Ben Grefsrud / msnbc.com
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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 11/1/2007 9:44:10 AM ET 2007-11-01T13:44:10

“Bud broadcasting,” tipping at all-inclusive resorts and dealing with that cranky carpooler, the Well-Mannered Traveler answers your questions.

Q: What is the polite way to let someone listening to music with headphones know that you (and everyone else) is hearing the music and finds it annoying?

A: iPods and other portable music players rank right up there with car cup holders as some of the greatest inventions of the modern world. But there are costs associated with any great leap forward. When it comes to personal music systems, “bud broadcasting” seems to top the list.

Some folks seem to intentionally “leak” music from their headphones. But more often than not, that clueless traveler bopping to the beat has turned up the volume because they’re using inexpensive ear buds that don’t do a very good job of blocking out background noise. Their effort to compensate for their cheap headphones, however, shouldn’t mean that you need to listen in.

If you’re seated near a “bud broadcaster” you might:

  • Move to a new seat, put on your own headphones or start wearing earplugs during your commute.
  • Ask politely if the person will “please turn down the volume, just a notch or two.”  You can do this verbally or, with all due respect to the late Marcel Marceau, in mime: point to your ear, point down, give a little pleading smile and put your hands together in a gesture of prayer. The response may be the universally recognized mimed gesture for “no way, jerk!,” but it’s worth a try.
  • If the offender is a regular on your bus or train commute, print out an article on hearing loss and headphones (try this WIRED commentary). Offer the article and say, “We’re both regulars on this commute and I can’t help but notice how high you keep the volume on your player. So I thought of you when I saw this article.” Again, your action may once again be met with the same mimed “jerk” gesture, but I bet your neighbors will thank you for trying.

Q: I'm ashamed to ask this after 15 years of business travel, but if one has access to a hotel's concierge lounge for breakfast and evening snacks, is it appropriate to tip the person staffing the lounge?

A: Lucky you for getting access to those lounges. From a stint as a hotel reviewer, I know that some of these rooms are simply self-service affairs with a platter of tired-looking fruit and rolls, but that others are truly lovely club-like spaces with open bars, extensive food offerings and dedicated staffs.

What you tip is up to you, but it’s definitely appropriate to tip the people staffing the lounge, especially if they mix you a drink, serve food or arrange for dinner reservations at a restaurant sure to impress your clients. If the concierge goes above and beyond and secures hard-to-get theater tickets or dinner reservations, for example, tip accordingly.

Q: At all-inclusive resorts, is tipping expected?

A: It depends. Some all-inclusive resorts forbid tipping while others allow bartenders, pool attendants and restaurant wait staff to accept tips from satisfied customers. It seems to depend on the resort and, in many cases, on the traditions of the country you’re visiting. It’s always a good idea to do your homework.

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For example, at many of Jamaica’s popular all-inclusive resorts, travelers pay one rate that covers all expenses, including accommodations, meals and drinks. “Generally, this includes even tips and at the larger, more established all-inclusives, tipping is forbidden,” says Basil Smith, Jamaica's director of tourism. Tipping at some of the smaller all-inclusives is “completely optional,” he adds.

Confused? Just wait. These days, some “regular” hotels now add resort fees, various amenities and tack on automatic gratuities for services such as housekeeping. Dallas/Fort Worth-based etiquette expert Susan Huston says, “You should always ask the agent that books your trip or inquire at the hotel when you book. And don’t be shy about asking again when you’re on-site.”

Huston adds: “You’ll always get better service if you say thank you with a tip.” But if you are at a resort that strictly forbids tipping, or if you choose not to tip, remember there are other ways to acknowledge and reward good service. You might make sure to fill out a comment card or write a letter to the manager that praises, by name, the service of specific members of the staff.

Q:  My carpool has been running for some time now. One of our original riders constantly has something negative to say and [his/her] neurotic nature drains me. I've tried to change the subject, etc. No luck. Any suggestions?

Here are some things to try:

  • Cut that cranky carpooler some slack. He or she may really be having a hard time at work or at home and see the carpool as a safe place to shake off the day.
  • Don’t let it get to you. Remind yourself that it’s just a car ride. You and the negative-rider will arrive at work or at home and go your separate ways. Do keep trying to change the subject and try to get your carpool-mates to join in on the effort.
  • Talk to Mr. or Ms. Negative away from the carpool. Let them know how their comments are making you feel. They may think they’re being funny and not even realize how negative they seem to others.
  • Revisit and revise the carpool rules. (You do you have rules, don’t you?) You might try “Mozart Mondays,” “Great trips Tuesdays,” or simply riding in silence on Wednesdays and Fridays to give everyone a break.

Of course, you can always change carpools, wear earplugs or crank up your headphones and “bud broadcast” your way to work.

Harriet Baskas, The Well-Mannered Traveler, also writes about airports and air travel for USATODAY.com and is the author of “Stuck at the Airport.”

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