Miss Manners: I feel like other shoppers are judging me

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Why do people insist on judging other people without knowing them?

I have health problems and cannot drive. Sometimes when I arrive at a store, public transit has taken an unexpectedly long time to get me there -- a bus breakdown, missed transfer, etc. When this happens, I often need to eat something immediately. I have been known to grab a quick cold drink, a doughnut, a banana -- something to get in my system quickly.

I always take the empty bag, partial bottle or an equivalent item (if it is fruit, for instance) up to the cashier to make certain that the store is not losing money on the product I consumed in such a hurry.

Most of the workers at my usual stores know me and understand my situation. It’s the other customers who get under my skin -- looking down their noses at me just because they saw me eating something before paying for it.

If you see anyone grabbing some fruit or a cold drink on a hot day, you might want to watch out for them -- not just to make sure they pay, but to make sure they are not having a medical issue and requiring aid.

I get as frustrated as the next person when I see actual theft. I once saw a young man grab some candy, eat it, then stuff the wrapper back onto the shelf. I took the wrapper to the manager and asked him to have that young man pay for it.

Don’t assume someone is stealing unless you see them hiding the evidence or walking out without paying.


GENTLE READER: Sure. But asking onlookers to keep a watch on you from entrance to exit as you eat a banana, hold onto the peel and pay for it at checkout is a commitment most cannot muster.

And you yourself were quick to call out someone you perceived to be stealing. What if that young man was only parking the wrapper until he could retrieve it later?

Miss Manners humbly suggests that a simpler solution might be to start bringing snacks with you so that you can avoid the scrutiny. She recommends you consume them before or after doing your grocery shopping.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve only been out with this guy once, but I really like him. I’m unsure if he likes me. Is it OK to send him a poem after we’ve only been out once?

GENTLE READER: Probably best to keep it light after only one date. But if you must, Miss Manners suggests something along the lines of:

Roses are red.

Violets are blue.

We had a fun date.

Why not make it two?

She advises you to avoid anything that might make him think the last line should be, “... And now I’m stalking you.”

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