Miss Manners: Paying for use of co-worker’s coffee maker makes co-workers taste sour

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have moved to a large organization and now share an open space with five new colleagues. One of them had in the past purchased a general purpose coffee machine in this area. I asked if I could use it, and was told “definitely”. We all bring our own coffee pods, and several of us bring jugs of water to fill the water tank.

I was raised not to be a moocher, so after a few weeks I gave the owner $10 to compensate for my daily use of his machine. He initially refused to take it, but I insisted and he took it thanking me.

I did it privately, just between him and me, but word got out. I was told that what I did was a misstep and made others look bad, since they never offered him any money.

My response was that my action was for myself and not meant to mirror what anyone else should do; I presented it as something that I (emphasizing the “I” part) thought was right. Your thoughts, please.

GENTLE READER: This “you” that insists on the “you” doesn’t do a great job of convincing your colleagues – or Miss Manners – that what you think is right doesn’t reflect on them.

Really, it was not necessary for you to give money to your colleague; he only pointed out, rather inappropriately, that it was a transaction and not a favor. As you provide your own coffee pods, it costs the owner nothing.

Maintaining maintenance as you have, and perhaps bringing in the occasional type of coffee he prefers, is all that’s politely required – as well as offering to buy the next machine when that one inevitably fails.


DEAR MISS MANNERS: What’s the polite way to find out about another person’s accent that you find intriguing?



DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I received a lovely gift in the mail without any identifying information. It is plausible, but not certain, that one of the two wonderful couples who visited us last week sent it as a thank you.

How would you make such a request without suggesting that if it wasn’t them, they should have sent something? Obviously, we want to thank the sender and not send any negative messages to anyone else.

GENTLE READER: Contact the store. They are likely to have the sender’s information.

If not, Miss Manners suggests you try your luck with the couples, saying to one, “We received this lovely tree stump table with no identifying information. We certainly weren’t expecting gifts, but of course we want to thank whoever sent it.

If it was indeed one of the pairings, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Worst case scenario, you get another tree stump.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners on her website, www.missmanners.com; to his email, [email protected]; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)




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