Friday, January 29, 2010

Traveling? Don't Forget to Pack Singles

No, not your single friends...your single dollar bills!!!

I'm currently on the road and have been traveling for the past two weeks. With all the recent traveling it was clear what my next blog post would be...tipping the hard-working, under-paid folks who help make my traveling experience a more enjoyable one. I am referring to maids at the hotels I’ve stayed in, the cab drivers who shuffle me to the airports and hotels, Skycaps at the airport who help me avoid the scary and long lines inside the terminal, bell hops at the hotels, the concierge who receives my packages…and the list goes on and on.

When you travel for anything - business or pleasure - it is so important to tip your "servers." [I'm going to use servers as a general label for all the aforementioned list of people.]

Let’s break it down…

Now, I usually just leave $2.00 per day in my hotel room, but that is mostly because I'm a clean, organized person traveling alone. If you have four or more people staying in a room, the room is large, your using a kitchen etc. you should increase the tip accordingly. It is important to leave a tip each day because you do not know if you have the same maid/server day-to-day. When my husband, Matt, and I went on our honeymoon we were fortunate enough to stay in a suite so we left $3-4 dollars each day. Another example is we had to live in a hotel for 10+ days when our condo was under construction – since we had more than the usual amount of things in the room we left $3-4 again.

There are exceptions of course; on a cruise ship you leave a lump sum at the end of the trip because you do in fact have the same person serving you day-to-day. I’ve heard couples tell me they’ve traveled on cruises where they notice no tip being left by their tablemates on the final night (gasp!). I’m just going to say this…when you’re planning a vacation be sure you can not only afford the trip but afford to tip the servers, it is a crucial line item in every traveling budget! Servers make less hourly wages because it is assumed they make most of their income from TIPPING!

While I was checking out of my hotel today I didn't have any more single bills to leave in my room (I always write a note to leave next to the money so the maid knows it is for her, so this time I told her I would leave it at the front desk.). I asked the front desk clerk to break a twenty for me and see that the maid gets it. The front desk clerk thanked me for doing that and went on to tell me that people always forget (or consciously don’t) tip their maid. She then went on to tell me a story about a large group of people (probably a wedding) came and took up 70 rooms - not one person left a tip. What a shame. Would you want to clean hotel rooms as a job? I don't think so...so next time you travel please consider your maid!

Side note: I knew I was going to write this blog so I wanted to do a little experiment. The first night I was checked in I didn't leave a tip the next morning (GASP!) because I wanted to see if there was a noticeable difference in quality of cleanup. The room looked fine when I returned the next day. Day two rolled around and I left a tip ($2.00, my standard) and much to my surprise the maid had definitely done much more! She organized my bottles on my sink and placed them on a towel, whipped the counter clean, folded my pajamas and lined up my shoes. None of this had been done the previous day. Now of course this could mean I had someone different, but I'd like to think it was because of the tip.

As I was returning home today from Sacramento I got in line to check my suitcase with the Skycap (thank god for Skycaps – especially for impatient travelers such as myself). As I waited I checked to make sure I had a few singles for a tip. Emily Post says you only need to tip a dollar per bag, but I always feel really cheap to just give one dollar…especially in this day of age. I got to the counter, checked my bag and thanked the Skycap while handing him the tip. Boy did he look appreciative! I thought to myself, do all people not give him tips? The neeerve! My father-in-law and I had a long conversation a week earlier about tipping Skycaps and he has an interesting theory…he takes really good care of them tip wise because you never know where your bag could end up if they don’t like YOU! Also, I’ve found that the weighing of the bags can be a crucial component of your tip. We had a bag that was clearly more than 50lbs, the weight limit for bags on most airlines these days and there were no questions asked with a tip – but the gal next to us had a bag that weighed 51lbs, no tip – she was charged the hefty baggage fee. Live and learn…live and learn!

Bottom line – don’t be a cheap skate because it may come back and bite ya in the toosh. Treat your servers well and you will be treated well…plain and simple.

More to come on tipping!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Can't Leave Ya Hanging

I'm currently training for my new full-time job just outside of Sacramento, California, so I don't have a lot of time to research, write, and post. I don't want to leave my avid readers hanging (laugh, cough, sigh) so I thought I would share an article I came across today.

This is a topic I've wanted to touch on - gym etiquette. Now, this article takes a different approach BUT it still offers some decent thoughts.

Enjoy and thanks for your comments and attention! When I'm back in Chi-town I promise to delve into more details about tipping!

Thanks ya'll.

9 ways the office is like the gym

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Big, Bad Topic of Tipping: Part One - Restaurants and Bars

First off I want to thank everyone for their comments, questions, and suggestions for topics. I love hearing from you so keep it coming.

One recent request was to discuss tipping. I’ve been somewhat afraid of this topic for a couple of reasons: A: it is a personal topic and B: there are endless things to discuss; from maids to garbage removers…there are just dozens to discuss. Never fear though…I’ve read up, pondered, procrastinated, and provided. Here is part one of my tipping posts. This first post is dedicated to restaurant staff.

Peggy Post was kind enough to break it down slowly for us and provided a few guidelines that are straightforward:

[These are verbatim so I’m giving my credit to Emily Post’s Etiquette 17th Edition]

  • When in doubt about tipping, ask in advance. If a department store has scheduled delivery of some new furniture, call and ask someone in the department whether tipping is customary; in a hair salon, ask the receptionist. In other cases, ask how much to tip and even whether you should tip at all; in some situations, tipping is not only discouraged but could be seen as demeaning.
  • Tip on the pre-tax amount of the bill, not on the total.
  • Tip discreetly. Tipping is a private matter; don’t play the big spender who likes to flash bills.
  • Money is the tip of choice in most cases, but sometimes a small gift, usually given during the holidays, can be substituted. Peggy says that a gift is a good way to “top off” the tips you’ve given over the year—to your hairdresser or barber, for example.

Restaurants and Bars

Differences in tipping rates vary less by region than by whether you’re in a large city, small town, or rural area. The minimum standard for acceptable wait service in restaurants anywhere in the United States is fifteen percent of the bill before tax, not on the sum total. In large cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston etc., fifteen to twenty percent is standard.

Exceptions:

When the restaurant is self-service – ten percent is sufficient for the server getting your beverages, answering questions etc.

When the waiter has been exceptionally accommodating – consider topping your tip off by a few dollars

When a gratuity has been already added to the bill – you can decide to leave something additional if you feel service has been exceptional

When your stay at a crowded restaurant is lengthy – the wait staff hopes the tables turn quickly so if you stay longer than normal consider adding an additional fifteen percent to your tip as a thank you

When your meal costs far less than the restaurant’s average – When you’re eating light this may mean a lower day’s take for your waiter. The same happens when you use a coupon. Thoughtful diners will leave a tip commensurate with a full-course meal.

Hosts, Hostesses, and Maitre d’s

Tipping a host/hostess is not customary in North America. If you are a frequent guest at a particular restaurant, know the host/hostess, and they take special care of you, then a $10-$20 tip every once in a while is a nice gesture. When you’re not acquainted with the host, a tip is in order only if he’s gone out of his way to find a table for you on a busy night when you’ve arrived without a reservation. You can offer $10 or $15 after you’ve been shown to your table and if your party is large consider adding more.

Peggy reminds us that offering a host you’ve never seen before a “$20 handshake” to get table on a busy night may be seen as an insult. It is in your best interest to not do this, as you’ll also anger other waiting patrons.

Bartenders

Customarily each drink you order should be matched with a one-dollar tip (smaller towns can suffice with 50 cents or more). If you have an open tab at a bar, tipping the standard fifteen to twenty percent of the total bill is sufficient. If the bartender hasn’t charged you for a drink or two, be sure to add additional dollars to your total tip amount.

Checkroom and Washroom Attendants

If the attendant simply hands you a paper towel a 50-cent tip is sufficient but if they do more for you a dollar or two will do. When checking a coat, a dollar per coat is all sufficient.

Valet Parkers

Tip the parking attendant $1 in smaller cities and $2 in larger cities per car. Give the tip when the car is brought to you and not when you drop it off.

Busboys

Busboys are generally tipped out by servers and bartenders, so no extra tip is needed. If they go above and beyond for you (such as a spilled drink) then you should leave a few extra bucks for them specifically.

When to Tip Less

Okay, I know you’ve all been waiting for this part. We’ve all had those experiences where we feel like we shouldn’t leave any tip at all and you almost want to talk to the manager. Most likely you do end up leaving a tip and don’t speak to the manager because for the most part it isn’t the servers fault…right? Well, maybe right.

Here is the scoop!

When you convey your unhappiness through a tip consider how well the wait staff addressed your problem. If there was a successful resolution, tip the full amount. If your waiter got only so-so results but doesn’t deserve all the blame, you might reduce the top to ten percent. Peggy Post says if the problem wasn’t taken care of or your waiter was impolite, tipping eight percent is the “fairest” monetary expression of your dissatisfaction. (According to the IRS, most restaurants report eight percent of their take as wait staff income, so reducing the top any further actually costs the server.) Leaving no tip may cause your server to think you forgot and your point will be lost. Peggy also says leaving a penny or other small means of a tip just is down right…nasty! Yes, she said…nasty.

So, there it is folks. Send questions, comments, and concerns. And, I can say being a server is a TOUGH job so always tip the max if your experience was enjoyable.

Our next tipping topic will deal with traveling.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I’m Not Making This Stuff Up…I Promise

So when I embarked on this blogging journey I stockpiled my bookshelves with all the Emily Post books I could get my hands on. Since I’m just a twenty-something midwestern gal typing away on my laptop and shouting this to the world I thought I needed some validity. In college they teach you to reference everyone you get information from when writing, so since that was so engrained in me it is hard to walk away from it. So, I picked up a few materials.

Starting a blog from scratch is a bit scary, especially if you want to use it as a tool for growing your professional life. I knew of Emily Post’s original book because my mother had one on our bookshelf growing up. During my search I was pleasantly surprised to see all these new etiquette books on various topics. Ultimately, they all contain the same information as the big blue book (see picture), but some of the specialized ones take everything a few notches deeper.


Each and every one of these books suits young adults. Topics include business etiquette, wedding etiquette (my personal fav of course), a guide to raising kids with good manners (my future fav I’m sure), and entertaining etiquette. You can see I’ve taken photos of each of these so you may see. Cindy and Peggy post also have written a series of Children’s books. The one I have is called Emily’s Magic Words…Please, Thank you, and More. I thought about getting one of the children’s books and the guide to good manners for a friend’s baby-shower gift recently, but I thought it might give the wrong impression. Of course I would have given a plug for my blog in the card! Don’t be surprised, or offended, if I do that for you in the future.

I found all the books for under $4.00 on Amazon.com, so if you’re ever looking for a book always check that out first. Of course some are used and came from a random Good Will store in Maryland, but who cares! I will admit, I did buy myself a brand spanking new copy of Etiquette, 17th Edition (the big blue book in my hand). I just couldn’t resist. Can you believe in the downtown Chicago Borders, Books, and Music there were only TWO copies?!?! I guess not too many people are looking to update their etiquette library these days. I think there was even some dust on the plastic.

In life it is helpful to know proper etiquette, and having the books to back it up, because it tends to end a lot of debate, especially when planning a wedding. For example, if an in-law is trying to do one thing but the bride and groom want it another way you can whip out the etiquette book and go that route because Emily Post said so. Most people won’t fight Emily Post. Sometimes when you are faced with a tough decision you can reference your etiquette book and the decision is made for you. Situations like ‘what is a proper Christmas gift for my boss’ and ‘when do I send a thank you note verse a thank you gift.’ These situations come up more often than you would think, right?

Send me your burning etiquette questions and I’ll get the answers for you! I’ve got the books to back me up.

That’s it for tonight!





Monday, January 4, 2010

Let's Remember to Give Thanks

This next post will have multiple updates and add-ons as time goes by. Thank you notes are a big topic and a much forgotten means of communication for us young adults. With so many vehicles of communication these days the good-ole hand-written note has been permanently put on the endangered species list! Gasp goes grandmother. The holidays are now passed and I’m sure you received gifts from friends and family and/or dined/stayed at another’s home. Now that we’ve accepted all these “gifts” and offerings proper etiquette reminds us it is time to breakout the stationary and pen and write thank you notes!

When my husband and I got married and our first Christmas rolled around he was annoyed that I wrote thank you notes to all our gift givers and host/hostesses because that meant he was going to have to start as well. In his family it was acceptable not to write thank you notes to close family members who gave gifts…well that, of course wasn’t going to fly by me!

Emily Post reminds us that there are two fundamentals of expressing gratitude. First, every gift—whether a tangible item, money, a social event in your honor, or a gift of time or talent—should be acknowledged in writing. And second, your acknowledgment should be prompt and sincere.

Things to remember when writing a thank you note are to write a personal message, no matter if there is a pre-printed message on the card itself and make sure it arrives within one week of receiving the gift or the occasion. Make sure you mention the gift given or compliment the host or hostess on a certain aspect of the party given etc. Making it as personal as possible will automatically make it sincere.

Example:

Dear Aunt Amy and Uncle Jim–

Matt and I had an amazing Christmas this year, thank you for your hospitality and company. Christmas Eve was incredibly memorable for many reasons—the yummy spaghetti dinner and Matt and Matt attempting to keep up as our family bar tenders. Thanks for making Matt feel right at home…his first Chapman Christmas! We love being with you both and look forward to seeing you in 2010. Take good care of Ellie and send pics often.

Happy New Year and thanks again.

Love,

Leigh and Matt

P.S. Don't forget to follow me on my blog at leighrzepecki.blogspot.com!

[Since this note is going to my family I will hand write it and have Matt sign it. If it was his family he would take action to write and I would sign]

Here are some tips for keeping up on your thank you notes:

  • Always keep stationery and stamps at your home or office. I buy low-cost Hallmark thank you note cards that are blank inside at my local Walgreen’s. These are attractive, affordable, and simple. (see pictures)
  • I also ordered personal stationery that has both our names on it – the cost was still low and many online stationary stores can do it quickly (try Vistaprint.com or Papyrus in your local mall)
  • If my husband is closer to someone than I am I have him write the note because he’ll be able to make personal references
  • If the gift was for both of us then we both sign the card

Exceptions:

If you’ve stayed over the house of a very close family or friend and that happens frequently, then it would be okay to not send a thank you note. Otherwise, proper and polite etiquette asks us to send a note of thanks to all givers in our lives. Trust me, a hand-written note will put a large smile on anyone’s face.

What are your questions about when/how/what to write about thank you notes?

As I said there is more to come in regards to specific-life occasions such as showers, weddings, and birthdays. I’m sure there are a few of you out there that have good and bad experience surrounding that topic…

Till then, happy note writing. That is what I’ll be doing tonight!

There was an error in this gadget