Miss Manners: My mother-in-law is using company money to buy things for herself. Should I tell?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother-in-law works for a company by ordering products and shipping things out. For several years, I’ve noticed she will spend the company’s money on herself. She pays for shipping her Christmas gifts with the company account, and her house is furnished with their “damaged goods.”

I’ve mentioned to her that I thought she could get in trouble if they caught her, but she is a fierce know-it-all type. The more it happens, the less I like her. What she does is simply wrong, and I don’t know how to look the other way.

Do I need to just turn my head, or is it OK to reach out to her company?

GENTLE READER: As your mother-in-law is on a crime spree, the legal and moral arguments for turning her in are readily apparent. You are therefore, presumably, asking Miss Manners for the etiquette.

The etiquette is that, if you do choose to report your mother-in-law, you should express a moral conflict about coming forward that you may not actually feel. Of course, the person you should really be speaking with is your spouse, who may have their own opinion on the best course of action -- presuming this behavior does not run in the family.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Over 10 years ago, I held a leadership position on a not-for-profit arts organization’s board. One of my fellow board leaders was an older man who publicly presented himself as a nice person, but was very critical and downright mean to me in private. He once ripped me up and down in a phone call about board business.

Since leaving the board after my term expired, I have avoided being in his presence, as our paths don’t normally cross. I’m now advising a group of graduate students in a consulting project, and he is an adviser to their client.


He will certainly attend the students’ final presentation, and I will have to acknowledge his presence. But I cannot bring myself to say, “Nice to see you,” as nothing could be further from the truth.

The presentation may be held online, in which case I may be able to avoid an awkward encounter, aside from the obligatory around-the-table intros. But I would love to hear your suggestions (other than a simple, “Hello, Fred”) if the meeting is in person.

GENTLE READER: All of Miss Manners’ suggestions will be variations on “Hello, Fred,” which seems entirely serviceable to her.

As the problems with this man only arose in private, she will just add “Goodbye, Fred” -- in the instance that a one-on-one encounter seems likely.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: My grandkids appear not to have been taught never to talk with their mouths full. How should I approach the parents on this subject in order to save their otherwise marvelous kids embarrassment in the future?

GENTLE READER: As you have not ruled out embarrassing these children in the present, Miss Manners recommends dispensing with the middlemen. Complain gently that you cannot understand them when they speak while chewing.

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