Q: Over the course of the past month, I have had furniture movers, a piano tuner and a plumber in my house. Should I be offering them something to drink? I usually tip the movers. Should I also tip the plumber or the piano tuner? When people come to my house to move and/or fix things, should I be treating them as guests? I don't want to be too chatty, but I also do not want to seem aloof or rude.
A: While you are not entertaining these service professionals, they are guests in your home. As a general guideline, when someone is in your home for a half-hour or more, you should offer them something to drink, nonalcoholic, of course! A glass of water, a cup of coffee or soft drinks are all appropriate. For full-day events, such as moving from or to a new home, it is generous to offer a simple lunch such as pizza or subs. While not obligatory, this gesture can help to generate additional goodwill. Generally, piano tuners, plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades are not tipped. Movers are tipped based upon the amount of time, amount of care and number of stairs!
Q: My baby shower for my first child was last week. It was a wonderful event, and I feel so lucky to have so many family and friends who clearly care about me. As I was opening the gifts, I was surprised to see that many of the guests opted to purchase things that were not on the registry. This in and of itself is fine. I understand that registries are only suggestions. But I am planning to raise my baby in a nonchemical home. We are opting for organic whenever possible. Many of the gifts were plastic or simply something we do not want in our home. Do I call the guests to find out where the gift is from? Can I return things? And most of all, what do I do when the auntie comes to my house and does not see the item she gave at the shower?!?
A: You are correct in knowing that registries are merely suggestions. It would have been lovely for your guests to view your registry and to have noticed that you are raising an organic baby. Now, with the gifts you have, you will need to write thank-you notes to all of your guests thanking them for the thought, if not for the gift. Then, if there is a gift receipt or if you can surmise where the gift was purchased, you can return the offending item and exchange it for something you prefer. Items without obvious origins should be regifted or donated.
Now, for the most delicate dilemma, when the aunties are in your home, you will need to tread lightly. For those closest to you, those who will be purchasing gifts for your child(ren) in the years to come, you can gently explain your parenting philosophy. For others who are not as close, you will acknowledge the gift and then redirect, "Auntie, I loved the beautiful turquoise color! I was so glad you could come to my baby shower. Would you like to hold the baby?"
Q: My boss has invited me to her home for dinner. I have been working at this office for just over a year, but there are rarely meals eaten together. I am fairly certain my boss has no idea I am a vegetarian. Should I say something? Should I wait until I am at her house? What if she serves steak and notices I am not eating?
A: No matter what the dietary restriction, it is incumbent upon you to let the host or hostess know in advance. Imagine if you wait until you are at the table to share that you are a vegetarian. Your boss may have planned the meal around meat, even using some of the sauce to favor the vegetables. Not wanting a guest to go hungry, the host is now relegated to being a short-order chef in the kitchen instead of enjoying the meal with the guests.
As soon as possible, you will need to say something to your boss. "Thank you so much for inviting me to dinner; I realized when I accepted I forgot to mention that I am a vegetarian. There is no need to rearrange your menu. I would be happy to bring a vegetarian side dish with enough to share with everyone."
Then wait and watch to see your boss's reaction to this news. Also, when invited to someone's home, do be sure to bring a small gift for your host.
Jodi R.R. Smith is a nationally known etiquette expert and author. She is the president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. You are invited to e-mail her your etiquette emergencies at Salem@Mannersmith.com.