DEAR MISS MANNERS: I feel obligated to help my fellow co-workers' kids when a new fundraising catalogue is brought in to support school and events. I, too, am selling items to help raise money to lessen the financial blow for my daughter's dance class tuition, costumes, etc.
However, I can't exactly afford to keep buying things from co-workers who are also selling things. But I feel it'd be rude not to, especially since I am asking them to do the same for me. What would be the proper etiquette for dealing with this?
GENTLE READER: As you have experienced, embarrassment is an important component in this method of raising money. The idea is to use social connections to pressure people into buying things they may not otherwise want, or even that they cannot afford.
Miss Manners is aware of the urgency with which extra sources of money are needed in the school system. But using schoolchildren to cause this embarrassment teaches them a bad lesson. It is different from the old method, when they were expected to provide a service -- typically, car-washing or baking -- that could make them proud of their ability to earn and contribute.
Your situation seems particularly odd, as your buying from those to whom you sell would make all that effort financially futile.
Miss Manners suggests that you work, instead, on devising a dignified way for the children to earn money. Her guess is that organizing them to help adults learn how to use their computers and smartphones would reap a small fortune. You may then, in good conscience, decline to participate in reciprocal, embarrassing buying.