DEAR AMY: Last week my wife and I purchased three pairs of sneakers at a store. The service was poor and the experience was frustrating.
As we were leaving I noticed the cashier only charged us for two pairs of sneakers. I chose not to say anything about it.
In the car I told my wife what had happened, and she said, “Well, the store made an error, the service was poor and I guess that means I got a pair of free sneakers.”
Even though I sort of agreed with her (and I didn’t go back to the store to say anything), this issue has been nagging at me.
I feel as though I “morally” did the wrong thing. Should I go back to the store and pay for the sneakers? — Feeling Guilty
DEAR GUILTY: When you throw quotation marks around the word “morally,” you make it seem that morality is a theoretical construct. But morality is real and guilt is your character’s gyroscope.
It is wrong to take and keep something you haven’t paid for, regardless of whether the service was lousy or a mistake was made, and regardless of what your wife thinks.
You should go back to the store and pay for the sneakers.
You should also speak to the manager of the store and express your frustrations about the service you received (follow up with an email). If this store is serious about retaining your business, the manager will make an effort to make things right.
DEAR AMY: My daughter, son-in-law and toddler grandson live in another state.
My son-in-law’s large extended family lives near them. They are a close family and spend lots of time together. Because we live a three-hour plane ride away, my husband and I only visit them a few times a year, and usually only for a long weekend. When we visit, my son-in-law’s family wants to spend time with us.
I know this is well-intentioned and generously offered, but it is hard for me. I see my grandchild infrequently and want to spend every minute with him, my daughter and her husband. Also, seeing this family reminds me of my absence and makes the visits a painful reminder of that. How do I negotiate this issue without hurting feelings?
I know the “right thing” to do, but if I do the right thing I will be the only one feeling bad, and I’m getting tired of putting everyone’s feelings above my own.
What do you think? — Grammy
DEAR GRAMMY: Your daughter and grandson are lucky to have a large and loving family living close by. When it comes to building relationships with young children, quantity time sometimes trumps “quality time.”
Because you want more from this relationship, you should extend your visits to last more than a long weekend, if possible, while the boy is young. If staying with them is an imposition, research house-swapping opportunities or short-term rentals in the area.
One way to serve your own feelings better is to state what you want. Stating your own needs is not offensive or upsetting to others. It is introducing clarity into a situation that calls for it.
On your next visit you should say to your daughter: “I really appreciate spending time with ‘Greg’s’ family, but I’m dying to get to know this little guy better. Can just the three of us go on an outing or hang at home for an afternoon?”
DEAR AMY: A letter from “Rejected and Dejected” talked about a group of pretty vicious “frenemies.” One suggested to the writer that it was time for her to pull on her “big girl panties.”
You confessed to hating that phrase and said you blame Oprah Winfrey for its popular usage.
I think the phrase originated much further back and I don’t think Oprah is to blame. — Eagle Eye
DEAR EAGLE EYE: I dimly recall hearing it for the first time on Oprah’s show, and so I’m not really blaming her for originating the odious phrase, but I do wish she would use her power to make it stop.