July 14, 2009 -- Q: I read a gossip column that said Sharon Stone threw a fit recently because she was told to gate-check a bag when boarding a flight. I never thought I'd identify with her, but I do. Having to check a bag unexpectedly is hugely annoying—especially when other passengers have been allowed to carry on bags that clearly exceed the regulation carry-on dimensions. Would it be out of line to ask the flight attendant to make those people check their oversized bags first before people with regular ones get inconvenienced?
A: The Stone incident is interesting. There are two versions of it: one from a passenger who reportedly witnessed it, and another from her publicist (naturally). The eyewitness says Stone attempted to carry on two bags and, when asked to check one, screamed at the flight attendant. Stone's camp says she had been given permission to carry on both bags but when she boarded, the flight attendant screamed at her that she had to check one.
No matter what you believe, there are a few obvious takeaways:
1) Follow the carry-on policy—even if you are a celebrity.2) Airlines should not be giving anybody special permission to have an extra bag, an extra-large bag, etc. Creating detailed rules and then not enforcing them consistently is a very, very, very bad idea.3) The only person who deserves praise here is the flight attendant who decided to put his or her foot down (and to a celebrity, no less). But don't scream on planes. Or, really, anywhere. That's just Etiquette 101.
Back to your question, though. I'd be incredibly annoyed if I had to gate-check a normal-sized bag because others had filled up the overheads with giant duffel bags, coolers, etc. Unless airlines uniformly enforce carry-on restrictions, or unless rude people decide en masse to stop flying (a girl can dream), this is going to keep happening. It wouldn't be out of line to ask nicely if perhaps it might make more sense to gate-check the huge bags instead of yours. But the flight attendant might interpret your polite question as unwillingness to follow directions—and boot both you and your bag off the plane. I think the best option in this situation is to suck it up and deal.
Trying the $20 Trick in Las Vegas
Q: Does the $20 trick really work in Las Vegas hotels? And is it rude to attempt it?
A: First, for readers who haven't heard this term before, relax—it's not what you think. The $20 trick is a way of trying to get a room upgrade from one of the big hotels on the Strip. It works like this: You reserve a standard room. At check-in, you ask the desk clerk for an upgrade—while passing him or her a twenty. If it works, you get a high-roller style suite.
I'm sure this doesn't work all the time, and I'd imagine most of the hotels have policies against it, but I have heard firsthand accounts of success. I'm not sure it's rude—it just seems a tad sleazy. But hey, you're in Las Vegas—if you don't have some tolerance for sleaze you're going to have a miserable trip. At least do it smoothly. Hand over the twenty with your ID and credit card, and ask about upgrades — avoid a cheesy wink, a fistful of crumpled one-dollar bills, etc. If it doesn't work, don't argue or demand your money back. Again, you're in Vegas; this is just another bet.
Q: Am I rude to use a few words of a foreign language if I don't know many phrases?
A: Not at all—it's actually very polite of you to make the effort! (Assuming, of course, that the words you know aren't the local equivalent of the seven words you can't say on TV.)
Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at email@example.com.