Dear Miss Manners:

My husband greets everyone with a smiling, hearty "Good morning," "Good afternoon" or "Good evening." If the recipient does not repeat the same message in return, he says it again, a bit louder and more emphatically.

This usually gets him the reply he wants, but if not, he'll say: "You're not sure?"

The person will say: "What?"

He'll say: "Whether or not it's a good morning!"

At this time of the year, he does the same thing with "Merry Christmas."

If the clerk, for example, doesn't say it back, he'll get a little closer to them and say it again. If they come back with: "Happy Holidays," he'll say: "No, I said Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays."

One clerk said: "We are not permitted to say 'Merry Christmas.' " My husband then demanded to see the STORE manager. The FLOOR manager appeared and my husband lectured him on the fact that this worldwide Christian celebration is what was making his cash register ring. The least he could do was to acknowledge the cause.

I make sure I'm busy at another counter, but, believe it or not, in this example a few people started applauding him, which only gave him more confidence for the next encounter. What can I do to make him stop doing this?

You can't lock him in the bathroom, Miss Manners supposes, as much of a benefit as that would be to society.

People who go around inflicting their tricky little tests on innocent people are a public menace, but as the danger they create is that they will be throttled, it is hard to make them understand the harm while others remain under control. Those egging him on to harass honest working people are little better than he.

About all you can do is to busy yourself elsewhere. This is not so much to relieve you from embarrassment -- each adult is responsible only for her own behavior, even if she is married -- but to lessen the likelihood that the person who will throttle your husband will be you.

Dear Miss Manners:

I would never dream of sending someone a Christmas card that was dirty or so old that it had turned yellow, or so cheap that it wasn't much thicker than a regular piece of paper, but that's what I got. Last year my mother received a Christmas card that was in worse shape than a card that I had saved from the early 1960s!

My mother thinks I should give them the benefit of the doubt because they might have cataracts. A friend thinks I am terrible because it's supposed to be the thought that counts.

I really don't want to offend these people by not sending them a card next year, but I don't appreciate how little they apparently think of me! They have soured me on the tradition of sending cards altogether. How would you recommend that I handle things?

With a modicum of jolly good will toward all. If Miss Manners is not mistaken, this is what Christmas cards -- the ones you send, as well as the ones you receive -- purport to convey.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com, or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

(c)2002, Judith Martin