It’s been hard to escape the topic of the novel coronavirus as it affects all aspects of our lives. This week I respond to COVID-19 conundrums sent in by readers with an emphasis on supporting local business.
Question: My family has been ordering takeout and delivery from local restaurants along with curbside grocery pickup. How much do I tip and how? — Santa Fe
Answers: Kudos to you for wanting to recognize these essential workers for making our lives run smoothly during these unprecedented times. The hospitality and service industries have reopened with employees taking great risk going back into the workplace while also taking on the learning curve of COVID-19 safety measures.
When ordering takeout, call the restaurant directly or use a locally owned delivery service such as Dashing Delivery. When using a mobile ordering app, keep an eye out for where to leave a gratuity, which is often at the end of the transaction and can be customized. Bear in mind that a service and delivery fee is not a gratuity. Keep a stash of small bills available and offer money in an envelope, as handling cash comes with a mixed response. Before COVID-19, it was common to tip 20 percent for average service when dining in and 10 percent when picking up your own takeout order. During the pandemic, the trend has been to tip at least 5 percent higher, given the risk to the workers and the thought being that if we can afford to order from a restaurant, we can afford to tip properly.
I reached out to restaurateur Erin Wade, of Vinaigrette and Modern General, for her feedback and it gave me pause.
She said, “One of the great myths of to-go is that it’s less work than in-house for servers. This isn’t really true. Even outside of a global pandemic, the work the bartender, host or server does to organize, check and pack your order for consumption outside of our four walls is more than people realize. And right now, there are enhanced cleanliness and sanitization protocols that every server and restaurant are practicing and way more for to-go orders.”
Another way to show your appreciation is to write a glowing review online, especially when it’s not policy for a worker to accept a tip. When an app asks you to rate the driver, follow through. But be sure not to penalize a grocery shopper for out-of-stock items, which is out of their control.
Say what you will about tipping and the need for a living wage, but now tips matter more than ever, so it’s not a time to be stingy, especially when you consider these people are putting themselves in harm’s way so you don’t have to. In the end, tip what you can and those in a position to tip more should.
◆ Takeout order: 15 percent to 25 percent.
◆ Food delivery: 15 percent to 25 percent but not less than $5.
◆ Curbside grocery: varies from 20 percent for those who can to $1 to $2 per bag to $5 per pickup.
◆ Grocery delivery: 10 percent to 20 percent.
Question: We are renovating our bathroom ourselves but hired plumbers for part of the project. When they arrived, they weren’t wearing masks. I didn’t know what to say and just went outside to wait while they did their work. How could I have handled it differently? — Chicago
Answer: Something similar happened to me recently when I asked a handyman to come by for an estimate. He arrived at the door with no mask. I called out, asking in a friendly tone, “Do you have a mask?” assuming he simply forgot, but since he was coming inside my home, I wanted to feel safe.
We have a responsibility to one another, job sites are often in tight quarters and the virus is aerosolized, lingering for hours. Construction sites come with inherent risk, hence the need for safety measures and protective equipment. A mask is now just part of the protocol.
I’ll admit I’ve had to build up my confidence this spring and summer to assert my boundaries, but mask wearing is common enough that a firm request should not come out of left field.
To avoid those awkward moments in the future, share your job site rules when hiring by mentioning a “no mask, no pay” policy. Ask them to sign a social responsibility form before work commences. These demands may not hold up in a court of law, but it may weed out those who don’t take COVID-19 safety seriously.
If you’re already in the midst of a project, remind those who forget with a neutral tone. I have a box of disposable masks at the ready to offer. Contact employers and write online reviews about their responsiveness. If need be, set a meeting to discuss withholding payment. This is your health, your project and your money. Be firm in your stance.
Question: Even though celebrating special occasions with friends and family is on hold during the pandemic, birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones still pass by. I want to be more creative in sourcing gifts and feel disloyal to the businesses in my community by ordering from websites like Amazon. But I am on a budget, not ready to go indoors to shop yet and many of the recipients live elsewhere. What are my options? — Santa Fe
Answer: It’s generous of you to acknowledge the significant moments of those close to you with a gift. We are all pushed to think outside the box this year. Many small retailers have had to reinvent themselves by creating more content on their websites, offering local delivery and upping their personalized service.
Start by contacting a local shop or one in the same city as the recipient. Explain that you are looking for a gift in a certain price range, the occasion and age of the recipient and ask what delivery options are available to you. If you are stumped for ideas, let the retailer guide you based on the knowledge of their inventory. Your gift will have an impact on your loved ones and you might save a business in the process.
Local children’s boutique Indigo Baby expanded its services after the initial COVID-19 shutdown because it was located in a shopping mall, forcing it to remain closed longer to foot traffic. Owner Katie Hyde began offering curbside pickup, free gift wrapping, free delivery and shipping. Customers would contact her over the phone or through social media and she would get back to them with photos and prices. “We drove all over the state and people were so wonderful and happy to help,” says Hyde. “Santa Fe moms saved the store. I tear up every time I think of it.”
Rural retailers are struggling, too, with fewer tourists visiting and locals staying close to home. Cerrillos Station, located in a sleepy village 30 minutes south of Santa Fe, used the shutdown to list its inventory on its website and offer curbside pickup. “We are striving to make the shopping experience a safe and easy outing,” says owner Barbara Briggs. “We’re conscientious and the physically smaller space gives us more control of the environment. These big-box stores are going to make it through, but the small shops are the economic engine of this country.”
A simple greeting card or postcard is a thoughtful gift for the joy the written word brings. While it’s certainly economical, the investment you make by purchasing stamps and using the United States Postal Service are invaluable to it at this time. When those options aren’t available, I recommend the good old-fashioned telephone. I feel people’s expectations are relaxed when it comes to receiving gifts under the circumstances.
During this year of staying in place, human connection is needed in whatever form we can get. The sound of the voice of someone near and dear is sure to bring a smile and the feeling of closeness we crave. Sometimes the greatest gifts are the simplest.
Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Share your comments and conundrums at email@example.com or 505-988-2070.