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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Thank-yous exempt not even the rich

Judith Martin And Nicholas Ivor Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the course of my business day, I am often called upon to answer questions related to my products and their purpose.

Some customers ask several questions in a rapid fashion, and I am unable to respond without interrupting them. Then, still without giving me a chance to answer any of the questions they have asked, they say, “Well, I guess you don’t know anything.”

Please give me a gentle response that allows me to defend myself and maintain my dignity.

GENTLE READER: Produce a pencil and paper and, while looking the customer directly in the eye (to show that you are paying attention), write down and number each of his questions.

Whether you faithfully transcribe the questions is irrelevant – the act of paying attention and taking notes will so flummox the questioner that you will then have time to answer the questions. However, Miss Manners does not advise taking notes on any electronic device, as the customer will assume you have decided to check your email instead of helping him.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It has bugged me for years that none of my bosses has ever written a thank-you note for a Christmas gift, a wedding gift – or any gift, for that matter. They have not even acknowledged the receipt of any gifts verbally.

Is there some business rule that I don’t know about where the wealthy or affluent or upper management don’t acknowledge gifts?

GENTLE READER: Are you suggesting that the rich may be able to buy their way out of etiquette obligations the way people were once able to buy their way out of armies?

On the contrary. The amazing concept of noblesse oblige requires them to be even more considerate of those who are somewhat under their control.

Not in your office, apparently. But Miss Manners does wonder why you are giving Christmas presents to your bosses and attending their weddings. These are not your friends; nor do they sound like friends worth having.