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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I recently returned from a vacation where we had a disagreement regarding hotel service and towels.

Regarding the towels, my wife thinks we should hang them to dry daily for reuse later. I say the cost of washing the towels is included in the price of the room, and I want a fresh towel daily.

The other issue is my wife feels obligated to tip the housekeeping staff. I have never felt that obligation. Not a single housekeeper has been exceptional, regardless of the hotel we stayed in.

We're hoping you could shed some light on hotel etiquette. -- WEST VIRGINIA TRAVELER

DEAR TRAVELER: Your wife appears to be a conservationist. Although you prefer fresh towels daily, many travelers voluntarily forgo this service to help hotels conserve water and save energy. If you prefer to do otherwise, that's your privilege -- and it's not worth arguing over.

As to tipping the housekeeping staff, has it occurred to you that you have never received exceptional service because you never offered a tip? Some hotel guests talk to the housekeeper at the time they arrive to request extra hangers, soap, washcloths, etc. -- and offer a gratuity at that time. And when they do, the staff usually goes out of their way to be accommodating. Try it -- they need the extra money, and they'll spoil you if you let them.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Parker," and I have a 4-year-old son, "Ethan." Recently, my mother-in-law suggested we have a will drawn up, stating who will take care of Ethan if something happens to us. She's an attorney and has offered to do it for us.

Parker and I agree that it is a good idea and appreciate her offer to do the paperwork. The problem? We don't want her raising our son. We have another relative in mind.

My mother-in-law is a nice enough person and would not be cruel or abusive to Ethan, but she was not a good mother to Parker and his siblings. She's extremely selfish and self-absorbed. We know she'll be extremely offended if we don't name her as our child's guardian.

I would like to hire another attorney, but she will take offense to that as well. She hasn't stopped hounding us about this issue. Please tell us how to handle this. -- TRAPPED IN THE GOLDEN STATE

DEAR TRAPPED: Hire an attorney and have the document drawn up. And when your mother-in-law raises the subject again, you and Parker should thank her and tell her it has already been done, so she doesn't have to worry about it anymore. The woman may be selfish and self-absorbed, but she is absolutely right that you should have your wishes put in writing.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were taught differently regarding how to serve ourselves a meal. Typically, we each "plate up" a desired amount of food in the kitchen, where it is prepared, rather than bring serving dishes to the table. Then we carry our plates to the table to eat.

Should my husband serve himself first (as I was taught the cook/hostess is served last), or should I go first (as he was taught women precede men)? -- DINERS' DILEMMA

DEAR D.D.: You're not "the hostess"; you are the wife. If your husband wishes to defer to you, let him spoil you. You'll both be happier that way.

P.S. I'm sure you can find a way to spoil him back.

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