DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have one of those camera doorbells on my front door. Consequently, I can see the comings and goings of a good friend of mine who walks my dogs a few times a week while I'm at work (she has a key to my house; the camera detects motion and begins to record and sends a live feed to my phone).
The trouble is that she doesn't always walk my dogs. I know this because the doorbell camera doesn't show her doing so. She comes over but just hangs out. Sometimes she does homework, using my printer and Wi-Fi for assignments, and sometimes she does laundry (I've freely offered these things to her).
I am paying her to walk my dogs when she does come over, as she's going through a rough patch financially. I trust her in my home; I just think she gets a little lazy and I feel taken advantage of.
I know it sounds sheepish, but I don't know how to say anything to her about this. I don't want her to think I'm spying on her with the camera, but I also don't want to pay her to come over for an hour for her own purposes.
GENTLE READER: The term "early adopter" is, to Miss Manners' thinking, a triumph of marketing over common sense. We used to use less flattering terms to describe people who buy things they know are not going to work. But it does provide an important outlet for etiquette: No one is surprised when told that a new, expensive gadget is unreliable.
Your doorbell camera may be the perfection of safety, convenience and reliability, but your friend does not know this. You can therefore express to her your frustration with your new gadget: It must be broken because it did not capture her walking the dogs all last week -- and you're confident that she must have.
Having said this, it is time to beat a hasty retreat -- to a different topic or a different room -- as the purpose is to warn your friend what you know, not to put her on the spot for a defense. Etiquette calls this technique "the dog ate my video."