Open Thread

by epi on January 27, 2012

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

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.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn January 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

This is a business etiquette question. I am charged with writing a letter stating that someone is uninvited to an event. It is a marketing event and the invitation was spread around an office to business professionals whose skill set bears no relevance to the product being promoted at this event. It’s tacky do this – I know. However, over 7 people have RSVP’d to an event taking space away from other relevant professionals from other organizations. How should I word this email?

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Ashleigh January 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Although it may appear that they have no relevance to the rest of the meeting, this could be a great networking opportunity! The best way to gain new business is by word of mouth ie “Hey Bob, I was at this really interesting seminar at ABC Insurance Company… Maybe you guys should take a look at their services.” As Alicia stated, if you start sending uninvite emails, it is going to make the company look pretty bad.

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Alicia January 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

Sorry but you should not do this. You will earn your company and the product you represent a name for being rude and tacky. It was your companies failure to specify exactly whom was invited and thus these people got invited. You just need to make room for them and be more careful about who and how you invite people in the future. They obviously have some interest and relationship to the product if they were in an office that is able to circulate this invite andthey decided to RSVP for the event.

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Lynn January 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I appreciate for your advice. I completely agree with everything that you’ve said. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, we are a third party and we agreed to do what we were asked to do. I don’t believe that it keeps the host company’s name out of it (which is what they think it will do by asking us to send this note). Despite my efforts to convince them to to leave it alone they stuck to their decision.

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Country Girl January 27, 2012 at 5:54 pm

How very frustrating. If this is a client who is paying you or your company to market their event, I would not give up explaining the many reasons why this is bad PR for them. This type of letter could very well, as Alicia and Ashleigh said, turn the entire guest company off to this product/event. But if you truly don’t have any other choice but to follow their demands, a letter would need to be to the effect of:

Dear XYZ Company,

Host Company is so thrilled at the level of interest in their product/event from your team. So, it is with deepest regret, that we must apologize at a major oversight in our event invitation. Due to strict space restrictions, attendance to this event is limited to general managers, sales managers, (List applicable positions) only. I am very sorry for this mistake. Host Company would like to offer these ____ (gift certificate/swag/tickets to future event/etc) to your team as a show of appreciation for your interest. I do hope the 4 managing executives will still be able to attend, as we greatly look forward to seeing you and sharing our product with your business.

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Scott January 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm

A dining question. I have noticed that in many mid-range restaurants often one is served bread and butter and bread plates are set on the table, but no butter knives are given. What is the best protocol in this situation? One can use your dinner knife to spread the butter, but the problem with that is that etiquette dictates that the knife used to spread butter rests on the bread plate, which is usually too small to comfortably hold a dinner knife, and it ends up getting knocked off all the time as people move glasses, etc. Also, it seems somewhat awkward to then take the dinner knife back from the bread plate if one needs it to consumer the entree. What to do?

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Paula January 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I am so confused about tipping today. I am especially disheartened by the fact that so many people expect it, but are not willing to provide exemplary service to earn it. If I worked hard to earn my money, shouldn’t you earn it from me too?

It is with this in mind that I ask the following. I have reservations with a friend for a wine and food pairing class. It is paid for. The class will have approximately 28 people in it. Do I need to tip the instructor afterwards? I feel awkward about it because I would not normally tip a teacher, but since it involves wine and food, I feel like maybe I should???

Any input would be appreciated.

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Just Laura January 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I do tip for limited seating wine and food pairings, but I leave my tip at the table. I’ve heard that the tips are all equally distributed at the end of the night (dishwashers, cooks, instructor, waitstaff).

As for those who expect a tip, sadly, that’s a product of American culture (it is not like that in Europe or the UK commonwealth). I too expect a person to do his/her job correctly, and I base my gratuity accordingly.

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Jerry January 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I would not tip in this situation given that the experience is a class as opposed to a dinner out at a restaurant.

This is a radioactive topic., but with respect to tipping, generally, I tip (1) wait staff (15% for average service, 20% for great service, and 0% for poor service), (2) $1-5 for taxi drivers when the fair is over a certain amount, (3) occasionally bellmen at hotels. I do not tip baristas, at buffet restaurants, or hotel maids.

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Pam January 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I was with you, Jerry, on the tipping list until Hotel Maids.

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Jody January 30, 2012 at 7:21 am

Paula — I would feel comfortable not tipping the instructor; since you’ve paid tuition I would assume any staff gratuities are included. If you’re still wondering about the serving staff, though, maybe you could call the people organizing the class and ask them whether server gratuities are included.

As for tipping in other scenarios, I disagree with Jerry. I tip a taxi driver a percentage of the fare, as I would a waiter — more if he helps with my bags, is friendly, and gets me to my destination quickly and safely. Bellmen usually get $1 to $2 a bag (my bags are heavy and unwieldy) — more if the bellmen also takes bags to my room. I tip hotel maids a few dollars a day, the exact amount depends on the type of hotel I’m in and whether I’m asking for extra services.

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Paula January 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Thanks everyone. Your input is much appreciated!

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Jerry January 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm

I have just resigned myself that I will be a minority voice on many issues here. (So was Oliver Wendell Holmes, until later courts started coming around to his way of thinking.)

But if I’m paying $150, $200, sometimes $300+ a night for a room, I expect the room to be cleaned (spotless) every day I’m there without having to give a monetary thanks every night. At those price points, I assume service is included. Just like when I go out to very expensive restaurants (no, not Outback steakhouse), service is included (yes, it says so on the bill) and I don’t tip again.

Bellmen rarely carry my bags to my room; I primarily use them to call cabs or store my luggage for a day trip. For the former service they get a “thank you.” For the later service, they get $5.

Taxi drivers don’t always get a tip on the theory that certain add-ons (i.e., Chicago allows a driver to charge extra for each additional passenger) more than make up for things.

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Lilli January 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Most taxis now have the option of paying with a credit card, which is awesome, but I’ve recently seen signs that say “Driver pays credit card fees”. I feel like this is trying to guilt me into a higher tip if I use a card, especially when the tip option pops up it gives me the choice to add 20, 25, or 30% or “other”. Since when do I tip a cabbie more than a waitress? Particularly in my city where I have to give them directions to my destination 99 out of 100 times, they barely earn a 10% tip.

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Country Girl January 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Don’t ever let anyone guilt you into a more generous tip than you want to pay. A standard tip is still 15%. Don’t feel guilty at writing in “other”, especially if he took you the long way, had to ask for directions, was unfriendly, had a dirty cab, etc. A tip is an expression of thanks for good service and paying the credit card fee for you is just one aspect of that service.

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Lady Antipode February 1, 2012 at 2:34 am

Driver (or taxi company) also has the option to marginally increase fare rates to cover expenses such as credit card fees. It’s just another business expense. You don’t see signs saying ‘Driver pays for fuel’, after all.

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MichelleR January 30, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I have a question regarding work lunch etiquette. A group of four of us typically eat lunch together every day. We have become good friends and we really look forward to this time to unwind and talk about our lives during lunch break.

We have never been an exclusive group. We often sit out in the open outside the office so that other people can join us if they’d like to, and this hasn’t really been a problem. Lately, however, someone has been joining us each and every day and a couple of girls in our “group” don’t particularly care for her. They feel like we can’t talk about the same things or be as open with one another.

My belief is that we cannot “dis-invite” someone. That would be rude and we’re not in high school. Nor can we sneak around to try to avoid her. Yet I also miss being able to talk like we used to.

What is the etiquette when it comes to work lunches? Can we compromise and eat with anyone who would like to join 2-3 days a week and then “just us” the rest of the time?

Thank you.

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Elizabeth January 30, 2012 at 7:13 pm

How would you go about enacting such a “compromise?? As long as you are in a public place, like a lunch room or at a table outside the office, you can’t ask someone not to sit there. It’s not your space to regulate. The only way you can ensure that your group is not joined by anyone else is to leave the premises. You can go out to eat, or you could go to a nearby park. It’s nice to have friends at work, but this has become cliquish and it could have ramifications in the workplace itself. Plus, it’s really easy for a “work friend” to become a “work enemy”, so you really shouldn’t be discussing anything so secret or personal that you wouldn’t want a friendly casual coworker to hear it.

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Country Girl January 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm

You’re right, there is no polite way to ask someone not to sit with you for lunch if you are dining at (or right near) your place of work, most especially since your group has already made a habit of eating with this person. The best option would be to start planning a lunch outside of work every so often at a nearby restaurant or park. If you use discretion when making your plans, then you won’t be drawing attention to the fact that you trying to avoid this person. Should this person be as bold as to ask why she wasn’t invited, you can say “Oh a few of us just wanted to go out for a lunch date.” She may or may not initially take the hint, but she will hopefully start to find other coworkers to eat with when your group is out and perhaps make a habit of eating with them. You seem like a very compassionate person, so I’m sure you will be able to help your group transition away from eating lunch with her with grace.

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MichelleR January 30, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Thank you for your replies

I agree with you both. I’d never dream of telling someone they couldn’t eat with me, and I agree that this is a workplace and that it’s best not to risk hurting feels or alienating someone.

By “compromise” I meant that we’d just eat off-site one or two days a week. I suppose my fear in that case is that it’s still also potentially rude.

I think perhaps the thing to do is eat with whomever wants to join us and make plans every so often to meet after work to catch up further.

Thanks again.

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Ashleigh January 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Michelle – I don’t feel this is rude at all. You 4 are much closer with each other than she is with the rest of you so having lunch with just the close friends doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all.

My office has 3 people and an additional person every Friday. My coworker and the Friday person go out to lunch every week. They have been friends for quite a while so I would never dream of trying to intrude on their lunch. When there are special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc) they invite me along but otherwise have an afternoon to chat. As long as you remain friendly with your coworker and don’t make it seem like she’s an inconvenience, I think a nice lunch in the park/a restaurant is perfectly fine.

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Soconfused February 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

My question is this, “If you are the one that semi put together a birthday celebration do you still purchase a gift for them. For example you purchased the invitation, bought some balloons and few funny items for the birthday person to wear. Do you still purchase a gift for that person? What if that person is a family member?”

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Elizabeth February 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Sure, why not? It can be something less expensive, though, since you did spend money on the actual party. Also, it depends on your relationship to the birthday person. If you’re their mother, then yes, you should definitely buy your kid a present in addition to throwing them a party. Other relationships are not so clear, but if the person is a minor, it seems like a present is pretty much mandatory. If it’s an older person, then they can probably understand that your gift is the party.

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