Can I Buy My Girlfriend a Souvenir from the Duty-Free Shop?

In this edition: An AWOL hotel information book, a reader who turns up her nose at perfume from a duty-free shop, and thoughts on citizen journalism in travel.

Q: When I get to my hotel room, the first thing I do is flip through the hotel's information book. I like to find out if room service looks any good, what time I need to check out, where the gym is, etc. The last hotel I stayed in had no hotel info book anywhere in the room. I left a note for the maid, thinking perhaps the last guest had swiped it, but she left the following note for me: "Info being reprinted." Shouldn't they wait for the new books to get printed before they remove all the old ones? And isn't that note rather rude?


A: That's really bizarre. I do think most guests have come to expect something like that to be in the room—it's pretty standard, especially if you're in a chain hotel. I can understand why a hotel would need to replace the books occasionally (phone numbers change, room service menus get updated, etc.). But a hotel would generally have plenty of notice about those things, which means they should have plenty of time to get new books printed. Sounds like laziness and/or forgetfulness to me. And yes, that's not a particularly nice note from housekeeping. I'm sure the person who cleaned your room is not the one responsible for getting the info books printed, but since she is communicating with you on behalf of the hotel, throwing in an "I'm sorry" would be nice.

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Q: Isn't it kind of a cop-out to buy someone a gift in an airport duty-free shop? If your girlfriend likes perfume, and you go to Paris, shouldn't you bring her some special, hard-to-find French perfume instead of something she already owns and can buy at the mall?

A: Not that this has ever happened to you, of course, right?

The ideal gift will make it clear that the giver understands what the recipient likes. But you're blowing this completely out of proportion. You like perfume; he got you perfume. If he's a typical guy, he has no idea such a thing as obscure perfume even exists. In fact, I bet he was relieved to spot a perfume he knows you like! I could see your being upset if, say, he got you a bottle of whiskey when he knows you don't drink, but I think he was trying to be thoughtful here. You should thank him nicely instead of whining about it.

Is Your Airline Struggle Really that Extraordinary?

Q: What do you think of people contacting the media when they have a bad travel experience? One of my colleagues was so angry about getting bumped off an oversold flight that she said she was going to make a video and send it to a news program. Is that really acceptable?

A: I don't have any problem with travelers alerting the media when there's a genuinely awful situation, such as the Virgin Atlantic flight that recently sat on a runway for hours with no food and no air-conditioning. If I'd been on that plane, you'd better believe I'd have been posting video online and tweeting up a storm.

But that situation was an immediate threat to hundreds of people—several passengers reportedly fainted in the heat. If you want to complain publicly about something that only affects you, it had better be very serious or unique (e.g., "United Breaks Guitars") if you expect the media to care. In your colleague's case, people get bumped every single day… she can vent all she wants, but I doubt she'll generate any media interest.

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