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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Superior service has slipped to subpar

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband passed away and I moved to a condo with my two dogs, I hired a cleaning person to clean every three weeks. In the beginning, she was amazing – so much so that I increased her pay, unasked.

I paid her throughout the pandemic, even though she, of course, did not clean while we were all quarantined. I always tip generously for holidays, and make sure my house is tidy before she arrives, to make her work easier. I remove myself and my dogs to another room to stay out of her way.

Fast-forward three years. Now she has a baby strapped to her back while she cleans, and usually brings a helper, so she’s done in an hour or so. The service is now pretty haphazard, and she clearly does not instruct her helper properly about my preferences. It takes me a while to put everything back where it belongs when they are finished, including furniture!

There is also a language barrier that makes any discussion difficult.

I’m not sure what to do. Considering the lesser quality of the work, I now feel like I’m overpaying her; on the other hand, I’m aware that she’s now sharing her pay with her helper.

I’m also concerned about the time when her baby won’t be content to remain in his carrier while she works. My house is certainly not toddler-proof. I’m frustrated, and feel as though I’m being taken advantage of. What now?

GENTLE READER: The greatly improved access to translation services should eliminate the excuse that you do not speak the same language. But Miss Manners realizes that the more daunting task remains: that of communicating your unhappiness without giving offense or discomfort.

Nevertheless, doing so is part of being a good boss. Your cleaning person deserves the opportunity to address your concerns – either by changing her behavior, or by convincing you that the child will not be attending school in your living room. And it would only be fair for this to happen before you resort to such drastic measures as cutting her pay.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My long-distance niece, whom I only see every few years, hung up the phone when I called to regret that I could not make it to her wedding.

I explained that we had a prepaid, nonrefundable vacation planned, and that we would like to make it up to her by taking the newlyweds out to dinner the next time we traveled there.

She said, “That’s not good enough,” and hung up the phone. I haven’t spoken to her since.

Is this acceptable bridal behavior? Her mother (my sister) also behaved the same way when I called her.

GENTLE READER: It is fair to assume that those near and dear to us (or, failing that, our relatives) will make reasonable efforts to attend important life events. But such attendance is not mandatory, and does not justify such outright rudeness.

Miss Manners applauds your effort to apologize, noting only that you would have provided less fuel had you been less specific about your planned compensation.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,