To stave off requests, I made it known that I plan to add a copy to the library of our family’s vacation house so that when family members are there, they can read it if they like. Yet several still say they would love to have their own copy.
I have directed them toward convenient outlets to purchase the book, and tried to ignore their silent disappointment at not being given a copy. One of my family members then asked if she could have a copy of one of my previous books — with absolutely no intention of paying for it!
I can’t give away something I will end up paying for twice — once for the printing and the second time to make up the price of a sale to my collaborator. The book contains a great deal of art and was expensive to print.
Am I being rude to expect that the cost/value of my and my collaborator’s work be respected? After all, if I made wheelbarrows in a factory, would family members each expect a free wheelbarrow?
Some family members would expect two wheelbarrows, possibly filled with loot for their weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and any other occasions that came to mind. But that is not the point.
What you have done is sufficient — to the rest, look apologetic and then think no more about it. Aside from being an author herself, Miss Manners believes that not taking too much advantage of family members’ professional abilities is a good general rule.
Dear Miss Manners: I was surprised to receive a birthday card from a neighbor who lives a block away and whom I barely know. I have never been forthcoming about my birthday, rarely disclosing it even to close friends, never mind acquaintances.
I know that it would be rude to scold this woman for an act of generosity, but I’m not the least bit pleased that she went snooping for my personal information to send me the card.
How do I politely express my thanks but tell her not to do it again, and inquire as to how she got my date of birth to begin with?
Calling what your neighbor did snooping is too harsh for something that was likely well-meaning, and scolding or interrogating her would therefore be inexcusable.
But if much research needed to be involved, Miss Manners can see why you felt it was a bit cheeky. The proper response to those who take unwelcome liberties is distant politeness: Next time you see her, you can say “thank you” without putting much heart into your delivery of her.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her from her @RealMissManners.