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Miss Manners: Prodding a niece to write her own thank-you notes

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my niece graduated from high school last year, my brother sent out all her party invitations, sent thank-you notes as if they were written and signed by her, and even endorsed the back of the checks she received. Of course, I recognized his handwriting.

When I questioned him, he said she was “too busy getting ready for college.” Her sister will graduate next year, and I’m sure my brother will do the same thing for her.

Am I wrong to be offended at how lazy these girls are? Shouldn’t a graduate have the courtesy to send a thank-you note when someone sends a gift?

GENTLE READER: Especially, Miss Manners notes, if said graduate wants another one. As their aunt, you might point this out, cheekily noting that you plan on giving future presents directly to their father, since he is the one acknowledging them. He will likely need the money for bail when he is imprisoned for check forgery.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Starting a few months ago, I began working in a public-service setting with one other person, a much older male. Whenever a customer asks for help, my co-worker jumps in.

He frequently jumps to the conclusion that I have made mistakes, and when I explain my actions, he never apologizes. When I talk to him, sometimes he literally waves me away or turns his back on me.

This co-worker has been an employee for years, was recently promoted to shift supervisor and is well-liked by most of the customers. I do not wish to complain about him to my superior, nor do I do think it would do any good. Can you think of something polite but effective I could say to get this retirement-age man to change his behavior toward me?

GENTLE READER: “When can we throw your retirement party?”

Miss Manners jests, of course, but she does encourage you to be generous, not only because the retirement may be imminent, but also because flattery tends to be more effective: “You know so much, I would love to learn from you. However, I wonder if in doing so, you could give me a chance to occasionally work with our customers on my own, and then we could talk about it afterwards – either alone or in a formal review with our boss.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you politely decline gifts of signs and crafts with sayings on them? It’s just not our thing. It’s our son’s girlfriend who makes and gives them, so we have to tread lightly.

GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, the relative substance of the present and giver are not entirely relevant here. Politely accepting unwanted items, and then discreetly disposing of them as you wish, is the only correct solution.

However, when it comes to the nature of the quotes themselves, Miss Manners will allow the quality of the enthusiasm to differ appropriately. Crafts and sayings of the “adorable downtrodden kitten” variety may be greeted with a pleasant, bemused smile. More provocatively intended ones of a political or religious nature may be received with a much, much weaker one.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.

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