Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tipping Guide: How to Tip for Every Circumstance

Knowing the proper tipping etiquette is important to anyone receiving personal services. These etiquette tips for personal services will provide the reader with gratuity protocol.

“When we can't get away for a vacation, we get the same feeling by staying home and tipping every person that smiles.” I must credit the source of this clever quote to Susie Spanos of the website Famous Quotes and Authors. It whimsically captures the exasperation and confusion we sometimes feel about gratuities or tipping etiquette.

I remember when I took my mother on a trip to Atlantic City. She became frustrated at feeling obligated to put a tip in the tip jar of the Casino’s restroom attendants every time she needed to use the facility. She asked me if it was necessary. I explained to my mother that restroom attendants provide  somewhat of a personal service by maintaining  the cleanliness of the restroom and by being of assistance  when needed. I explained to her that the restroom attendants probably make a very low salary and the tips help supplement that. My mother responded with her typical wry wit, “I’ll give them a tip – Get a different job!”

Not knowing the proper tip to provide for a particular service can make you as confused and exasperated as my mother was in the Casino restroom. This is a guide for those who want to tip and want to know the customary amount. This article covers some of the main tipping options or opportunities.

Tipping at Restaurants and Bars:

It is customary to tip10-15% on alcoholic drinks and 15-20% on food. Tipping 10% on the wine is perfectly acceptable. Deciding whether to tip the wine steward 10 or 15 % for the wine depends mostly on how helpful the server was in choosing the wine and serving it. Tip your waiter/ waitress 15 to 20 %, and tip the same amount for counter service. Your cocktail server and bartender should be tipped 15 to 20%. For free drinks in some Casinos, you should tip one to two dollars per round. It is customary to tip the restroom attendants and coat check attendants one dollar. Don’t feel obligated to tip the busboy unless he had to provide an extra special service such as cleaning up a mess that was above and beyond the call of duty. Tipping the Maitre d’ is unnecessary as well, unless he secures a special table for you or he provides seating for you in a fully booked dining room when you had no reservation. Tipping a musician that visits your table is discretionary, unless he played a special request. If such is the case, it is customary to tip him two or three dollars.

Tipping at Airports and on Amtrak:

If you are unaccustomed to traveling,  knowing when and whom to tip at the airport or on Amtrak can be unsettling. If you are traveling by air, the first place where you will encounter the gratuity dilemma is at the airport. It is customary to tip the porter or skycap two dollars per bag, or more if the bags are heavier than normal. Paying two dollars extra for curbside check-in is discretionary. If you arrive late and the porter or skycap helps you get to your flight on time, tip an extra five to twenty dollars. It is not necessary to tip charter pilots, flight attendants or other in-flight personnel.

If you are traveling by Amtrak, it is recommended that you tip dining car waiters, stewards and bar car waiters 15% of the bill. Tip porters one dollar per bag. If you are traveling in a sleeper birth, tip the sleeping car attendant five dollars per passenger per day.

Tipping at Hotels:

When staying in a hotel, tip the valet or parking attendant one to two dollars for parking or returning your car. If the Doorman or the Bellman for the hotel helps you with your bags in or out of your car, tip him one dollar per bag, but if he carries them to your room, tip him one to two dollars per bag.  If he hails you a cab, one to two dollars is a fair tip. For room service, if the gratuity is not included, tip 15 to 20% of the total bill. Tip hotel maids three to five dollars per day. If you are especially messy, tip up to ten dollars per day. It is customary to tip maids daily because you may have a different maid each day. Be sure to tip on the last day as well. If the hotel Concierge helps you with particularly hard to get theatre tickets or dinner reservations, tip him or her five to ten dollars, which can be made at the end of the stay or at the time of the service.

Tipping on Cruise Ships:

Check cruise ship policy in advance, but most tipping of staff for services rendered is done at the end of the cruise. Tip waiters and cabin stewards three dollars per day, per person. Don’t forget the bus boy. You should tip him $1.50 per person, per day. Tipping the Maitre d’ is optional. Normally a 15% gratuity is automatically added to your bill to cover the tip for the Bar Steward.

Tipping for Ground Transportation:

The customary tip for taxi, limousine, shuttle, or van driver is 15% of the total fare. You may want to tip up to 20% if the driver helps with the bags. Check limousine policy in advance because the rate charged for limos frequently includes gratuity.

Tipping at Hair Salons and Spas:

There are a variety of services offered in hair salons and spas. Tip your hair stylist 10 to 20%. If an assistant other than your stylist shampoos your hair, tip him or her two to five dollars, and make sure you give the tip directly to the assistant. The customary tip for a manicure or facial is 15%. Normally you should tip the spa massage therapist 10 to 15%. If you have purchased a spa package and the gratuity is not included, tip 15 to 20% to be split among the various service providers.

Tipping for Deliveries:

If you are having furniture or appliances delivered to your home, you should tip five to ten dollars per person. For flower deliveries, it is customary to tip anywhere from two to five dollars for normal size flower deliveries. For especially large flower deliveries, tip $20.00. For food and liquor deliveries, you should tip 15%, but never less than two dollars. For your daily newspaper delivery, it is customary to give only a Christmas bonus of $25.00 to $50.00.

Miscellaneous Services:

Tip the person who washed your car at the car wash two to three dollars per car. If your car is an SUV, tip three to five dollars. Tip the groomer of your pet 15% of the bill or two dollars per dog. Tipping pet sitters is discretionary, but if you do, you should tip the sitter 15%.

Tip Jars:

Dealing with tip jars can be really perplexing because we are beginning to see them everywhere. I get particularly perturbed at tip jars on the counter at coffee shops, such as Starbucks. Tip jars are out of place in coffee shops, such as Starbucks, fast food restaurants or any restaurant that does not actually bring your food or drink to your table. Tipping is not necessary in such establishments.

In conclusion, remember that gratuities are discretionary. If you don't think tipping is necessary in certain situations, then don't tip. If you think tipping in general is foolish and a nuisance, then don't tip. Remember, however, that tips help out workers who do a personal service for you. Such workers generally make a low income salary.  Though you aren’t morally obligated to tip, if you are using a service that is commonly known to be a service dependent upon gratuities, such as restaurants, bars, hair salons, valet parking and a few others, then one could argue that you should feel a moral obligation to tip if you were given good service.

Picture credit: Foxumon

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fashion Strategies: Dressing to Look Thinner

Very few women and men are fortunate enough to have a perfect body shape. Some are heavier than they would like to be. Looking thinner is a goal for many women and men. This article addresses how to dress to look thinner. 

It’s imperative that women and men who want to look thinner know how to choose a wardrobe that will help them achieve that result. It’s also important that they know how to wear the chosen outfit correctly. Selecting the right wardrobe can create an illusion that will appear to reshape a person’s body in a more flattering manner.

 Assessing Body Shape or Type

Men and women should analyze their body shape. To do this effectively, they should stand undressed in front of a mirror. In assessing the body shape, there are certain features that should be noted. They should take note of the proportion between the top part of their body and the bottom part of their body. The must observe their bone structure, the width and size of their shoulders, chest, waist, and hips, and the length of their neck. In order to create the illusion of being thinner, people must choose wardrobes that draw attention away from the less flattering part of the body and accentuate the more flattering part of the body.

For Those Who are Heavier on the Top

People with a heavier body type should wear loose fitting tops that gradually taper in hugging the waist and hips. Lighter and thinner fabrics, such as cotton or jersey, are good to wear as they are less apt to add bulk than heavier fabrics would do.  One color choice for the entire outfit will also help to create the illusion of being taller and leaner. They should avoid jackets with shoulder pads. Pleated skirts are a good choice because they tend to draw the eye away from the heavier top part of the body down to the more flattering lower half.

For Those Who are Heavier on the Bottom

People who are heavier in the bottom half of the body could opt for shirts, blouses, or jackets with a bit of shoulder padding. Such a strategy helps to balance the frame of the body. They should choose vertical lines and patterns when opting for an outfit.  People with such a body shape, should wear printed fabrics on the top half of the body. They should opt for longer jackets and tops that completely go below the hips. Such a strategy creates a longer line and serves to hide a heavier bottom. They should choose suits, jackets or shirtwaist dresses that are classically straight in design.  Such choices would better flatter the shape of people who are bottom-heavy.

Flattering Fashions for Those Who are Less Curvy

All women would love to have curvy figures but, unfortunately, not all women have vivacious curves. Ladies lacking curvaceous figures can add breadth and give the appearance of having curves by choosing clothes with prints, patterns, or flowers. 

For Those with Hour-Glass Figures

Some women have hour-glass body shapes. Such women can wear clothes that drape and are looser fitting. Such women can accentuate their slim waist by wearing a beautiful belt.

Slimming Fashions for All Body Types

Petite women are those shorter than five foot four inches. Shorter women should opt for dresses that hit just above or at the knee. A-line dresses, dresses with empire waistlines, and straight-legged pants also help to create a longer and leaner appearance. Men and women should avoid wearing pants with pleats. Such pants serve only to add bulk or girth to the middle of the body. 

People should avoid turtleneck tops. Turtlenecks make the face look wider. V-necks, jewelry and scarves, however, flatter and draw attention to the face.

In conclusion, despite one’s body size or shape, a slimming effect is better created with monochromatic coordination of outfits and color schemes. No matter what type of outfit people choose in an attempt to create a longer and leaner illusion, the choice will be ineffective if they have poor posture. Men and women should remember to stand tall, square the shoulders, and hold the head upright to help elongate the neck.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Finding Sexy Jeans that Fit and Flatter Any Woman’s Figure

Whether you are a teenager, a young woman from Generation X, or a young-at-heart and still attractive, style conscious woman from the Baby Boomer generation, you should not be made to feel that your age and figure must dictate the style of jeans you wear. You can choose any style of jean, from the skinny jean, straight leg, flared leg, boot cut, ultra low rise, low rise, and mid rise to high rise.  Yes, even you older ladies from the Woodstock generation. You were rock and roll then, and rock and roll never dies. As Dylan Thomas poetically phrased it, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” A woman’s advancing age doesn’t mean she is destined to wear polyester pants or jeans with an elastic waist band. Rage against age! Rage against such fashion dictates! Feel free to be as trendy and as sexy in your jeans as you want to be, no matter your age. This article will help you to find the proper fit, to explore the vast universe of fashion designs, and ultimately to choose jeans that will best flatter your figure, give you self-confidence, and make a star quality personal fashion statement about you.
Step 1: Finding the Right Fit
According to Kathy Collins, the director of strategic planning and visual marketing for Lee Apparel, most women try on approximately nine pairs of jeans before finding a pair that fits them to their satisfaction. Because so many brands of jeans have begun offering numerous fits and style choices, women are becoming more discerning. In the past, most jeans were basically cut the same way. They were generally cut high with a small waist, and were big in the bottom with a full thigh and tapered ankle. That kind of style and cut would never flatter anyone’s figure. Such a style is what women with a savvy fashion sense today jokingly refer to as “Mom jeans.” Nobody, not even Mom, wants to settle for having to wear “Mom Jeans”. There are so many styles, cuts, colors and brands available today that women don’t have to settle for unflattering or ill fitting jeans.
For jeans, “the right fit” means that they have to look good from any angle, sitting or standing, and they should never pull or bind. You must consider your body size as well. If you are fortunate enough to be slim, your choices are almost limitless. Slim figures will look good in almost any cut or style –low rise, mid rise, the skinny jean, straight leg, tapered leg, flared or boot cut. If you are a fuller figured gal, you may want to choose a straight leg to give the illusion of a long lean line that will make you appear thinner. Avoid tapered jeans if you are full-figured. Tapered jeans will make your legs look shorter and your hips wider. Even though the low rise and mid rise jeans are sexy, fuller figured women may want to stick with a waist band that is anywhere from a mid rise to a natural waist line rise so that there won’t be any risk of tummy overhang. In my experience, the more I spend on jeans, the better they seem to fit. The more expensive jeans are more structured with better quality denim. They are generally better constructed and, therefore, fit better.
If you are like most women when trying on a pair of jeans, the first thing you do is turn around to see how your derriere looks in the jeans. I have found certain brands flatter the derriere better than others. My personal preference for the most flattering fit of jeans, especially if you want your booty to look spectacular regardless of its size, is Seven for All Mankind jeans. They will cost more than the average jean, but they will flatter your figure better than more economically priced jeans.
Step 2: Exploring the Fashions and Trends in Jeans
Again, don’t let your age dictate your fashion preference in jeans. In choosing a wash or color of jeans, the lighter colors or washes are more informal, and the darker blue washes and black jeans are generally more elegant and worn for somewhat dressier occasions. That’s correct; I used the words “dressier occasions” and “jeans” in the same sentence because they can be simpatico. While you can dress down a light wash jean with a trendy or vintage tee shirt, you can also dress up a darker wash jean with a nice tailored oxford cloth shirt, a soft cashmere sweater, or even an elegant silk blouse. Darker washes are more slimming and a better option for you if you are a fuller figured women. Some jeans have a color wash that allows for streak designs in the fabric. If you have wide hips, you will want to avoid a color wash that has horizontal streaks across the front hip portion of the jeans as this will make your hips look broader.
Most jeans have some sort of logo, design or embellishment on the back pockets. Choose jeans that have an embellishment or design that suits your fashion sense and artistic preference – whether it would be the crystal swirls on some of the styles from Seven for All Mankind to the tattoo designs of the famed tattoo artist Ed Hardy replicated on the jeans created by Christian Audigier.  However, if you have wide hips and a bountiful booty, you might want to avoid a back pocket embellishment that is very large and overwhelming, as it will make your derriere look even larger.
Step 3: Choosing Flattering Jeans that Make a Fashion Statement and Make You Feel Good About Yourself
The low rise, boot cut style is especially sexy and flattering. Be willing to invest more in designer jeans if you truly want a better fit and a more flattering, sexy appearance. Certainly it’s true that you will be paying for the designer name, but the investment will also give you better quality, structure, style and fit.
If you have a difficult to fit figure, even with the more expensive designer jeans, you have another last resort option. The Interactive Custom Clothes Company is a web-based company that custom designs jeans for their customers. The website address is  They use a computer program to create a pattern either from a customer’s measurements or by copying the design of a favorite pair of jeans provided by the customer.
You know now what constitutes “the right fit” and how to choose a cut, rise and style to flatter your figure. You have explored a galaxy of jean fashions and designs available to women today. All that remains is making a choice. A survey done by the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor showed that the majority of women cited appearance, rather than practicality, as the foremost concern when purchasing jeans. So let appearance dictate. No matter your age, choose jeans that fit well, that make a fashion statement, that flatter your figure, and that make you feel sexy and beautifully youthful. And, As Bob Dylan musically stated, “May you stay forever young.”
Remember, regardless of your age, you can make a stylish and spectacular fashion statement in jeans that fit and flatter your figure. As Yves Saint Laurent, famed French fashion designer, once said, “I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.”
Picture credit:  Scott Snyder


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Living Alone: An Increasing Trend for Americans

When Greta Garbo famously said, “I want to be alone.” – maybe she really meant it! Studies show that there has been a major demographic change in America. There has been a significant increase in the number of Americans living alone.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” Apparently some people in America today agree as there has been a sharp spike in the number of Americans who live alone.
Eric Klinenberg, N.Y.U. sociology professor and author of the book, Going Solo, in the New York Times interview, “America – Single and Loving It”, claims that single living is an exploding trend. He feels attitudes toward single living are becoming much more positive and more accepting. In addition, Klinenberg reports that, for some, single living is both a privilege and a liability.  For others in today’s world, he feels single living may be a more desirable lifestyle alternative to cohabitation. 
Statistics on Single Living
According statistics reported in the article, “America - Single and Loving It”, one in seven American adults now live alone. This number is a dramatic increase from the decade of the 50”s. In 1950, only 22% of Americans lived alone, but most recent studies show that today the number has increased to almost 50%. Studies show that approximately 4 out of 10 households are single-person dwellings. In Manhattan alone, nearly half of all households are comprised of just one person.
Why the Number Americans Living Alone is Increasing
The article, “Why More Americans are Living Alone”, reports that the reasons for the increasing trend of single living are varied.  One reason is that so many Americans are unmarried. Others are just finishing their education and embarking on their chosen career paths, and, as a result, are choosing to live alone in their new venture. Still others, who may have never intended to live alone, find themselves doing so due to divorce or death of a spouse or significant other. Finally, there are Americans for whom living alone is a deliberate and much preferred lifestyle choice.
Why Living Alone for Some Americans Doesn’t Mean Being Lonely
It may appear to outside observers that so many singles would be lonely. However, according to the article, “Live Alone? You’re Not Lonely”, contrary to the Beatles lyrical claim, one is not the loneliest number. Those choosing to live alone enjoy the benefit of such simple things as being able to control their own time on their own terms, to eat and sleep when they want, to read or watch television when they want, and to socialize with others of their own choosing whenever they want.
The article further suggests, that, even though there is an increasing trend of Americans  living alone, such a lifestyle  is not normally considered a natural state of affairs. The article suggests that those who choose such a lifestyle and claim to prefer it is a small percentage. The article claims that, because single dwelling goes against our baser instincts, those people who choose and prefer to live alone are just somehow wired differently from those who do not.
Picture credit: Enrica Garroni 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Arming Teachers in School

I was a school teacher for 30 years. As a teacher, just like many teachers, I have willingly fulfilled many duties and responsibilities beyond just teaching. I have mentored, counseled, disciplined, and sometimes served as a peace-maker, negotiator, and even a nurse. I will always remember when we were asked to routinely inspect our students’ heads for lice – not exactly a teaching responsibility, but  I, as most teachers, did it without complaint. But I was never asked to serve in the capacity of an armed security guard within the school.
In the wake of Newtown and other tragic school shootings, the dialogue about gun control again became a topic of controversial political debate.  The suggestion of some to arm teachers also became of topic of debate. The National Rifle Association declared it the best response to serious threats. But even in the most conservative states, most proposals failed in the face of resistance from educators or dire warnings from insurance companies that schools would face higher premiums and liability.
Arming teachers has become a reality in one small school district in Arkansas, however. In strongly conservative Arkansas, gun ownership is common and gun laws are permissive. Even so, no school district in Arkansas had ever used the law to arm teachers on the job, according to the State Department of Education – until Clarksville.  The Clarksville, Arkansas School District has opted to open their school doors for the new school year with teachers locked and loaded, as the expression goes.
Superintendent David Hopkins explained, "We're not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won't have to have unless something happens. We've got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas," Hopkins said. "Hopefully we'll never have to use them as a security guard." Such a statement is worthy of skepticism and scrutiny.
There are dissenters and understandably so. Arkansas Education Commissioner, Tom Kimbrell, is opposed to the idea of arming teachers and staff. He prefers to hire law enforcement officers as school resource officers. There are other dissenters, too. Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association, called the idea of arming teachers awful. “The risk of a student accidentally getting shot or obtaining a gun outweighs any benefits,” she said. "We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," Morey added.
There are dissenters among some of the parents of students in the Clarksville school district, as well. At least one mother cited the program as being one reason she's taking her son, an incoming eighth-grader, out of Clarksville's schools before the school year begins. It is her firm belief that teachers should not make life-or-death choices involving students. "I think police officers are trained to make those decisions, not teachers," she is quoted to have stated.
In response to the national discussion of arming teachers in schools, Kenneth S. Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, stated, "The vast majority of teachers want to be armed with textbooks and computers, not guns." Trump added, "School districts considering arming teachers and school staff with guns would take on significant responsibility and potential liabilities that I firmly believe are beyond the expertise, knowledge-base, experience, and professional capabilities of most school boards and administrators.”
He pointed out that school boards, school superintendents, principals, teachers, school safety experts, and public safety officials, nationwide, don’t believe that educators and school support staff should be armed. "Suggesting that by providing teachers, principals, custodians, or other school staff with 8, 16, 40, or even 60 hours of firearms training on firing, handling, and holstering a gun somehow makes a non-law enforcement officer suddenly qualified to provide public safety services is an insult to our highly trained police professionals and a high-risk to the safety of students, teachers, and other school staff," Trump said.
Trump is a 25-year veteran school safety expert who has trained school and public safety officials from all across the United States and Canada. He suggested that school districts setting policy to allow teachers and school staff to be armed with guns would take on an enormous amount of responsibility and potential liability.
I tend to agree with Trump’s position regarding the controversy of arming school teachers in the classroom. It seems short-sighted on the part of supporters of the idea of arming teachers to believe that teachers who enter a profession to educate and to serve a supportive and a nurturing  role with their students could be expected suddenly to kick into a mindset of shooting and killing someone in a moment’s notice. Law enforcement officers train their entire careers to perform their duties with preparedness and life-safety mindset that is different from the professional training and mindset of teachers, no matter how many hours of gun training the teachers are given in “preparedness” to be locked and loaded in the classroom.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Are Stand Your Ground Laws Safe?

The lethal shooting of Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, has focused national media attention on the Stand Your Ground laws. Are such laws safe?
Since the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, Stand Your Ground Laws have once again become a part of the national discourse. Such laws are in effect in at least 21 states, including Florida, Texas, Idaho and Alaska. The self defense laws, which allow citizens to use deadly force if they fear for their lives, have sparked much controversy since the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Martin, while walking home in his own neighborhood, was shot by a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted of the charges.
Definition of the Stand Your Ground Law
The Stand Your Ground Law allows ordinary citizens to use deadly force if they reasonably believe their safety is threatened. The law applies to such use of deadly force in public places, such as a park or a street. Under the terms of such a law, citizens who reasonably believe their safety is threatened would no longer be restricted by what is commonly called a “duty to retreat.”  The Stand Your Ground law in Florida allows citizens using deadly force to be free from prosecution or civil liability if they acted in self-defense.
Origin of the Stand Your Ground Law
In 2005, Dennis Baxley, a state representative, with assistance from the NRA, managed to get passed the previously unprecedented Stand Your Ground law in Florida. Since then, the NRA has aggressively promoted adoption of similar laws in other states, as well. It is part of the NRA agenda to increase gun-carrying rights.
Stand Your Ground laws have their origins in an old English common law concept known as the “Castle Doctrine” which asserted that the right of self-defense is accepted in one’s own abode. Today’s version of the law extends that right beyond the confines on one’s own home.
Controversy over the Stand Your Ground Law
The Stand Your Ground law, particularly the one in Florida, is now under a cloud of controversy due to the shooting of teenager, Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman who claims he acted in self-defense after a confrontation with Martin. The lethal shooting of Trayvon Martin and the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman has inflamed passions and controversy all across America.
Justifiable homicides by private citizens have been slowly rising nationally since 2005. Some advocates of gun control, including the attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, believe the increase in murders since 2005 draw attention to an increasingly more aggressive mentality of violence on the streets. Some believe the increase is caused partly by Stand Your Ground laws. Those in opposition claim that such laws provide shooters a broader interpretation of self-defense in violent confrontations in public places. Some believe that such an extensive interpretation can open a “Pandora’s Box” of unjustifiable killings in the name of self-defense. Attorney General, Eric Holder, recently condemned such laws citing that such a broad expansion of the self defense concept could escalate violent and deadly encounters.
Juvenile Justice Information “NRA Pushed ‘Stand Your Ground’Laws Across the Nation”
Picture credit: Anne Runia