Replies and rebuttals to recent columns . . . .

TIPPING AT ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFETS: I recently suggested that 10 percent is an adequate tip at one of these, echoing the complaints of an Arlington reader who was required to tip a waiter 15 percent when the waiter merely poured two cups of coffee and removed one dirty plate.

Dozens of local waiters wasted no time jumping down my throat. A sample of opinion from the on-their-feet set:

"MWG of Alexandria": "Go home and prepare a meal, set up an extra table to serve it on, garnish that table and the food so it is fresh and beautiful and then replenish it every time you'd like a second or third or fourth helping. Then pour two cups of coffee and remove a dirty plate. See if 15 percent bothers you then."

Brenda Brown, of Bethesda, added to that list of unseen chores the folding of napkins, the hand-polishing of chafing dishes, the carrying and setting up of heavy tables, the dismantling and stowing of heavy tables, the ducking of lewd invitations by overlubricated customers and the routine nastiness of cooks and dishwashers.

"What are the waiters and waitresses guaranteed for all this?" Brenda asks. "Three things, Bob. Lower back pain, varicose veins and a mere $2.01 an hour. That's right, $2.01 an hour."

Another waitress, B.A. Juergens, of Northwest Washington, iced the cake. "If you feel that 15 cents on a dollar is too much, then you should either stay home or eat at McDonald's," she wrote.

Truce, troops. I never looked at it from your perspective. Now that I have, I'd say 15 percent is justified -- and you could make a good case for 20.

AUTOMATIC BAGGING BY STORE CLERKS: I decried this practice because of the environmental damage it causes and the extra costs it builds in. But many readers pointed out that stores reflexively bag so they can tell which merchandise has been paid for and which has been shoplifted.

An excellent reason. However, a simple piece of tape slapped across each properly purchased item would make the same distinction -- faster and more cheaply than a huge paper or plastic bag.

Or how about the practice adopted by the Pepperidge Farm Thrift Store in Fairfax? They offer you a bonus for bringing back a reusable plastic bag and a free item if you don't ask for a new bag. Inspired! (Thanks to Marianna Perry, of Fairfax, for the tip.)

Thanks too to Gary Goldberg for a clever way to decline a bag, even when the clerk insists.

Gary says that whenever he buys something and the clerk reaches for a bag, he says:

"No, thanks, I'll eat it here."

MARYLAND STATE TROOPERS WHO ARE LESS THAN SENSITIVE: I reported on seven elderly women, three of them blind, who were given the brushoff by a trooper after their van suffered a blowout on a Capital Beltway offramp. That column wasn't warmly received by Col. Elmer H. Tippett, the Maryland State Police superintendent.

"I would like to take this opportunity to reassure your readers that the Maryland State Police are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the state to help anyone in need of our assistance," the superintendent wrote.

" . . . Last year, Maryland State Police were called 420,910 times for service," the colonel noted. Troopers "answered every one."

I'll always believe, Col. Tippett, that poor performance by public servants should be exposed and corrected. However, I never meant to imply that your folks don't do the job excellently most of the time. I hope you'll consider the scales balanced.

THE TWO WASHINGTONS: In my May 22 column, I noted how irritating I find it when people refer to our fair city as "D.C." It's the same false hipness that leads people (residents as well as visitors) to say Philly, Frisco, Beantown or the Big Apple. Let's call this city (and all cities) by their full, proper, given, glorious names, I suggested.

Russ Girsberger, of Waldorf, was one of many readers to point out that calling our local metropolis "Washington" creates instant confusion because of the state by the same name.

"I was born in the state of Washington, a beautiful country with green trees, fields, wide open spaces and friendly natives," Russ writes. "I frankly have had enough of the {District's} traffic congestion, rude commuters, potholes, terminal road repair areas, drug-infested neighborhoods, news reports about Marion Barry . . . .

"Until the District of Columbia is cleaned up, straightened away and can serve the United States of America as the proper model of a nation's capital, there should be a clear distinction between the state and the District."

That should logically mean that one or the other changes its name, Russ. Who'll go first? Somehow, I think we'll lack for volunteers.

Still, a lot of readers share your views, so I'll try to stifle my irritation whenever "D.C." assaults my ears.