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Home Shopping Parties And the Hard Sell

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dear Miss Manners:

I hosted one of those home shopping parties for a group of friends and had a very good turnout. However, one thing I noticed was that a close relative of mine didn't purchase anything.

Now, I know that you shouldn't feel obligated to buy anything at these functions. However, I have attended several home parties for her in the past, and I felt that it was discourteous not to support your host.

Later on, a few of my girlfriends and I had a separate discussion on whether you should have to buy something at these types of parties. One girlfriend's response was that no, you shouldn't, while the other friend's reply was that you should buy at least something since the host is supplying food and drinks.

With these two quite different responses, I have become confused on how I should handle the situation with the relative who didn't buy anything. Should I be annoyed and therefore not go to any of her forthcoming parties?

What do you think should be the correct courtesy at these types of parties? We all know that they have the "gang" mentality pressured into them.

And your complaint is that the gang mentality didn't kick in to make your relative feel obligated to buy something she didn't want?

Miss Manners asks you to bear in mind that when you give such a gathering, you should be acting as a saleswoman who incidentally serves refreshments, not a social hostess who incidentally embarrasses her guests into spending money they would not otherwise spend. A respectable salesperson presents and touts the opportunity to buy but does not bludgeon potential customers into paying for things they do not want.

A reason not to invite this relative to a shopping party would be that she is not interested in the kind of merchandise you are selling. For the same reason, and not to punish her, you needn't attend hers.

But what exactly would be the point of your selling unwanted things to each other? Who would profit besides the companies you represent?

Wouldn't you both come out just as far ahead, and not have your houses full of unwanted clutter, if you saw each other over a (freely offered) cup of tea?

Dear Miss Manners:

Should the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom wear the same color dress?

My daughter has blue beading in her dress, and her future mother-in-law has informed her that she will be wearing blue, since my daughter has blue in her dress.

Shouldn't the mother of the bride have the first choice?

She does: That is, she has first choice about what she wants to wear, and the other lady has first choice about what she wants to wear.

Of course, Miss Manners is presuming that both mothers are old enough to know that a wedding is neither a costume party nor a competition and can be trusted to wear dresses suitable to the occasion.

Dear Miss Manners:

Is it now considered "pretentious," as my 12-year-old son suspects, to respond to a formal party invitation with the traditional wording, "_______ accepts with pleasure the kind invitation of _________ to __________"?

I have always insisted on this sort of response, but now I suddenly find myself in doubt! I have been raising four boys for lo these 25 years. I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel now, but I must not be swayed by the temptation to abandon my duties too soon.

Hang in there.

This is no time to start taking etiquette lessons from a 12-year-old.

It would be pretentious to write a formal, third-person response to an e-mailed invitation to a beer fest or a telephoned offer to meet for dinner.

The rule is (and will continue to be, Miss Manners assures you) to respond to an invitation in kind, using the degree of formality in which the invitation was conveyed. So yes, a formal invitation requesting the pleasure of one's company should be answered formally, just as you have written.

2007Judith Martin

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