DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the course of my business day, I am often called upon to answer questions related to my products and their purpose.
Some customers ask several questions in a rapid fashion, and I am unable to respond without interrupting them. Then, still without giving me a chance to answer any of the questions they have asked, they say, "Well, I guess you don't know anything."
Please give me a gentle response that allows me to defend myself and maintain my dignity.
GENTLE READER: Produce a pencil and paper and, while looking the customer directly in the eye (to show that you are paying attention), write down and number each of his questions.
Whether you faithfully transcribe the questions is irrelevant -- the act of paying attention and taking notes will so flummox the questioner that you will then have time to answer the questions. However, Miss Manners does not advise taking notes on any electronic device, as the customer will assume you have decided to check your email instead of helping him.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: It has bugged me for years that none of my bosses has ever written a thank-you note for a Christmas gift, a wedding gift -- or any gift, for that matter. They have not even acknowledged the receipt of any gifts verbally.
Is there some business rule that I don't know about where the wealthy or affluent or upper management don't acknowledge gifts? I'm looking forward to an answer to this puzzling question.
GENTLE READER: Are you suggesting that the rich may be able to buy their way out of etiquette obligations the way people were once able to buy their way out of armies?
On the contrary. The amazing concept of noblesse oblige requires them to be even more considerate of those who are somewhat under their control.
Not in your office, apparently. But Miss Manners does wonder why you are giving Christmas presents to your bosses and attending their weddings (which would be the only reason for your giving a wedding present). These are not your friends; nor do they sound like friends worth having.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We had a sour encounter with a serving lady at a local restaurant on our very first visit. Since the store encouraged feedback, we addressed the situation by email.
We received a reply from the area manager of the eatery chain, regretting the whole incident. He promised to take up the matter with the manager of the particular store. Meanwhile, he also asked for our mailing address to send over two free coupons as a gesture.
Can we accept this gesture? We are quite glad that the issue was tackled promptly and apologies rendered. But if we send just a thank-you email declining the offer, will it be like offending the gesture made?
GENTLE READER: By offering you the coupons, the restaurant is asking for a second chance to win your business. Miss Manners agrees that this is both good manners and good business, but you are not under any obligation to accept. However, since coupons cost the restaurant nothing until they are redeemed, you may simply accept the coupons and then place them in a desk drawer while you think it over, or give them away to family or friends.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)