Dispatches from SxSW, Part 7: Are You a Good Guest or a Vexing Visitor?

A Special Guest Post from Hilary Robinson

Hilary Robinson has style, grace and panache, which makes me wonder why she hangs out with a questionable character such as Yours Truly. I’ve known that she’s a world-travelling event planner extraordinaire for a long time, but only recently discovered that she also has her own business, MAJ Communications, a company that specializes in teaching business etiquette. If you’re a young entrepreneur looking to cut a deal with “suits” but don’t know the protocol, how to speak to them or are always wondering which fork to use at a business lunch, Hilary can help you! Take a look at her site, or if you prefer, drop me a line and I’ll introduce you to her.

As I write this, I’m staying at a condo that I’m renting via AirBnB. I suggested to Hilary that she should write an article about AirBnB guest etiquette, since it’s a relatively new frontier for good manners. She was only too happy to oblige, and the end result is below. If you’re booking a place to stay through AirBnB, make sure you read this!

Are You a Good Guest or a Vexing Visitor?

For this year’s SxSW Joey, with his usual flair for keeping things fresh and interesting, is skipping the typical hotel room and trying out  – a space finding service that connects hosts who have spaces to rent with guests who are looking for a unique travel experience.  The service places guests in private homes (with or without the owners there) so it encourages host and guest to build a connection through social media, and relies on feedback and recommendations – all this got Joey and I talking about the merits of being a good guest.

So, whether you’re staying with friends, family or a in rental property, these few dos and don’ts will get you asked back or get good feedback…

Do…tell your host what time you will arrive – give them your itinerary if your trip involves planes, trains, etc.

Don’t…be late.  If you are, find a way to let everyone know.

Do…bring a little something for your host – it shows you appreciate the invitation.  Kitsch or useful; extravagant or simple; edible, drinkable or decorative…it doesn’t matter as long as it’s thoughtful.

Don’t…drink the house dry (ok, depending on the friends and circumstances this might fall under a “try not to…”).

Do…bring a bottle or two…not the cheap stuff.

Do…offer to help – cook if you’re good at it, do the dishes if you’re not.

Do…make your bed (and make your mother proud).

Do…take the dog for a quick walk or amuse the kids for half an hour to give your host a break.

Don’t…forget that your host has gone to some effort to feed, water and entertain you….so don’t treat their home as a hotel.

Do…treat your host to a night off – cook, order in or take them out.

Don’t…leave a trail of destruction behind you.

Do…tidy the bathroom after your morning makeup or shave.

Do…leave your room/space neat and tidy when you finally leave.

Don’t…outstay your welcome.

Do…if you have the room, reciprocate the invitation.

Don’t…Don’t…Don’t…forget to say thank you!

DO…DO…DO…send a thank you note (handwritten!) at the very least – even better: send a bouquet of flowers or small gift basket filled with favourite nibbles and tipples.

Do…apply the above to rentals and rental hosts as well.

Remember to…up the ante if you’re staying for longer than a couple of nights.

It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a start – and if you combine these suggestions with your own flair then not only will you be a great guest, a virtuous visitor, and considerate company but you’ll have a good time and be asked back!

Life Music

Also Known as the Ten Commandments of High School

Photocopied list: "The Ten Commandments of Rock and Roll - 1. Suck up to the top cats / 2. Do not express independent opinions / 3. Do not work for common interest, only factional interests / 4. If there's nothing to complain about, dig up some old gripe / 5. Do not respect property or persons other than band property or persons / 6. Make devastating judgements on persons and situations without adequate information / 7. Discourage and confound personal, technical or creative projects / 8. Single out absent persons for intense criticism / 9. Remember that anything you don't understand is trying to fuck with you / 10. Destroy yourself physically and morally and insist that all true brothers do likewise as an expression of unity"

A reader named Simon sent this photo to Boing Boing, saying that he took this picture of the Ten Commandments of Rock and Roll while visiting an old roadie’s house, as he regaled him with stories of working with The Who and Iron Maiden.

They could just as easily be the Ten Commandments of High School. Or the Ten Commandments of the Working World, since the working world is often like high school, just with more money.

I much prefer Henry Rollins’ rules for live rock musicians:

"Listen to the stage manager and get onstage when they tell you to. No one has the time for your rock star bullshit. None of the techs backstage care if you're David Bowie or the milkman. / When you act like a jerk, they are completely unimpressed with the infantile display that you might think comes with your dubious status. / They were there hours before you, building the stage, and they will be there hours after you leave, tearing it down. They should get your salary, and you should get theirs. -- Henry Rollins"

Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

The Toronto Transit Civility Commission’s Etiquette Poster Campaign

The folks at Posted Toronto, the National Post’s Toronto-centric blog, have come up with a clever idea: The TTCC – the Toronto Transit Civility Commission. Their mission is to remind people who use the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission, Accordion City’s public transit system, comprising the subway, light rail, buses and streetcars) that etiquette isn’t just for fancy dinner parties, but for everyday living, which includes riding public transit.

They’ve created a series of posters that provide riders with gentle reminders that good manners make for a good experience for their fellow transit riders. Better still, these posters are beautifully done, with far more design sensibility than anything the TTC has produced in this transit user’s vast memory.

Here are the posters – you can click on any of them to download a full-resolution, printable version:

TTCC Poster: Hand using nail clippers with caption "Seriously?"

TTCC Poster: "Whoa whoa whoa stop the presses - breaking news! Backpacks aren't actually people! It's true! Science has proven it! So, the next time you're on transit and people need a seat, move your inhuman bag. Seriously."

TTCC Poster: "We're crammed in like sardines, but there's no reason you have to smell like them too. Please, please think of our noses before getting on. Please."

TTCC Poster: Ticket - "Admit one - today: neverending drum and bass track blaring through headphones, with opening acts 'Woman talking loudly on a cellphone about her friend's abortion' and 'Guy on a handsfree yelling at his assistant'. Remember, your phone does not create a magical bubble around you where no one else can hear your conversation. And those headphones of yours playing Insane Clown Posse are also not magical bubbles."