DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister-in-law seems unable to tolerate a reciprocal relationship where she accepts our hospitality or gift, and then she hosts us, gives us something, etc.
If we visit her, she gives us gifts and insists on paying “because we came all that way,” but if she visits us it’s different. This time she needs to pay for things “because we did so much.”
She literally argued that a coin flip would be unfair to determine which couple got the better room in a shared suite. (The only fair thing would be if she and hubby took the lesser accommodation.)
I thought we made headway in the last visit. They accepted our hosting but also took us out. Now I just received, after the fact, an additional gift certificate by email. I suffer from my own malady of really liking things to be equal, but this doesn’t seem possible. What should I feel, do or say?
GENTLE READER: “Thank you,” while trying not to sigh audibly. And when you take them out, make arrangements about the bill in advance.
In a world of moochers (such a satisfying word), excessive generosity may be a lesser annoyance, but Miss Manners thoroughly sympathizes with your discomfort.
However well your relatives think they mean, they are putting you in their perpetual debt, which is not pleasant.
You will, of course, thank them for the gift certificate. But you might want to add that you are saving it — whether it is a meal out, or a present you should choose — to enjoy with them on their next visit.
Service with an email smile
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in customer service, and every day I send 20 or so emails saying, “So-and-so, your order for X has been processed …”
Often my emails receive no response, but sometimes the recipient replies, “Thank you!” or “Thank you.”
When he/she includes the exclamation point, I usually reply, “You’re welcome!” so as to match the sender’s punctuation. However, I never know what to write when someone omits punctuation or uses a period.
“You’re welcome” sounds kind of flat and could be seen as sarcastic or irritated. Is it rude to refrain from responding? Should I nix the “You’re welcome” for impersonal situations? I don’t want to annoy people by blowing up their inbox with pointless pleasantries.
GENTLE READER: There are those who feel that “unnecessary” courtesies pose a mortal threat to cyberspace, but Miss Manners is not among them.
Recognizing that you are in customer service, Miss Manners would like to introduce you to the Reasonable Person, who does not read special meaning into a period at the end of a sentence. She trusts that a customer who takes time to write “Thank you” will not be incensed by your replying “You are welcome” (thus settling the punctuation dilemma).
No, you can’t ask for gifts
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I will be throwing my son a “going to college” party. Is it tacky to register for gifts and put the stores on the invitations?
GENTLE READER: Have you been besieged by people asking you what your son would like to have at college?
Presumably, these would be people whose children you help support. Even so, Miss Manners advises you to answer them individually when they beg to know what to contribute rather than pressuring others by distributing solicitations.
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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