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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 2/5

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was taught to announce myself when I make a call to a doctor: For example, “Hi there, this is Jane Doe, and I’d like to make an appointment to see Dr. Smith.” But every single time I do this, the receptionist invariably asks me at a later point to repeat my name: “OK, I have an opening on Thursday. What was your name again?”

I’m really starting to wonder if I should just quit being so formal, so I figured I’d ask you. Should I just say, “Hi, I’d like to make an appointment to see Dr. Smith”? Or do good manners dictate that I stay the course?

GENTLE READER: It is a safe assumption that a busy receptionist will not likely remember the first five seconds of a conversation – including the caller’s identifying characteristics – but only the last part: where to direct the call. That being the case, Miss Manners will not fault anyone for making both sides of the conversation as efficient as possible. She will call it a zero-sum game of etiquette.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I ordered a wine gift basket for my cousin and his wife who live out of state; I received an email thanking me for my gift. My cousin reciprocated by mailing me a fairly expensive gift card to a restaurant where I rarely dine.

I am contemplating a major hardware purchase and would prefer a gift card from a hardware retailer. Would it be appropriate to return the restaurant gift card to my cousin and ask him to exchange it for a hardware chain gift card?

GENTLE READER: Ever heard of thoughts counting? The giving and receiving of presents is not a practical proposition. The prevalent use of gift registries would argue otherwise – but while they ensure that people get the stuff they want, they are devoid of any thought or sentiment.

Presumably you gave your cousins a wine basket because you thought they would enjoy it. Similarly, they returned your generosity with the prospect of a nice night out (or in with takeout). That you really wanted a table saw is irrelevant to the exchange.

Miss Manners is certain that if your cousin returned the wine basket and asked instead for a sewing machine, you would likely suffer hurt feelings – if not for the slight, then for the embarrassment at having it pointed out how woefully you missed the mark on what to choose.

Accept the restaurant gift card graciously. And use the money that you would otherwise spend on that night’s dinner to save up for that hardware.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I asked to be a bridesmaid in a wedding, and am then chosen, should I send a thank-you note to the bride for asking me?

GENTLE READER: Like what? “Thank you in advance for not exploiting me more than the others because I asked for it”?

Forgive Miss Manners’ cynicism. She has received too many letters from bridesmaids who have been sorely taken advantage of, and does not wish to see you victimized any more than necessary. A letter or even just a conversation stating how much the friendship means to you would be lovely.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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