DEAR MISS MANNERS: When did it become acceptable for merchants to solicit charitable contributions from their customers who are purchasing something?
It seems that everywhere I shop, I am now bombarded by the cashier asking if I want to donate money to some charity. Why is this acceptable, especially when these merchants won’t allow other charities to solicit on their property?
It delays the line and puts customers in an uncomfortable position. How can I gently suggest that the merchant should not be asking me for extra money and that if he wants to solicit funds, he should stand in front of his store like everyone else?
GENTLE READER: Nonstop solicitation has joined nonstop advertising as a universal modern irritant, with the added bonus that those who object are lectured about the worthiness of the cause. (“How can you be so insensitive?”)
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Miss Manners would have thought that both would have stopped working years ago, but apparently not. A simple, “Thank you, no,” is all the response that is required. Discomfort wears off with repetition, although Miss Manners has no objection to a charmingly worded letter to the merchant making your suggestion that all donations be moved to the curb.
When a compliment isn’t one
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone offers a compliment, I know that it is proper to say thank you. However, sometimes the compliments are worded so oddly that I’m left puzzled on how to respond.
Yesterday a woman said to me, “You look so good it makes me want to slap you.” Another time, two people approached me and said to each other, “Doesn’t she look cute? You hold her down and I’ll beat her.”
I realize that these are clumsy attempts to be funny and complimentary. I’m certainly not offended, but how should I respond? Saying thank you certainly doesn’t sound right.
GENTLE READER: It is tempting to answer an oddly worded compliment — or its cousin, the insult thinly disguised as a compliment — in kind. Miss Manners urges you to resist. Unless you are Oscar Wilde, your response is as likely to miss the mark as did the original. Better a tight smile and an insincere tone, with a bland “Oh, thank you” that kills its posing as a joke and discourages repetition.
Party, no presents
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My niece was married last fall. I wanted to give her a bridal shower, but due to the fact that I was going through chemotherapy, I just wasn’t up to it. She never had any type of shower or tea except for a small work shower. She has also experienced a lot of heartache in her young life.
I would really like to do something for her and her husband’s first anniversary that could include gifts. Any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: That you follow your kind wish by giving your niece and her husband an anniversary party and as many presents as you like. But that you not solicit others to do so.
Miss Manners gathers that you think that there is a set series of gift-entitlement occasions connected with marriage, to be collected at the honoree’s convenience, whether related to the wedding or not. Unfortunately, many people seem to harbor this outrageous notion.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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