My Thanksgiving Day cheer turned into holiday madness when half the guests I invited didn't show.

Some never even bothered to call to say they weren't coming. I had prepared a 20-pound turkey, a hefty ham, a ton of side dishes, three sweet-potato pies, a platter of fresh-cut vegetables, and dip and two cakes.

I had expected 12, not including children. Six showed up.

All of this for six adults.

I could have saved at least $70 had I known, even a day before Thanksgiving, that so many wouldn't show the common courtesy of keeping their word to come to dinner.

I give parties and invite people over to my house because I like to entertain. I like the pleasure of people's company. But even as cheap as I am, I don't want to eat leftovers for months after a party because people stayed away.

It's as if responding "yes" to an RSVP today really means "maybe I'll show if nothing better comes along or if I'm not too tired, or if it's not too much trouble getting there." This trifling behavior is getting on my ever-lasting nerves.

I'm still steaming about the 25 people who didn't show up for my wedding reception. And that was eight years ago. I could have saved $600. I was so mad my husband had to restrain me from sending bills to the no-shows. He says I should "let it go."

But I can't let it go. Not only are my feelings hurt, but this kind of impoliteness is costing me money. It's as if they don't realize that my money has been wasted. Suppose eight years ago I had invested that $600 in a mutual fund with just a modest return. I would have a tidy little sum today.

This isn't happening to me alone, experts say.

"There is an epidemic of disrespect in this country," said P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who co-founded the Civility Project.

"In our society we are becoming more self-centered. We put our own gratification, our own pleasure, our own convenience ahead of everything else. I also think people do not imagine the time, effort and expenses that are involved when they are invited to something. But when they fail to do that somebody else is going to pay the price, literally and figuratively."

You got that right.

While there is little research on the financial cost of discourtesy to individuals, some researchers have begun to examine its impact on corporate coffers.

A new study called "Assessing and Attacking Workplace Incivility" points out that companies can be hit financially by disrespectful employees in the form of lost productivity. Researchers surveyed 775 workers and found a majority of them lost time at work because of rude, insensitive or disrespectful actions of a co-worker.

For example, 28 percent of those surveyed said they lost work time avoiding a discourteous worker. Fifty-three percent of the people surveyed reported losing work time worrying about a certain incident or future interaction. Some people--12 percent--even changed jobs to avoid another worker.

"To me, it's most amazing that people actually quit their jobs over this," said Christine Pearson, one of the researchers on the study and a professor of management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School. "So there is a cost to companies not just in lost production but in the actual exit of employees. Clearly, incivility at work hurts a company's bottom line."

Companies tend to concentrate on violence in the workplace, dismissing the little discourteous acts that many workers experience, Pearson said. But the cost to businesses of these small acts shouldn't be ignored.

Individuals shouldn't ignore this cost either. We are used to thinking of discourtesy in terms of hurt feelings, disrespect, doing the right thing. But there is a price tag attached to rudeness.

Often people think their one little slight won't make a difference, but added to someone else's slight and someone else's, the costs add up. We need to begin to take responsibility for doing something (standing up a host) or not doing something (failing to RSVP) that hurts others financially.

I, for one, am not going to take it anymore. Next time it happens to me, I just might send the perpetrator a bill.

Michelle Singletary will be discussing this column on the "Insight" program with Herman Washington tomorrow at 6:40 p.m. on WHUR (96.3-FM). She will also be online Tuesday at 1 p.m. at www.washingtonpost.com to discuss incivility in the workplace with UNC professor Christine Pearson.

Fallout From Workplace Rudeness

A study released by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School reports a rise in workplace rudeness. One of the hidden costs of incivility is lost production. Here's what can happen, based on the survey results from 775 workers:

* Twenty-eight percent of workers said they lost work by avoiding the instigator.

* Fifty-three percent lost work time worrying about the incident or future interactions.

* Thirty-seven percent believed their commitment to the organization declined.

* Twenty-two percent decreased their effort at work.

* Ten percent decreased the amount of time that they spent at work.

* Forty-six percent contemplated changing jobs to avoid the instigator.

* Twelve percent actually changed jobs to avoid the instigator.

FREE GIFTS?

I'm looking for holiday stories on the best gift you got or gave that didn't cost a penny. Send brief entries, including contact information, by Dec. 13 to Michelle Singletary, The Color of Money, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20071, or via e-mail to singletarym@washpost.com.