Miss Manners: Am I obligated to buy something at appointment-only shops?

Dear Miss Manners: I am a serious collector of rare and antiquarian books. I purchase a great number of them, although I am also very particular about what I buy.

Most rare and antiquarian bookstores today are open only by appointment. My experience is that the store owner will usually respond to a request to open the shop, but I am reluctant to ask. If I overcome this reluctance, I feel uncomfortable if I do not purchase anything after the owner has opened up especially for me. These concerns have frequently led me not to ask for an appointment at all.

What is the correct way in which to handle this situation? Should I feel obligated to purchase something if I have scheduled an appointment? I always thank the owner, but is there anything else I should do to assuage my guilt when I find nothing suitable to purchase?

Reasonable businesspeople know that not every business interaction ends in an immediate transaction. Enlightened businesspeople realize that your demonstrated, genuine gratitude will likely translate into the kind of advertising that cannot be purchased: the word of someone who feels a debt to repay excellent service, often in the form of return trips and recommending your business to others.

Miss Manners realizes that there are businesspeople who are neither reasonable nor enlightened. So she suggests that, in addition to expressing gratitude, you say that you are going to be sure to recommend them every chance you get.

Dear Miss Manners: My 8-year-old was invited to a party at a place that specializes in kids’ birthdays. As the children at this party are still quite young, each guest was accompanied by at least one parent or guardian.

When the activities were over, we were led to a room where the food and cake would be served. There were 13 children and only three pizzas. Each child was seated and served by the event staff, while the parents were not offered even a glass of water.

This might have been forgivable earlier in the day, but the party was from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., which is dinnertime. Once the children had been fed, the mother of the birthday boy informed us that there were six or seven slices of pizza left if the parents were hungry. Thankfully, there was enough cake to go around.

As a parent, I don’t expect to participate in the planned activities, but I also don’t expect to be excluded from the snacks or meal offered to the children. Should the invitation have stated that only the children would be fed?

No, because the parents should have been fed.

Miss Manners would have thought that any sensible parent-of-the-birthday-child would remember how quick other parents are to misbehave these days — and not encourage such behavior by allowing their blood sugar to drop. She can assure any host parent concerned about the cost that offering the same food choices for everyone will limit the parents’ appetites.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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