DEAR MISS MANNERS: Does Miss Manners consider the "upgrading" of a gift to be a faux pas? Here's the scenario:
Parents generously invite son and daughter-in-law on a cruise for which the parents have saved, reserving standard accommodations for all. Son and daughter-in-law, without any further discussion, "improve" upon this generous gift by purchasing an "upgrade" for themselves.
Some claim this is bad manners indeed because it relates to the parents that their very generous gift (they didn't have to do this, after all) is somehow not good enough. Others claim that the younger set are only trying to make their dream trip come true also, since they couldn't have afforded the trip otherwise and may never again.
Never having taken such a cruise, I can only guess that the distinction of the "upgrade" lies in various amenities and maybe having a bathtub instead of a shower, or dinner with the captain.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners has learned to be wary of hearing about people pursuing their dreams, as it so often is at the expense of others. What about the parents' dream, which is literally at their expense?
The rule is that you can do what you like with a present once it is yours, provided the giver of it never discovers that it was not entirely satisfactory. If the couple were being sent off on their own, they might be able to get away with upgrading.
But how are they going to explain being in a grander cabin, most likely on a different deck, and probably being assigned to a different dining room? This would not only indicate dissatisfaction with the present, but a preference for extra luxury over family proximity.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At least once a week, I have lunch or dinner in a restaurant with a group of friends or co-workers or networking group. Inevitably, when the check comes, it is passed around and everyone gives money to cover their share.
I can only recall one time when the payment didn't come up short. Last night, for example, the money collected was $60 under the total bill. Usually the burden of paying more falls to the ones, like me, who choose to linger and chat over coffee, while others rush out as soon as they have finished their meal.
Should the host call those people the next day and inform them that the bill was short and they should plan to compensate at the next gathering? This problem has seemed to exist everywhere! What is a tactful way to make sure everyone pays their fair share? I don't want to have to pay $40 for a salad anymore.
GENTLE READER: What your group needs is not a bill collector with the unpleasant, although not impolite, task of calling around saying, "I'm afraid you miscalculated your lunch bill," giving the correct sum. It needs an accountant.
Invariably, Miss Manners observes, people who are asked to figure their own costs calculate only the price of the food, omitting the tax and tip. You need to put one person in charge, who asks each of the others what he or she ordered, figures the cost and says what is owed before anyone departs.