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A&E >  Food

Call It What It Is - Not A Public Service

Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: A wedding reception my wife and I attended was a catered buffet in the basement of the church where the wedding occurred. The utensils were plastic, and there were paper plates.

After we had finished eating, a close friend of ours told us to pass the silverware to her, which she then proceeded to collect from the entire table. She stated that she was going to put it in her dishwasher and use it again as it was “high-quality plasticware.”

I stated to her that I thought this behavior was a breach of etiquette at a wedding. She justified her behavior by saying that she was recycling.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners is always glad to hear of a new euphemism to disguise an unpleasant situation. What your friend calls “recycling” used to go under the less attractive name of “stealing the forks.”

Although appropriating other people’s property (regardless of its value) breaches an even stricter code than etiquette’s, Miss Manners doubts that any self-respecting felon would attempt the defense that it is a public service because the owner might throw it out. So it puzzles her that your friend considers herself virtuous for stealing from her hosts - and in a church, too. My, my.

She is your close friend, is she? There is another old term you might need. We used to say of disreputable people loose in society, “Be sure and count the forks before they leave.”

Dear Miss Manners: What does an office-building concierge do? I understand the function of - and my relationship to - a hotel concierge, but that is more of a one-night stand, and this is an ongoing relationship. How does that change the equation? Do I tip them for the services? Do I give them a Christmas gift?

Gentle Reader: An office concierge used to be a custodian or manager who had vacationed in France.

Now it need only be one whose building is owned by people who stay in swishy hotels where the magazine in the room brags about performing successful midnight treasure hunts for eccentric foreign potentates, and the staff tells everyone else they don’t take telephone messages and breakfast will be another hour.

What an office concierge does can vary greatly from building to building but, as you point out, this is a long-term relationship, so you will find out. Generally, the job involves doing or overseeing repairs, accepting and rerouting packages and mail, keeping on eye on the comings and goings of people who don’t work there and, in Miss Manners’ home town, calling around when there is a bomb threat.

There may already be a Christmas fund and an agreement on what each person should contribute. If not, you should give an individual tip then, instead of yet another muffler or bottle of whiskey. An annual bonus is better than a small tip each time a service is performed unless it is an unusual one.

The amount is calculated by figuring the cost of living in your city, the rent of the building in relation to other office buildings, the size of your own income, the number of services you require and the cheerfulness of the concierge when asked to do something - and then running down the hall and asking someone who has been in the building longer what is expected.


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

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