Mrs. McVeigh's Manners
a division of Elise McVeigh's Life Camps
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Elise McVeigh's Life Camp Column - Calling someone by the wrong name and cell phones


Dear Ms. McVeigh,

I was introduced to a parent at my child’s school at the beginning of the school year, and the name that stuck in my mind after I met her is not really her name.  It was several months of calling her this name when I would run into her, did I finally figure out that I was calling her the wrong name.  I ended up acknowledging my error to her, and apologizing to her.  I wondered why she never corrected me. I can only assume that she thought it would have been rude.  My questions to you are first, what is the etiquette on correcting someone when they call you by the wrong name, and two, how would you have handled it if you were me?

Jennifer J.


Dear Jennifer,

The official rule of etiquette is to correct a person when he or she calls you by the wrong name.  It makes a lot of people uncomfortable to do this, but in the long run it could save a lot of confusion and embarrassment on the other person’s part.  The longer it goes the more uncomfortable it gets, so definitely correct the person as soon as possible.


If you are the one who called someone by the wrong name, and you are uncomfortable about confronting the person, I would just start calling him or her by the correct name the next time you see the person.  You did a great thing by admitting your error to her and apologizing.  I am sure this was not easy to do, so I admire you for handling it this way.


Dear Mrs. McVeigh,


When someone is talking on his phone, and is checking out at a store, do you think it matters or not?  Is it rude or offensive to the employee checking you out? Are there different rules for the grocery store, opposed to a department store, such as Neiman Marcus?

Curious Cell Phone User


Dear Curious Cell Phone User,

If I was on my cell phone while I was interacting with an employee, I would feel very disrespectful to him or her.  It does not matter if you are going through the drive through line at the dry cleaners, or checking out at the grocery store, or at a nice department store.  I think the rule of etiquette is that you get off your phone once it is your turn to check out.  If there is a reason that you can not get off the phone, ask the caller to hold for a moment when you first see the employee, tell him hello, and apologize that you are on the phone.  I think checkers and sales people deserve our respect.  Taking on the phone while they are taking care of you is rude and disrespectful.



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Elise McVeigh's Life Camp Column - Thank you notes

Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

I exchanged gifts with an in-law at Christmas, and I need to start off by crediting her for writing me a thank you note.  The issue is the note that she wrote me was very honest, to the point that I found it a little offensive.  In the note she thanked me for the gift.  She then said that she started to look at it, but got distracted, and never saw what it was.  She then went onto say that she left it at the relative’s house that we exchanged our gifts.   On the positive side, she said that she appreciated my thoughtfulness.  What is your take on this note?



Dear Anonymous,

That is a unique thank you note.   I would have handled the situation differently than your relative did.  I always tell my manners’ students that you need to be specific about what the gift is in a thank you note.  I will make an exception in this case.  I would have written it the following way:


Dear XYZ,

Thank you so much for the gift that you gave me for Christmas.  I really appreciate the thought that you put into choosing it for me. 

I enjoyed spending the holidays with you.  I look forward to our next family get together.




This is shorter and less specific than I typically like to write, but it is still honest, without being offensive.  The next time I would see this in-law, I would mention verbally how I have used the gift, since I was unable to do this in the note.  Hopefully she will retrieve the gift from the relative’s house by the time you see her again, and tell you specifically how she has enjoyed and used your gift.


Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

When is it (if ever) too late to write a thank you note?



Dear Anonymous,

It is never too late to write a thank you note to someone.  I would rather receive one late, then not at all.  It will also make you feel better that you wrote it.

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Elise McVeigh's Life Camp Column

Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

I attend a large church, and one of the items in our church yearly church auction is bidding on reserving a pew for the holiday services.  I noticed this year that a man and his young son were sitting in the reserved seats.  The family who then won the right to the seats arrive a little later and piled into the pew.  It was a bit of a tight fit for all of them to get in the pew, and it soon became apparent to me that the man who was there first did not purchase the pew.  He stayed there even after it appeared that the family nicely told him that they had the pew reserved.  He did not get up and move until after one of the family members discreetly spoke to an usher.  The usher ended up finding the man and his little boy a new seat.  Do you think they should have let him stay there?  It is a church, and there was a small child involved. 

Curious Church Goer


Dear Curious Church Goer,

I agree with the family who bid on the seats.  They purchased this item at the auction for the purpose of arriving to the church at their convenience, and having seats for their whole family.  The gentleman who was there first should have immediately moved after he realized his error.  Even though he had a child with him, I think the usher did the right thing by finding them new seats. 


Dear Mrs. McVeigh,

I did some extensive traveling over the holidays, and went to several large cities.  While in these cities, our main transportation was subways and buses.  I was very surprised that people did not offer their seats to older people, and pregnant ladies.  I offered my seat to them every time, and my kids asked me why.  Does etiquette not dictate that we offer our seats to ladies and the elderly anymore?  I was trying to not only do what I think is right, but also set a good example for my kids. What is the deal? I am female and offered my seat to pregnant ladies and older people, so shouldn’t men step up and do the same?  Is this just a southern thing, or am I being ridiculously old fashioned? What is the current rule about this?



Dear P.T.,

Good for you for setting such a great example to your children, and to other people.   Etiquette still says that gentlemen should offer their seats to ladies, and others who need a seat more than they need it.  (It does not matter what part of the country, or the world, that you live in. It is a universal etiquette rule in my opinion.) It is very disappointing to hear that people do not have the same kind of manners that you have.  I don’t care what culture you live in – when a woman is pregnant, she really needs to sit down, and the elderly are tired, and deserve a seat as well.  As for gentleman giving their seat up to any lady, pregnant or not, I still think they should offer.


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New Year's Resolutions - Finding the Balance in Life

Time for setting and implementing your New Year’s Resolutions! Here is one for you – finding a balance in your life. It either seems that we spend too much time focused on work, or too much time focused on everything but what we want to focus on, and feel overwhelmed and do nothing well. We get into survival mode, and just tread water throughout our days and weeks, and then we wonder where the year went. This year let your time become yours. You can do this by balancing your life.      
A great balance would mean that you are very successful at work/stay at home parent, and you feel like you have activities and a life outside of work. You feel like you are at your peak health. You are happy with your appearance. You feel like you look the best, and feel the best that you ever have, mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. If you don’t feel balanced in all of these areas, take a moment to access why.
Start by writing down what you do everyday, or look at your calendar from last year, and see where your time went. If it all baffles you, ask yourself if you are proactive in your life, or are you reactive? Do you have your schedule under control, and get all of the things that you need to do to run your household efficiently in a timely manner? If you do, then you will be able to fit in your other “extra” activities, such as seeing your friends more, doing volunteer work, and taking up a fun hobby. If not, then you will never seem to get ahead of your schedule, and will put out fires all day long. 
Becoming proactive is easier than you think. It just takes a little organization. Take the time to write down what you need to do to get your day to day tasks done. Evaluate how you can save time with these tasks. It could be as simple as setting up your bills to be automatically paid online, to switching to the dry cleaners on the way to work.  How about taking 15 minutes every Sunday night to look at your family’s schedules, plan out your meals for the week, then make a list to go to the grocery store the same day each week?  It could be simple tasks such as this to make your life simpler and smoother. 
Write down all of the things that you want to start doing, and see how you can fit them into your current life. For example, you want to start working out again on a regular basis, and you want to see your friends more often. Be realistic about your tasks. Don’t try to go to a 5:00 am Yoga class if you know you like to sleep until 7:00. Instead, find a realistic time that you are already awake, and find a friend that you can do it with, who will keep you accountable. Maybe start by walking for 30 minutes, then work up to an hour, and then slowly incorporate jogging. Not only will you both get a good workout, but you will spend time with one another. You are now adding in two things that are on your list. 
Be realistic about your time, your expectations, and take baby steps into everything that you are trying to do. Finding a balance over night will not happen, so make changes slowly throughout the year.

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  1. Re: Etiquette and left over food after a holiday meal

    Nice blog to read on.Well after that,you might have some leftovers.Using leftovers isn't really that


  2. Re: Giving and Receiving Gifts

    SOOO agree with this answer. I really get tired of the 'competitiveness' of gift giving from some o


  3. Re: New Year's Resolutions - Finding the Balance in Life

    This posting really resonated with me. My New Year's Resolution for 2010 is to SIMPLIFY my life. Thi

    --Mrs. Simplify