Friday, 28 September 2018

Telephone Etiquette

The world certainly became a smaller place when in1876, Scottish Inventor Alexander Graham Bell patented his new device which produced a clearly intelligible replication of the human voice, in other words, the birth of the Telephone. This device for the first time in history allowed people to converse over many, many miles and before too long, even continents! 

The telephone quickly became part of any reputable household and you would not be seen without one if you were ‘someone of note’, but they have come a long way since 1876, and today there is hardly a home or business that does not have one, or a person who does not have a mobile phone or a smart watch instead or as well, and these have really taken over from the traditional telephone as we know it.

I must confess in my household I do indeed own a telephone, but not just any old telephone, I have a lovely 1964 traditional Bakelite telephone. Most guests think it is a display piece and I have to prise them off the ceiling when it rings as it is a particularly loud, traditional old-fashioned ring! I do love my telephone, and unlike more modern technology, it never fails me.

Now, one of the most common questions I get asked is ‘What is the correct way to answer a telephone?’ Or 'How do you end a conversation?’ Well, did you know that when Alexander Graham Bell invented this device he believed “Ahoy” would be the best greeting but thankfully this did not catch on, as I would not want people mistaking my drawing room for the bridge of a ship! 

So here are my top 5 tips on telephone etiquette for any self-respecting user of the modern or old-fashioned communicating device. 

1.    Distance
Keep your mouth one and half inches from the telephone. It was calculated that this would be the perfect distance for your mouth and receiver to ensure the best quality in sound. This is still advisable to ensure you are not deafening the person on the other end.

2.     Greeting
Begin the conversation by saying your number, but not the full code! This gives the caller the opportunity to make sure they have called the correct number and then can then begin speaking. If sharing a telephone with others you may wish to say ‘(your name) speaking’ so that callers know to whom they are speaking. When the call is over we simply say goodbye. 

3.     Conversation
The person calling should begin and finish the conversation, remember we never call to invite someone to something as this should be done by a handwritten invitation. We also never shout, swear or act inappropriately on the telephone. If you put the caller on speakerphone you must always let them know if there is another person present who can hear the conversation.

4.    Listen:
Always pay attention to the other person and what they are saying. As with a face to face conversation we do not speak over someone or interrupt them until they are finished speaking, only then you may respond. 

5.    Timings
We never call someone before 9am as this would be considered too early to receive a phone call, and we should not call someone after 9pm as this would be very late in the day to begin a conversation as most of us are preparing to retire for the evening. Sunday lunchtime is also a strict no-no for making telephone calls, unless that time has been previously agreed. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Top 10 Valentine's Day Etiquette Rules.

Saint Valentine’s Day

Arguably one of the most romantic days of the year falls on the 14 February. We are constantly reminded in the shops, online and from your loved ones that you must remember to buy a card, present or flowers for that special person in your life. As I have said before I feel it has become very commercialised, however as I have always said it is important to tell people how much they mean to you and how much you love them. This should take place every day though, not just on Valentine's Day!

For those of you that may not know, Valentine's Day as we know it is actually called Saint Valentine's Day or the feast of Saint Valentine, which is celebrated around the world and in fact some countries even have a public holiday. Saint Valentine, however has been referred to as several early Christian martyrs were named Valentine, however, there is a legend a Valentine was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and who also preached to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.

It is believed that during his imprisonment he healed his jailer’s daughter and before his execution he signed a letter with "your valentine".  There are of course many other stories that can be found online for those of you that want to know more.

Now let’s get back to the important part of Valentine’s day, my etiquette rules we should all follow.

My top ten rules are the following:

1.     Plan ahead: many couples decided to go out, therefore if you don’t book the table you may not get in. Gentleman the local Kebab shop is not an option!

2.    Dress to impress: Ladies generally make a great effort however gentlemen seem to think they look good in anything. This I hate to tell you is not true and no you do not look good in a bin bag!  Make an effort and put on something smart/casual or formal depending on the venue. Leave the “I don’t care look” at home.

3.     Gifts: Buy a gift for the other half, but don’t go mad with the budget. A FabergĂ© egg may not impress your partner as much as some homemade chocolates you have personally made. “It’s not about the money, money, money!”  

4.    Taking the lead: If you are the one organising the evening and paying the bill then you take the lead. You are in other words the host, therefore do not appear unsure or indecisive during the evening.

5.     Be a Gentleman: This is an occasion for gentlemen to act like a gentleman. We get the doors for your partner and we let the other half sit down first etc. Remember Men, we stand for ladies every time they leave the table, for example if they visit the loo etc.

6.    Ladies are ladies: On this occasion, be gracious and elegant like the lady you are. Don’t be offended if a gentleman wants to treat you as such. Enjoy the moment of the gentleman making you feel like a Princess, and don’t complain!

7.     The meal: When the other half is taking you out for a meal don’t go mad but consider their budget. However, you will be offered to order first so perhaps discuss what your partner is considering staying within budgets, or go with the salad!

8.    Alcohol consumption: Don’t drink too much on this occasion. Perhaps one to two glasses of wine. If your partner offers you a drink don’t go for the most expensive, despite how much you may like vintage Bollinger champagne. Once again you could consult your partner on what they are thinking.

9.    Carriages: When it is time to leave, either drive or escort you partner home, unless they insist on returning home via a cab which the person taking the other out will pay for. Perhaps following up with a phone call to confirm you got home safely and to thank your host for a lovely evening.

10.  Letters: Following this evening up with a thank you letter no longer than 7 days after the 14th February. Buy some nice quality stationary and take your time writing this letter so show your appreciation for a magical evening.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Etiquette Of Packing A Suitcase

One thing I was taught from an early age was the correct way to pack and unpack a suitcase. I would enjoy doing this as it would mean that I was going on holiday. For other people, of course, it may mean something different. Whatever the reason is, I believe it is important we know the method of packing a suitcase in a sensible and practical way. Not, of course, forgetting it needs to be quick in this modern age.

Before I explain the correct way to carry out this procedure, let's look into where the idea for packing our belongings and taking them with us came from. Firstly, what is a suitcase? Well, it is exactly that! In the 19th century, they were named this as they were used for carrying suits. Suitcases were made originally from wool or linen or even carpet as Mary Poppins will well know. Leather also became a popular material for suitcases.

It was used to cover wooden suitcases or just on its own for collapsable suitcases. In prehistoric times, humans were known to travel as this was a way of life. It was noted that Otzi (an Iceman) had packed a travel bag on his final journey when he ventured into the Alps. Otzi’s travel bag was a rudimentary wooden ribbed backpack supported by a leather bag. Sadly, he did not have wheels on his travel bag!

In the Roman Empire over two thousand years ago, people were enjoying touring the known world for pleasure in between conquering countries by using their network of Roman roads. The world’s first suitcase would have belonged to Rome’s legionnaires who were travelling all over the Roman Empire; they were even known to use luggage tags.

When we got to the 19th century, the modern suitcase was becoming something we would recognise today.

They still had to be strong, normally made out of a wooden frame with oil-treated cowhide stretched over the frame, this would also protect it on long journeys in all weathers. They were still not the used thing of the elite; they would use large trunks built of wood, leather, and often a heavy iron base. The expensive trunks were waterproofed with canvas or tree sap, due to all the steamship travel and the need for water protection.

Now you understand the background; the question is how do you pack a suitcase? Well, it's really common sense.

Firstly, make sure the suitcase is clean and in good condition. Place the shoes in first which are the heaviest items. Place them on their sides and around them place the underwear, socks, handkerchiefs, cufflink boxes, toiletry bag and any small items like books etc. Now place a piece of acid-free tissue paper on top as a divide between them and the next layer.
Next, it is jumpers which are placed evenly around the area to distribute the weight. Another piece of tissue paper on top, then it is trousers including dress trouser for black tie etc., which are carefully laid in the same way you would hang them, making sure creases are still in the correct places, again distribute them around the area.
On the next layer we have t-shirts or polo shirts which you place evenly around the area then a piece of tissue paper on top, then we have shirts which are placed upside down to protect the collar and placed in the same manner as previously mentioned.

Yet another piece of tissue paper and then we would have ties and bow ties or waistcoats. Then we have another piece of tissue paper placed on top, and then on the final layer it is blazers or sports jackets, and black tie jackets which are folded in half and placed in carefully, then we have the final piece of tissue paper on top.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Etiquette of Tipping

The word tipping or gratuities can be a wonderful word to people in the hospitality industry and many other professions. Tipping symbolises two things
  1. A thank you for a service from someone who you have been provided with a service.
  2. A sign to you that your service and work have been appreciated, of course, you have to be careful as the tipper that you give the correct tip otherwise you may find yourself being chased down the high street by the waiter! 

So why do we tip? Here is a short history to this time old tradition. 

The correct term for tipping, "gratuity", is believed to date back to the 16th century from the word  "graciousness". It might have come from the French word gratuitĂ© or possibly from Medieval Latin gratuitas, "free gift", or Latin gratuitus, "free, freely given". Whatever the case may be the meaning of money given in return for service first appearing in the 1530s.
Tipping, therefore, began in Tudor England. In the 17th century overnight guests were expected to tip in private homes and would hand over sums of money, "vails" to the host’s staff. It was around the same time that customers would tip in coffee houses in London and similar venues.

The term  "to give a gratuity" originated in the 18th century. It came from an earlier word of tip, which was "to give which originated in the rogues" in the 17th century. This word may also have come from the 16th-century "tip" meaning "to strike or hit smartly but lightly" which may have come from low German tippen (to tap). It is believed that the term "Tip" was first used in 1707 in the play "The Beaux' Stratagem" by George Farquhar, who used the term after it was being used in criminal circles.  This was a word used to imply "the unnecessary and gratuitous gifting of something somewhat taboo" such as a joke, a sure bet, or illicit money exchanges.

Over the past 19 years, I have been fortunate as a Butler and then a Royal Butler to receive tips/gratuities from employers and guests. It was something one would never assume they would receive but when you did it was a welcomed surprise. The average tip for a weekend house party could be anything between £20 and £50 per a guest so therefore it could be quite lucrative depending on how many guests you receive. In some houses, the guest will give the butler the gratuities to be shared out equally with the staff. This is of course done to the butlers discretion. 
In many public establishments in the UK, there is an understanding that the tip should be 10% of the bill, which again can be quite a small fortune depending on the amount of guests being hosted. In some establishments the money is collected in a tip jar, then shared out equally with the staff. I believe the tips in the United States is 15% but this amount is actually part of the wage.

We must remember that tipping is not something we have to feel forced into and that people offering a service have a right to but it is a courtesy and understanding going back centuries. If you do receive a gratuity you are not required to write a thank you letter as you would in other situations, however, you would say your thank you at the point of receiving it.