Miss Manners: Boss’s invitation to auction is not a command performance

December 16, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Every year I am invited by my boss to attend the dinner auction for the private school he sends his children to, and the invitation is always accompanied with the ticket order form. In similar situations, when others have invited me as their guest, they have purchased my ticket.

Is it proper etiquette to invite your employee (or friend), but expect him to purchase the ticket(s)? I feel it is rude to extend an invitation that, if I accept, requires me to pay a considerable amount of money (not just the equivalent of a box of Girl Scout cookies, but a whole week’s worth of groceries!).

I find it uncomfortable because my wife and I make a point of supporting a variety of institutions/charities generously, and this one isn’t under that umbrella. We’re not ungenerous with our money, but we do manage it carefully, and spend and save it intentionally.

Should I just decline, and if asked for a reason, be evasive with a calendar conflict? Or should I be honest (while still being polite) and explain how I feel?

GENTLE READER: You seem to have mistaken an invitation for an invitation. Allow Miss Manners to explain:

There are actually two ways such charitable events are populated, and because both are given a social veneer, it is easy to confuse them.

People who are involved with the benefiting institution are generally responsible for selling a minimum number of tickets. The easiest way to do this is to buy them oneself and invite others as guests. Such is the way that you attended previous events.

But it’s a great deal cheaper to encourage others to buy their own tickets by sending cards that look like invitations, but are discreetly accompanied by a list of prices for attending. That is the present case. No excuse is needed for not buying, not even a reply.

But wait — you did tell Miss Manners that this came from your boss.

It would be illegal to make you feel that refusing would harm your career. But you really don’t need to plan a suit. Your boss knows exactly how much money you make. This might be a good time to ask for a raise, on the grounds that you would love to be able to support more charities, but that you already donate as much money as you can afford.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received a year-end bonus check from my boss today. I said thank you and decided to wait until I got home to open it. I expected it to be a nice bonus of a couple hundred dollars, for which I would have felt very grateful.

Instead, I found a check for one and a half times one of my paychecks, a sum considerably larger than a couple hundred bucks. I believe all of the full-time employees got a similar bonus.

I feel so lucky to work for such a great employer, especially in today’s economy. I understand that a bonus is our boss’s way of thanking us. So my question is: Do I thank him? And if so, with a letter, or just in person?

GENTLE READER: Exceptional generosity calls for exceptional gratitude. Surely Miss Manners is not the only person who would enjoy a letter stating what a great employer you have.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

, by Judith Martin

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