They poached my handyman and it did not go effectively

LOVE MISS MANNERS: We have a handyman, George, who we’ve been using for several years. He was originally recommended to us by a close friend and a small group of us keeps him quite busy.

My husband and I rely on George as a reliable and trustworthy helper, as we no longer have done many tasks ourselves and pay him generously. We also learned George’s strengths and weaknesses: for example, he’s a terrible painter and a mediocre landscaper, but a great plumber and a good electrician.

On two occasions, various neighbors have reached out to George while he is outside our house and asked about his availability in order to work for them. I find this to be 1. a little rude and 2. possibly unwise. Instead, I think you should ask my husband and me if we mind if you “poach” our employees. If they are wise, they should also seek our opinion on his abilities.

I might add that the neighbors hired him on both occasions and were disappointed with the painting he was doing for them, resulting in minor disputes over what he charged them.

Am I wrong to believe that a neighbor should politely ask us before attempting to hire our handyman?

GENTLE READER: Your neighbors are rightly prohibited from helping themselves if you pay to do so. The time you don’t pay for is still George’s.

In theory, this means that if the exchange is quick, it is acceptable to ask a gardener for their card while you are walking past them and sowing the lawn. In practice, such requests usually lead to lengthy discussion which, if visible to George’s current employer, will be denied if he is paid by the hour.

For this reason – and to avoid the subsequent problem with George’s painting skills – your neighbor would have been smarter to come to you with a referral. But you have been spared the discomfort of admitting George forgot to paint the wall behind the couch – and, without looking too rude, you took revenge on the fact that you could spare them trouble.

LOVE MISS MANNERS: Growing up, I was always taught to set the table by placing a fork and knife on the right side of the plate on the napkin. Placing it on the napkin prevented the fork and knife from touching the bare table.

Now I know it’s a napkin, a fork, a plate, a knife – all in a row. Is it okay to have a fork and knife right on the table, or does that make a placemat or tablecloth necessary?

GENTLE READER: Etiquette has no objection to forks or knives that come into direct contact with the table. And Miss Manners notes that, unless it’s at a picnic table, eating is just as hygienic as a placemat or tablecloth, as hosts who forget to keep the table clean are just as absent from the cutlery.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners on her website www.missmanners.com. to her email: Dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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