Abby: Email mix-up causes mistakenly sent invitation

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: I recently received an online invitation to a New Year’s Eve party at the home of a dear cousin. Having not heard from her in a while, I decided to call her to express our delight at having been invited and let her know we might be able to come. (They live 350 miles away, but we plan to be in their town earlier that week and could potentially stay a few days longer and go to the party.)

Well, when I called, she told me that our having been included was a mistake! She said there must have been a mix-up because my email address is similar to a friend of hers who is invited.

Although she then said we were welcome to come, we declined saying, “Thank you for your flexibility given the awkward circumstance. Forgive us, but I think we’ll stick to our original plan to come back north around Dec. 28.”

Could this have been handled better? It has put a strain on an otherwise lovely relationship.

Embarrassed in California

Dear Embarrassed: Your dear cousin was clearly caught flat-footed by your phone call, but she should not have blurted out that your invitation was a mistake, although she did try to clean it up by telling you you were welcome to come.

I don’t blame you for telling her you would stick to your original plan because I doubt you would have felt comfortable had you chosen to attend.

I think the way to handle this going forward would be to make a New Year’s resolution to forgive her for the breach of etiquette, not allow it to create a rift in your relationship and let it go.

Dear Abby: I work at a school. There’s this woman here I would like to know. She’s 21; I’m 24. I do maintenance and janitorial work. She’s a professional. I wrote her a note wishing her and her family well for the holidays. She texted me once, thanking me for the note and wishing me happy holidays, too.

I want more communication. I’m not sure if she’s nervous and doesn’t know what to say. She seems like an incredible person, and I’d hate to pass up the opportunity to know her better. What’s your take on this?

Her Future Friend?

In San Francisco

Dear Friend: Because you both work at the same school there could be rules against fraternization or even sexual harassment that could put your job in jeopardy if you do what you have in mind, however innocent it may be. That’s why I don’t recommend it.

Dear Abby: What is the rule of etiquette if someone is visiting your town on vacation and you are at work? Are you obligated to take time off from your job? Or should the vacationers work around your schedule to visit with you?

Busy in California

Dear Busy: No rule of etiquette dictates that you must take time away from your job to entertain out-of-town guests – particularly if you haven’t invited them. Considerate visitors would (and should) accommodate your schedule rather than expect you to hold their hands.

Dear Abby: I am an estate planner who would like to say that folks who don’t believe in writing thank-you letters have no idea how much they may have lost by not sending those little notes of gratitude. I am talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars that have not gone to people who failed to pen a note and buy a stamp.

Many of my clients who are grandparents tell me they are leaving nothing to the “children” who never thanked them. They say the ingrates deserve what they’ll be getting, which is nothing.

Patricia in Massachusetts

Dear Patricia: I’m printing your letter verbatim. A word to the wise, folks … Happy holidays!

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.