Dear Miss Manners: In the course of my business day, I am often called upon to answer questions related to my products and their purpose.
Some customers ask several questions in a rapid fashion, and I am unable to respond without interrupting them. Then, still without giving me a chance to answer any of the questions they have asked, they say, “Well, I guess you don’t know anything.”
Please give me a gentle response that allows me to defend myself and maintain my dignity.
Gentle Reader: Produce a pencil and paper and, while looking the customer directly in the eye, write down and number each of his questions.
Whether you faithfully transcribe the questions is irrelevant – the act of paying attention and taking notes will so flummox the questioner that you will then have time to answer the questions. However, Miss Manners does not advise taking notes on any electronic device, as the customer will assume you have decided to check your email.
Thanks not forthcoming
Dear Miss Manners: It has bugged me for years that none of my bosses has ever written a thank-you note for a Christmas gift, a wedding gift – or any gift. They have not even acknowledged the receipt of any gifts verbally.
Is there some business rule that I don’t know about where the wealthy or affluent or upper management don’t acknowledge gifts? I’m looking forward to an answer to this puzzling question.
Gentle Reader: Are you suggesting that the rich may be able to buy their way out of etiquette obligations the way people were once able to buy their way out of armies?
On the contrary. The amazing concept of noblesse oblige requires them to be even more considerate of those who are under their control.
Not in your office, apparently. But Miss Manners does wonder why you are giving Christmas presents to your bosses and attending their weddings (which would be the only reason for your giving a wedding present). These are not your friends; nor do they sound like friends worth having.
The meaning of ‘tiffin’
Dear Miss Manners: I recently read a book that used the word “tiffin.” The dictionary defined the word as “luncheon,” but that did not really fit the context. What is a tiffin?
Gentle Reader: Without having peeked over your shoulder, Miss Manners can tell you that you were reading about British India. That’s where and when the term was devised to describe a light meal, whether late morning, at lunch or at teatime.
This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin.