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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Maintaining a job-required formality

By Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The private golf club where I work requires that associates address members as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. Surname. Quite often, the member will ask me to call him or her by their given name.

How do I respond professionally without falling back on “It is a job requirement”?

GENTLE READER: The sad part is that those who put you in this embarrassing predicament believe that they are flattering you. But what they are really doing is flattering themselves – partly that they are being egalitarian, and mostly that they are too young to be addressed formally.

The easiest response is simply to say, “It’s against the club rules.” But if you don’t want to do that, Miss Manners suggests saying politely, “If we meet socially, of course, but not on the job.”

This is a quiet way of exposing the fake egalitarianism, because the member is unlikely to ask you to the bar for a drink after your shift. For good measure, you might add “sir” or “madam” to the statement.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it socially acceptable for someone to have a benefit and ask people to donate to their college education?

GENTLE READER: Apparently there are a lot of social circles composed of those who are eager to pay one another’s bills. Miss Manners has never met a person like that, but she often hears from those who plan such events, and they are clearly under the impression that their acquaintances – and, indeed, strangers, whom they hope to reach electronically – are clamoring to do so.

The best way to judge the acceptability of such a request is to ask yourself how you would react upon receiving it. Would you be charmed to be invited to pay someone else’s college tuition?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a midsized department, where everyone has their own office. Often, people will bring in all kinds of treats. When these are placed in a common space, this is wonderful. However, occasionally someone will actually go from office to office, offering the goodies.

What should one do if one does not wish to partake of said treats? I am afraid of refusing for fear of offending, yet do not like the idea of taking the treat and then throwing it out.

Sometimes, actually quite often, I enjoy indulging in these goodies. But sometimes they are not on my “favorites” list, and I would rather pass. Several of us in the office have this problem. What is the best way to handle this?

GENTLE READER: What business are you in, Miss Manners wonders, where the employees might be emotionally damaged if someone declined having one of their cookies?

The phrase you are searching for is “No, thank you.” Expanded, if the person lingers, it would be “They look delicious, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass this time.” In the unlikely event that this brings on a torrent of tears, your next inquiry would be to find out what else is wrong.

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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