Life Advice



When Gift Cards Aren't Enough To Actually Buy Anything

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have received gift cards -- one for a spa and another for a restaurant -- in which the amount of the gift, while generous, wouldn't be enough to cover any treatment at the spa or a meal for two at the restaurant.

In each case, the amount on the gift card is significant, but as the establishment is quite expensive, it's still not enough that I wouldn't need to spend additional money to cover the difference (plus tip).

As a result, these gift cards will likely go unused, as these are not establishments that I typically frequent. Is there any way to graciously convey this? I hate to see the gift cards go unused.

GENTLE READER: If there were a way to leave the giver thinking that the gift was so successful that a repetition next year would be welcome, you could then pool the two sums.

But Miss Manners can think of no way to accomplish this that does not involve lying about what happened to this year's card or pointing out its deficiency, both of which she strongly discourages. Even if she could, most gift cards carry expiration dates. These ones will therefore have to go the way of the purple sweater you hate and be returned, regifted or ignored.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I get along with most of my neighbors, but there's one family we'll never be close to. They're just a bit snobby, with spoiled kids and no concern for others.

A waist-high fence separates our yards. Basketballs and soccer balls fly into our yard a lot. If I'm out there, I throw them back, no problem. I've added a hook to close, not lock, our front fence, as we're having a lot of work done and don't want anyone getting hurt.

In a group party game at the neighbor's, one piece of equipment came over our fence. I looked everywhere, but couldn't find it. I was sitting outside at the time, dealing with a very ill family member, and said I would find it later and drop it off.

They asked to come over and look. I let one child over, who couldn't find it. Then they all wanted to come look. I said no, we have something going on. It was pretty obvious we were dealing with something serious.


Their guests came to the front gate asking to come in, saying their game was ruined. I was polite, but said I'd return it as soon as I could. I just couldn't deal with a large group wandering through piles of materials and disrupting us.

The next day I searched, found and returned it. The frost has been palpable. Am I the bad neighbor?

GENTLE READER: No, but you are not going to convince them of that. What you might be able to do is convince them to be more careful with their sporting equipment. Miss Manners points out that that, too, will require care and balance: If you are friendlier than they are, they may read it as conceding you were wrong; if you are hostile, you risk escalation.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






David M. Hitch Dog Eat Doug Hi and Lois One Big Happy Peter Kuper Mother Goose & Grimm