Next time try not eating so quickly!” Call her on the implications of her statements: “You think Brother doesn’t look like us? Hmmm…Why do you suppose that is? No, really – please – what were you going to say?”

This person sounds not necessarily malicious, just oblivious… try not to get too upset, don’t take it personally, and just limit limit limit your time with her. Try to schedule things with your brother when you know she’s busy, etc.

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Maggie December 5, 2011 at 2:48 am

You certainly should not give a grown woman any advice about the quantity (or the speed at which) she should eat. And the VERY most you should do about the unpleasant topics of conversation is to speak to your brother and ask him to suggest certain topics to her that she should avoid at your table. Any lecture from you would be insulting and inappropriate.

Quite frankly, your observations about her having seconds and a casual remark about the photo do not demonstrate that SHE is “stupid” or “rude.” They show that YOU are looking for flaws in her because you don’t like her. And your comments that she is of a different culture and “class” are fairly revealing about why you’ve chosen to find fault in such small things. The real best way to handle this situation would be to put all pettiness and judgment inside and look for the best in her.

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Zakafury December 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Thank you, Maggie.

While she may have grown up on a blue collar income, that does not cause poor manners.

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Marla December 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm

INSULTING my mother by sugesting she had my brother OUTSIDE of her 67 year marriage was NOT in passing since she waited for my brother to leave to say it! EVERYONE says he’s the image of our father! She made the comment that their children WILL NOT look like my brother! I just laughed, but maybe I should have asked what she was trying to tell us! Thanks Elisabeth, GOOD advice!

You are RIGHT Maggie, I should listen to what she reveals about HERSELF by insinuating such things…She got very angry when I said she looked like her mother and then I thought…she did say SHE lived with her grandmother her first five years…she’s telling me she’s sensitive to it BECAUSE her “father” is really her step father.

At each restaurant we go to she preforms the most embarassing acts…SUCKS all TEN FINGERS to the palm of her hand, then LICKS the PALM of her hands, like an animal! THREE times she’s done this one, the first time I dropped my mouth in sheer shock. The second time I offered her an extra napkin (she didn’t use) and the third time, my brother asked for wet towelets, BUT SHE WOULD NOT USE them either!

She rather loudly called over another waitress to complain her food was not hot enough, which upset the folks placing their order and then they laughed and stared at her as she SUCKED her fingers while eating mashed potatoes and meat loaf!

She complained that people in Europe were so rude to her, but NOW I think it was just in response to her behavior! You can’t expect folks to treat you with respect when you behave like an animal!

Look, this is not about how much money your father made, she went to Dinseyland while we never had Oreo cookies in our home, THIS is about being WELL MANNERED! The rudest man I ever knew was also the wealthiest!

That’s why I came to your site for advice. I LOVE my brother and don’t want to say or do anything to cause him to cut ties with us, the way she has manipulated between he and his friends! I don’t think anyone understands the attraction.

How can I help her behave more mannerly so that we can include her with larger family events or meet our friends? Surely you can see we can’t introduce her to extended family or friends as long as she behaves THIS WAY!?!

Thank you for all, for your advice, I think it’s given me further insite on how to handle her future beahviors!

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Elizabeth December 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Marla –
Your SIL sounds like a real piece of work. Unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do. It’s considered very rude to instruct anyone but your own minor children in matters of manners. Your brother must see something in her to put up with her antics and I think you have a couple of choices – either distance yourself from her, try to spend time with your brother alone, and just grin and bear it when you’re forced to be with her, or you can try to see what it is that he sees in this person. In terms of your larger family or friends, if I were you I would not try to set up or force these meetings. Her behavior embarrasses only herself (well, and maybe your brother). You could maybe warn your family about her, but that’s the extent of it. Why subject them to this person?

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Ashleigh December 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Wow.. I almost gagged reading about her dinner manners. There is never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever a reason to sit around and suck on your fingers. This is what sinks and/or napkins are for.

I honestly think you’re trying to swim upstream on this one. Your SIL sounds like a vile human being who isn’t going to take any of your advice anytime soon. If you really think that she just needs instruction and isn’t a complete animal, maybe think about getting her an etiquette coach for Christmas??

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