DEAR MISS MANNERS: My nephew and his friend planned to drive to another state for a college dance when the friend’s mother came forward with airplane tickets for both boys. After they’d accepted, the mother requested $200 from my nephew to cover the cost of the ticket she’d bought for him.
He paid her off in installments, but I found this profoundly unfair, since she presented him with the bill after the fact. While his friend is quite wealthy, my nephew is working his way through college.
I wanted to give him advice on how to handle such a situation, if he’s unlucky enough to have it happen again in the future, but I was at a loss.
GENTLE READER: It is rude to inquire of a would-be gift-giver if one should expect a bill. This is unfortunate, given how many people these days appear to be confused about the underlying concept.
But Miss Manners has a simpler solution. When asked about the airplane ticket, your nephew should have politely refused on the grounds that he could not accept such an expensive gift. This would have clarified the terms of the proposed gift, while preventing him from being tricked into an expense he could ill afford.