Etiquette

Kids Trick-or-Treating Across Class Lines Makes 1%er Feel Faint

Halloween, as much as Thanksgiving, is a holiday about generosity.

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A Drunk Stole My Kale. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Today’s Link of the Day, a gripping tale of tragedy, redemption, and kale, comes from the vibrant, increasingly yuppie Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.

About two weeks ago, my Tuscan kale plant disappeared. … we wrote it off as lost, a casualty of the urban environment in which we knew fenceless gardening to be a risk. And then, over the weekend, we found this wet note sticking out from under a flowerpot. [Note reads: "To: Wonderful Gardener. From: A Remorseful Kale Thief (I was drunk & I'm very sorry."] Attached to the back was a $25 gift card to Ace Hardware, where we plan to restock our gardening supplies in the spring. Never has my faith in humanity been more emphatically restored. Kale thief, if you’re reading this, all is forgiven and then some.

Back in the early days of our relationship, Ben borrowed my laptop and left it attended for a moment in the law school library. Some other enterprising law student, no doubt bound to be one of those shysters who advertises on billboards using dollar signs, made off with it. Ben was devastated — so upset, in fact, that I ended up calming down so that I could calm him down. (Good trick, btw, if you can pull it off.)

What’s the most valuable thing anyone has ever stolen from you? Did the thief make recompense somehow? Or have you ever had to express your remorse for taking something that wasn’t yours?

Photo via Washington City Paper

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How to Ask for Money

Everyone resents being used; donors want to be seen as people, not purses, and good petitioners will treat them that way. Good petitioners will likewise make sure they are seen as people and not merely black holes of need.

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Save Your Money, Stick to Wine

Fancy-shmancy restaurants serve fancy-shmancy cocktails full of ingredients you’ve never heard of, so that you will pay too much to get drunk on something gross and then, because you’re drunk, buy more and more expensive food and wine than you planned to and then, the next morning, wake up gout-y, dehydrated, and poor, wondering where it all went wrong. Don’t worry, the Times is on it:

a restaurant is way more likely to hand you a not-good drink than a bar that prides itself on cocktail conjuring. … restaurants have come to depend on these [cocktail] lists for extra revenue, which comes in two forms: the margin on the cocktails, and the extra cash that first drink of the evening may pry loose from a customer’s money clip.

“It’s an unspoken truth in the business,” said Eben Freeman, who used to superintend the bars operated by Mr. White’s Altamarea Group and recently moved to a similar job with AvroKo. “You’re hoping to get a cocktail sale in before they settle down with the wine list. The dark side is that they will drink the cocktail faster” than a glass of wine, he continued. “And it will affect their decision-making, and might cause them to get the steak for two. Or the more expensive bottle of wine.”

The only way to escape this endless, torturous loop is to stare down your server and decline the cocktail menu altogether. Stand strong, America! Only you can prevent Atomic Fireballs.

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“Behind Every Jane Jacobs Comes Giuliani with his Nightstick.”

Mueller’s painting with too broad a brush. Not so much a broad brush, even: a flamethrower.

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Overapologizing in The Modern Age

Saying ‘I’m sorry’ too much, especially at work, gets a bad rap. It’s meek; it’s feminine, overly accommodating, self-deprecating; it’s fake. As a chronic over-apologizer in social interactions, if not in the big ways when it matters (for better or worse!), I really loved Clay Risen’s essay about empathy and the different kinds of sorry:

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Quitting in a Blaze of Glory, NYC Waitress Edition

A waitress’s open letter to the oh-so-seductive customer who manhandled her has gone viral. I should excerpt it but the whole thing is so fantastic, I’m reprinting it here in full:

Dear Brian, You came into the restaurant where I work and ordered a Stoli on the rocks. When I asked you and your companion if you’d be eating, or needing anything else from me, you put your hand – ever so gently – ON MY ASS and asked if you could take me “to go”. When I immediately stepped away and said “Sorry, what?” you probably gathered that I was and am not receptive of such advances from customers. We were in a family-friendly restaurant, around 6:30pm, and I was wearing a loose-fitting, long sleeve shirt, jeans, and no makeup…so I’m not sure where the confusion arose as to what kind of service you were being provided. You left soon after, leaving a signed credit card slip and a two dollar tip (see picture included!). Your name is Brian Lederman. I found you, instantly, via a quick Google search online. I looked at your face on Linked In, the World’s Largest Professional Network. You work at Swiss Performance Management and Truehand AG, in Investment Management. Of course you do. 

I work as a bartender, and have for more than five years now. I graduated NYU with honors, and have at some point held down every conceivable part time type job including but not limited to food service, administration, and even temp work at firms such as yours. So far, bartending allows me the most flexibility to pursue my artistic career, while comfortably covering my basic living expenses, including my outrageously high student loan payments. I have a good job that I’m grateful for. The environment is low key, I have incredibly supportive coworkers and managers, and – in general – the clientele is nice. But I still hate being a bartender. 

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Tipping Housekeeping is Controversial? (No It Isn’t)

The Marriott hotel chain has begun to include empty envelopes in its rooms to encourage / remind guests to tip the workers who have been folding their towels, making their beds, emptying their trash, leaving mints on their pillows, and generally making everything look like it was arranged by magic elves.

Tipping housekeeping in the US is expected and oh hey more complicated than I realized: etiquette requires “$2-3 per night up to $5, more in high-end hotels. Also more if there are more than 3 people in a room or suite. Leave the tip on your pillow or in a similar obvious place with a note that says thank you. Leave the tip each day when you leave the room, rather than at the end of your stay, because your room might get cleaned by different people each day, depending on staff schedules. If you have additional items delivered to your room, such as extra pillows, hangers, luggage racks, tip the person who brings them $2 or $3.” Okay!

But now that Marriott has provided a convenient way to tip that also makes the practice increasingly explicit, some folks are like, what, you’re gonna guilt me into tipping? Others have even used the word blackmail because times are so hard folks can’t afford dictionaries. NPR explains:

not everyone is welcoming the plan to promote tipping. Some compare it to blackmail. And hard-core business travelers who rack up hundreds of nights in hotels per year say they don’t want to tip in cash, as is customary. Instead, they suggest, the company should let guests add a tip to their room bill. If Marriott wants to see the wide range of responses, it won’t have to look far — people in its rewards program have been debating the issue for the past day. … This is a bit over the top for Marriott to be doing this to us, almost like black mailing us into it. If they are so concerned they should pay these hard working people a better wage! Letting Maria Shriver have this much influence over them is a bit disturbing. – pdyer

What does Maria Shriver have to do with anything? Never mind, DON’T FEED THE TROLLS, sorry. Anyway, think of Jenny when you travel, or that first diner scene in Reservoir Dogs (nobody wants to be Mr. Pink), and tip generously. If you don’t want to tip, don’t travel, or stay in an AirBnB, where I think you can get away without paying a gratuity. At least for now.

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The Best Things in Life Are Free (Food)

It isn’t until I am actually standing in front of the dumpster that I begin to understand what we’re doing.

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Going Above and Beyond Doesn’t Help You

We’ve all had that job evaluation, right? The one where you get ranked along a scale, and “Meets Expectations” is in the middle of the scale, followed by “Exceeds Expectations” and “No, Seriously, This Person Demolishes Expectations?”

When you see a scale like that, you know that in this company “Exceeds Expectations” actually means “Meets Expectations.” There’s a certain sadness in this reconfiguration of the language, in the idea that you have to figure out what the secret expectations are and then meet them so you can be marked down as having exceeded the original expectations.

Because, according to a new study in Social Psychological & Personality Science, people really do just want you to meet the expectations. They don’t actually want you to exceed them.

I read about this study in The Atlantic this morning, and it rang true like a bell. Of course people don’t really want you to go above and beyond; the social contract goes much more smoothly when everyone does what they say they’re going to do, and when everyone does what’s fair. Or, to quote Atlantic author James Hamblin:

Imagine you’re a kid with a cookie and a friend who has no cookie. What happens if you eat it all? Your friend will be upset. What happens if you give all of it away? Your friend will like you a lot. What if you give away half the cookie? Your friend will be just about as happy with you as if you gave him the whole thing. His satisfaction is a pretty flat line if you give anything more than half of the cookie. People judge actions that are on the selfish side of fairness. Maybe because we denigrate do-gooders, or because we’re skeptical of too much selflessness, the research shows that, as Epley put it, “It just doesn’t get any better than giving half of the cookie.” 

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The Real World Cost of a $22 Gadget

The “knee defender” (great name, dude) costs $21.95 and keeps the person seated in front of you on an airplane from being able to recline. It’s also a great way to start fights between strangers!

The spat began on United Airlines Flight 1462 because one passenger was using the Knee Defender, a $21.95 lock that attaches to a tray table and jams the reclining mechanism of the seat in front. The male passenger, seated in a middle seat of Row 12, used the device to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, the official said.

The pilot made an unplanned stop in Chicago, at which airport the feuding passengers were ejected, and the plane continued on to Denver where it landed an hour and a half late. So, in case you’re thinking of getting your own Knee Defender, buyer beware: the hidden costs might be significant and include your suddenly having to figure out how to get you, and your water-logged laptop, to Colorado.

Business Insider offers a refresher on airplane etiquette here. The publication supports your right to use the seat you’ve paid for however you see fit, but cautions, “make sure to look behind you before you recline. Maybe warn the fellow traveler whose space you are about to invade, so they can hang onto their drink or adjust their laptop. And stay upright during meals.”

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