Let's call it a good news story that took an abrupt turn toward bad. It happened to Stella Gomes at a downtown restaurant.
Stella and her friend Margaret Webster had just finished a pair of tuna luncheon specials and were nearly back to their offices when it occurred to Stella that $34.45 was an awful lot to have paid for two plates of mere fish, special or not.
"So I called the restaurant and asked to speak to the manager," Stella writes. "When he quoted me the price, it was evident that I was overcharged."
Stella was about to ask the manager to adjust her American Express credit card slip, but she didn't have to. He happily volunteered to do it, apologizing all the while for what was apparently an error on the part of the waiter.
The manager's tone was so cheery that Stella figured it would be a piece of cake to obtain a corrected copy of the Amex charge slip. But when she dropped by the restaurant later that day to collect it, the manager turned surly. He didn't say so in so many words, but his attitude seemed to be: "What's the matter? Don't you trust me?"
But Stella would have been taking a foolish risk by failing to obtain a corrected receipt. Without it, she would have been defenseless if the manager had submitted the original bill to American Express. It was certainly her right to have a corrected copy -- and it would certainly have been good public relations for the manager to have handed Stella her corrected copy without nastiness.
As a result of what happened, Stella asks: "You wouldn't blame me if I never went back there, would you?" To which my answer is: I'd be surprised if Stella felt any other way.
Interestingly, an American Express spokesman says that Stella did not need to go back and seek her corrected receipt in person. If there is a discrepancy or a dispute on any Amex bill, "you must put it in writing to both the establishment and American Express," the spokesman said.
Should you confront a manager in person in this kind of situation? "That's a personal decision," the Amex spokesman said. But whether you do or not, you will still need to submit a letter to straighten out any arguments. So the face-to-face encounter is actually unnecessary.
It's too bad that tuna fish can cause such ill will. But the real tuna fish in this tale was the manager. He lost a customer simply because he turned a routine business transaction into something personal. For letting ego get in the way of reason, he deserved no less. CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
If you watch the Redskins on television, I'm sure you've seen The Hogettes mugging for the cameras. They're the male zanies who dress up like female porkers -- gingham dresses, funny hats, hog noses, the whole bit.
A lot of people probably think these guys are long on beer consumption and short on community concern. Not so -- as a $95 Hogettes donation to our annual fund-raising campaign proves.
A big oink of thanks to all the guys. Now, if only the "Ettes" would improve the fortunes of a certain football team the way they've improved the fortunes of a certain hospital . . . .
Other groups have made important contributions in recent days, too. They are:
Lara Shainis's third-graders at Haycock Elementary School in Fairfax County ($69.50).
The Office of General Counsel at COMSAT ($50 from the coffee fund).
Marion Timmons' Thursday Bridge Club in Northern Virginia ($25).
The Office of Federal Activities, EPA ($21).
The Federal Employee Programs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association ($143 raised through a baby picture contest).
The Accounting Department at Information Spectrum Inc., of Arlington ($50).
Employes of The Wyatt Company ($350).
Employes of LOGICON Inc.'s Rosslyn and downtown offices ($310).
Employes at Commercial Activities Program Division, Directorate of Resource Management, Fort Belvoir ($75 from the "sweets jar").
The Bon Tons Club of Washington ($100).
The Greenbriar Women's Bowling League, which rolls at Fair Lanes in Centreville ($120).
Employes of Rodgers & Associates, a Rockville engineering company ($275).
"A group of employes" in the Management and Organization Division, U.S. Secret Service ($80).
The gang at Bell Atlantic NSI Quality Assurance, Reliability and Economic Analysis ($61 and a thank-you kiss to Dale De Jarnette).
More from the same company -- $102 from Bell Atlantic Network Services Inc., Purchasing Department -- Methods and Support District.
The Human Nutrition Information Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture ($165).
The men and women of the Traffic Enforcement Branch, Metropolitan Police Department ($411).
The Forrestal Communications Center operators of Calculon Corporation ($20).
The troops in the Office of the Comptroller, U.S. Information Agency ($162).
The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, U.S. Congress ($225).
The employes at Maryland National Bank Regional Mail & Traffic Services, College Park ($90).
The employes of the American Podiatric Medical Association of Northwest ($360.09, this gang's best year ever).
Rowley-Scher Reprographics Inc. of Beltsville ($1,000 in the name of R-SR's customers).
The Office of Graphics Research, National Park Service ($60).
The Olde Towne Chapter of the American Business Women's Association ($50).
Employes of Stephenson Inc. of Alexandria ($1,000 in the name of the boss, George Stephenson).
Employes of RAILINC Corp. of Northwest ($838.50, the 13th annual contribution by this loyal bunch).
The Data Processing Section, Naval Air Facility, Andrews Air Force Base ($80 instead of exchanging Christmas presents).
The Branch of Analytical Chemistry, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston ($141).
Loudoun-Fairfax Mothers of Twins Club ($50).
Financial Management Division, Code BF, NASA headquarters ($250).
The Systems Planning and Analysis candy fund ($51.25).
Faculty and students at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel ($377, which represents $1 from each student and teacher "for the privilege of being out of uniform" on Dec. 20).
Staffers in the Office of Government Services, Price Waterhouse ($1,652.50).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice ($99).
The Internal Affairs Coffee Fund at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ($100).
The Barony of Storvik, Society for Creative Anachronisms ($40, and the assurance that this isn't a gag -- Treasurer Kenneth Reed writes that the group is a "national nonprofit educational organization involved in the study and recreation of medieval and renaissance Europe.").
The Mental Retardation Services staff, Prince William County Community Services Board ($150).
And the Office of Personnel Management's Workforce Information Office, Compliance and Investigations Group ($119).
Terrific! Thanks to each and every donor. TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. The campaign closes on Jan. 24.