Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Price of Beauty - Tipping Etiquette

Most of us are slaves to our beauty salon and spa appointments. We book our regular sessions for brow shaping, bikini waxing or highlights and wonder how much extra we will have to drop that week for the price of making ourselves look more beautiful and younger looking. Not only do we have to factor in the cost of the service, but the tip has become even more important with overhead at an all time high and the economy at an all time low. Knowing how much to tip and when to tip will determine whether you will be a welcome patron of the salon. Be sure to stop by the ATM for cash so that you can properly thank those who successfully transform you from frumpy to fabulous.

· The Bare Minimum. In general, a tip of anywhere from 15% to 20% is expected for services provided whether from a massage therapist, an aesthetician or a hair stylist. Always make sure to tip the supporting staff before you tip the owner. Speaking of owners, nowadays, it is customary to tip the owner of a salon or spa if they have rendered a service. If this feels awkward, you can always double check with the receptionist to make sure this is the protocol. As far as independent contractors are concerned, they do get to keep a greater percentage of the money they bring in, however they still have high expenses of renting the space, paying for their own beauty supplies, etc. and very much appreciate a gratuity for a job well done.

· The Fancier the Salon the Bigger the Tip. It goes without saying that if you are going to a “fancy schmancy” salon then you will need to pony up a fancy tip! For example, if you are going to get your hair cut from a stylist at Andy Lecompte’s salon (stylist to Madonna, Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan) then you would be expected to pay a higher tip than if you were going to a nondescript hair salon in the neighborhood. And, if a celebrity stylist such as Andy does your hair, then you may be expected to drop as much as $500 for a cut and pay a whopping $100 tip. Yikes!!

· A Breakdown of Acceptable Tips for Services. Stylist or colorist 20%, stylist’s assistant $5-$10 (this figure will vary depending upon the amount of time that is spent and the popularity of the salon), shampoo attendant $2 to $5, manicures and pedicures 15-20%, facialist or aesthetician 20%, massage therapist 15-20%, gratuity for gift certificates 20%, coatroom attendant $1 to $2, house calls -the sky’s the limit!

· No Tip, No Way! Even if you are dissatisfied with your service, it is truly bad manners to withhold a tip. As intimidating as it may seem, it is better to make mention of your dissatisfaction and at least give your service provider the opportunity to rectify the situation. If however, they have no interest, or worse give you attitude, than you have every right to reduce your tip by as much as 10%.

If you have absolutely no clue what to tip, consult the salon or spa receptionist and they should be able to steer you in the right direction. The bottom line is tipping is private, but the more generous the tip, the more the salon or spa will be inclined to squeeze you in on a busy day or offer you a free product just for the heck of it!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Red Carpet Manners - Oscars 2010

The 82nd annual Academy Awards, like its predecessor the Golden Globes, was unable to escape the California rain. Luckily, the tents had been assembled and the heaters turned on so that the celebrities were able to stay dry as they strutted and sauntered down the red carpet with family members and significant others in tow. So while the rest of the world was dissecting the style and fashion of the celebrities, we are more interested in what is happening underneath the couture drapery and beading. How did the celebrities behave? Were they gracious or boorish? Did they look comfortable in their skin? Those were the questions we wanted to uncover. So let’s take a closer look at a few elements that stood out for us on the red carpet and during the show.

Non-Celebrity Red Carpet Manners. It’s always interesting to me to look at the faces and body language of those standing with the celebrities during the long red carpet stroll and during the all important interviews. Sometimes the family members and significant others are brushed aside and other times they are politely included in the interview and even invited into the camera shot. I noticed that both Ryan Seacrest at E! and George Pennacchio at ABC actually did a pretty good job of being inclusive and paying deference to the guests of the celebrities, but I did find it a bit awkward when George was interviewing Oprah and Gabourey Sidibe and her poor mother was caught staring from the background with nothing to do. Just a quick note for the non-celebrity who is there to accompany the celebrity, make sure to smile, try to look interested and always appear supportive and happy.

Hosting Etiquette. I was really anticipating knock down, funny bits between Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin and I have to say I was a bit disappointed (sorry guys!). As handsome as they looked in their dapper tuxes, I still longed for the days of Billy Crystal singing and dancing his way into our hearts. I think everyone used to look forward to watching his hysterical depictions of characters from the Best Picture nominees. The writing back then was as classy as it was witty, especially for the Oscars which was and still is the crème de la crème of awards shows. I have to admit, I was completely distracted by Alec Baldwin’s left hand which was nervously tapping against his left thigh every time he opened his mouth to speak. Now here’s a guy who’s been in the business for many years, but clearly the Oscars was a big deal for him and unfortunately that communicated through his physical behavior.

Audience Etiquette. Beware of the giant audience scan across the room. In my opinion, if you are nominated, you better have a smile on your face at all times. It seems very unfortunate, when a celebrity is caught with a frown, or worse, when they have lost their category, looking sincerely disappointed and not genuinely happy for their fellow nominees. Standouts in this category were several reps from the film “Up in the Air”. In my opinion, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga could have turned on a little more charm. They both seemed to possess a bit of attitude and sarcasm that was not very becoming. And, don't get me started on Jason Reitman who appeared entitled and almost mad after not winning for Best Screenplay Adaptation. Perhaps a lesson in humility will gain them all awards in the future. Finally, poor Sarah Jessica Parker, who is usually quite elegant and poised, was caught of all things chewing gum with an open mouth during a camera pan! Yikes!!!

PYT Posture. The pretty young things were out in full force this year with overpowering and overbearing dresses for their frames. Zoe Saldana’s purple Givenchy dress looked almost uncomfortable with too much material that seemed hard to manage. I began to actually wonder whether it was going to affect her walking. And, I just wanted to jump out of my living room and into the television screen to grab Miley Cyrus and Cameron Diaz’s shoulders and pull them back!! There they were wearing these beautifully beaded gold strapless dresses with slumped shoulders!!! Was the beading too heavy? Wear their stomachs aching from hunger? Who knew? For goodness sake, stand up straight ladies!

Speech Etiquette. Oscar night is not a night for long speeches unlike its cousin, the Independent Spirit Awards, where you can drone on forever thanking everyone and their grandmother. We noticed the Documentary Short winner for “Music by Prudence” carrying on much longer than aloud inviting the exit music to begin. And, I can’t imagine anyone appreciating the acceptance speech from the Best Costume winner, Sandy Powell, who sounded nothing short of condescending about her third time Oscar win. Who acts as if they’re over the Oscars!!?? She should be thanking her lucky stars! If it were up to me, she wouldn’t be invited back!!!

Standing Ovation. Typically a standing “O” is reserved for an outstanding performance, but I think the audience was a bit confused as to whether the Honorary Award winners Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman were deserving of the admiration. A few audience members stood up and then it appeared that the remainder of the theatre needed to follow suit. I mean, come on, these guys are like Hollywood royalty! Their standing ovations were very different from the genuine standing “O’s” that Sandra Bullock received for winning Best Actress and that Kathryn Bigelow received for being the first female to ever win for Best Director! Kudos Kathryn!!

Applause Etiquette. When your category is announced, it is polite to clap for each of your fellow nominees, however, when your name is called, you refrain from clapping. We noticed Carey Mulligan applauding herself when her Best Actress category was announced. In the event you were thinking to yourself, what is the proper way to applaud a performance? I will tell you. Ladies should clap their hands by cupping their left hand slightly and hitting it with the fingers of their right hand and gentlemen should hit the two hands together evenly. For a standing ovation, the entire audience stands and applauds in unison.

So there you have it, our takes on what lies beneathe the sheath. We hope these revelations help you to get a closer look at these celebrities to see that sometimes they're not all they're cracked up to be.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Obesity – Could It Be Better Managed with Manners?

March is National Nutrition Month and we thought we would “weigh in” (no pun intended) on the great weight debate and how paying attention to a few good manners can help the obesity epidemic.

Last week, the Obama administration called for a “re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act…to improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children”. This statement was made in the same week that a Nightline “Face Off” special was devoted to the thin vs. fat debate. In a recent piece for the Huffington Post, Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, basically made a direct correlation between the figurative health of our country and the literal health of our children stating that our children and grandchildren will bear the burden of needing to be the healthiest generation of children in our nation’s history. With childhood obesity at an all time high, and statistics across the board reminding us of the incredible challenge ahead, the pressure of needing to be even more healthy is a very big pill to swallow and requires addressing at every angle. Our children’s futures are depending on it!

So perhaps it is time for our nation’s leaders to consider this epidemic from a different point of view, one that is taken from the viewpoint of manners. As an etiquette instructor working closely with children and a parent who grew up in a household where unsalted health food potato chips were considered a treat, I feel I have the necessary personal experience to address this subject. I understand the health issue and I also know the positive influence a few good manners can make! Let's take a closer look at exactly how some very basic principles of comportment during mealtime can be used to combat obesity.

1. Focus on Posture. One of the biggest issues at the table is the issue of slouching while eating. A simple focus on good posture and sitting up straight will automatically create a more elongated figure and a more confident presence. Good posture at the table not only adds inches to your frame, but it also makes it much easier to digest your food. Sitting up straight in a chair forces you to hold in your stomach and keep your shoulders back and it is hard work! Trust me, when you sit correctly in this position you will not want to overeat.

2. Begin Dressing for Dinner. Or breakfast or lunch for that matter. Back in the day, adults and children dressed before coming to the table. They made sure they were properly groomed and coiffed. Men wore suits and women elegant house dresses. Girls wore knee-length dresses with matching sweater sets and boys wore slacks with button downs and smart sweaters. Why has it become acceptable to be so casually dressed at the table? Perhaps if we slip out of our sweatsuits and into some Spanx under an elegant dress, we might eat less! It just makes sense that when you take the time to present yourself properly at the table, you are more likely to eat with equal poise.

3. Create Atmosphere. When dining at home, take the time to create atmosphere. Set a nice table, break out the good china, light some candles, put on some nice mood music. This helps set the tone for the entire dining experience. Dining together is meant to be pleasurable and civilized. This is what separates us from the barbarians. With every detail carefully put into place, it would be considered disrespectful to just mow through your meal. Instead, you will want to relax and savor each bite and might even be persuaded to eat a little less and enjoy a little more.

4. Concentrate on Conversation. Long before the invention of iPhones and Blackberries, attendees at the table were required to look one another in the eye and make pleasant face-to-face conversation. Today, we must make a conscious effort to put away our technological devices in order to practice our conversation skills. In actuality, our main purpose at the table is to make fabulous repartee, not gorge ourselves with food. Think about it, the more conversation you make, the less you are able to eat!

5. Dine with Decorum. First, whether practicing the Continental or American style of eating, utilizing a fork as well as a knife not only looks better, but prevents us from shoveling food into our mouths. Both styles of eating begin with the fork tines facing down which allows for only so much food to be placed on the fork. I often say that if you are trying to manage your weight, practice the American style of eating which requires the extra step of switching hands to bring the food to your mouth with the fork tines facing up. Second, eating slowly and allowing for sufficient rest time between courses automatically sends certain signals to the brain that we are getting full. Third, if you approach food like a work of art concentrating on the imaginative colors and tastes, it is likely you will eat it with more discrimination.

6. Eating Right is Good Etiquette. Being open to eating all kinds of fruits and vegetables, in addition to meats and starches, makes you appear cultured as well as conscientious. Break out of your usual patterns, expose yourself and your families to different foods of various ethnicities. Try different diets such as vegan or raw food. By experimenting with many food selections you become more satisfied and perhaps less inclined to over indulge. Secondly, to encourage smaller portions at mealtime, try a little trick used by the catering industry and set the table with smaller plates. Smaller plates call for smaller portions which provide a more dainty appearance and that is good etiquette.

7. Show Some Restraint. In the past, many of us were taught to finish everything on our plate and wound up stuffing ourselves until we were sick to our stomach. Nowadays, it seems that those who are able to leave a little left over on their plate actually appear to be more control. They have the ability to show self-restraint by listening to their bodies when they indicate they are full. Polite dining actually encourages leaving a small portion of food on the plate. This helps to give the appearance that one can be satisfied without being gluttonous.

8. Be a Conscientious Host. As a gracious and conscientious host, it is your duty to make smart choices and be an educator. Choose to serve water (or lowfat milk for younger children) at the table rather than juice or soda. Offer whole wheat rolls with some olive oil for dipping rather than butter. Double check the ingredients of the foods you will be serving before preparing a meal to look for items with high fiber and low fat. Realize that you can make an absolutely delicious meal from a Cooking Light recipe as well as a recipe from Paula Dean (sorry Paula)!

If we can educate our young people on the value of instilling these principles of dining manners and eating right at a very young age then perhaps we can help make a dent in this "losing" (again, no pun intended) battle.

For more factual and statistical information on healthy eating and achieving a healthy weight, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at For more information on the above-referenced Huffington Post article or Nightline segment, please see the following:

Just recently discovered this new documentary called "What's On Your Plate?" by Catherine Gund It uncovers the link between a healthy planet, healthy food and healthy bodies.