Miss Manners: I’m quiet when at the register. Is that rude?

Dear Miss Manners: Is there a correct way for a customer to act at the checkout counter?

I usually stay silent, except to answer and return pleasantries if the cashier offers them. I occasionally glance at the total and assist in bagging if the cashier is alone. I have had similarly quiet cashiers; often, the only exchange during the whole process is, “Have a nice day,” and, “Thanks, you too.”

I work in retail myself, and I despise the empty cheeriness and how draining it can be during a long shift. So I figure that giving the cashier a quiet respite is not unwelcome.

I also glance around rather than watch their work, because no one wants to feel as if they’re being observed or judged. Additionally, I am an introvert and quite shy, so quiet checkouts also benefit me. Is this impolite?

Brief chattiness between customer and clerk can be charming or intrusive, depending on the people and what is said. Many regular customers enjoy being recognized with a few friendly words where they shop.

Unfortunately, some businesses have discovered this, and mandated forced conversation. It is obvious when this is scripted or required of strangers. Current cliches such as “What are you planning for the rest of the day?” are nosy and annoying.

So Miss Manners agrees that your confining yourself to minimally polite remarks may be as much of a relief to the cashier as it is to you.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it ever okay to use poor etiquette intentionally?

When my sister married someone who already had a child, I went out of my way to include the child at holidays and to remember her birthday. I sent her many gifts, but never once got a thank-you or even an acknowledgment that she had received them.

Now that she’s an adult, I have sent her wedding shower gifts (I live very far away and didn’t attend the event), and still never received a thank-you. I have now received an invitation to her wedding, even though I had told my sister not to invite me, because I knew I could not attend. Space is limited, so I suspected the bride would rather invite someone she knows, anyway.

Out of obligation, I went to the website for the wedding registry, and there was not a single gift that cost less than $350. I decided I was not spending that much money on a person who hasn’t ever bothered to acknowledge or thank me for any gift I have ever given her. In fact, I decided I was not sending a gift at all.

I know it is impolite, but I don’t care anymore. Is this behavior of mine justifiable?

Although she will never countenance poor etiquette (also known as rudeness), Miss Manners can relieve you of buying yet another a present for your niece, who is evidently not grateful to receive them.

You will be astonished to hear that, contrary to almost universal belief, a wedding invitation is not a bill. Presents are voluntary, although it is thought that if you care enough about the couple to attend the wedding, you will want to send them a remembrance.

Understandably, you do not. So don’t.

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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