Dear Miss Manners: I moved offices in a large organization, and now share an open area with five new colleagues. One of them had, in the past, purchased a coffee machine for general use in this area. I asked if I could use it, and was told “certainly.” We all bring our own coffee pods, and several of us bring jugs of water to fill the water reservoir.
Miss Manners: I gave my co-worker money to use his coffee machine
I was brought up not to be a moocher, so after a couple of weeks, I gave the owner $10 to compensate for my daily use of his machine. He initially declined to take it, but I insisted and he took it, thanking me.
I did this privately, just between him and myself, but word spread. I have been told that what I did was a faux pas and made the others look bad, since they had never offered him any money.
My response was that my action was for myself, and not meant to reflect what anyone else should do; I framed it as just something that I (stressing the “I” part) felt was fair. Your thoughts, please.
That “you” stressing the “you” is not doing a great job of convincing your colleagues — or Miss Manners — that what you deem fair does not reflect on them.
Really, it was not necessary for you to give your colleague money; it only pointed out, in a rather unseemly way, that this was a transaction and not a favor. As you are providing your own coffee pods, it is costing the owner nothing.
Keeping up maintenance as you have done, and perhaps occasionally bringing in the kind of coffee he prefers, is all that is politely necessary — as well as offering to purchase the next machine when this one inevitably gives out.
Dear Miss Manners: What is a polite way to inquire about another’s accent one finds intriguing?
Dear Miss Manners: My wife and I received a lovely gift by mail with absolutely no identifying information. It is plausible, but not certain, that one of two wonderful couples who visited us last week sent it as a thank-you.
How would you word such an inquiry without suggesting that if it wasn’t them, they ought to have sent something? Obviously we want to thank the sender and send no negative message to anyone else.
Contact the store. They are likely to have the sender’s information.
If not, Miss Manners suggests you take your chances on the couples by saying to one, “We received this lovely tree stump table with no identifying information. We were certainly not expecting presents, but of course want to thank whoever sent it.”
If it was indeed one of the couples, you have a 50-50 chance of getting it right. Worst-case scenario, you get another tree stump.
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 @RealMissManners.
©2022, by Judith Martin