About office etiquette and lingering odors from the office kitchen.
I know that what might smell like stinky food to me, may not be stinky to others, but where do we draw the line? Microwaving food to stink up the office is not considerate. What constitutes an offensive smell? How can we make coworkers more aware of their stinky food? My fellow office workers thrive on ethnic food, the stinker the better and when it is heated up, the smell hovers into the next day.
Aside from the weird noises of clearing throats, sneezing and cellphone ring tones that I have to endure listening to daily working in a cubicle, what bugs me even more is having to say “hi” several times a day to the same coworkers all day long. I can cut them off when they ask, “How are you?” by simply saying “good” and not asking them how they are. Do I have to greet the same colleagues all day long with a “hi”?
–VM, Seattle, WA
- When passing by, don't slow down, but don't speed up either.
- Then there is always the looking away as though you are distracted by a sound or reading a text.
When the advice of a wine steward or sommelier is accepted, do I tip him or her aside from tipping the waiter and if so, how much?
- Traditionally, you would tip 15% to 20% of the cost of the meal including the wine, before the tax is added. It is always good etiquette to tip a sommelier, but it is not mandatory when the cost of the wine is included in the bill.
- On the way out the door, you can, of course, slip the sommelier cash, again 15%-20% of the cost of the wine, along with your generous words of appreciation.
- The wine steward should exuberantly say, "Let me find something else."
What’s with the president’s handshake? Everytime we see a photo or YouTube clip of Trump greeting a foreign dignitary his handshake looks more awkward. He is having a wrestling match with Prime Minister Trudeau — which he lost, by the way. Where are the protocol people in the White House? What’s up with that?
–LC, Providence, RI
My question is about friendship and whether to be intrusive and step in to help.
A well-loved younger friend seems to be having difficulties since her husband took a job in another state and only comes home every other weekend. She frequents community events, which include art gallery openings, concerts, and friends’ parties acting rather tipsy.
Her social skills are excellent, so at first you don’t notice it, but after an hour she is clearly smashed. There is often an unpleasant odor of vomit on her mouth or clothing when she greets you with a hug.
Her husband is a good friend, should we talk to him? We worry about her driving home and would offer her a ride, but wouldn’t it seem patronizing? Plus, she’s always one of the last to leave a party.
–TM, Savannah, GA
- If she resists your assistance, risk challenging her (out of earshot of other guests), before she gets into her car. Otherwise, follow in pursuit and wait until she's securely safe inside her house.
- As we age, it is unlikely that we handle liquor as well as we did when we were younger. A known fact you can remind him of without ratting out your friend by name. Putting the ball in his court, you're opening up the topic for discussion.
- Don't do so on the phone, but in a face-to-face conversation.
My question is about presidential fashion. What fashion advice would you give to Mr. Trump? Between the trucker cap that belongs on the shift manager of a box store, and the flapping tie and comb-over, how do we make him look more presidential?
–Name Withheld, Washington, D.C.
My question is about restaurants and hospitality etiquette. We are opening an up-market restaurant in the midst of well-established favorites and looking to be the new go-to place for fine dining.
From a customer’s point of view, what should we be aware of in preparing our staff?
–Withheld, Newport, RI
- The performance of excellent service goes beyond your customer's needs and expectations.
- Focus on the quality of the dining experience.
- Hats, coats, and umbrellas should be stored near the front door by a greeter.
- When the reservation is for eight o'clock, you shouldn't have to wait longer than ten minutes, if at all: as in the theatre the curtain rises at an appointed time.
- If the customers arrive late, the meal may be pushed along to accommodate later diners who have reserved that table.
- Fresh bread or a canapé is offered along with a drink while the customers read the menu and the host is given the wine list.
- During this time questions are asked to the waiter. Whom by the way, should go to the customer's side and not talk across the table intruding on the guests' conversation.
- S/he describes any specialties that are not listed on the menu and adds, "Please, let me know if there are any allergy issues."
- There is the option of whether or not you want your waitstaff to introduce themselves by saying, "My name is Jake, I'll be your waiter tonight." Or the "head of the house," while leading the way to the table will say, "Your waiter tonight is James."
- Again, set policy about how chummy you want your waiter to be with guests. Some won't appreciate having to make small talk with waitstaff when they are on a date or conducting a business dinner.
- The order is taken guest-by-guest around the table until the last menu is back in the hands of the waiter.
- Plates of food are delivered from the right of the guest.
- The waiter only serves food to the guest from the left when the guest is helping her/himself from a platter held by the waiter.
- The waiter asks if everything is all right, and keeps an eye on his charges to make sure his table doesn't want for anything.
- Should a diner temporarily leave the table, the waiter would assist with the chair and exchange a fresh napkin, placed to the left of the plate before his or her return.
- No course is cleared until all the diners are through eating.
- When clearing, plates should never be stacked.
- By first using his left hand to remove the first course dish from the diner's left side, the waiter's right hand places the the next course from the guest's right.
- It's a choreographed dance.
- Traditionally, the check is not presented until someone, presumably the host, asks for it. However, when the waiter doesn't know who is paying for whom, or if the cost is being shared, and nobody has asked for it, the check is laid on the table.
- At the front door, while coats are being fetched, the "head of the house" checks the guest's pulse to make sure the experience was satisfying.
- Shower before arriving to work and wear fresh clothing.
- Use subtle hygiene scents.
- Never reach or cross your arm in front of a seated diner.
- Don't touch or fiddle with your hair, nose, ear, mouth, skin, nails or clothing.
- Don't overpour or under pour wine or champagne.
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My brother’s into dating, but he’s a twit and can’t keep a girlfriend. He’s a one-date kind of guy. I don’t know where to start in helping him.
–Amy, North Scituate, MA
- Never use cheesy pick-up lines.
- Never take anyone to dinner without bathing and dressing for the occasion ahead of time.
- Never compare her to others you've dated.
- Never confess details of past relationships.
- Never take her to dinner and attempt to pay with an outdated coupon or credit card.
- Never use her credit card.
- Never go on a date with jagged finger nails.
- Never reveal old grudges.
- Never tap the table, while dining, as though you're playing a set of drums.
- Never engage a skywriter to express your feelings.
- Never take card or board games too seriously.
- Never introduce her as your girlfriend early in the relationship.
- Never brag about knowing a celebrity or name drop.
- Never be critical, because criticism destroys relationships.
- Never pick at or scratch your ear, nose, mouth, hair or nails.
- Never name your boat after her mother.
My question is about parenting social skills. Our time with our son is too short and making conversation at breakfast, on the way to the bus stop, or at the end of the day is hard to get going. We don’t know what’s on his mind other than the games on his Xbox.
Trying to make a conversation with our son usually seems forced, but we’re determined to encourage civilized conversations.
What do you ask after “How was your day?”
–Mr. Mom, Los Angeles
- When possible let him know how you felt when you were in a similar situation. Tell him a story he can relate to, and assure him to understand that those feelings won't last for long.
- Should his concern be a household problem that can be solved within the family, help him solve the problem.
- While you're at, confide him some of your own mistakes, especially if you are someone who overreact. It should be clear to him that we all make mistakes and we backtrack to self-correct.
- Take care in how you criticize your child. If you feel you have to, start by praising him about what he's done right in the situation before suggesting how he could have done better.
- Stir clear of talking badly about others as Little Pitchers Have Big Ears. When he hears you passing judgement or being critical of someone else, he may well grow to fear that you feel badly about him too.
- Make a ritual of spending ten minutes with him before he goes to bed to take his emotional pulse. Did he have a good day? What was the best thing that happened to him today? Once he's told you what he is happy about, he may well reveal something that he is unhappy about.
It is hard to resist not poking fun of Mr. Trump’s lack of manners, but his behavior is so terribly upsetting that others must be as appalled as I am! As American’s Number One Role Model, how do we stop him from taking a sledge hammer to etiquette? We see photos of the president pointing as though his hand is a pointing gun! Then he’s rubbing his eldest daughter’s pregnant belly in a formal photo. How tacky is that?
Being greeted by the Obamas, on his way into the White House after the inauguration, he leaves his wife in the car as though he’s forgotten who he came with! When Mrs. Trump (who had the gall to plagiarize one of Mrs. Obama’s speeches) is finally let out of the car, she is carrying a sloppily prepared gift for the Obamas. The Obamas politely covered for Mr. Trump’s rudeness by escorting Mrs. Trump into the White House. By the way, shouldn’t the Trumps have had the Obamas’ present wrapped in the Tiffany paper? Shouldn’t Mr. Trump have escorted his wife into the White House?
And when he is seated with Mrs. Trump, he really shouldn’t put his back to his wife. Don’t you agree, Didi?
Ready aim fired!
Smirking in the Oval OfficeHere the faux pas is that the boxed gift is not elegantly enclosed in the dignified Tiffany wrapping paper, which is the honorable way to present a presidential gift. Moreover, the protocol would have been that Mrs. Trump's people should have let Mrs. Obama's people know in advance that she was bringing a gift, in order for them to have a prepared reciprocal gift for the Trumps. As it appears, the Obamas were put slightly off-guard, but, of course, it was the Trumps who were humiliated. Mr. Trump should have wiggled his chair back a bit in order to include Mrs. Trump in the conversation he was having with Mrs. Clinton, instead of leaving her out. In this latest photo of the Trumps departing for Palm Beach this past weekend, Mr. Trump proceeds Mrs. Trump up the air-stairs into Air Force One, but shouldn't Mr. Trump have let her climb up ahead of him so that he could be there to catch her in case one of Mrs. Trump's high heels got caught and she stumbled? Shouldn't we expect a president to be a gentleman? Please, send other observations of the Trumps' bad manners, along with any photos if possible, and we will include them. However, please, no photos of the Trump children or grandchildren. Thank you!
Don’t chat me up with brain-picking. If you want my advice on your funding project, pay me for my advice. When a line is crossed between friendship and brain-picking how do I suggest that I need to be compensated, even by my existing clients?
In particular, a former grad school classmate, who is not a client and a new client, who thinks I should be at his beck and call. Billable consulting services are available, you can’t consult me for free!
How to ask for a monetary reward when someone picks your brain?
- If you don't want to suggest weekends or evenings, propose a Friday afternoon when most people are generally not as busy.
- Should the person want to talk sooner or at a more convenient time for them, let him or her know they will have to pay for your time.
- A phone chat is invariably more amenable to being kept short.
- When scheduled for a brain-picking session do a bit of homework so you can share a few ideas.
- Make the phone appointment for "brain thinking time."
Every Valentine’s Day is the same: Should we bother to observe it? Should we celebrate by going out to dinner? A movie and take-home Chinese? We procrastinate until the last moment when our favorite restaurants are booked solid. Nobody wants to take a chance on Valentine’s Day for a bad experience by going to a new, expensive restaurant, which is exactly what happened last year. It is as if we sabotaged Valentine’s Day by accident but really on purpose, by not planning ahead.
–AJ, Seattle, WA
I am the mother-of-the-groom-to-be (once the engagement is announced) and I am writing to ask about engagement etiquette. The future bride and her mother want to announce the engagement in the “They’re Engaged” section of a local magazine.
My problem is that the date of the wedding hasn’t been set yet.
The bride-to-be chose the ring and my son plans to formally ask her to marry him over dinner on Valentine’s Day.
In the engagement announcements I’ve seen in the magazine a precise wedding date is identified for every couple.
Shouldn’t my son and his future wife follow protocol and set the date before announcing their engagement?
–Meddling MOG, Beverly Farms, MA
My question is about sick etiquette and spreading illness.
A neighborly friend came for a drink recently sporting a full-blown cold. When we opened the door he announced, “No physical contact, because I’ve got a bad cold.” We bypassed the warm welcoming handshakes and hugs. He said he couldn’t stay long, but nonetheless lingered long enough to bestow his cold virus on the household with his sneezing and coughing. We lost time from work; our son missed an important basketball game.
Shouldn’t he have told us he had a bad cold before sharing his germs, to give us the option of postponing his visit until he was healthy?
–JP, Springfield, MA
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