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Miss Manners: Appropriate to apologize for ad errors

Dear Miss Manners: Is it necessary for businesses to apologize for every little mistake or lack of product?

I see signs constantly that try to appease the public, such as: “There was an error in our ad, which stated ‘X’ product at ‘X’ price. The correct price is ‘Y.’ We apologize for any inconvenience.” Also, “We are out of free gift boxes. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Hey, if they are out, they are out. Should the “I’m sorry” sign always be needed?

Gentle Reader: Are you perhaps in retail? Miss Manners has not run into many customers who are offended by a company’s apologizing for running an incorrect advertisement or being unable to provide a promised service. Apologizing for mistakes is good manners and good business.

That said, Miss Manners is willing to dispense with the phrase, “We apologize for any inconvenience.” It is safe to assume that when, for example, a three-hour flight delay is announced, no one found it convenient to have extra time to hang out at the airport.

Invitation carries a price tag

Dear Miss Manners: I received a call from a colleague inviting me to a 60th-birthday party that he is planning for his boss. I do not socialize with this colleague or his boss, although I know them both.

I wanted to turn down the invitation, but to be polite, I said that I would mark it on my calendar but wasn’t sure if I could attend. Then the host replied, “OK, I’ll be collecting $10 or $15 ahead of time for the party.”

Now, I’m completely turned off! Even if I could attend, I certainly don’t want to finance the party. What can I do to turn down the invitation, and to point out to the host that he should finance the party that he wants to throw for his boss?

Gentle Reader: The anti-hospitality inherent in charging a guest is unfortunately common. In your case, however, Miss Manners notices that things might not have gotten to this stage had you yourself not made a misstep.

Good manners do not require you to accept every invitation, but they do prohibit the conditional acceptance you gave – and in the mistaken belief that it was more polite. Your host no doubt now feels fully justified in charging you in advance, having heard that you expect him to prepare for your arrival, but feel yourself under no obligation to actually attend.

Consult your calendar and give the answer that you should have given initially, namely that you are flattered to have been invited, but that you find you unfortunately are unable to attend.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin. Send your questions to or