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Neighbors children taking snacks without asking

Fri., July 18, 2008

Dear Miss Manners: I have gotten to know many of our neighbors on our street and often see them at the neighborhood pool. We all have kids who usually play together.

Coolers with food and drinks are allowed; however, most of our neighbors opt not to bring them. But all the kids help themselves to my cooler – which I keep zipped up and my kids do not get into without asking first – and get out food and drinks.

The parents very calmly tell them they shouldn’t do that without asking, but are not at all forceful about it. Sometimes the kids do ask, which puts me on the spot. I was especially annoyed at my neighbor who was complaining to me about this two days ago – and just yesterday her daughter went into my cooler and took out my container of grapes and brought them over to my lounge chair and began eating them.

Her Mom said “Susie, no” and the little girl just laughed and said “But I like them” and continued to eat. I was so annoyed that I didn’t know what to do, so I turned to my husband and asked if he would like to go swim with me.

As I said, we are friends, and our kids play together, but this is getting old. It is not a matter of not being able to afford it, either, because most of our neighbors live a much higher lifestyle than we do. Please help me know what to say without making enemies out of my neighbors.

Gentle Reader: The neighborly thing to do would be to show concern for the children and organize the parents to do something about it.

“The children always seem to be hungry at the pool,” you can tell them. “Should we take turns bringing them snacks?”

Miss Manners does not expect such an enterprise to be the result. Rather, some parents will say that they don’t want their children eating between meals, and others will argue about what they consider to be proper snacks.

This will empower you to say, the next time some child tries to help himself, “No, dear, I’m sorry, but your parents don’t want you to have that.”

Dear Miss Manners: What is the proper response to a caller when the very first thing they say is, “Who is speaking”?

I work in a place of business and receive many calls with the person calling demanding to know whom they are speaking to without identifying themselves first. What is the proper response to this rude caller?

Gentle Reader: Would you mind running the preliminary part by Miss Manners before she answers? Are you answering the telephone just by saying “Hello”?

In business, it is customary for those whose calls are not screened and announced to answer by identifying themselves in some way – by name, function or department. So your callers may not be rude so much as bewildered.

The procedure you want is, however, correct for calls to private lines. In that case, the response is, “Whom are you calling, please?”

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@


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