Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cracked up Glass Menagerie

This is one of the strangest letters to Abby I've seen. It's a difficult one to answer, because it's hard to give advice on dealing with a person whose actions simply don't make any sense! Many folks write into advice columns for etiquette advice because they feel they've been treated rudely or taken advantage of, and want to know how (or if) to confront the offender. I thought this was going to be one of those times. Instead, the woman just seems to be trying to create a scene. Try to figure this one out:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I attended the wedding of two dear friends. The groom's mother, "Millie," made party favors for all the guests -- little gift bags containing sugar-coated almonds and, because the bride and groom are animal lovers, a small glass animal. A few days later, a friend brought her teenage daughter to our home. The daughter admired the two glass animals, so I gave them to her.

I was shocked when, the following weekend, Millie called and asked me to return them. She said she planned to take them back because she would prefer to use the money to buy the couple something they could use. Feeling guilty for "regifting," I responded with the first thing that popped into my head, that I hoped I hadn't "misplaced" them. Millie said she hoped not, too -- they had cost $35 apiece, and she would expect us to reimburse her! Further, we should not mention it to the "happy couple" because of the embarrassment it would cause.

I asked the bride's sister where Millie might have bought the glass figurines under the guise of wanting to get some as gifts for my grad students. I was stunned when she responded that she had purchased an entire case of these inexpensive animals as wedding favors, and that I was welcome to them if I wanted to pick them up from her home.

I'm unclear what motivated Millie to ask for the animals to be returned, or why she would inflate the price and expect to be reimbursed. I understand there was an unpleasant power struggle over the wedding arrangements, but I'm not sure what she hopes to gain from this.

How should this be handled? My husband says I should tell Millie the truth, that we gave them away and we know they cost only 80 cents apiece. What do you say? -- STYMIED IN MARYLAND

How bizarre, right? The only thing I can think of is that the woman just wants to embarrass the bride and groom by affronting all of their guests. Instead, of course, she's just embarrassing herself....this is truly just strange.

I love Abby's suggestion, though!

You were off the hook the minute the bride's sister told you she had a case of the little glass animals. Swing by, pick up a couple and give them to Millie. She's as transparent as they are, and her story about returning them to buy anything for the happy couple is another fabrication.

Give her back her own stupid animals! Nice!

***time passes***
Hmmm....upon reading this again, I've figured it out, and it all seems so obvious now. I was confused at first because, while it seemed that Millie was just trying to gather some cash for herself, since the glass animals weren't actually worth much, I couldn't figure out how she planned to make any profit.

But now I see. I just wasn't devious enough at first.

Millie EXPECTED that people would no longer have the animals, and that she'd badger them into giving her cash. The plot is all clear now. And Abby's response to give her back her own animals becomes even better!

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