Q. My fiancee works at a coffee shop. This year they have practically ordered their employees to participate in a Christmas gift exchange, saying, "Don't spend over $7 on a gift."

Well, she only makes about $40 a week there, working part-time; she is a full-time student. There is no one she works with that she would consider more than a work acquaintance.

This year our money is tight. We are about to get married and are buying a house. We had no plans to buy our families extravagant gifts this year. We were both going to bake gifts for our parents and sew things for each other. Everyone else was going to get Christmas cards from us.

The next blow is her shop's Christmas party that everyone is expected to attend. (I'm working then -- I might blow a gasket if I attended.) All the shop's branches will be closed for this spectacular event at the owner's home. The assistant manager wants all employees to give $3 for a present for the big boss who's throwing this magnanimous party.

My fiancee says she's going to bake cookies for the gift exchange, and agrees with me on turning down the $3 request.

Have you ever heard of such extortion in a season that is supposed to be for giving to charities and to those we care about?

I have nothing against Christmas spirit, but this smacks of downright extortion and greed. We don't want gifts from people we don't know or to be coerced into giving.

Call me a Scrooge.

A. Mr. Scrooge was not an employee who neglected to contribute to buying his boss a present.

He was an employer who had been ungenerous to his employee, to the point of injustice, long before the question of Christmas spirit got into the labor-relations picture.

It does not belong there now, except in the sense that Christmas falls at a convenient time to reward employees with end-of-the-year bonuses.

Your fiancee is in a position merely to point out that she has other obligations and that her salary does not cover the suggested expenses. The full-time employees ought to rebel against the travesty of holiday spirit that you describe.

The Scrooges in this situation are supervisors and bosses who have gone Mr. Dickens' character one better. Once he entered the Christmas spirit, he did not then try to figure out how he could make Mr. Cratchit help him foot the bill for it.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.