Q: Is there such a thing as antiques store etiquette? I finally bought a nice home and would like to start furnishing it with interesting pieces, but every time I go in an antiques store I feel sort of intimidated. I'm going to visit a friend in New Hope, Pa., soon and want to go to lots of antiques stores there. If there's no price listed, can you ask, or should you just assume you can't afford it? Can you negotiate? Will they ship, or are you expected to carry away what you buy?
A: There is a certain etiquette to shopping at an antiques store. First of all, be polite and greet the salesperson when you come in. Especially if you intend to negotiate pricing (more on that later), you want to come across as friendly rather than snobbish. If they ask if you're looking for anything in particular and you are, tell them -- it will save you a ton of time. They might have a treasure trove of Victorian newel post lights hidden away on some shelf you'd never find on your own. If not, however, feel free to say you're just looking around.
I never feel bad inquiring about prices. You shouldn't assume you can't afford it if it's not priced -- and hey, even if you can't, that's nothing to be ashamed about. Just say, "Thank you," and move on. You can often negotiate, especially if you're buying several items from the same store. You can say, "Can you do any better than $50?," and they'll either say yes or no. Shipping varies by store. If you're talking about a sizable piece of furniture, it can be expensive. At flea-market setups, you are usually expected to carry what you buy.
A couple of other tips: Kids and antiques don't mix well. I'd establish a strict "touch nothing" rule, and if both parents are there, one needs to be prepared to leave if the kid gets even the slightest bit out of hand. Also, don't make a salesperson drag out a heavy item if you're just curious and have no intention of buying it.
And finally, if you're in New Hope, make sure you make like George Washington and cross the Delaware to Lambertville, N.J., for even more cool shops.
Q: What is the proper thing to do when your seatmate is so large that you lose your own space? I sat for three hours next to a man who invaded my space. He was easily in the 400-pound range.
A: Talk to a flight attendant. I would do this as soon as possible after you board. Obviously, you don't want to embarrass your seatmate by ringing the flight-attendant button and explaining the problem in front of him, but you do have the right to your space. The flight attendant can try to reseat one of you.
Q: My question pertains to what my mother experienced on a recent cross-country flight. She was seated next to a couple with a baby. The baby, who was on her mother's lap, was perhaps 6 to 8 months old, and cried the entire five-hour flight.
What bothered my mother more than the crying was that the parents didn't change the baby's diaper or give her anything to eat or drink the entire flight.
What, if anything, could my mother have done?
A: As a parent, I would also think that a bit odd. Most parents I know take more food and diapers on the plane than they might ever use. However, I would give the couple the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the baby ate a huge meal right before boarding. Maybe she wasn't in dire need of a diaper change and her parents decided to wait it out rather than attempt one in the plane's bathroom (which can be rather scary). Also, some babies have medical conditions that require feeding tubes, which aren't always visible.
That said, your mother could have started a conversation with the parents. It's tricky -- I normally don't advise people to be nosy about other people's parenting methods. But tactfully offering help, like "I know how hard it is to fly with a baby. Are you OK? Can I help get her bottle ready or anything?" would be all right. Your mom also could have asked a flight attendant to stop by and see if she thought anything was amiss.
Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at deartripadvisortripadvisor.com.