Miss Manners: Customers look to husband for confirmation of my answers

Dear Miss Manners: I’m at a loss. I work full-time in a home improvement business with my husband. We have been working together in this business for 25 years.

There’s just the two of us, and we work extremely hard. I am on-site at least 35 hours a week, as well as handling most of the emailing and accounting, half the estimate writing, and all of the scheduling.

Obviously, it is crucial that we communicate with the customers before, during and after the project. Customers often have questions, and if I am the right person to answer it, I do so. (Hubby and I both have our strengths.) The customer will then give a vacant nod and look to my husband for confirmation that I have answered correctly. Or, they will ask the same question again to him. Or, after I answer, they turn to my husband to ask a follow-up.

I am treated as the secretary, and my technical skills and knowledge are ignored. This behavior happens with customers of all ages and genders.

I would like to know a polite way to insist that I am actually part of the problem-solving team. Do I interrupt their recap of the question? Can my husband refuse to answer and redirect the question to me? I’m not sure how to respond to their obvious rudeness in a way that is polite but firm.

Correcting customers’ behavior effectively — without offending them — is a two-person job.

The next time you answer a customer’s question, only to have that person look at your husband, his response should be, “That’s my wife’s area of expertise. When she says that’s what we should do, then that’s what we should do.”

If you are inclined to protest that this is a misogynistic solution to a misogynistic problem, Miss Manners will remind you of two things. First, you said the business was a partnership. Second, who invented this solution, and who will be telling your husband what to say?

Dear Miss Manners: During a brief conversation with a friend, she told me that it is bad manners to cut your over-easy eggs with a fork and knife so they are broken and mixed up, or to use toast to soak up over-easy eggs. She said she was appalled and very embarrassed when her former boyfriend ate his eggs this way during a breakfast with her family.

I’ve never heard of this, and before I go out to a brunch with this friend, I’d like to know if this is indeed bad manners. Otherwise, I will always order my eggs scrambled so as not to offend anyone in public.

Dining etiquette focuses on how one eats, not what, which is why Miss Manners is indifferent to how much egg ends up on the toast, caring only how it got there.

Licking the plate is out, as is grasping the toast firmly in your fist and using it to grind down everything in its way. But if you can accomplish your cutting and mixing without attracting attention — unlikely, in that friend’s case — she will leave you to enjoy your meal.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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