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Published Feb. 14, 2008

Q: I rented a movie from a local video store while they were running a charitable promotion, which gave customers the option of adding a dollar to their purchase, which would be donated to the sponsored charity. The woman who rang up my purchase, the manager of the store, asked me if I wanted to donate a dollar.

"Not today," I replied. The woman shrugged and sighed, in the hearing of all the customers in line behind me, "Oh well, I guess some people aren't very generous."

Miss Manners, the cash I paid with was my mother's, which had been given to me for the video rental. I had no cash of my own on me to spend, and my mother was not in the store with me, so I could not have asked her permission to donate a dollar. I have given money to charity many times and would almost certainly have donated this time if I had had money of my own on hand, but I do not believe I have the right to spend another person's money without their permission, not even a dollar and not even for charity.

Furthermore, I frankly don't think it was any business of this woman's whether I chose to donate or not. When I worked in retail we ran similar charitable promotions every now and then. If a customer declined to donate, I kept my mouth shut and made no assumptions. I think it was incredibly rude of the woman at the video store to imply that I'm not generous because I didn't donate a dollar that day.

What would have been an appropriate response to her insinuation?

A: First, Miss Manners requires you to promise that you will say it in a quiet tone of sadness, rather than of anger. But you may interpret "quiet" as being just loud enough for the rest of the line to hear.

Then you say, "That's not a very charitable assumption, is it? After all, you don't know my circumstances, do you?"

Go with simple truth

Q: A friend of mine that I knew in high school recently became engaged. She is 20 years old, marrying a man in his late 20s who has a child from a previous relationship. They are planning a wedding after he gets back from military training, and she is not only planning her wedding but preparing to move 15 hours away with him and his young child.

I personally do not approve of her marrying at such a young age and am concerned for her jumping into an "instant family" so quickly, since they haven't been dating for very long. It seems like nobody else finds this early and mismatched union strange except for me!

How do I respond to her excitement when she talks about her wedding? It wouldn't sit well with me to lie and tell her that I am "so happy" for her, nor would it be appropriate to express my disapproval. Help!

A: Can you squeak out, "I wish you great happiness"?

Surely this is true. Please don't tell Miss Manners that your lack of enthusiasm for the bridegroom and lack of belief in the success of the marriage translates into the hope that your gloomy predictions are right.

Address your etiquette questions to Miss Manners, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.