Miss Manners: How do I gracefully avoid giving my phone number to customers who ask?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work at a convenience store near my home. I see the store’s regulars every day, and of course we become friendly. Some I like more than others.

Occasionally, a customer will ask me for my phone number, claiming we should get together. This request comes from both male and female customers, some interested in friendship and some in romance.

Since I am not interested in pursuing any friendships or relationships with customers, how do I gracefully deny the request for my number?

GENTLE READER: “Sorry, I never give out my personal phone number, but you can usually find me here. Right by the sundries aisle.” (Miss Manners does so love sundries.)

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A couple of old friends and I had planned a dinner at their house. When I got there, they both greeted me and the husband explained that his wife was sick with a bad cold (not COVID, thankfully).

I immediately said that I would go and we could reschedule it when she was better. Both of them insisted I stay. It seemed awkward no matter what I did, leaving or staying.

My sick friend went back to bed, and I wound up sticking around and actually making dinner. I considered suggesting that the husband and I go out to a restaurant, but abandoning his wife when she was sick seemed like the worst option.


Since then, I have thought I should have just left, but they were so insistent in the moment, it just seemed gauche. What should I have done?

GENTLE READER: Not what you did, which led to having your protests rebuffed and your exposure to sickness increased, all while making the dinner that was promised to you.

You should have left, covering their protests with good wishes for a quick recovery and a postponed dinner.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Some months ago, my husband and I bought a house. The prior owners were around during the process more often than is typical, and our closing went smoothly. In fact, one agent said it was the easiest closing they’d ever been to.

One of the owners fist-bumped me in celebration, and I said, “That’s what happens when everyone behaves like adults.” His wife was less enthusiastic because she loved the house and was sad to be leaving it. She seemed to be on the verge of tears.

Fast-forward to a few days ago. While eating at a restaurant, I recognized the couple when they were seated near us. They did not appear to recognize us, and they were with other people. Given the circumstances, I thought it was best not to greet them because I didn’t want to create an awkward situation, especially given how emotional the wife had been about leaving the house.

I feel a little weird about it now, but my rational side believes I did the right thing. If we run into them again, though, I may be inclined to acknowledge them, if the situation allows for it.

What are your thoughts?

GENTLE READER: That saying hello to someone you recognize is not an invitation to hear how you ruined their lives.

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