Tuesday, February 23, 2010

www.fromeveryone.com

I received a comment on my last blog post regarding office gift giving. I'm not sure how this person found my blog, but I'm certainly glad she did. The founder of www.fromeveryone.com shared her personal experiences and solutions to the ever-tasking group-gift-giving dilemma.

I visited www.fromeveryone.com to see what it was all about. This web site, though charges a small fee for usage, allows people to organize a group gift seamlessly. I actually didn't order/execute a gift but the web site seemed very intuitive. I urge you to share this with your colleagues and consider it the next time you need to organize a group gift. This would be great for group wedding, shower, office, birthday, anniversary, Christmas, and any other holiday gifts.

Check it!
Happy group-gift giving readers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Group-office Gifts

This topic was a request by a friend who frequently has office parties where her department is asked to financially contribute to a group gift. For anyone that has worked in an office environment you know exactly what we’re referring to: wedding and baby showers, significant anniversaries and birthdays, retirements, and possible deaths are all reasons for coworkers to give a group gift.

While these are certainly important events to celebrate, and is a sign of respect for the office to acknowledge these personal-life happenings, they can add up. The size of the office is key to considering how much/often these instances can comfortably take place. Large departments may find themselves having parties more than once a month. You can imagine that this could become an expensive practice for some, especially those lower on the totem pole (sorry for the corporate slang…it is a habit I’m trying to kick).

Peggy Post does speak to office gift buying extensively in her book, “The Etiquette Advantage in Business,” second edition, but doesn’t get too specific about setting contribution caps. After reading Peggy’s advice on the broad topic I came up with a few guidelines you can take back with you.

Group Gift Guidelines:

  • Create a committee for your department/group that is in charge of organizing these types of events. This committee will then communicate to the greater group the details.
  • Set a specific dollar amount for the group-gift contribution (I recommend $5 and with a $10 limit).
  • If you are doing food items either use a portion of the gift money or ask for the committee to have a corporate budget for which this can be funded.
  • Committee should buy one card for all monetary contributors to sign.

Following these guidelines will set a standard for the department so no one feels like they are getting more or less than the next person. Also, one committee in charge usually takes away from anyone being “forgotten.”

If you are closer to someone that is facing their life milestone you can either contribute more than the asked donation or you can get them a gift separately. If you are someone’s direct boss or they are your number one client etc., getting them a separate card and/or gift is appropriate. On the flipside, if you don’t have a relationship with gift receiver, don’t feel obligated to give. If you do not contribute, do not partake in the food and drink portion of the celebration.

What is an “appropriate office gift” is a whole other topic that we will touch on another time.

Please share your thoughts on office-group gifts and experiences.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Engagement Parties

We were recently invited to an engagement party for good friends of ours in Chicago. This of course sparked my interest as a blog topic. Despite being a Professional Bridal Consultant, I myself have only been invited to two engagement parties. I’m still trying to wrap my arms around the Midwestern custom of engagement parties, but considering I’ve only been invited to two then I’m beginning to think they aren’t as popular. Hailing from the northeast (tri-state area N.Y., N.J., Conn.) I know that the custom during the engagement period is to actually send a gift. When my husband and I got engaged we got some very nice gifts from the east coast group, while the Midwest side wanted to throw a party. Readers, where are you from and what is your regional custom?

Before attending the most recent engagement party, I had to pull out my Peggy Post books to read up on what is the proper practice for throwing engagement parties and attending engagement parties.

The hosts. According to Peggy the bride-to-be’s parents usually host the engagement party, but any family member or friends may do so. When family lives in different parts of the country parents of the bride and groom may host separate parties in their hometowns.

What type of party? Cocktail and dinner parties seem to be the most popular, but there is no standard format. Sometimes, engagements are announced at surprise parties. Casual brunches to formal receptions, all are possibilities as long as it fits the couples taste.

The guests. Generally the guest list is limited to family and good friends. The size of the guest list is up to the hosts and engaged couple, but please keep in mind that whoever is invited to the engagement party should be invited to the wedding. Actually, it is in bad taste to invite people to any type of pre-wedding event and not invite them to the actual wedding.

Invitations. Any type of invitation is acceptable, depending on the type of party. The more formal the party, the more formal the invitation. Email invites, postcards, and simple emails are all options these days.

Gifts? Do you bring a gift or not? “It depends” is the answer Peggy gives us. Gift instructions are not to be included on the invitation, but if the couple feels strongly that they would not like gifts they can spread that by word of mouth through the hosts. Ultimately, your decision should be based on your local custom, your relationship to the couple, and your budget. Often close friends and family members do give a gift. An engagement gift is really a good-hearted gesture and does not need to be expensive or elaborate.

Ideas for engagement gifts:

§ Picture frame (wedding themed if possible) with photo of couple that you took

§ Wedding Planning/related book(s)

§ Gift card to couple’s favorite restaurant

§ Bottle of wine/liquor

§ Cookbook

Opening gifts at the engagement party is not appropriate unless everyone brought a gift to the party. Reminder that if gifts are received a thank you note must be sent, despite having thanked the couple at the event. Reminder: send that thank you note promptly after the party. If a thank you is sent too late then it becomes lackluster.

Tell me about your engagement party experiences and local customs.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tipping for Taxis and Such

This topic was a request by one of my readers. Thanks to my readers for sending in requests, that definitely is a great way to get your questions answered.


I can’t remember my first taxi ride but I know it was when I was a teenager. My parents never took taxis in NYC because it was too expensive. We walked or took the train/bus when we could. Taxis are costly, but now that I live in Chicago I take them all the time. On a recent trip to NYC I was amazed at how frequently locals took them to get around too. They sure do add up and remembering to tip the driver is important. I usually round up the total amount to the nearest whole dollar and then add an additional dollar if I’m feeling generous and happy with my trip. I was curious too as to what Peggy Post had to say.


A tip to a taxi driver is generally about twenty percent of the fare, but in large cities you should tip a minimum of $1. If a taxi driver helps with your luggage or packages, a slightly larger tip is always in order; in general, add fifty cents for each bag. Try to avoid using big bills, especially during short rides.


For a car or limousine service, the easiest way to tip is to tell the service to add the gratuity to your bill; do it when you request service. In larger cities, the standard tip is about twenty percent; in smaller cities, fifteen percent. When a gratuity is included in the fee, there’s no need to tip more.


A tip for you when traveling by cab/car service to and from airports and to downtown areas is to ask how much it costs to get to that destination. Usually there is a flat fare to the city’s major airport or downtown area and if you don’t ask they could make up a higher charge and take advantage of you. If there is a meter in the cab, make sure they turn it on. I’ll never forget all the gypsy cabs in Orlando, Florida charging a variety of rates for the same distances day after day. Be aware and also know where you are going if you can. This day in age a lot of people have maps accessible on their phones. Take the time to look up where you are going and the general route to get there. If you’re distracted and looking like you don’t know where you are going then that driver could easily take you around circles for a good $10.


When I enter a cab I usually suggest a route to the cab driver when I enter and they usually have another suggestion – we compromise then move one. The driver now knows I know where I’m going and won’t take advantage of me…even if I really have no idea I say the cross streets and exact address and pay careful attention to the roads which they are taking.


Be a smart traveler…know where you are going and of course do no forget to tip.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cruise Ship Tipping

So after my last comment about Cruises and tipping on them I got really curious as to that specific topic. I’ve been on a cruise before but I was a teenager and didn’t pay much attention to what my parents were leaving at the end of the week. All I remember is the really cute boy I met during that trip…hehe.

A handful of friends have recently told me about their planned cruise vacations, which surprised me because I thought cruises were mostly geared toward retired couples and families. I think part of it is the great deals people are finding, so rock on cruisers.

Peggy Post actually has a lot of information to share about tipping on cruise ships…so maybe that trip wasn’t so affordable after all? Yikes…read on.

Most cruise ships know that people are confused so some provide envelopes and guidelines to their guests. Other cruise lines add a substantial service charge to the fair, in which case only extra-special service calls for a tip. To be sure you know what’s expected, discuss tipping amounts and procedures with the travel agent or cruise line agent who books your trip. Tipping customs can differ depending on the nature of your trip, but in general tips will add fifteen to twenty percent to the cost of your cruise.

Take that fifteen to twenty percent of your fair and divide about half of this allowance between the cabin and dining room stewards and distribute the rest to others who served you. Put tips in separately addressed envelopes and hand them to each person at the end of the cruise, with a note of thanks if you wish.

  • Lounge and bar stewards are tipped fifteen to twenty percent of your bar bill at the time of service. It’s preferable to pay and tip order by order, but if you run a tab and pay periodically, you tip when you pay.
  • Wine steward should receive fifteen percent of the total wine bill each time you use his/her services.
  • Hairdressers, manicurists, and other service people are tipped at the same rate as on land.
  • Dock porters should receive at least $1.00 per bag.

On Long Cruises – Two Weeks or More

Peggy Post tells us that if you’re traveling on a cruise for more than one week you should tip weekly, generally on Friday evenings. The rate will vary according to whether you’re traveling first class, cabin, or tourist class:

Tips to…

First Class

Cabin

Tourist

Cabin steward

$25 per week

$20 per week

$15 per week

Deck steward

$20 per week

$15 per week

$12 per week

Dining-room steward

$25 per week

$15 per week

$15 per week

Chief DR Steward

$20 per week

$15 per week

$12 per week

Assistant DR Steward

$10 per week

$7.50 per week

$6.00 per week

Busboys (tips shared among them)

$6-$8 per week

$5-$6 per week

$4-$6 per week

Who Not to Tip on a Cruise

Never tip the ship’s officers, but do thank them for their courtesy if you cross paths with them near the end of the trip. Also, don’t tip the ship’s doctor if you’ve consulted with them while on board. You’ll probably receive a bill for medical services. You aren’t expected to tip a bridge instructor, children’s activity director, aerobics instructor, or similar ship personnel, although doing so is perfectly okay.

Have you been on a cruise lately? Please share your tipping experiences!

Remember, these are just guidelines to follow. If you're traveling with less or more people then remember to adjust accordingly.

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