Miss Manners: Is it rude to ask a dinner host to turn off their smart speaker during the meal?

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was recently invited for dinner at a friend’s home, along with several others. The host has previously mentioned that he has a smart speaker in the dining room of his home.

I understand that a smart speaker, unless disabled, will pick up and record conversations held nearby. I do not want my conversation at dinner to be recorded.

Would it be appropriate for me to tell the friend in advance that I expect him to turn off the speaker during the meal, and/or that I will not attend unless he does so?

GENTLE READER: Although hardly a tech expert, Miss Manners was under the assumption that smart speakers were usually there to provide music, not to record conversations in case of enemy infiltration.

While she finds these two things almost equally annoying in a dining room, where people want to talk, the former is not a crime. She therefore suggests that rather than accuse your host of espionage, you politely ask if the speaker can be removed so that you may better hear his guests.

But then, you should probably make sure all smartphones are similarly banished, because those will likely have the same recording technology as the speaker.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: I grew up in an all-military community. My husband and I are not rich, but we made a vow to always pay the restaurant bill for men or women in military uniforms who are dining at the same time with us.


The last time, there were six military members in line to pay as we waited for our table. We walked up and told the cashier, who was also the owner, that we would be paying their bills.

I was a bit shocked at how high the bill was for only six of them, but paid it anyway. After the owner rung up our credit card, he proceeded to hand over several to-go bags to one servicemember who had ordered a bunch of food for his family.

We didn’t say anything, but I was upset that the owner or the person who ordered it didn’t inform us about the to-go order.

We still continue with our vow of paying for meals for men and women who are serving our country, but I can’t help but feel a bit ticked off whenever the occasion arises. My husband said I should let it go.

GENTLE READER: While it is kind of you to do this, you must keep in mind that your recipients were not expecting it. They were ordering for themselves, not to take brazen advantage of your unanticipated largesse.

You cannot impose terms and exceptions -- or expect unknown violations to be confessed retroactively. So Miss Manners is in agreement with your husband. She further recommends that if you are going to be ticked off when doing this in the future, you find another source of philanthropy -- and make its specific terms known before you donate to it.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to