DEAR MISS MANNERS: I've understood from reading your work that asking for to-go boxes at restaurants is apparently considered rude. Could you please explain why? I've heard this from other sources as well, but it doesn't make any sense to me, nor align with my own experience.
I care very much about the issue of food waste, and try to let as little of my own go to waste as possible. I also paid for the food and don't like to waste money, either.
Moreover, portion sizes at American restaurants are notoriously huge, and I get the impression that the waitstaff doesn't expect you to finish them. They will actually offer to give me boxes for the remainder when they see me slowing down. I rarely have to ask.
On the rare occasions when I don't finish my meal and have to refuse the to-go box -- for example, if I'm traveling and don't have access to a refrigerator -- I always get the impression that the waitstaff are a little offended. I feel the need to explain that the food was delicious, but that I'm not equipped to store the leftovers.
I once overheard two restaurant employees complaining to each other about customers who don't take their leftovers home, and how sad it is that this delicious food has to go to waste. (That they were having this conversation within earshot of the customers is another story, but I couldn't help but notice that they seemed to care about food waste just as much as I do.)
So, can you enlighten me as to why some consider this behavior rude? I know the term "doggie bag" has weird connotations, possibly because people don't like to think of a dog eating the nice restaurant food, but I do not own a "doggie" and almost never hear this term anymore. Is there a deeper reason that doesn't have to do with dogs? Please help me understand.
GENTLE READER: You should begin by reading more carefully. Miss Manners has no objection whatever to asking to take home food one has bought.
What is objectionable is doing this when one is a guest. The tendency to confuse that commercial transaction with social conditions has unfortunately led to the rude practice of asking hosts for leftovers.