Miss Manners: What’s in a name?

December 31, 2013

Dear Miss Manners:

My brother-in-law is a generally likable fellow, and we enjoy our visits. However, my spouse and I cringe when he routinely addresses waiters, tollbooth collectors and other service people by the name appearing on their name tags. We feel that this practice is demeaning, given that no introduction has been made and that the tag’s purpose is to be able to identify the employee in later dealings with the company or to be able to report to management especially good or poor service. What do you think?

Although she fails to see any purpose for the name tags — surely management knows who was assigned to which table — Miss Manners is perplexed by the idea that it is demeaning to address someone by his or her name, particularly when the name tag has already supplied a preferred form of address. If your concern is the informality of that form, she notes that many company name tags read, “Hi! My name is Bill M.” In which case your brother should feel free to address his server as “Mr. M.”

Dear Miss Manners:

Please tell your readers not to send death notices in their Christmas cards/letters. I received three such Christmas cards.

One was of a good friend, and I was devastated that I wasn’t told at the time when she died. My husband died last year, and it lifted my spirits to get cards and letters from friends, but when I opened the ones that told me about people dying, I was so depressed.

Please don’t use the holidays to tell your friends/family that someone died. This is not the time to do so — this is supposed to be a happy occasion!

For many, it seems to be the only occasion for writing at all, and therefore the repository of both good news and bad.

One problem, Miss Manners notes, is that Americans do not send out death notices — black-bordered cards with a formal printed message — as is done in other countries. People complain of the shock of seeing such notices in social media, as well as on Christmas cards.

She quite agrees that death is solemn enough to be announced alone, not thrown in with other sentiments.

Dear Miss Manners:

I received two gifts that included gift receipts. After thanking the donors, I returned the items because they were not to my liking. Having gift receipts made the process easy and possible.

One donor asked if I enjoyed the item and was disappointed to learn that it had been returned. What should one do if the situation repeats itself?

Tell the donor that you enjoyed the item, as of course you did. Miss Manners sees no reason to explain that your enjoyment came from being able to turn it into something that you wanted.

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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