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Miss Manners: People keep asking how much my boat cost

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Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I are fortunate to live on our boat, and have for many years. I recognize that people are fascinated by boats, so I try to politely answer questions when we are docked somewhere public.

There is one question I find difficult, however. People sometimes start their conversations with, “Can I ask you a question?” (often without even a preliminary “hello”). After many years of this, I know there is a very high chance that the next question will be, “How much did it cost?”

I was raised to think it is rude to discuss the details of large purchases and would prefer not to answer. Is there a polite way to deflect the first question to avoid the second? Or must I continue to hope for those rare instances when the second question is, “Where did you find that lovely sun hat?”

Why not get ahead of it and ask the question for them?

A lengthy answer to the lovely sun hat question, or “How do we avoid getting seasick? Years of practice!” would do nicely. You and your husband could even make a game out of it by rotating your favorites.

Miss Manners suggests that whatever you choose, you engage such strangers so thoroughly that they forget their original rude question, or at least think better of asking it. If they do not take the cue and insist on asking the price, however, you may look confused and say, “Well, this is our home. So …”

Dear Miss Manners: This (new) friend told me that she had a pair of shoes she could not use because the company sent the wrong size. She didn’t send them back, but said I could have them if they fit.

Well, I went over to visit and she handed me the shoes. I said “thank you” and she said to try them on, so I did, and they fit fine.

But that’s when she said, “You can pay me $50 for them when you get it.” I had already said “thank you” and didn’t know what to do, so I gave her $20 I had with me and then left. I had just bought a pair of good walking shoes that my doctor wanted me to get.

Now she is telling some of my other friends that I am trying to get out of paying for the shoes. I have tried to tell her that I will return them, but it goes in one ear and out the other. I am not sure what else I can do.

Have you tried actually returning them?

If not, Miss Manners suggests that you do so promptly, telling your new friend, “Thank you, but I think I misunderstood the offer and don’t, in fact, need these shoes after all. I recently bought a pair that my doctor recommended, so I think I’d better stick with those.”

And if in the future, this friend offers you another pair of anything, you might want to check the terms and conditions before accepting.

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.

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