Miss Manners: Survey-weary customer wants to make it stop

January 19

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It seems as if any time I have contact with a business, they want me to fill out a survey about my experience. This is a trend that really irritates me.

I call my bank to ask which branch I should go to for a particular service, and a week later I get a letter and a two-page survey form to fill out. I place an order with a mail-order catalogue and get an e-mail asking me to fill out a survey about my customer experience, followed up (after the order has been delivered) with another e-mail asking how I liked the product.

I can, of course, ignore such requests (and often do), but sometimes that gets me a follow-up letter or e-mail complaining that I haven’t responded! Sometimes I get follow-up phone calls! Even Miss Manners probably cannot prevent companies from this practice, but don’t they violate some tenet of business etiquette?

GENTLE READER: Yes, they are violating the first rule of business: Don’t annoy the customer.

Sadly, Miss Manners realizes that they are doing this with the opposite intention. But if someone, even a friend, followed you around pleading, “Do you like me? Do you really, really like me? How can I make you like me more?” you would be tempted to slap him.

As businesses are aware, the consumer now has ways of voicing dissatisfaction to the world. Heading this off by catching problems immediately, or perhaps by allowing the customer to vent to the point of exhaustion, is good business. But then, so is knowing when to stop.

In addition to ignoring these requests, you should ask not to be contacted except in connection with your order, and you should withhold your telephone number.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Included in the invitation to a wedding my family and I will be attending was a request for everyone over 21 to “give the couple the courtesy” of paying $25 for each adult’s “bar package.”

As we have children, we declined purchasing a “bar package,” since we will not be drinking, then driving. And frankly, money is tight, and I’d rather use the $50 for their wedding present.

I was informed we need to pay this, since the couple chose to have an open bar. Basically, they want an open bar vs. a cash bar (which is an option), but they want their guests to pay for it, drinking or not.

They are close family, so I feel stuck. I’ve always thought that would be rude, akin to asking guests to pay for their own meal, or charging a fee to attend! Please tell me if I’m correct in thinking this requirement is inappropriate, or if I’m overreacting.

Also, how should I lovingly respond? I’ll pay the $50, but my funding can’t give that and a nice wedding gift, too, although it would feel so rude to me not to give a nice gift since they are close family. Suggestions?

GENTLE READER: Well, these people are in no position to consider you rude. Yet they are probably rude enough themselves to complain if they feel shortchanged.

Miss Manners is sorry to condemn your close relatives, but of course they are charging you an admission fee.

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.

2014, by Judith Martin

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