DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have often been asked to attend parties that are actually commercial events to sell products — say, plastic storage-ware, wine or other home goods. I consider these events a cheap way to exploit friends and acquaintances.
Now I am being texted directly to buy things from friends. These products do not interest me and are usually subpar quality. I have no use for them.
How do I politely decline such invitations from people I will actually face at some point?
GENTLE READER: “Thank you for thinking of me, but I have a lifetime supply!” is both polite and sufficient.
Do not embellish, as that is where the trouble begins. “I have a three-month supply” is an invitation to call in four months. “I use Brand X” is an invitation to expand the offerings. And if you volunteer that people you know might be a better fit, you have only yourself to blame.
Miss Manners feels no remorse at not being a willing victim, as she agrees with you that leveraging friendships to boost sales is not a gentle activity.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: These days, tipping seems so expected for airport shuttle services, ride-sharing, grocery delivery services, etc., that one commits to a tip even before receiving the service.
We were especially shocked to learn that the grocery delivery person could reject or accept our order based on the commitment to the tip that we lay out in advance. This seems counterintuitive, since a tip is given to reward a job that has been performed exceptionally, not to ensure that a job will be performed perfunctorily. What are your thoughts?
GENTLE READER: People should be fairly paid for their work, Miss Manners believes. For this reason, she has always disapproved of tipping, which strikes her as an undignified way to facilitate employers’ paying subpar wages.
As a secondary objection, Miss Manners notes that gratitude, compensation and performance reviews are — or should be — separate activities. She agrees that the practice you describe deserves a more accurate description, but has no other objection to it. Perhaps we could call it “agreeing on the price in advance of the sale.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister-in-law, who is otherwise a lovely person, has a bad habit of borrowing things and not returning them. I’m speaking mostly of kitchen/dining items like serving platters, baking pans, decorative trays, etc.
She will borrow items for a specific use, then months later, I will see her bring them out and use them like they are hers. I didn’t say anything at first, since I didn’t want to embarrass her, but it’s a habit now.
How do I tactfully prevent this in the future? And is there any way I can, at this late date, get my old things back?
GENTLE READER: You are right not to embarrass your sister-in-law, but that does not mean it’s too late to ask for the missing items back — just wait until after dinner.
Miss Manners imagines a private aside in which you express the hope that she enjoyed the loan of the platter, and you’re happy to take it home now with just a simple rinse and drying.