DEAR MISS MANNERS: Recently I contracted with a company to do some work in my home, and was dissatisfied with the work performed. In response to my letter of complaint, I received a hand-written "Thank You" card (gold lettering on the front), in which I was addressed by my first name. It was a letter of apology, with an assurance that my suggestions would be attended to in future business.
I appreciated the content, and the handwriting, but was annoyed by the assumed familiarity. Since the note did not respond to my request for a partial refund, I had occasion to write again, and sent a typewritten letter on business-size paper. Was this proper?
As my original complaint centered on the lack of professionalism on the part of this company (on a scale much larger than that of correspondence and modes of address), I fear the subtlety of maintaining my distance may be lost on them. Is there anything else I can do (within the bounds of etiquette, of course) to dissuade them from unwanted "intimacy" in the future?
GENTLE READER: Don't hire them again. That way, they will never get anywhere near you.
Miss Manners does not advise this merely to punish the company for annoying you with an all-too-common transgression of etiquette. Saying, "I'd prefer that you call me Ms. Humblethwaite," pleasantly but directly, should be all that is needed to alert someone who means to be polite to you how to do so.
But you are talking about a company that doesn't have enough pride and responsibility about its own work to do it properly, nor make restitution after admitting that it did not.
Yes, a typewritten letter on business-size paper is proper for a business letter. Miss Manners just has a hard time picturing the recipients saying, "Look at this. Why don't we write dignified professional letters like this?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When eating soup from a bowl on a plate, where is the proper place to set the spoon between spoonfuls and again when finished? Is it the bowl or the plate?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is going to drive you crazy on this one. You want a simple answer so you can eat your soup in peace and propriety, and she is about to douse you with technical terms.
Soup may be served in bowls or cups with small plates under them, in which case the spoon is always parked on the underlying plate, whether you are finished or just resting up for the next spoonful. That would be a simple answer if this were all there were to it, but there is more.
At more or less formal dinners, soup is served in a so-called soup plate, which doesn't look like a plate because it is a rimmed wide, shallow bowl, but it is called a plate anyway. It goes on top of the service plate, and both are removed together when replaced with the plate for the fish or meat course.
When a soup plate is used, the spoon is parked in it, not in the flat plate below the soup plate. This is a shock to people who only learned soup-bowl etiquette, and will think you don't know any better, but it is the correct method.
You can achieve an even greater shock with two-handled soup cups, where it is not strictly necessary to use a spoon at all, but permissible to drink from the lifted cup. However, Miss Manners does not consider herself responsible for the consequences of Fun With Soup.