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Miss Manners: Athletes can decline college offers with simple ‘no thanks’

By Judith Martin and Nicholas Ivor Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How would you expect high school athletes who are recruited by college coaches to respond when a decision is made not to attend their school?

In many cases, these athletes are offered paid visits to the campuses and provided food and housing while there. The coaches and college students that host them at their schools can sometimes spend an entire weekend entertaining them.

When the time comes for the prospect to initiate some communication to let the various coaches know of his/her decision, what is the best etiquette? Do they definitely owe the coaches a response? If nervous about telling someone “no,” what would be a good approach?

GENTLE READER: It is now recognized that most aspects of college sports are big business, so it makes sense to apply business etiquette.

When times were flush, corporations were known to woo potential hires instead of plunking the money on the table and demanding service. Miss Manners hopes that employees who were told that “working for us is like joining our family” were not fooled either by the faux personalizing of the professional or the faux foie gras.

Therefore a businesslike letter will do: “I appreciate your interest in me, and thank you for your hospitality. However, I have decided to attend Feynman University because of the excellence of its physics department.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Should the birthday boy or girl receive the first piece of cake, or should the guests be served first?

GENTLE READER: If the girl is consolidating her calendar by getting married on her birthday, then Miss Manners will allow her the first slice of cake. Otherwise, the guests come first.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am occasionally invited to “parties” hosted by friends that are really just opportunities to purchase items like makeup, lotions and clothing.

Most of the time, I have no interest in buying anything, as I already have products I like, and I’m trying to avoid clutter and also save money to buy a house.

When my friends invite me, they often say something like, “Come even if you don’t buy anything; we’ll pamper ourselves and enjoy some girl time!”

Personally, I just don’t find these “parties” fun or enjoyable, and I find that I get pressure to buy something, not from my friend, but from the company consultant. But I end up going, just to be polite, although I don’t purchase anything. I’d rather not go at all, but I want to be kind to my hostess friends. What is a polite way to decline these invitations?

GENTLE READER: The events you mention rely – improperly, Miss Manners, notes – on leveraging personal feelings and relationships to conduct business. The promise of “some girl time” is, as you have discovered, not a genuine social invitation, but part of the sales pitch.

You can decline the invitation without declining the friendship by adding, “I’d love to have some girl time with you. When are you free?”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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