I recently conducted a survey asking top executives – “What are the top 5 Image mistakes that you see professionals make?” One of the top responses was the negative impact a person’s car can have on their Professional Presence! Based on this information, I thought this would make for a great topic this month – addressing all aspects of Car Etiquette. As I always say, it’s the details that make a difference in your Image. I have seen many people who have mastered dressing well, but if their car and car etiquette is not at the same level, their entire image is tainted.
Car Etiquette: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Image
- Car Seating – There are clear etiquette guidelines when it comes to seating guests in your car based on their rank. The most important passenger gets to ride in the front passenger seat (otherwise called the “shotgun”). The second most important would sit on the curb side back seat and third most important passenger would ride in the other side of the back seat. This rule does have considerations or exceptions, particularly because high-end cars offer just as much room and more safety in the back. Another consideration is if one of your guests is handicapped, their comfort becomes your top priority. And yet, another consideration is placing your guests for ease of conversation. The key is to be knowledgeable about the rule and read each situation individually.
- Taxi Seating – If you are taking a taxi, the seating is determined by the rank of your guests, with a client being the most important guest. Allow your guest to sit on the curb side back seat. You should walk around the car and sit on the street side (in back of the taxi driver). If the traffic situation does not allow you to walk around the car, then you should be the person to scoot across the seat to the street side seat. The front seat is considered the most dangerous and less desirable. This is where a junior executive would sit or the lowest ranking guest.
- Valet Parking –
- The first thing to do if you are going to be in a valet parking situation is to tidy up your car – both inside and out. If you have valuables, be sure to place them in the trunk before your arrive.
- Next, make certain to have small bills readily available.
- Watch carefully for the valets direction as to where to stop your car, they have a system and you don’t want to mess up their efficiency.
- Leave your keys in the ignition. Just park the car and leave it running.
- The valet will typically expect to open your car door in nicer venues. If there is a delay in this service, you can certainly open the door yourself. If you have a female passenger, they should open her door. If they are delayed then you would walk around and open her door (in social situations). If you are in a business situation, your female passenger will most likely open her door before you can get to her side. Showing this was your intention will always be appreciated.
- No matter how the door opening plays out, stay with your vehicle until you’ve been greeted and given a claim ticket.
- Before you leave, check your car for any dings or nicks that weren’t there when you dropped off your car. Also, check to make sure your valuables are still safely stowed away. If there is a problem, report the issue before you leave the premises.
- Tipping: This can be especially tricky. When do you tip, how much do you tip? Research shows that the average tip is $2.00 to $5.00 – paid both when you drop off the car and when you pick up your car. I know this is not what most people practice, but it is considered the guideline. If you want preferential service, you definitely need to step up your tip to $20.
- MEN: This One’s For You – Car Doors – Men, you have all heard the rule on proper door etiquette “You should always open the door for a lady.” I am referring to “social” behavior here. You may choose to follow this advice or not, but take it from me: to make a good impression and to plant and maintain the seed of desirability in a woman’s mind you must absolutely remember to open her car door!
Now, some women will blatantly tell you not to open the door for her, and in that case respect her wishes. However, this is a rare situation so just know that you should never believe a woman when she says that you don’t have to open her door. Be careful, many women are using their feminine ways to test your knowledge of simple courtesy and chivalry! The cold hard truth is that if you don’t open the door for her she will stash that information away . . .!!!
In business, most women will expect to open their car door. This being said, the gesture will never go unnoticed. If your female guest is VERY independent, use your discretion. If she might be the one woman who would be offended if you open her door then, don’t.
Remember, etiquette is about being courteous and making your guest(s) feel comfortable. Please keep that in mind as you use these guidelines; the most important thing to remember is simply to be natural and to use common sense! These guidelines are designed to allow you to be smooth and gracious, instead of standing there wondering what to do. Enjoy!