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Don’t Sacrifice Safety For Etiquette

By Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: When people come to my door selling products or asking for donations - mostly people I have never seen before - I am stuck as to how to politely leave to go get my purse.

I am nervous at the thought of letting strangers into my house, because my husband works all day and I am often home with just my baby, but the thought of leaving them on the front porch with a door shut in their face seems very rude. Several of my friends leave the person on the porch and leave the door open. I was wondering if this is the proper way to handle salespeople while I run up the stairs and get my purse.

Gentle Reader: Although she believes in sacrificing for the sake of etiquette, sacrificing one’s safety is not what Miss Manners has in mind. And the unfortunate fact is that one cannot safely leave one’s doors open to strangers.

The fortunate aspect of the situation is that strangers, like everybody else, know this. If you smile and say “I’ll be right back” before shutting the door, well-intentioned people will understand that you do not mean to treat them rudely. Ill-intentioned people may turn huffy, but aren’t those exactly the people on whom it would be a good idea to shut the door? <,

Dear Miss Manners: A married friend who has a home-based business with a personal telephone line, a business line, a facsimile line and a telephone recorder, works at home (as I do) but keeps erratic business hours (I work from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.).

My phone calls to her home have met with several responses: Do not call after 5 p.m. because she and her husband are preparing dinner. Do not call after 7 p.m. because they are either cleaning up after dinner or are preparing to go out for the evening to socialize. Do not call during the day because my friend is either not feeling well or is taking a nap. Do not call on Friday because the husband is home from work. Finally, do not fax anything before 9 a.m. because it disturbs her.

I respect the family dinner hour and no longer call after 5:00 p.m. I respect family time together, so I no longer call on Friday. I apologized for disturbing her, suggested she allow her business recorder to pick up while she rested and asked her to return my call at her convenience.

I find it difficult to understand why a family would have all of the above electronic communication equipment and not allow the recorder to pick up messages or move the business lines to an area that will not disturb them. It appears either that she is not serious about business or that they no longer value my friendship.

I must admit my feelings have been hurt. I have chosen not to initiate communication but to speak with them only when called and now only at my convenience. I fear I am responding in a childish manner. Should I instead explain to her why I no longer call or send business information, or should I simply follow the rules they have set and hold them to their own?

Gentle Reader: As you work at home, Miss Manners trusts that you understand how frantic things can get when you have an office (with no secretary or receptionist running interference) and a household (probably with no staff, either) in the same place.

All the electronic equipment, including the doorbell, goes off at the same time, and the next thing you know it’s noon and you haven’t gotten dressed yet. Or dinner time and you haven’t gotten any work done.

So we don’t want to scotch the entire idea of allowing people to control their working and family time - we just want to make it reasonable.

If your friend really never wanted to talk to you, she wouldn’t call you, so please drop the hurt feelings. You don’t even need to retaliate with an elaborate schedule of your own. All you need to do is to set times when it would be convenient for you to call her or (if this would help rid you of the last remnant of resentment) for her to call you.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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