Dear Ann: We have seven women in our office, and we get along well. There's an ongoing problem, however, and we can't seem to put an end to it. Please help. The holidays are just around the corner.
One of the older women (I'll call her Alma) likes to buy birthday and Christmas presents for everyone in the office. That's OK, except Alma buys expensive gifts sometimes she spends as much as $50, and the rest of us feel obligated to reciprocate. We know how much Alma spends, because she often leaves the price tags on. We don't know why she does this. Meanwhile, her generosity makes us feel uncomfortable.
I have told Alma she works too hard to spend her money on presents for us, but she won't stop. I once tried to return a gift to her, saying, "I cannot accept such an expensive present," but she refused to take it back. Then she acted hurt, and pouted for a week.
Ann, Christmas is coming up soon, and I dread what Alma will purchase this year. We don't know how to handle her behavior, and we feel like Emotional Hostages in St. Louis
Dear St. Louis: There is nothing you can do to make Alma stop buying expensive, inappropriate gifts. She is desperate for attention and approval. You are under no obligation to go into debt in order to reciprocate.
The next time Alma gives you a present, say, "Thank you so much," and then put it aside. If exchanging gifts is a tradition in your office, buy Alma the same type of gift you would purchase for any other co-worker. If she sees that her extravagance is not impressing you, perhaps she will stop trying so hard. I feel sorry for her.
Dear Ann: I read your response about "Diane," who kept bringing food to her new sister-in-law's dinners. Instead of putting her food in the freezer, I have a more subtle suggestion that will spare her feelings.
I believe Diane wants to contribute and feel a part of the dinner planning. Her inappropriate offerings are the result of being kept in the dark. When arranging a dinner, Mom ought to phone Diane and say, "I am fixing such-and-such for dinner. Would you mind bringing the dessert?" This way, Diane can be a participant, and will no longer feel the need to overcompensate. What do you say, Ann? Annie in Oahu, Hawaii
Dear Oahu: I say you are much more diplomatic than I am. Thanks for trumping my ace.
Dear Ann: I read the letter from the engineer who said an obese person would not cause damage to the floors of an apartment building. I am a property manager. My experience is that obese people regularly damage property. The most common damage is to staircases, railings, towel rods, handles, doorknobs and sometimes toilets. Less common is damage to vanities, sinks and countertops.
The cost of repairing these fixtures can be exorbitant, especially if there is water involved. I would never discriminate against obese people by not renting to them, but I expect them to pay for the damage they cause and not make excuses about shoddy construction. The buildings I manage are well-constructed. As you well know, there are two sides to every story, Ann. Renting in the Northeast
Dear Property Manager: Any tenant who damages property, whether it is an obese person who leans too heavily on a towel rod, a child who slides down railings or a teenager who jumps on the countertops, should have to pay to repair it. Property damage can be caused by anyone of any size, and the landlord has the right to expect compensation.