1. Magdalena

    Hello, all. I have a question that only involves a slight bit of etiquette. Before I outline the background, please let it be known that I know I don’t have to do anything; I want to do something.

    I work in a very small business whose employees I can count on one hand. I was the only sales person working today and thus the only person working today, which is quite typical, when a woman called inquiring for the boss. I of course politely told her that the boss wouldn’t be in until the weekend, that I could take a message or she could always call back then. The woman asked me to leave a message for the boss that she was sending a $25 money order for a bounced check; and, out of what I feel was anxiety and a need for me, a stranger, to not think she was a bad person for having bounced a check and thus a need to be accepted by someone in her desperate situation, told me in short why the check had bounced. I feel that she was very sincere and was really going through a rough patch. Here is my dilemma: I would very much like to help her out by paying for part of what she owes to my boss. I do not plan on breaking my bank for this nor on paying in full. I’m not sure how giving my boss money towards this woman’s debt would go over as I find my boss rather rigid. I’m also not sure it would be right to call this woman to ask her for her address so that I could send her money since my boss would not accept it from me, if that is even the right way to go about this. I know this isn’t an advice column, so my question really is: how do I go about donating to this woman politely, with etiquette, and without really over stepping?

    • Alicia

      Yikes. That is a sticky situation and you sound like a sweet person. However there are a lot of ways you could cause buisness tensions or insult. Implying that someone is a case for charity when they do not say that themselves could cause serious insult instead of the kindness and joy you are hoping to create. Also asking to pay a customers bill to your boss could make you look like a less effective sales person and advocate for your company which is not good. Instead whatever problem that she was having causing this difficulty there is likely a charuity in your area or nationally that deals with lots of folks in that situation. I would make the donation to the charity that applies in her honor.

  2. Jess

    I agree with Alicia, I wouldn’t get involved in this. There are plenty of people that could use your help outside of this situation, and I would put the money toward that. You don’t want a good deed to end up hurting you negatively at work.

    • Magadelan

      I guess I could have mentioned that tomorrow is my last day…does that change any advice? Also, thank you both for taking the time to answer my question and give good advice.

  3. Baffled

    Question on a different topic – My boss has kindly had me invited to his son’s wedding. It is out of town, and will cost a good bit of money for me to attend. (transport ca. $100, lodging over $300, clothing ca. $2-300, gift additional). What to do? Also, if i were to go, how much should i plan to spend on a gift? If I don’t go, same question…

    • jess

      If you really want to go, then go. If you don’t really want to go, then decline the invitation and either send a gift off the registry or send an amount that you can afford–but not what you would have given had you gone to the wedding.

      • Baffled

        Thanks! I would prefer not to go, but am concerned about offending my boss, in turn having a negative impact on my job situation. Since you and Alicia think i’m within my “rights” not to go, that is helpful to setting my mind at ease. But any suggestions as to what to say to boss as to decision not to go?

        • Marianna

          I doubt your boss would be offended considering how much wedding receptions cost per guest. He probably just invited you to be nice. Technically, if you don’t go you don’t have to send a gift, but of course your boss’s son would appreciate one.

          • baffled

            Still, if he raises question as to why i’m not going, what is an appropriate response?

          • Country Girl

            If you let him know that you are not able to make it and he pushes further just keep it simple and honest and say “Funds are a little tight right now. I really appreciate the invitation though.” Since the wedding is out of town, your boss should understand. If you are close, your boss may even try to arrange transportation/affordable logding for you so be prepared to either accept or turn down that as you see fit.

            I also don’t think new clothing should have factor in to wedding expenses. Just wear something nice you already have and maybe spruce it up with a pretty hair ribbon or new belt. The focus of the day should be on the couple anyway.

        • Lady Antipode

          You are not obliged to say why you aren’t attending. I’d suggest similar to what Country Girl has wisely proposed, ‘I’m sorry I can’t attend. I really appreciate the invitation, though’.

    • Alicia

      Do you want to go? You are under no obligation to. Decide and RSVP appropriately. For a decline RSVP fast, send a card and a gift meeting your budget and closeness to the bride and groom. For an acceptant RSVP promptly, send a card and a gift appropriate to your budget and closeness to the bride and groom.
      Personally, I would decline, and send a small but generic gift off a registry. If no registry I would give a slightly generic gift that anyone could use and would match almost any decor. Also I would almost certainly buy whatever I get on sale as to make it look like a nicer gift then it really costs.

      • Jess

        Baffled, I am in a semi-similar situation as I am declining an invitation to an out of state wedding. It is a friend from college and everyone else we were friends with is going. I have personally negative feelings about this person, so I have decided not to go. Just today I purchased a gift card and will be mailing it out a few days after I mail the RSVP that says “no”. In a wedding card I will write “I am so sorry that we are unable to make your wedding. We wish you all the happiness in the world.” I am not going to address it otherwise. If she contacts me about it then I will deal with it then and say something about not being able to afford it right now. Obviously this will not affect me professional as it may you, but I would just RSVP no and then wish everyone the best, send a small gift and if he asks do exactly what Country Girl said.

        • baffled

          Thanks so much, everyone. {Country Girl, if you only saw my wardrobe you’d know we’re starting from scratch…Hard to dress up the jeans any way that would work for a wedding…;-)!!}

    • Mary

      As someone who just had a wedding last month, RSVP no and don’t feel guilty about it! We had a lot of people we felt like we had to invite, or where outright told we had to invite, even though we were not only going over our budget but also maxing out the number of guests we could legally fit in the venue. Everyone will love it if you can come, but no one expects you to come. I didn’t even get gifts from a lot of the people that we “had” to invite, so if you do get them something nice off their registry, you’ll be ahead of the game!

      I would caution you about buying something for a couple that you don’t know when it isn’t off their registry. Unless you have amazing taste or some really good leads on something fabulous, give them cash. If you feel awkward about it, write in your note that you hope they’ll use it as part of their honeymoon fund. They won’t judge you by the amount you give, especially if you aren’t coming to the wedding. We got a lot of really strange things that didn’t fit our decor or lifestyle. It’s not like couples getting married these days are “just starting out” and need plates and silverware, but we definitely got some off-registry gifts that fit that line of thinking. I spent all last weekend returning things and mailing them off to department stores that weren’t in my city. While I wrote lovely thank you notes and I’m trying to think charitably about all the stuff that I got but didn’t want, I really just want a nice, normal weekend when I don’t have to run to the post office.

  4. melodee thomas

    I am having a birthday celebration themed “Girls Nite Out” where I am inviting 15 close friends and family members to join me for dinner and poledancing. I am unsure how to word on the invitation that I will pay for the poledancing (which [for your information] includes an instructor in a pole dancing studio with champaign and hor d’oeuvres), but not the dinner. Also, would it be appropriate (and if so, how would I handle it) to ask the ladies to go in on a tip for the instructor at the end of the 2 hour pole dancing session.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Alicia

      Invite them to pole dancing lessons with an aside that you will be going out to dinner at XYZ resturant afterwards if they would like to go there for dinner as well and that dinner at XYZ typically costs $a-b.
      Cover the tip for the instructors yourself.
      Pole dancing class is a fun thing ( I did it with friends for another friends bachlorette) You may also need to include bits about what to expect and attire. Ie at least for my class they said either flats or thick heels no sexy stileto heels.

    • Marianna

      I would not mention the dinner on the invitation, just the pole dancing. Then after people start RSVPing you can contact them individually and say, “Some of us are grabbing dinner beforehand at such-and-such. Would you like to join us?” That way you are the coordinator and not the host of the dinner.

      • Country Girl

        Perfect advice, I agree. I had to chuckle to myself reading this thread thinking about how Ms. Emily Post would have handled said Pole Dancing Party debacle.

  5. jess

    Anytime you are inviting people to something, you should be paying for it. It is never appropriate to ask people to pay for anything on an invitation.

  6. M

    What do you do when your guests are REALLY, REALLY PICKY EATERS…like a yellow cake can only be topped with chocolate icing; chocolate chip cookies can’t be made with a mixer; only “green” lettuce (i.e., none of those weird lettuces); no recipe with more than three ingredients? It’s one thing if you physically cannot eat strawberries, peanuts, etc. It is a totally different matter if you as the host/hostess are given all sorts of parameters by your guest(s).

    • Alicia

      Don’t discuss the specific menu with them in advance. If they ask ” Oh I’m not sure but I’m sure it will be delish”
      People who are that picky about food should either expect to get served foods that do not meet their desires or they should host. Seriously how will they know if you do or do not use a mixer to make cookies? A good host will try to please their guests but good guests also try to be always pleased.
      P.s.Besides shouldn’t it be chocolate cake with buttercream icing instead, my favorite. And I like fancy lettuces.( yes I’m kidding but not everyones tastes are identical and picky can become not worth pandering to)

    • Country Girl

      Ummm… you tell your guest “Well you seem to have quite a few requests, perhaps it would be easier for both of us if you hosted from now on.”

      Short of that, I would let them know that it is your event and you will be making the cake/salad/etc by the recipe that you wish, if they wish to pick out the parts they do not like they are welcome to do so.

      • Scarlett

        I, too, am wondering how in the world a guest would know whether or not the cookies were made with a mixer! LOL! I do agree with what Alicia said about avoiding specifics, but if the guest persists, you could easily say “Well, I’m sorry, but that is the menu I have planned. Maybe you could join us some other time.” This puts you clearly in charge and the guest on notice that you will not cater to individual preferences, but still leaves open the possibility of another invite, giving this prospective guest a chance to be more gracious in the future. Unless a guest could actually become sick from eating certain foods (i.e., food allergy or gluten intolerance), which according to M is not the case here, there is no need to provide an ingredients list. I agree with Country Girl that such picky people can just simply eat the parts they do like. Bon appetit!

    • LC

      Sounds like some demanding and rude guests. I would tell them you are unsure of the specific menu, but inquire as to their food allergies or religious (lifestyle) eating requirements. I would leave it at that. As a host, your guests’ comfort and pleasure should be the top priority; however, it does not mean that you must cater to unreasonable requests.

    • Lin

      I have a household of picky eaters (one is only 15 months old and doesn’t have all his teeth in, one is your typical 3-year-old who would live on peanut butter sandwiches if I let him, one is an adult with some unusual psychological issues in regards to food, and I am diabetic); usually I offer to bring something that they will eat to ease the host’s/hostess’s stress (and I can always adapt or not stick to my diet for the occasional meal). What would you think about offering them the opportunity to bring their own dish?

    • Mary

      I’m a vegetarian, and a lot of my relatives are accommodating, but they don’t really know what to feed me. I usually ask if there’s anything I should bring (even when the dinner isn’t potluck) and then I suggest that I bring an entree for myself that other people can share as a side dish. I know how it’s made, I know that it’s really vegetarian, and it solves problems that other people wouldn’t think of — like not putting marshmallows on the sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving!

      There are occasionally events where I just can’t eat anything (try being a vegetarian at a kosher seder some time — no dairy, no wheat, no potatoes, no rice, no beans…), so I “pregame” and eat a small, quick meal beforehand. That way I’m not starving while everyone else chows down and I can enjoy everyone’s company without wondering when my food’s going to show up.

  7. Female Professional

    I need some etiquette help. Professionally, I have been working with a company solely corresponding through email. Somehow these colleagues got the idea that I am a man. It’s been 4 months now. Eventually we are likely to meet in person, so how do I nicely correct them and avoid an awkward situation?

    • Country Girl

      I had to chuckle at this, because recently I was given a contact whose name was Errin whom I mistook for a woman and was in fact a man. =)

      Unfortunately there are not too many options for correcting this error before you actually meet these folks unless they blatenly say something about you being a man (In which case you can politely correct them). If you are really friendly with them you might be able to sneak in a “Yes, I am also glad it’s Friday, myself and the other women in the office are planning to have a fun girl’s night tonight.” or if you know of such an event.. “Myself and the other women in my office are really looking forward to a Women in Business Luncheon and were wondering if any ladies from your office would like to join us?”

      If you are unable to sneak in that you are a woman, however, I think when they eventually find out it will be a funny story that you and they will be able to bond over in the long run. =)

      • Ha! This happened to me once-upon-a-time on a forum about cars (I had a gender-neutral SN). When I met them in person they were floored, but I only smiled and acted like it was no big deal, and after 30 seconds, it wasn’t! As Elizabeth said, it’s an innocent mistake. If you wait until they meet you in person, I think that will be even more of an ice-breaker (big laughs are always good ice-breakers), but there would be nothing wrong with a lighthearted correction via email.

    • Elizabeth

      The time to do it was the first time they used the incorrect pronoun. If it was relatively recently, you could just pretend to notice the most recent incorrect pronoun and say something light like, “Oops, it looks like you forgot an ‘s’ in front of that ‘he’! My name may be ambiguous in terms of gender, but when we meet in person you will definitely not mistake me for a man.” Or you could address the reason they made the mistake in the first place – is your name of ambiguous gender? “My nickname “Thom” is short for Thomasina!” or similar.

      I would just be upfront about it, be upbeat, and don’t act embarrassed. They’ll apologize, have a laugh over it, and move on.

      However, if you’ve let this go on for awhile, you should write a dedicated email and address it more directly, and apologize for not correcting them sooner. This is something you should have addressed immediately – its an innocent mistake.

    • Lady Antipode

      Another option you have is to sign off your emails with “Ms Professional”. It is very formal for people you work with (rather than for) but it should get the message across without causing too much embarassment to anyone.

  8. paul

    Is is acceptable to blow one’s nose at the dining table, after finishing the meal by using one’s cloth table napkin?

    I would sincerely appreciate your comments.


  9. Paul,
    You should excuse yourself to the restroom when you need to blow your nose. If, for some reason, you are absolutely, totally unable to leave the table, quietly blow your nose using a tissue, then place it in your pocket or bag, never on the table.

    It is never appropriate to use a cloth table napkin for this purpose.

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