DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a restaurant, a waitress asked me three times if I wanted dessert. This is not the only time this has happened. One waitress asked me four times. I replied firmly but politely, “No, thank you,” but I find myself sorely tempted to make a rude reply.
I know that they are trained to “up-sell” and, of course, the bigger the tab, the bigger the tip. Other than telling them off, or reporting to the manager, how does one get the point across that no means no?
GENTLE READER: When grocery store checkout clerks exhibit similar behavior, they presumably have no financial interest in your preferring paper over plastic.
Miss Manners suspects that these waitresses, having so often repeated that rote question to different patrons, may simply not have been listening. This does not excuse poor service, but it does lessen the severity of the infraction, negligence being more passive than coercing you to purchase something you do not want.
The correct response is, “No, thank you,” “No, thank you,” “No, thank you,” and “Please give me the check.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our family has moved to a new area, and several kind acquaintances through church have gone out of their way to be friendly, inviting us to lunches, dinners and coffee dates.
I usually ask the inviting friends if we could meet at my house instead, because I have two young toddlers, and our house is baby-proofed with gates on stairs, latches on doors and cabinet locks; we have baby-appropriate furniture like cribs and high chairs, plus a ready supply of diapers, bottles, potties and changes of clothes. I don’t mind preparing the food for the grown-up visit, and it’s easier for me when the children are in a kid-safe environment.
Shall I offer a thank-you card and a reciprocal invitation, since the other friend initiated the visit to begin with? If the other friend offers another invitation, shall I accept and hope my kids don’t break something valuable or dangerous? Should I just drop out of society until my kids are old enough to be gracious guests? My kids are not bad, but they are young, and accidents happen.
GENTLE READER: Thank-you notes and reciprocal invitations are for parties actually given, ignoring any prior arm wrestling that occurred over hosting duties. It is therefore up to your guests to thank you, and to reciprocate.
If they are amenable to your again co-opting the role of hostess, Miss Manners has no objection. But at some point you may wish to give your children the experience of learning how to behave as guests, if not only to give your dishwasher a rest.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper type of gift to buy for expecting parents? Something for the baby (i.e., crib, stroller, clothes, etc.) or something for the parents?
GENTLE READER: Either is acceptable, although the gift everyone would most enjoy – namely, sleep – is unfortunately not for sale.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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