The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Money talks in business world, so feel free to discuss it

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When interviewing for a job, is it considered bad manners to ask how much the job pays? Ironically, it is not bad manners for the employer to ask how much you have earned in your previous jobs. Do you see a problem with this practice? Isn’t the real question how much are both parties willing to agree upon in the business relationship?

GENTLE READER: Your tone suggests a certain impatience with Miss Manners, who is forced to point out, in her own defense, that her only action thus far has been to open a letter addressed to her. Who says that it is bad manners to ask how much a job pays? Certainly not Miss Manners. Bans about discussing money in personal situations do not apply in the business world.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend’s husband suddenly passed away, and he did not have life insurance. His widow has planned a party asking for donations to cover her expenses in paying for her husband’s funeral.

My husband and I went to the wake and funeral to pay our respects; however, we are both uneasy about making a donation to pay her expenses. Is this the new normal for funerals?

GENTLE READER: Actually, this is the old normal. Parties thrown by working-class families for the purpose of raising burial funds date back at least to the mid-19th century, when impoverished families found themselves unable to afford to meet the increasingly expensive Victorian standards of “a decent burial.”

Let us hope that the American love of fundraising will not cause the well-off to ape those original poor souls, who resorted to such methods out of a mortifying and immediate need. Now, as then, only a friend of the deceased is in a position to gauge the need of the widow against his own ability to give.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the purpose of a cup or mug with a lid?

GENTLE READER: Etiquette does not require such lids, but it does require the drinker to avoid spilling drinks all over the place. Miss Manners advises lids only for those who drink (benign liquids, of course) when driving or are easily overexcited.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have someone in our group dental practice who is the first staff member to reach 25 years with us. (A doctor reached 25 last year and received a custom set of golf clubs.)

What is the price range we should spend on this remarkable achievement? Or, how do we determine what to spend? What are some good gift ideas? Help!

GENTLE READER: As a rule, professional milestones are better recognized by a professional perk, such as a bonus or additional time off. But the golf clubs received by the doctor suggest to Miss Manners that you are looking for a personal gift instead of a merely personalized one.

How would Miss Manners have better ideas for your staff member, whose name she does not even know, than you?

If the practice does not wish to make such a substantive gift, then an impersonal one that can be given to every staff member who reaches the milestone will at least avoid resentment.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

2014, by Judith Martin



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