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Miss Manners: Solicitations by cashiers an annoying trend

Dear Miss Manners: When did it become acceptable for merchants to solicit charitable contributions from their customers who are purchasing something?

It seems that everywhere I shop, I am now bombarded by the cashier asking if I want to donate money. Why is this acceptable, especially when these merchants won’t allow other charities to solicit on their property?

It delays the line and puts customers in an uncomfortable position. How can I gently suggest that the merchant should not be asking me for extra money and that if he wants to solicit funds, he should stand in front of his store like everyone else?

Gentle Reader: Nonstop solicitation has joined nonstop advertising as a universal irritant, with the added bonus that those who object are lectured about the worthiness of the cause.

A simple, “Thank you, no,” is all the response that is required. Discomfort wears off with repetition, although Miss Manners has no objection to a charmingly worded letter to the merchant making your suggestion that all donations be moved to the curb.


Dear Miss Manners: When someone offers a compliment, I know that it is proper to say thank you. However, sometimes the compliments are worded so oddly that I’m left puzzled on how to respond.

Yesterday a woman said to me, “You look so good it makes me want to slap you.” Another time, two people approached me and said to each other, “Doesn’t she look cute? You hold her down and I’ll beat her.”

I realize that these are clumsy attempts to be funny and complimentary. How should I respond? Saying thank you certainly doesn’t sound right.

Gentle Reader: It is tempting to answer an oddly worded compliment – or its cousin, the insult thinly disguised as a compliment – in kind. Miss Manners urges you to resist. Unless you are Oscar Wilde, your response is as likely to miss the mark as did the original. Better a tight smile and an insincere tone, with a bland “Oh, thank you” that kills its posing as a joke and discourages repetition.


Dear Miss Manners: My niece was married last fall. I wanted to give her a bridal shower, but due to the fact that I was going through chemotherapy, I just wasn’t up to it.

I would really like to do something for her and her husband’s first anniversary that could include gifts. Any suggestions?

Gentle Reader: That you follow your kind wish by giving your niece and her husband an anniversary party and as many presents as you like. But that you not solicit others to do so.