DEAR MISS MANNERS: Sometimes I see patrons in a store or restaurant peer at the service employee’s name tag and say something like, “Hello there . . . Tiffany . . . how are you today?” It always comes out with this forced conviviality, as if to say, “Look, everyone! I’m a good, egalitarian person treating the lowly server as a person. Isn’t that great of me?”
I think it actually says, “You have such a menial job that you’re forced to wear a stupid name tag, so I know your name and feel free to use it even though I don’t know you — but you don’t know my name because I’m a higher-class person and get to dress the way I want.”
I think name tags are just so you know whom to refer to if needed, as in, “I think Tiffany is our server. Could you ask her to bring the check?”
Am I right to see this as presumptuous behavior?
GENTLE READER: The presumption in the greeting you mention is not in using Tiffany’s name, but in asking the waitress how she is “doing,” a question about her mood or life that is not relevant to the business at hand.
Miss Manners has no objection to using a form of address that has been supplied by the addressee, even if, in this case, it may technically have been Tiffany’s boss who chose the form. She does wish the form supplied was more formal, as she agrees with you that first names in this context are an invitation to mistreatment.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiance and I are having a cupcake tree instead of serving sliced wedding cake at our wedding, which will be held at our church, with all of the church members and their families invited.
A couple hundred cupcakes are about as expensive as the typical wedding cake, and are ordered with the number of attenders in mind, but there is typically no server and guests can take one when they desire.
On a typical Sunday after church, there are snacks served after the service. We have a group of children who are often unmonitored at this time who think nothing of swarming the snack table the minute the dish of cookies, coffee cake, etc., is set out. They grab multiples of the snack — often as many as they can carry, and many times come back for more, regardless of whether everyone else has had a chance to have some.
This is usually accepted and nothing is expressed openly against it, although occasionally I will hear an adult mumble unhappily about there being nothing left for the adults by the time they reach the table.
I would like to prevent this happening at my wedding. Is it acceptable to put a small sign in front of the cupcake tree asking guests to please take one? If not, how should I handle this with grace?
GENTLE READER: It would have to be an impressive sign to separate even reasonably well-behaved children from unattended sweets, particularly when there is a contrary tradition.
Miss Manners advises a more active intervention, in this case a caterer or family member who is willing to slip out before the service is concluded to gently advise the children that this time, we will be waiting for the adults to go first. Or just place the tree on a high table, out of the children’s reach.