DEAR MISS MANNERS: You implied that it's inappropriate to greet someone one has just met with, "Nice to meet you." In my case, I have usually greeted new acquaintances with "It's nice to meet you" (perhaps even adding "I've been looking forward to meeting you" when truthful).
Is it simply the absence of the "It's" in the beginning of "Nice to meet you" which makes the statement inappropriate? I suspect I may not be the only person wondering whether there's something wrong with saying "It's nice to meet you," when meeting someone for the first time.
GENTLE READER: Wrong is much too harsh a word for a nuance of etiquette in regard to a kindly meant remark, and quibbling about an incomplete spoken sentence would be ridiculous, as well as rude. Far be it from Miss Manners to inhibit pleasantries. Furthermore, as you quite rightly note, declarations of pleasure in finally meeting someone one has particularly wanted to meet are ingratiating.
The only reason that pedants such as Miss Manners eschew declaring their pleasure upon meeting someone unknown for the first time is to be able to declare their pleasure upon parting. A neutral "How do you do?" at the beginning of the encounter makes it possible to say a more flattering, "It is so nice to have met you" at its conclusion. The "it is" is optional.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I used to work retail. Is the customer always right? ?One store would always allow returns, for instance, even of plants the ?customer had killed by not watering them.
But some customers ask -- no, don't ask, insist on -- the most amazing ?things. There was one woman who wanted us ?to dig up the plants we had in our display garden to sell to her, ?because the ones we had for sale were smaller!
Needless to say, the ?type of customer who comes up with this kind of thing is not at all ?polite if a hapless salesclerk tries to refuse. (Perhaps I shouldn't ?get political here, but they always seem to be very well off. They seem ?to disrespect salesclerks because we are poor, or powerless, or ?something. Not, in my case, either young or less educated.)
Anyway, I tried to think of a Miss Manners-ish response that I could ?use in one of these situations. The one I thought of, but didn't get a ?reason to try out, was to say, very innocently, "I'm totally shocked ?that you could even think of asking such a thing!"
So, before the next time I am in such a position, I thought I'd ask ?your opinion of that one, and for an alternate response to the ?occasional totally insane demand by a customer.
GENTLE READER: As you have noticed, the customer is not always right. Why anyone who believed that bromide would go into the retail business, Miss Manners cannot imagine.
Nor is the customer always polite. But the salesclerk should be -- always. And Miss Manners always is, which is why she never indulges in the sort of chastising put-down that you have ascribed to her.
The polite way to shut such a customer up is to appear to take that person's side while in the very act of denying his or her demand. "I wish I could oblige you, madam...," "If it were up to me, sir..." and so on.
No, it doesn't always work. But it at least heads off the additional complaint, which determinedly rude people love to make, that the clerk has been rude to them.