Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 26 October

They say it’s better to give than to receive, but demanding a thank-you note is asking for trouble. Thomas Blaikie advises

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
People have some odd ideas about thanking these days, don't they? A group of us went out to dinner for a friend's birthday last week. I gave her a little book of local history I thought she'd enjoy. A week later I hadn't heard a word so I texted her: 'Any chance of thxs for the prezzie? Some consideration would be appreciated'. Now she's offended. She thanked me for the present in the restaurant, so she says, when she opened it.
Holly Cuthbert,

Dear Holly,
This sounds like a simple misunderstanding. It would be rather more straightforward if she hadn't opened the present in front of you. I went to a birthday party the other day where the gifts were heaped in a separate room for the fortunate birthday person to open later. Like you, I've not heard a word and it's been almost a month. I'm only worried that my present was thrown away by mistake because it was a gift voucher in an envelope.

I agree with your friend. If a present is opened in front of the giver and they are thanked there and then, that is quite sufficient. No further thanks are called for, especially if you are old friends.

On the other hand, in the melee of a restaurant dinner, the gratitude of the recipient might not quite come across. You might have felt a little under appreciated. In which case try to fi nd tactful ways of broaching the subject. Just telling someone that they haven't thanked you and are thoughtless is aggressive. Gratitude extorted at gunpoint isn't gratitude.

Why not say: 'I don't suppose you've had a chance to look at that book yet? When you do, you might find the chapter on the water-processing plant interesting.' Or, 'I meant to say I got that scarf in such-and-such, a fascinating side street in Cairo.'

Where thanks are due because you posted the present or left it to be opened later: be patient. To start agitating after merely a week is a bit much. The super-polite thank the next day, but many are not super-polite, which doesn't mean that they are super-rude. Failure to thank promptly may be occasioned by a feeling of being overwhelmed by your generosity. Or it may be a genuine oversight.

To start condemning nonthankers as monsters is a dangerous game. You'll just be making trouble for yourself. As I often say in this column, maddening as other people's rudeness and thoughtlessness may be, very rarely is it intended.

The case of presents is a delicate one: it's all too easy to make it look as if the present was not freely given if thanks are demanded. What am I going to do about that, as yet, unacknowledged gift voucher? I haven't decided.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO... if your cleaner goes on holiday

Do you pay him/her? Ivan Hersov writes that his cleaner has taken two six-week holidays this year. He paid her for the first one but is reluctant to fork out for the second.

Of course, we're all racked with guilt if employing staff. Narrowly speaking, they're freelance workers like any other. If they don't work, they don't get paid.

But we feel that they earn very little and we ought to be generous, or we depend on them and are afraid they will leave. We're not quite sure what they expect.

I feel that Mr Hersov has been exceptionally liberal. A six-week holiday is a very different proposition from a two- or three-week one. A second sixweek holiday looks like one thing: the person doesn't want to work – so no pay.

You need to be certain a cleaner is going to stay with you before you start giving them holiday money. Once you feel they're established, you should offer them up to three weeks' paid holiday a year (in line with normal employment).

Ideally, find out what your cleaner expects and agree a holiday-pay policy before you take them on.

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