Is an Email Thank You Enough? Five Tips to Craft a Memorable Thank You Note
January 29, 2016
Yes, email and texts have eclipsed letters and telephone calls in our global economy. The world has moved on, and email thank you notes are appropriate for many occasions. However, if you have received a gift from a business associate, client, or colleague, business etiquette requires a handwritten note.
All etiquette experts agree on one thing: handwritten thank you notes are brilliant, elegant, and absolutely necessary. When the giver sets aside both time and funds to select and send a special gift, spending 10 minutes and a forever stamp to say thanks is a relationship-building opportunity. Email, Facebook messenger, Snapchat, text, and bitmoji are lightning-fast, but we all know: they’re free and easy, which makes them less valuable as gestures.
So what makes a memorable note? Today I received a timely handwritten thank you note from the organizer of a Global Etiquette training session. My eyes were naturally are drawn to the handwriting because it stood out in the mass of pre-printed envelopes. This envelope had lots of texture, with the return address imprinted on the envelope flap, and the thoughtful note inside was written on custom stationery:
Thank you for coming to train my scholarship students. They enjoyed your International Etiquette session so much, and have already been talking about using your suggestions in their interviews. When they return to campus next week we will be talking about resumes and interviews, so your information was great. I so appreciate the gift of your new book Access to Asia. It was so thoughtful of you to give it to me – and it is such a useful gift for me to have for these students.
With much appreciation,
Susie’s note includes all of the touch points that are so important in a personal thank you note. So what can you take away from Susie’s note to make yours just as special?
1. Send Thanks for a Gift or Gesture: A note should be sent when someone does something special or goes out of their way for you. The note can be as short as three sentences and should be sent when someone:
- Gives you a gift for a holiday, birthday, bar mitzvah, wedding, or baby shower
- Sends you a special delivery of cake balls, flowers, or Korean pears
- Hosts a banquet, party, dinner, shower, or soiree in your honor
- Invites you to a party, concert, symphony, SXSW, opera, gala, or Vienna ball
- Invites you for a stay in their home, beach or lake house, ranch, or yacht
- Writes a business recommendation or reference
- Refers a client or business
2. Invest in Personal Stationery: Clothes may make the man; however, with thank you notes, high quality stationery makes the best impression. Select the best quality stock you can afford, and customize stationery with your monogram or logo. Avoid cute, informal, or over-done designs that don’t translate well across borders.
3. Be Short, Sweet & Specific: Use the following formula: Specifically mention the gift received, the introduction, the gracious act, how they positively impacted you or your business, your future plan, and repeat your appreciation. The note can be short and sweet. ‘Thank you for coming to train my scholarship students’ ‘I am so appreciative of the gift of your new book Access to Asia…’ Be sure to mention why you like the gift: ‘They enjoyed your International Etiquette session so much.’ State your future plans: ‘and it is such a useful gift for me to have for these students’ ‘When they return to campus next week we will be talking about resumes and interviews…’
4. Sign with a Flourish & Mail: Sign with action words like ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Kindest regards,’ which are formal and standard in international circles. Domestically, closing with an informal ‘All my best’ or ‘Best regards’ is common, while ‘Best’ is passé. Mail the note within 24-48 hours.
5. International Gifts: Now, what about those international gifts? Should I text a ‘gift received’ confirmation to the sender before mailing a handwritten note? Can we update analog etiquette rules for digital relationships? I am frequently asked, “Can I skip the handwritten note and just send an email?”
Peter Post, the Chairman of the Board of the Emily Post Institute and author of Essential Manners for Men, and I chatted about this quandary. Peter advises, “Don’t presume an email was successfully received; it may have been blocked by a spam filter or firewall, or end up in someone’s trash folder.”
When a gift is received, send a short text along the lines of “Thanks, received your gift and looking forward to opening it!” Avoid the awkwardness, and send a text before the handwritten note to avoid that dreaded question “Did my package arrive?” This is especially helpful when you expect to have multiple points of contact with the person before the note arrives. Even if you mail a note on the day the gift is received, the speed of Wi-Fi wins every time.
Think of handwritten notes as an opportunity to build the relationship, not an obligation, People open handwritten notes before other mail to save and display them. Digital communication gets deleted and handwritten gets saved. Would you rather be remembered or deleted? In the day of insta-everything, it’s okay to thank twice.
Photo credit: ©iStock: Avava
Sharon Schweitzer is a cross-cultural consultant, international etiquette expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, a regular contributor to CBS, NPR and Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., the New York Times, Bangkok Post and numerous others. She is the best-selling, international award winning, Kirkus acclaimed author of Access to Asia. For more of Sharon’s insight, follow her on www.twitter.com/austinprotocol and www.facebook.com/protocolww.
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Holiday Tipping: a Foolproof Guide by an Etiquette Expert
December 03, 2015
Among the many holiday customs we observe in the U.S., one is spending up a storm. This holiday season, U.S. consumers spent a reported $12.93 billion on Black Friday, and $16.2 billion on Small Business Saturday. On Cyber Monday 2015, a record $3.07 billion was spent online. But there’s another custom to factor into your holiday budget: tipping. The custom was brought to our shores by the wealthy, who learned it while on their jaunts in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s since become customary to give a holiday tip to many of those who provide services, from the babysitter to the manicurist to the dog walker to the garage attendant.
But there’s still confusion surrounding how much, and who, to tip. The bottom line is that there’s no hard and fast rule, but thanking someone by giving them a holiday tip is always good etiquette. You just have to fit it into your own budget and abilities.
Here’s a quick guide to the what, who, when and how much of holiday tipping:
1. Show your gratitude with a holiday tip. Unlike in other cultures, in the U.S., we traditionally thank service providers with holiday tips. Remember the reason for the tip is to show gratitude and to say thank you to loyal and trusted employees, service providers and family care givers. The time from Thanksgiving to New Years is when we take the opportunity to thank those who assist us year-round.
2. Make a list and check it twice: Prioritize your most important service providers. If someone’s work eases your life immeasurably, that individual should be at the top of your holiday tip list. Tip based on loyalty, and how regularly you see the person. The trusted housecleaner, the dependable au pair or nanny, and the caregiver for a parent, might receive more than a service provider you see less frequently. Carefully consider all.
3. Stay within your budget: Holiday tipping is not an obligation. It is based on your personal financial status, along with your relationship with the trusted provider. Take the time to determine an appropriate amount within your budget. Avoid overspending, stay within your budget and do not overextend yourself. January bills are not forgiving!
4. Handwrite a note of appreciation: Be sure to include a short (2 or 3 sentences) and personalized handwritten thank-you note with your gift. In the note, express your appreciation and gratitude for the recipient’s loyalty and assistance throughout the year.
5. Be creative: Handmade cards are memorable, personal touches that add to the holiday spirit. When giving a tip, consider including a special treat, such as something crafted by a local artisan, a bar of fragrant, organic soap, votive candles, or gourmet coffee or fine tea. Fresh flowers or floral arrangements are always welcome as well.
6. Let the children participate. It’s not necessary to give both cash and a gift, but in some cases, your child may want to give a gift too, such as to a babysitter, nanny, or au pair. Don’t discourage it: let them give their own card, or small gift. Some suggestions to go along with that:
• Live-in nanny or au pair, tip up to a week’s pay
• Babysitter, tip up to an evening’s pay
• Staff in a day care center, tip between a week and a month’s pay.
7. Spread the gratitude around. In our complicated lives, there are many to thank for their assistance. Some rules of thumb for services:
• Hair stylist and man-pedi-specialist, tip up to the equivalent of a visit
• Barber, tip up to the equivalent of a haircut and a shave, or give a gift
• Massage therapist and personal trainer, tip up to the equivalent of a session, or give a gift
• Groomer, tip up to the equivalent of one session, or give a gift
• Sitter, tip up to a week’s pay and a paw print note “signed” by your pet
Home, property / building, and garage:
• Live-in help, such as a cook or butler, tip the equivalent of a week to a month’s pay, plus a gift
• Housekeeper — if they come once a week, tip the equivalent of a day’s pay, or $50. If they come (daily), tip the equivalent of a week’s pay, and possibly add a gift as well
• Gardener, tip up to the equivalent of a week’s service
• Landscaping crew, tip up to the equivalent of a week’s service, divided among the crew
• Pool cleaning crew, tip up to the equivalent of one cleaning session, divided among the crew.
• Garage attendant, tip between $15 and $40, or give a small gift
• Garbage / recycling attendants, if permitted by the city, give $10 – $30 each for extra effort during the holidays
• Doorman, tip between $50 – $100 each, of give a gift, depending on extra duties
• Elevator Operator and Handyman, tip between $20 – $50 each
• Newspaper delivery person, tip $10 – $35, or give a small gift
• Private health care nurse, tip the equivalent of up to a week’s pay, or a gift of similar value
• Home health employee, tip with a generous gift basket of holiday treats, but be sure to follow the agency’s policy
• Nursing home employees, provide a gift that can be shared by all the staff, but be sure to follow the nursing home’s policy
There are others to consider when making your holiday tip list as well. Many parents get together to give a gift to their child’s teacher at school, and depending on school policy, you may want to extend your thanks to the teacher’s assistant and others too. And you’ll also want to make sure to tip your delivery people, from the mail carrier to the FedEx and UPS driver. Always check the company policy — for instance, any food gifts worth over $20 for a USPS person must be shared with the whole post office branch, and mail carriers are not allowed to receive cash or its equivalent — or, for that matter, food that is part of a meal. They will appreciate a hot cup of sugar-free hot chocolate!
10 Holiday Party Tips from Business Etiquette Expert
November 25, 2015
We all know there are parties that we look forward to, while others fall into the category of (yawn) obligation. From happy hours to formal dinners to buffets, what makes the good ones special, while others fall flat?
It’s not just the style and personality of the hosts that makes the party. Much hinges on their sense of business etiquette. From black tie affair to cocktails, it’s the warmth, enthusiasm, and overall spirit that count—and that includes keeping etiquette in mind. Even what you call the party can make or break its success. If you call it a Christmas party, it may not sound as inclusive as a Holiday party.
Here are my top 10 etiquette tips for making your holiday business party a success:
1.Carefully craft and manage the invitations.
Invitations in both electronic and printed form should be sent 21 days in advance. Include all the vitals on the invite, especially RSVP specifics, attire, start and end time, and who is (and who is not) included. Can guests bring spouses and children? Clarity saves confusion. Then follow up with non-responsive guests, in case their invitations got lost in the holiday crush. This year’s modified postal system may also present new challenges.
2. Pay attention to the guest list.
Plan your guest list early and carefully. If your party includes clients, consider circulating an internal email before the party that includes all of your best clients’ photographs with short bios. Be sure your staff is prepared to visit with top clients and inquire about their interests and industry news. Boasting about your own accomplishments is not only boring, it’s inappropriate.
3. Factor your co-hosts into logistics.
Often with corporate parties, there are multiple co-hosts—owners, partners, and directors, for instance. Make sure the event reflects well on everyone. Should it be held during the day or in the evening? Consider the flow of alcohol and what kind of food will be served, and make sure it’s replenished often. There will be different guests invited by each host, so make sure everyone feels welcome.
4. Nosh like an etiquette pro.
Eat a small amount of protein just before the event so you’re not playing host on an empty stomach. If a client insists you join them in a buffet, don’t place more than three items on your plate, and avoid eating in the buffet line. With passed hors d’ oeuvres, pick up the item with a toothpick or tongs and place on a napkin or plate first, and then place it in your mouth. Avoid the temptation to remove food from the server’s tray and pop it directly into your mouth!
5. Greet guests with warmth.
Think like a happy guest! Provide a warm and friendly environment. Choose music of an appropriate genre, played at a volume that allows for conversation. When guests arrive, make sure they’re greeted warmly. With hired photographers, provide a company escort so they can capture the right shots. Designate specific areas for the photographer, gifts, and coats. To keep security tight, provide a single entry.
6. Make impeccable introductions.
It is the host’s responsibility to make sure that guests are introduced to each other. A good introduction includes adding something of interest about each person to start the conversation, such as, “Jamie handles our social media efforts,” or, “Jason is our creative website designer.” Then excuse yourself while the guests take it from there.
7. Mingle, circulate, and mix.
Hosts are mobile ambassadors expected to work the room and participate in the party, so mix, mingle, and enjoy! There is nothing worse than going to a party where the host gloms onto one or two people the entire time. Instead, give personalized attention to as many guests as possible: they’re here because you invited them, and they want to visit with each host for a few minutes.
8. Be discreet but firm with woozy guests.
Even when the drinks are not overly strong and there is plenty of food, be prepared for the inebriated guest. Before the party starts, advise the bartenders to refuse to pour alcohol for an inebriated person. Instead, instruct them to pour a substitute beverage, while calling you to the bar. Then, privately tell the guest that the bartenders won’t serve them. Be firm but discreet. Send them to their home or hotel safely via Uber or taxi. The next day, the guest will be thankful you saved them from further embarrassment.
9. Be gracious with uninvited guests.
Among those little surprises that inevitably occur will be the appearance of additional guests. Be gracious. If an invited guest brings along three unexpected friends, despite what the invitation indicated, don’t turn them away. Welcome them. Although it was discourteous for your guest to take the liberty of bringing guests along, it’s better to roll with it. Remember the mantra: ‘Blessed are the flexible, for they never get bent out of shape!’
10. Send them off with warmth and acknowledge hostess gifts.
If one of the hosts cannot personally do so, be sure to designate an appropriate person to thank departing guests at the door. He or she should stand near the exit, ready to say goodbye and thank each guest for attending. It may be appropriate to offer a party favor or a bottle of water. If you know the guest brought a gift, make sure to thank them. While small hostess gifts don’t require a written thank you note, more elaborate gifts do.
Preparing well and thinking like a guest will ensure the success of your holiday party. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you hosted a memorable event. Master these modern holiday party manners, and you will succeed! Your guests will go beyond thanking you—they will clear their calendars to ensure they can attend every year!
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. Schweitzer is accredited in intercultural management, is a regular on-air contributor and has been quoted by Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., the New York Times, Bangkok Post and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning Author of Access to Asia. For more of Sharon’s insight, follow her on www.twitter.com/austinprotocol and www.facebook.com/protocolww.