Thanks But No Thanks: How to Politely Deny Pushy Free Trials

Q: There is a new store in the entrance hallway of the mall at which I am employed. Every single time I or anybody else walks by, there is an employee out front offering a free massage sample.

On my way into work, I tell them I have to go to work, but they ask again as I leave. It’s annoying and I don’t think I should have to dread walking through the door for fear of being harassed. What can I tell them, or should I complain to mall management? It’s literally every single time.

A: Introduce yourself and explain to those employees that you work in the mall and really do not need a free massage sample.  So since you will see them twice a day, you would prefer if they would not offer you samples.  If they persist, discuss this problem with the health store manager.  If the situation doesn’t improve, report it to the mall management.

Busy Bee: When Does it Become Rude to Not Have Replied to an E-Mail?

Q: I’m generally a very busy person and often I don’t have enough time to reply straight away to e-mails I receive from family/friends. So, my question is what is the polite response time to family/friends – or to put it another way, after what period of time does it become rude to not have replied?

A: An email should be replied to in less than a week. If it will take you longer than a week to reply, a simple message saying something like “I got your email, I’ve been really busy but I want to catch up with you, I’ll email you back as soon as I get a moment ” would be fine. It acknowledges you have received the email, so the sender won’t be wondering whether maybe they had the wrong address for you, or there was some other delivery problem.

Stick or Lick: Can I Tape Business Letters instead of Licking Them?

Q: Is it poor etiquette to tape business letters rather than licking them?

A: Think of business stationery as a form of public relations. Whenever a piece of paper goes out, it should look good and suit the occasion because the appearance will reflect on the image and character of the business. A clean sealed envelope looks much more professional than one sealed with tape.

Irrational Implications: Dealing with Friends and Family That Make too Many Assumptions

Q: My husband and I work for the government in very stressful jobs. My in-laws are stuck in the cliche that working for the government is easy and imply frequently when we meet. I find it very offensive. Is there an appropriate way to broach this topic with them?’

A: Sure. Tell them that it hurts your feelings that they don’t take the time to understand that your jobs are challenging and stressful. Say, “May I tell you about just one week on the job so perhaps you understand?” If they brush off this effort, then continue to tell them, every time they comment, that they have upset you with their assumptions. And then change the subject. There is no need to be defensive or rude in return, just be matter-of-fact and move to a different topic.


I.D. Inquiry: How do I Answer the Office Phone When I know Who is Calling?

Q: How should an office phone equipped with caller I.D. be answered? Should we acknowledge the person directly and less formally if we know who is calling or should we stick to our normal formalities?

A: Answer as you would if you didn’t have Caller ID – John Jone’s Office. You have no way of knowing if it is really Sue, or someone using Sue’s phone, so it is best to be professional and let the caller identify him- or herself.