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Send note to gift recipients, explain error

Wed., Jan. 23, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We sent a baby gift to new parents. They have not responded, but that may be my fault. I failed to enclose a card before my husband mailed it from his business address.

Is it rude if I ask if the gift was received? I certainly would let the parents know that I was remiss in not including a card. These parents are family members.

GENTLE READER: You have created the polite person’s nightmare. Miss Manners, who is condemned to keep scolding those who don’t thank, despairs when she finds innocent people classed among them. Yet many a time she has heard from the recipient of a present who is helpless because the giver is unknown.

Forgetting to enclose a card, as you did, doesn’t often happen. What commonly causes the problem is the card that is tucked into the ribbons on a package left at a wedding or other mass event. It slips out. Later, the would-be thanker tries to think who might have left it, but is prevented from asking around because it would be a serious embarrassment to anyone who did not leave a present.

You have only to write a letter of apology to the new parents, wishing them well and confessing your error. However, those other folks who cause such problems have got to learn that it is wrong to bring presents to a wedding (they should be sent to the home, before or after the wedding), and if they do it anyway, or bring presents to another event, to put the card inside the package.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it impolite to text on a cellphone while you are having dinner with someone? My daughter says it is appropriate, but I find it completely rude. What is your opinion?

GENTLE READER: Of course it is impolite. Using anything – electronic or not – to ignore fellow diners is rude.

But Miss Manners sees a worse problem here, in that you seem to believe that etiquette is a matter of opinion, and that everyone has an equal say about what it should be.

Wrong. Your daughter should listen to you, and you should listen to Miss Manners.


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