Courtesy call

May 15, 2010

I’m a small-business owner and recently posted a classified ad seeking a receptionist. In just a week I’ve received over 100 applications. Am I required to send an acknowledgment letter or thank-you note to each applicant? I simply don’t have the time to do that but feel it might be rude not to. (Courteous boss)

Did your ad specify that you would only be contacting short-listed candidates? That is sadly the norm and so is etiquette taking a backseat. Might I suggest writing up a letter that acknowledges receipt of the application and states that only short-list candidates will be contacted? You can also add that if the applicant does not hear back from your firm in two weeks, it is safe to assume that the position has been filled. This will set you apart from other employers who do nothing and save your staff from attending to peoples’ phone calls asking about their applications. In an ideal world, this should be done over email, so as not to waste paper. Do your bit for saving the earth and make Al Gore proud.
Just the other night I was sharing a drink with a friend. In a moment of carelessness, I broke my glass and didn’t have another so we decided to share one glass. The problem: my friend was wearing lipstick and didn’t wipe it off the glass when it was my turn to take a sip. Would it have been discourteous to ask her to do so? (Clumsy lipstick hater)

If you were unable to find a glass, in any shape or material, and your friend was kind enough to offer you hers, it does sound somewhat churlish to ask her to wipe her lipstick. Had you done so, you may have lost the only glass and your evening would have been completely destroyed.
I went to a friend’s birthday party and since he had explicitly said not to get him a gift I didn’t bring one. Turns out I was the only one who didn’t. One guest even remarked on my oversight and told me that I should know better than to take the ‘no gift’ instruction seriously. Why can’t people just say what they mean? (Giftless at soiree)

If only we lived in a world where people meant what they said. The ‘no gifts’ on an invite has come to be treated just like the stated time of event: with utter disregard and this is certainly true for the guest who called you out on not bringing a gift. As the venerable Miss Manners said on the subject: “no instructions about presents, even negative instructions, belong on an invitation.” Anyway, it is up to the guest if s/he wants to present a gift, please do so. If the invite specifically states no gifts, you can send a present along prior to the event.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.


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