DEAR MISS MANNERS: While recently visiting a local "cruelty-free" organic grocery store, I was treated in a shocking manner by a cashier.
I have only recently returned from living in Japan, where we customarily put our full shopping baskets on the counter prior to checking out. Evidently, I neglected to read a notice placed nearby notifying me that I needed to empty my basket. I said to my 10-year-old son, probably in a Mommy voice, "I think I'll just put this basket up here since it's so heavy."
The cashier then snapped at me (mimicking my Mommy voice), "Well, I guess I'll just UNPACK the basket." (I had been planning on unpacking it myself, actually.) When I apologized, she berated me in a loud voice saying, "It's just so much easier if you unpack the basket."
I again apologized and offered to go to a different cashier. By this time my own voice was far from calm.
I decided to just shut up, pay and get out of there. And never shop there again. Should I have complained to the manager or openly berated the cashier in turn?
I was so shocked I literally was about to cry. In Japan people are so polite and kind, even if you are new in town and make mistakes. It actually occurred to me that this person might have had some sort of mental illness and was hired there on some special program, and I might have to endure even more humiliation if I were to complain.
I wonder what I should have done or not done. I generally consider myself a gentle, polite person, who doesn't talk down to cashiers.
GENTLE READER: Good. Because berating cashiers is just as rude as berating customers. Maybe worse, because the customer has some recourse.
This is not to match or outdo the offender with a counterattack, but to report the incident to the manager. It would have relieved your indignation, and a conscientious manager would want to know why the business is losing a customer. And you should leave your speculations about mental health out of it.
What Miss Manners would have been tempted to say is, "Isn't this supposed to be a cruelty-free store? Then why do you allow your cashier to mimic and ridicule the customers?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband has a very large extended family (both his mother and father have 12 brothers and sisters, who have myriad children and grandchildren of their own). They all live in another part of the country.
Several times a year, we receive announcements in the mail for graduations, births, weddings, etc. Most of the time I don't have any idea who the person is, and my husband often seems to be only slightly less perplexed: "I think that may be my Uncle Steve's granddaughter?"
I don't usually feel obligated to send a gift, but should I send a note of congratulations? Because we know little about the people, I would only be able to write, "congratulations, good luck, etc." However, if it is rude for me to let the announcement go by without a reply, I'll cheerfully get out the pen and paper.
GENTLE READER: Please do. It won't take you all that long to write simply, "We appreciate your letting us know and we wish you all the best." Even many times over.