Dear Jeanne and Leonard: The sales clerk at a pie stall at my local farmers’ market apparently is learning to be a mime. It takes forever to buy something from this guy because he’s always doing his pantomime shtick for the customers, whether they like it or not (he is, by the way, a terrible mime). I love “Frieda’s Pies,” but since purchasing one takes so long, I rarely do.
My question is, Should I contact the owner and tell her that her employee is costing her business? I wouldn’t want this guy to lose his job.
– B.W., Northern California
Dear B.W.: At least your pie guy is silent. Imagine if he aspired to be, say, the next Don Rickles.
But to answer your question, it’s not up to you to tell Frieda she’s losing money because of a bad counter clerk. It’s her responsibility, not yours, to keep an eye on her employees. That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t talk to Frieda – only that you should tell her what you know, namely: You’re a good customer who’s being driven away by lousy service.
Hopefully, Frieda will be able to rein this guy in. But if your complaint results in her giving Marcel Marceau the hook, so be it. Employees who allow their personal pursuits to interfere with the tasks they’re being paid to do are supposed to lose their jobs.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: For a while now, my wife and I have been helping her relatives financially. When one of her cousins died recently, my wife told his mother (my wife’s aunt) that we’d like to send flowers. “Aunt Brenda” replied that while flowers would be nice, a check would be better. I’m indignant. I’m sure Brenda could use the money. But I also know for a fact that she can pay for her son’s funeral without our help. And I don’t think we should be encouraging these people to believe they can use any and every occasion to ask for money. My wife wants to send a check, but I want to send flowers, period. Am I right?
– Justin, Southern Oregon
Dear Justin: Well, you’re certainly not wrong. However, there are communities in which it’s common practice for friends and relatives of the deceased to chip in to help with funeral expenses, medical bills and so on. If that’s the kind of community Aunt Brenda belongs to, a modest contribution is in order. Plus it wouldn’t hurt to give the benefit of the doubt to a grieving mother who has just lost her son.
The bottom line: You’re not wrong to want to signal to your wife’s family that you won’t be forking over money every time they ask. But Brenda’s son’s funeral is the wrong occasion on which to draw that line in the sand.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My mother listed me as the co-owner of one of her certificates of deposit. But when Mom died, my sisters insisted that I split the money from it – $6,000, plus $450 in accrued interest – with them. I said OK and sent them each a check for $2,100. The reason it wasn’t $2,150 is that I had to pay income tax on the $450.
My sisters are furious about this – they think my taxes shouldn’t matter. And my children want me to pay each of their aunts the additional $50 to keep peace in the family. I think I’ve done enough, but what’s your opinion? Am I being foolish to dig my heels in over $100?
Dear Nola: You’re not digging your heels in over a hundred bucks, you’re digging them in over a principle, and there’s nothing foolish about that. Whatever prompted you to share the proceeds of your mother’s CD – whether it was generosity, obligation or guilt – there is no reason why you should be stuck with the tax bill for income that’s going to your sisters.
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