DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I held a two-day yard sale, one gentleman bought several things the first day and told me that he would be back the next day to negotiate the price of an additional item. He did not say what time he would return.
I gave him my business card, but he did not contact me. About two hours into the sale the next day, another gentleman made an offer on the object, which I accepted.
An hour after that, the first gentleman returned and was upset that it was no longer available. He still purchased a couple more things, and I threw in a few small items for free.
Was I wrong not to hold the object until the first gentleman returned? What are the rules of etiquette for such situations?
GENTLE READER: Those who are untroubled by ambiguity may reasonably assert that as the first gentleman did not explicitly ask you to hold the item, there was no obligation for you to do so. (His assertion that he would return to negotiate was not a promise to buy; said negotiation might not have been consummated by a sale.)
Miss Manners understands that there was confusion all around. Your solution -- selling to the second buyer, but also apologizing to, and partially compensating, the first buyer -- is both defensible and polite. You could, alternatively, have explained the situation to the second person and taken his information as a hedge against gentleman No. 1’s non-reappearance.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)