Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Etiquette journal: Moving help

So many people are moving in and out of our neighborhood, and I have been thinking about my experience moving out to New York.

When Gabby's brother, Jared, and I drove across country and arrived at our new place in New York, we were welcomed by members of the Elder's Quorum. We were exhausted after driving 10+ hours a day for the last four days. One of the helpers brought a Dominos Pepperoni pizza and a two liter bottle of Sprite and said: "You guys must be exhausted and hungry, why don't you sit down, eat some pizza and take a break, we'll start hauling in the boxes." This was of course extremely nice. They brought in a considerable number of boxes, and we joined them after a much appreciated rest and, of course, we appreciated that they brought some much needed food.

As Jared and I considered this, we thought how nice these strangers were, and how nice it was to be able to arrange an arrival time, and how reassuring it was to talk with a contact on our way out; we checked in regularly, and made a point to be available should they need pertinent information--such as contact numbers, food preferences, etc. to make for a smooth experience.

A couple thoughts occurred that hopefully can help in thinking about moving etiquette: I love pizza, EVERYONE knows that. I also like soda. Now if you were to ask me if I like sprite, I would answer: "Yeah. It's great." If you asked me: "What is your favorite soda?" That is easy too: root beer. By that same token, if you were to ask me if I like pepperoni pizza, I would answer: "Yeah. It's great." "What's your favorite pizza?" Easy: pepperoni and sausage.

So we were in contact with a person who arranged these helpers. We loved the pizza and the Sprite. I guess my question is this: How hard is it, really, how hard is it to make a simple request, like: "Hey, we're gonna be bringing some pizza and soda...what do you like on your pizza? How about soda--do you have a favorite? Really, is it much more difficult to ask what someone likes? It's just a simple--what do you like on your pizza? What's your favorite drink? That's it. Simple. And you know what? It can make a world of difference. It's etiquette, plain and simple.

We are still SO GRATEFUL for the plain pepperoni pizza and the sprite. Yet, I can't help thinking what our experience would have been like had they asked 2 simple questions: We arrive, a stranger brings OUR FAVORITE pizza, and OUR FAVORITE soda. NOW, I would feel really welcomed--who wouldn't?


  1. ben, i'm glad you brought this up to be discussed. It was good pizza, that's for sure. the soda was good too. Was it great pizza? great soda? That's debatable.
    On the one hand, total strangers taking time out of their busy NYC lives in the heat of an NYC August to come help complete strangers move all their belongings into a hot un-airconditioned house, that is nice.
    Additionally, bringing food and anticipating our possible needs, not to mention footing the bill for said needs, that is nice.
    But like you, sprite is not my favorite drink, that is Welch's grape. I sure could have drank a can of Welch's grape that day, but was there any provided? nope, just sprite. Was that thoughtless? I guess that's a matter of opinion.
    I don't tend to help people move in(like to wait to see if we get along) so i don't know how those things work, but if i did go i definitely would make sure that someone got a soda of the kind they liked, but that's just the kind of person i am.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Jared, I definitely want to be careful to not come off as judgmental. I definitely would not say that just assuming that we would want sprite was thoughtless. Perhaps that decision or action was not as thoughtful as it could have been, but maybe noone is as thoughtful as they could be. What strikes me the most is how easy it would have been to learn our favorite sodas and pizza toppings, that's all.

  4. Ben, you've finally crossed the line. I had thought that your selfishness knew no bounds when you left my move early to go camping with your daughters. Now I see that your selfishness is infinite. Does that make you perfectly selfish? Is this a step in the right direction for your impending translation?

  5. Well that bring us to this point, does the one moving in not share in the responsibility to divulge one's personal favorites?

    I mean, how hard would it have been to answer "Yeah I like pepperoni pizza but what I really could go for is a top sirloin steak, medium rare, with a baked potato and a nice green salad with fat free ranch dressing!" Or "Yeah I like Sprite but what would really hit the spot would be a couple of sodas that are only available in Russia called _____. You can order them online at______!" (This can also really help establish that your standards are really high, and it makes you seem interesting and exciting.)

    When someone is asking if one likes a certain dish, it should be viewed as an open invitation for requests. Unless they explicitly ask for approval, such as, "We're bringing pepperoni pizza for you, is that okay?" But you should know that if question is phrased "Do you like ______?" you have a responsibility to let that person know what you really want.

    Now, if someone asks in way akin to "We're bringing pepperoni pizza for you, is that okay?" this awkward situation can be side stepped by saying "I guess that would be okay, but I heard about this really nice place to eat in New York called _______. Could we have something from there instead?" If I am giving a gift I want it to be the right gift. I know I would appreciate the input.

  6. Salem: #1, they never asked if they could bring pizza, or if I would like it if they did, which is ok. But if they were going to be bringing pizza anyway, they couldn't just ask what I like on my pizza? Is it really that hard?

    #2: You write:

    "When someone is asking if one likes a certain dish, it should be viewed as an open invitation for requests..."

    No, it shouldn't. To inquire into what someone likes does not equate to asking for requests that you will then bring them. If so, then your odd conclusions might be right. But, if you are already bringing pizza to someone(something that happens regularly), it is easy (and I would say common sense, and proper etiquette) to ask what that person wants on the pizza. Same thing goes for sodas. Nothing complicated here.

    #3: You suggest, in response to the hypothetical proposal: "We're bringing pepperoni pizza, is that ok?"

    "I guess that would be okay, but I heard about this really nice place to eat in New York called _______. Could we have something from there instead?"

    That seems to me to be going way too far. Are people who are helping others move in required to then take the move-ins out to the restaurant of their choice? That sounds a bit far-fetched. If someone gave your response, when I posed that proposal, I would immediately drop whatever box (or corner of furniture that I was holding at the moment) wherever I was, kick it, and then walk away and never talk to that person again except in insulting ways for my whole life. So no, I don't think that side-steps the problem. The problem was in posing it as "We're bringing pepperoni pizza..." Why not: "We're bringing pizza, what do you like on yours?"

    I really like your strategy for appearing interesting. I think I might use it.

  7. I'm having flashbacks . . . . sitting in St. George house (cause it's too hot to go outside) . . . and having nothing better to do than play the argument game. That was a pretty sneaky way to get your fan base to play.

  8. So lets get this straight, did they or did they not tell you there would be pizza when you got there? Either way, why is it wrong to be forward about your expectations(my way), yet proper(as you suggest) to expect them to cater to your specific tastes? That is like not telling the movers where you want the boxes put until they ask you. It is implied that they are there to help, they volunteered their time, assuming they are there to help, by being more forward in your approach all can be assured that the service delivered is the service desired.

    Finally, where is the line then? What line was crossed that would make you drop the persons belongings? Again, are you there to provide a service that you desire or that the person does? Someone once helped us move and dropped a box pretty hard when they brought it in the house. They obviously did not care about what I wanted(the box set nicely on the floor) they only cared about what they wanted(their back to be functional the next day). What is appropriate to ask for and what is not?

  9. Paul and I try not to answer any phone calls from the Compassionate Service Leader or the Elders Quorum President. That way we never have to help anyone. I would rather order someone a pizza than lift boxes.

  10. Mom in Mendon8:27 PM

    This is not an Argument Game type response. Sorry. I was just reminded of our move into our first house in Riverside, CA, about 1973. Our neighbor, Dorothy Evans, brought over a tray with a pot of fresh coffee, cups, cream and sugar, etc. I always loved her for that.

  11. Jared, I just had a grape soda today, and I couldn't help but think how great that would have tasted had one been provided back in '01.

  12. Ben, I am tired of this. You are taking no responsibility in the matter at all! I mean when one gives a gift, pizza, drinks or otherwise, they likely want it to be the right gift. You really should have let those people know what you wanted. If it is not part of the etiquette journal it should be.

  13. Dominos? That is like a kick in the teeth where I come from. Ordering Dominos is like the LEAST a person can do. You know when they say, "it's the least I can do"? Well ordering Dominos Pizza is literally defined as the LEAST a person can do. Thay guy might as well have called your mama a dirty name.