DEAR MISS MANNERS: There were two people in line in front of me in the grocery store, an adolescent boy and a man I assume was his father. They were pooling change to buy a can of soup. One can of soup.
I desperately wanted to give them some money to help them out, but I didn’t want to embarrass or offend them. How could I have helped without making a spectacle of any of us?
GENTLE READER: By catching the cashier’s attention and saying, “Why don’t you include that with mine?” And then, with an apologetic and warm look directed at the father and son, continuing with, “I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
If you are able to carry off just the right look, Miss Manners’ hope is that it will imply that they are doing you a favor -- and perhaps counter any embarrassment because you have done one for them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A very good friend's mother passed away recently. I promptly sent a condolences card by U.S. Mail upon learning of her passing.
Unfortunately, the same friend's father then died, literally less than a week later. All this must have been a terrible blow, and I am genuinely so sad for him and his family.
I suppose I should send a second card, but I feel like it seems untoward for some reason. (Especially since I use note cards from a purchased sets -- it then is obvious that I'm working through the same box of cards.)
Would one normally send two cards back-to-back like this? Should I at least switch up the type of note card that I use?
GENTLE READER: Given the doubly tragic circumstances, it seems highly unlikely that your friend is keeping track of your stationery. And if these cards are truly suitable for condolence letters, they are plain and unremarkable anyway.
Miss Manners does recommend, however, that you take pains to ensure that the content of your second letter is worded differently, and refers to the father, as the previous one was about the mother. Your friend’s grief will not likely sufficiently cloud their memory if the sentiments are (the handwritten version of) cut and pasted.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Where I live, it has become commonplace for cashiers and managers to ask whether you will leave a tip, even when the personal care is unworthy or the provider owns the salon.
I think the place could post a discreet sign or have a receipt with a line for tips. Otherwise, the customer is being publicly shamed.
Most of my personal care providers own the business, and I always give them a generous cash gift at year’s end. I really don’t think I have to explain this or be embarrassed by nosy questions. How would you respond?
GENTLE READER: “Not today, thanks” would be Miss Manners’ answer. When said pleasantly, it gives hope that the request will be fulfilled at some point -- but puts the timetable and manner firmly and rightfully in the customer’s hands.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)