Jan. 4, 2021

Stealing People's Spotlights, Tipping While Bartering, Leaving Negative Reviews, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this bonus episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about making major life announcements at other people's parties, tipping while bartering, leaving negative reviews, and much more. Please subscribe! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we had your address.)

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  • Is it rude to make a life announcement about yourself at someone else's party?
  • In Sydney, how does one signify they're done with their meal if eating with chopsticks?
  • How should I let my sister-in-law know that I've just made a contribution to their child's 529 Savings Account?
  • Should you tip if you're bartering services?
  • How should you listen to your podcast in a group setting?
  • Aftermath: Should I leave a review for my wedding photographer who was late with the photos?




Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian


[Musical Interlude]

Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.

Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.

Nick: We had so many great questions from you guys in the wilderness-

Leah: [Howling]

Nick: -that we have a bonus episode. Here we go. Our first question is: "Is it rude to make a life announcement about yourself at someone else's party? Last year, my husband and I were going to use our Thanksgiving dinner party that we were hosting for a small group of family to announce that we were expecting our first baby. Then I heard, by way of my sister-in-law, that my brother-in-law was going to be bringing his new girlfriend to dinner and that they would be announcing their engagement. I was shocked for multiple reasons." And now we have some multiple reasons.

"Reason number one: no one in my family had even met this girlfriend yet. It was a very new relationship. Reason number two: my brother-in-law, did not RSVP for himself, or this woman for the party, and they live out of state. Number three, I thought it was rude to use someone else's party to make an announcement. Am I wrong? Should you ask your host if it's all right with them before you make an announcement at their gathering, or was I just upset to be sharing the spotlight?"

Leah: Yes, it's rude. No, you are not wrong.

Nick: Okay! Coming in hot, Leah Bonnema!

Leah: I'm comin' in hot!

Nick: So, I think a couple things are happening here, so I feel like we have to tease them out. The first thing that bothers me is that you would not RSVP to the dinner party!

Leah: [Laughing]

Nick: I'm particularly bothered by this. This is what catches my eye. I do not care for that. As a reminder to our listeners, don't do that. That's rude!

Leah: Yeah, absolutely don't do that.

Nick: You don't show up at dinner parties without RSVPing. That's not a thing we do, so don't do that. I'm bothered by that. It does feel like, if you liked this person, you would probably not mind that they also had good news. Good news is not a zero-sum game. We can all have good news at this party, and that would be fine. I think part of it is that we just don't like the fact that there's this new woman we've never met, and my relative is not RSVPing for this party, and they're bad guests. I think that's - I'm bothered by that, so anything that they do, I'm also bothered by.

Leah: I also do think, though, if I'm hosting a party, and you were going to make an announcement, I don't know why you just wouldn't say, "Hey, I was going to announce my engagement. Is that cool?"

Nick: Yeah. Is that something you should ask for? I mean, I could see that you wanted it to be a surprise for everyone, so when you tell the hosts about it, then it's no longer a surprise for everyone, so I could see why you might not do that.

Leah: Well, not only is it a surprise, it's also a surprise that you're coming at all!

Nick: [Giggling] Right? Yeah. It does feel like you will catch your hosts off guard a little bit. Let's say you were just going to announce your engagement at this dinner, and you didn't have good news of your own, so you weren't sharing the spotlight. That would feel fine, right? That, "Oh, Thanksgiving. We're all together, and, oh, there's an announcement!" It feels like there's two announcements happening. That's the problem. It feels like the host in the story also had good news, and they feel like their spotlight was stolen, and I guess that's what she's bothered by.

Leah: Well, she also set up the whole party, and is doing all the work, and wanted to invite all these people to announce their first child.

Nick: Ohhh.

Leah: So, I think that if you're going to go to somebody else's party and then make an announcement, I would check with your host that they don't have an announcement.

Nick: Oh, I see. Okay, so you feel like this Thanksgiving party is also the party that they have designed to be the vehicle to announce their news?

Leah: Yes!

Nick: Oh ...

Leah: It's at their house. They invited the people. They're doing the cooking.

Nick: Okay. I can see this. Yes. It's not just our normal Thanksgiving dinner party that we will then also happen to have good news.

Leah: It's not like we're going to a restaurant.

Nick: Right.

Leah: This is their party!

Nick: That's a good question - if this was a restaurant, would that be fine?

Leah: I think it would be different.

Nick: Okay. So, if you have big news, you should probably check in with your host. I guess that doesn't feel wrong. I guess you could just say, like, "Oh, I kind of have a big announcement to make a dinner. Do you think it would be okay?"

Leah: Then, that would be our host's opportunity to say, "We were going to announce-"

Nick: Some other big news. So-

Leah: Yeah, some other big news.

Nick: "Please don't announce your news."

Leah: "Let's figure this out together. Maybe we'll announce at appetizers, and you announce at dessert."

Nick: I guess I'm just feeling like your good news does not detract from my good news, and we can have multiple pieces of good news that we can all be happy about.

Leah: Yeah, but I think that you should check in with your hosts first.

Nick: Because we're worried about the spotlight stealing. Okay. I mean, I could see you wanting to have the good news all to yourself. Yeah, that's fair.

Leah: Why can't you get a night? Why can't it be your night that you get to talk about? They don't even know this person. They've never met this person!

Nick: Well, that's the detail why, I think, our letter-writer is bothered because not only have you stole my spotlight, but I don't even know you people!

Leah: I'm talking about in this specific instance. If it was a tight family, and you knew everybody all the time, maybe that would be different, but in this circumstance, we have a person we don't even know, who hasn't RSVPed, showing up to be like, "It's about me now!"

Nick: Right. I totally agree. For our letter-writer, for this event, for these circumstances, you are right to be aggrieved. Yes. I'm just trying to expand upon this to see if we can come upon any more universal rules about this.

Leah: If they had RSVPed, and you did know this significant other-

Nick: Right.

Leah: I still think that if I wanted to make an announcement at somebody else's party-

Nick: Okay.

Leah: -I would send an email and say, "Hey, I wanted to make this announcement. I don't get to see you guys a lot because we're out of state. I would love to use this opportunity."

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Leah: Then, I, as the host, would say, 'We were also going to announce this other good news. Please don't tell; just between us. So, let's do it at different times, blah, blah, blah."

Nick: Okay. I'm coming around on that. Now, I did follow up with this letter-writer.

Leah: I was going to say, I hope we found out what happened!

Nick: [Giggling]

Leah: I wanna know! I wanna know!

Nick: So, apparently, they broke up. There was no engagement, and they did not come to the Thanksgiving dinner.

Leah: Oh, my goodness!

Nick: [Giggling] So-

Leah: Imagine that they'd ruin this Thanksgiving dinner for this person by usurping their announcement, and then broke it up.

Nick: Sure. That would be very aggressive. Yeah. No, luckily, that didn't happen. Yeah, there was no engagement whatsoever.

Leah: Whew!

Nick: Harmony has been restored to the universe.

Leah: Thank goodness!

Nick: Our next question is from Sydney, Australia. "Hello from Sydney. We have a heavy Asian influence to our cuisine. My question is, how does one signify they're done with their meal with chopsticks? I'm thinking in the vein of a Western knife and fork being put together at the end of the meal." Okay, Leah?

Leah: I think it's a great question. I heard that you break them in half over your knee.

Nick: Yeah, yeah- Mm-hmm. That's it. [Giggling] Our next question ... [Laughing] Yeah, no, you actually stick them up your nose.

Leah: Oh, oh, okay.

Nick: Or, alternatively, depending what cuisine it is, you will put them behind your ears like pencils.

Leah: What I like to do is, it's a really good if you use it as a hair clip. You just flip it around, and stick it through, and then everybody knows you're done because your hair is up.

Nick: Well, usually, that's the resting position. When you're mid-meal-

Leah: Mid-meal.

Nick: -that's where you put it.

Leah: Taking a little break.

Nick: But after the meal, it's either up your nose, or behind your ears.

Leah: Okay, perfect.

Nick: No. The real answer is that there's actually quite a bit of variation with chopstick etiquette, depending on what Asian culture we're talking about. I think if we're in Sydney, Australia, then the best thing to do would be to put your chopsticks together parallel to yourself and then put them on top of your bowl, or your dish, with the points pointing left.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: I think that's like a nice way to leave it. That's what I would do.

Leah: That seems like a very clean, concise, not-in-your-hair answer.

Nick: Yeah, it's an alternative, but, you know, do whatever feels right.

Leah: [Laughing] Nick is so excited to travel with me [Laughing]

Nick: Yeah. Can't wait. Our next question is: "My sister-in-law has a one-and-a-half-year-old son, and he's the only baby in our entire extended family, so he's the center of attention, as he should be. Before he was even born, I set up a 529 savings account for him and make regular contributions to the account instead of just buying him toys. My question is, how do I approach sharing, when I gift in this way? It feels a little weird to say, "I just put a hundred dollars into his education fund." Since my husband and I don't have kids of our own, we are sure to contribute throughout the year to try and get a good savings base rate for him. Should we just silently donate, which is okay by me - I just don't want her to think that we're forgetting about milestones and markers by not sending gifts."

Leah: I thought about this one.

Nick: Well, first, before we even talk about the answer, let's just explain what a 529 savings account is, for anybody who doesn't know. Basically, this is a way that you can put money away tax free. Then, when you take it out of the investment account and you use it for education expenses, then there's no taxable event there. It's a way to grow money tax free if it's used for education. A lot of people do them for their own kids, or kids in their lives because it's kind of a nice thing.

Leah: It's a very nice thing.

Nick: How do we handle this?

Leah: I thought about this from all angles.

Nick: Great!

Leah: My main takeaway, obviously, is that these people really love this child. I think that you can just have the conversation with your sister-in-law and say exactly what you said to us - "We're donating to this. I don't know what the best way to celebrate that with you is."

Nick: Oh, okay. Ask your sister-in-law what she would recommend.

Leah: Just because the only way I feel like the sister-in-law is going to see this is how much they love this child, and they just want to make sure that she knows, and the kid knows that they're celebrating. This is happening regularly, but she doesn't want to say, "Just sent a hundy!" You know what I mean?

Nick: [Giggling]

Leah: What would be a fun way to do that with her? I think that's an okay conversation to have because it's just a really caring gesture.

Nick: I think what we can do is, for any milestone throughout the year - the birthday, the first loose tooth. I mean, I don't know what other things we celebrate throughout the year. Holidays, solstice. You can send a card. "Hey, Toby, hope you had a great birthday. We made a contribution to your savings account. Love, Aunt, and Uncle." I think we could just use the greeting card as our mechanism to let everyone know that we've made a donation, and I think that's fine. Or, I guess, at the end of the year, you could send an accounting to the parents in more of a businesslike way, like, "Hey, just wanted to send you an annual report from the account, so you see where we're at, FYI," and just sort of email them a PDF, once a year. That could be a way just to remind them that you're actually contributing money for them.

Leah: Right. I like the card. I think both are great. I like the card.

Nick: Card is a little nicer. You could also do both. I think you could do both, yeah. I don't think you should be shy about the fact that you're making contributions because, as the family, they should also acknowledge your generosity. They owe you a thank you note for this.

Leah: It's also nice that they know that there is money being put aside for - it's a pragmatic thing for them to know that there's money- besides a kind gesture, money being put aside for education.

Nick: Yeah, yeah. I don't think we want to keep it a secret from them. Let them know. Then, they should send thank you notes, and then, that's how it goes.

Leah: Perfect.

Nick: So, our next question is: "Do you tip on a service that's part of a trade exchange? I'm a graphic designer and recently did some branding work for an acquaintance's cosmetic tattooing business. We agreed that instead of monetary payment, she would do some work on me in exchange for my design services. Do I still tip her for her work? Here's an important detail - the work I did for this person was a couple of years ago, and we're now just getting around to completing the trade. Since that time, the prices for her services have probably doubled, which then leaves a pretty big imbalance between what my work is valued at and the current value of her work. We're talking a couple hundo, at this point. Help!" Ugh, tipping [Giggling]

Leah: I had an immediate response to this.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: My immediate response is I don't think we tip on bartering.

Nick: Yeah, I had that same instinct, too, because bartering is where we exchange goods, or services without money.

Leah: So, there's no money!

Nick: We are directly exchanging the thing.

Leah: Yep.

Nick: We are not using money at all, so we don't want to now introduce money to the bartering system.

Leah: That's how I felt. I don't know where that came from, but it was my 100-percent reaction.

Nick: Yeah, no, I totally feel the same way, so I think we're on to something with that. I think that the trade is on the service, and I don't know if we always necessarily try and exactly calculate the value of the service when we're doing a trade. If I bake an apple pie for you in exchange for you fixing my sink, we're not calculating my hourly rate plus the price of the apples versus the price of the pipe. We're not doing that. It's just like you're doing this discrete thing for me; in exchange, you're going to exchange it. I think our exchange is still good. You did graphic design services. She agreed to do some tattooing for you, and that's it.

Leah: Yeah, I 100-percent agree. Because we agree on this, it isn't an issue, but-

Nick: [Giggling] Great!

Leah: -I think whatever the service costs at the time - if her services cost more now, that's irrelevant.

Nick: It is irrelevant.

Leah: It was what you agreed upon at the time.

Nick: Right. Also, we didn't agree on a dollar amount of service, we just agreed on a service.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: So, the fact that your service price has changed doesn't change because we're not talking about the money of your service. We've only ever been talking about the service, itself. Right.

Leah: I do think that if it's such a - if, in the future, you make another agreement with somebody else, and you still feel uncomfortable about it, I would ask at the beginning, "In your mind, does this include tip?"

Nick: Oh, yes, you could clarify that. Yes.

Leah: I mean, I think this ship has sailed for this, and I think you don't have to worry about tipping, but if you continue to feel anxious about it, if you do another trade in the future, just talk about it in the beginning.

Nick: Yes, but I think if we do want to tip, I think we would tip using the bartering system, as well, and not tip with money; like, "Oh, I want to acknowledge your great effort. Let me buy you dinner. Let me do something for you. Let me bake you a pie. Let me do some other thing for you that's not money because we're going to keep the tip within the bartering system, as well."

Leah: I really like that because the whole point was to not use money.

Nick: Right. Because otherwise, we could have just used money here.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: [Giggling] We didn't, so let's not add money. I think if you do feel, for this instance, that the value of the services makes you uncomfortable, and you really want to do something above and beyond, then you could ask and say, "I understand the value of your services have really changed since we had this bartering deal. I just want to make sure that that's still okay, or if there's more graphic design services I can offer you?" That would be another way to handle it.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Like, how can I increase the value of what I brought to the table before to try and make things equal? They'll probably just say, "Oh, no, it's fine. This is great."

Leah: I also don't even think you have to do that because you made an agreement.

Nick: Right, yeah, and the agreement is good.

Leah: I understand- I can imagine feeling this, too, and I think that what you just said is a great way to handle it.

Nick: Yeah. When in doubt, I guess, have the conversation about it, but-

Leah: I also think you could promote the work after she does it as a sign of extra appreciation.

Nick: Oh, sure. Yeah.

Leah: Send clients her way.

Nick: Yeah. That's always a great way to acknowledge somebody. Yeah, totally. Great. Our next question is: "My wife and I enjoy listening to your podcast very much, and you frequently raise compelling topics worthy of further discussion, but if I make a comment during the episode, I get shushed, so I don't interrupt the next segment. Generally, I agree with the stance of not talking during a performance, but by the end, I might forget which topic I wanted to explore further. What's the best way to handle listening to your etiquette podcast in a group setting? Should we pause? Take notes? Should you, as hosts, pause more frequently to allow breaks for independent side banter, or perhaps leave more detailed show notes, similar to a book club discussion, to refer to after the fact? I realize this question may seem oddly meta, but it is a sincere etiquette concern. Looking forward to your thoughts on this matter." Well, first of all, I'm delighted that you are listening to our show so intently!

Leah: I think it's such a fun visual that they're watching together, and then discussing the topics. I really appreciate the listenership.

Nick: Totally. Which one of you always agrees with me?

Leah: [Giggling]

Nick: That's what I want to know. [Giggling] Are you Team Leah, or Team Nick? We know you have a favorite!

Leah: What's funny is that I don't think of things as Team Leah, or Team Nick, I think of us as a group-

Nick: Yes.

Leah: -and I'm against the idea of Team Leah, and Team Nick because we are a partnership. It's a little bit of something for everybody.

Nick: That is true. So, I guess, can you pause during the show? Yeah, I think let's have consensus. With whoever you're listening with, have a conversation first about, "How are we going to listen to this show?" Agree on what the rules are - are you going to pause any time you feel like it? Are you going to pause only after the end of each question, or are you going to pause only during the musical breaks? Whatever it is, have a conversation about it, and then have some agreement, and then, that's what it is. Take notes along the way [Giggling] The idea that you're going to take notes? To us, it seems a little silly, but if you want to take notes-

Leah: [Giggling]

Nick: -I'm happy for you to. That's wonderful. Also, we always have transcripts of every episode, so you could always print out the transcripts, and follow along, and then write notes in the margins, and use that to debate later on.

Leah: We can't pause.

Nick: We can't pause.

Leah: We can't have dead air. That's actually a number-one rule on any type of radio.

Nick: It would make you very uncomfortable, yes, if we just stopped talking [radio silence] That makes me uncomfortable-

Leah: Like that, right? [Giggling] I just personally felt very uncomfortable [Giggling]

Nick: Yeah. Ew. That feels dirty.

Leah: All the deep, dark thoughts of my life just filled that void [Giggling]

Nick: I need to keep talking to calm the demons.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: But thank you for your attentive listening. Love it!

Leah: I love it! I appreciate that you guys are making it a group event.

Nick: Our last thing is Aftermath.

Leah: [Whisper-shouting] Aftermaaaaaath!

Nick: You may recall, we got a letter from somebody who was waiting on their wedding photos, and they were prodding their photographer to try and get them, and it was like a whole struggle. So, here's the aftermath. "We finally received our photos! They came out absolutely gorgeous, and it was great to be able to share them with our family and friends that couldn't be there. We received several emails from the photographer asking us to post a review, before we received our photos, which we kindly said that we're going to wait until we've received our gallery. The photographer gave us a $100 credit for future prints to make up for being late, but we had to ask twice for her to send us the discount code. Any advice for how to move forward with the reviews?"

Leah: A) I'd like to say I'm very glad that the photos came out fantastic.

Nick: Glad they got great photos. I think there was a chance that you weren't going to ever get your photos [Laughing]

Leah: We'll be honest - we were nervous, and-

Nick: Yeah, really glad you dodged a bullet there.

Leah: Also, the $100 print credit.

Nick: That's nice. Yeah, that's a gesture. I appreciate that.

Leah: Then, I also recalled from this question that this person was recommended through a friend.

Nick: Yes, there was a personal referral.

Leah: Which I think makes a difference with the reviews.

Nick: There is a consideration to be made. Yes.

Leah: Which is why I wrote: "Don't Leave Any Reviews."

Nick: I have come to the same conclusion, but my journey to get there was long.

Leah: [Laughing]

Nick: My first instinct was to seek vengeance.

Leah: [Laughing]

Nick: You have been wronged! This photographer was not professional. You had to beg to get these photos out of this person. They were not on time. They didn't do anything they promised. For that, I want to seek vengeance. This cannot stand! We cannot live in a world in which this is allowed! The first thing I thought was how do we seek revenge? Then, I was like, "Ah, but do you really want to ruin this person's business?" Is that nice? Do they deserve that? Does the punishment fit the crime? I was like, "Well, probably not." Then, also, how satisfying is it, really, when you leave a nasty review? I mean, sometimes it's satisfying, but most of the time, it doesn't really give you that deep sense of satisfaction that we actually wish it did, in which case, yeah ... So, I wrote, "Just don't leave a review."

Leah: It's so funny that we wrote the same thing.

Nick: Yeah. So, we came to the same conclusion.

Leah: I wrote it more because I know they were recommended by a friend of yours.

Nick: Hmm.

Leah: I think that if somebody comes to you and says, "I heard you used this photographer. Would you recommend them?" Then, give them your opinion.

Nick: You're definitely free to be, "Uh, the photos were great, but they weren't on time," and let your person make a decision from there.

Leah: Don't recommend them, but don't leave a negative review. I think that's fair.

Nick: Yeah. And I think if you are going to leave a review, if you just can't help it, then I think your review needs to be very factual; like, "The photos were great," because they were. "They were not as on time as we wanted them to be." That's factual. So, I think you could say that, if you were going to leave a review, but I would just rather let it go. No review. Move on with your life. We're done.

Leah: One time, I felt very aggrieved.

Nick: [Giggling] Okay. Just once?

Leah: Well, aggrieved- I've never left a negative review for anything.

Nick: This is why we're different.

Leah: Some days, I actually have days where I just go through things that I've enjoyed in my life - this is a true thing I do - and I make sure that there are positive reviews on whatever website.

Nick: Oh, so you go on Amazon, and you're like, "I do like this blender!"

Leah: Yeah, that's exactly what I do.

Nick: [Giggling]

Leah: My favorite conditioner, my favorite- I just want those people to know I love this product.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I have nice reviews days. I do it at least once a month, where I just go give nice reviews-

Nick: Once a month?!

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: We are different people.

Leah: I've never left a negative review. One time, I was very angry with somebody somewhere. I went to that website, and I wrote out a review - oh, I did send a letter to a library once, and the problem was solved.

Nick: [Giggling] Okay.

Leah: I'm a great- when it has to be done, but that wasn't a review-

Nick: Sure. Okay.

Leah: -that just- something needed fixing.

Nick: That was a customer service issue.

Leah: I love the library more than anything else in the world, and this needed to be fixed.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: But I wrote the review. I let it sit on my computer-

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Leah: -and then I erased it.

Nick: Okay, so did that give you the same sort of serotonin release?

Leah: Yes. I felt very refreshed, I guess.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: Because I got the [growling rage noise], like, "Why would you ..." out.

Nick: Right.

Leah: Then, I let it sit there. I saw the words, the words saw me back, and then I erased it because I didn't need for- it wasn't that important.

Nick: True. Yeah, if you feel like you want to leave the negative review, at least write it first, let it sit-

Leah: Let it sit.

Nick: -and then decide if it's still worth it.

Leah: I do think it makes a difference that they were recommended by a friend because maybe it's important to that friend.

Nick: Oh, you think it's going to come back to the friend and bite the friend?

Leah: No, I think maybe that friend was like, "That person's my friend. Did you have to do that?" Then, you'll have hurt two people.

Nick: Oh, I see.

Leah: Not that they aren't deserving of it, but just- it might not be worth it.

Nick: Does that cause more drama?

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Right. Yeah. Okay, you have a lot of considerations.

Leah: And I want to say that I'm so happy that our letter-writer followed up with the aftermath because I actually think about these things. They randomly pop into my brain, and I'll be like, "I wonder what happened?"

Nick: Oh, yeah. I'm very interested in knowing how some of this stuff works out. If you want to know how it worked out, let us know. We'll track these people down. If you have questions for us, send them our way. You can send them to us at our website, wereyouraisedbywolves.com, or you can leave us a voicemail, or send us a text message, (267) CALL-RBW (267-225-5729). We'll see you next time.

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!

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