Miss Manners: My partner is troubled by my behavior in stores

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner and I have an amicable disagreement concerning window shopping.

In my view, it is perfectly acceptable to enter a store and look around, even if the chance I will purchase an item is somewhat low. In instances when I speak with an attendant, I set expectations by saying, “I am not sure if I am ready to make a purchase yet, but I have a brief question” — and I make sure to keep the question brief. I also refrain from doing so if the attendant appears busy or if the store is full of other customers.

My significant other is deeply uncomfortable with this. They feel that it is impolite to raise the expectations of a store attendant that you may be making a purchase — especially if you ask a question or derive some benefit from the interaction without making a purchase.

I disagree. Stores know that not all customers will purchase an item, but that providing a reasonable level of assistance will increase the chance of converting a window shopper into a paying customer. I was never annoyed to answer brief questions from polite window shoppers when I worked retail in my youth.

On the other hand, my partner points out that some associates still receive commissions on sales, so each person entering a store will raise their expectations in spite of my good intentions.

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GENTLE READER: Both of these things can be true. As long as you are not treating the store as a museum, taking up the associates’ time (although if the store is quiet and they are passionate about their wares, it is possible they might enjoy the conversation), Miss Manners finds it acceptable to browse.

Of course, window shopping does mean looking through the window from the outside, not from within, so you may want to more clearly define your terms. But otherwise, every store associate knows that a sale is never guaranteed — and being polite and answering questions is always more apt to pique a prospective buyer’s interest than the opposite.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For many years, a friend would invite me and a guest to an annual exclusive black-tie event at a historic private club. I would reciprocate with invitations to a similar occasion.

For obvious reasons, we didn’t socialize this way during the pandemic. But now that quarantine is over, I see they are going to this event without me.

This is obviously their right, but I am sad. I miss their company and I miss the event. Is there any way to ask about it without seeming churlish and rude?

GENTLE READER: The next time you see them, wistfully mention, “I do miss our black-tie events together. Maybe someday we’ll be able to return to them together.”

For maximum guilt, Miss Manners suggests you do this at your house — over a lovely meal that you have just cooked and served them.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it appropriate to wear a black dress to a wedding?

GENTLE READER: Not unless you are protesting it.

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Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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