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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Can I Greet Callers by Name When Answering?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A while back, a friend asked me for a recommendation for a handyman, which I obliged. Apparently, she and the handyman spoke about a number of things to be fixed, but he only fixed a few.

I came to find out that the handyman saw other items that needed to be fixed, and did so without asking. My friend became quite upset and refused to pay for these additional items, one being a sink that he claims was in terrible condition. Apparently they went back and forth, and the handyman asked only to be paid for the materials used and not labor.

At this point, I became aware of the situation. I commented to her that although he overstepped a bit, he was being helpful and should be fully paid -- especially since she was, and still is, enjoying the fruits of his labor. She said she would think about it.

We never spoke of this again, but I then hired this man again for a small job and found out that she had refused to pay him. Needless to say, I was uncomfortable with him, and now her. Should I leave this alone or say something to my friend?

GENTLE READER: Before you say anything to your friend, let us review business etiquette.

The customer determines what she will buy. Miss Manners believes this statement to be absolute, whatever medical service providers may think. By altering something he was not asked to touch, the handyman committed an ethical breach. That cancels out any genuine concern he may have felt about the sink -- concern that was already suspect, since he expected financial gain for fixing it.

There is no requirement that your friend pay the handyman for his unsolicited time or expense. But there is also no prohibition against her doing so if a long list of conditions is met: that, in retrospect, your friend is happy that the sink was done; that the work was done well; and that she believes the handyman’s intentions were pure -- or at least as pure as the water that used to come out of the sink.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)