Dear Margo: Pushy, To Say the Least

Recently, I lied to my boss, now what? Margo Howard’s advice

Pushy, To Say the Least

Dear Margo: I just started my dream job. (I literally used to dream about working at this particular establishment when I was a child.) Now I’m in a bit of a jam. There’s a man I work with, indirectly. He is higher up the chain. I was chummy with him the first few weeks (purely platonic), and he had a big birthday bash. I was invited and wanted to come, but I fell ill and could not make it.

During one of our talks, I told him I was going on a cruise with my family and would be stopping by a special place in Mexico that’s owned by a rock star. He happens to be a big fan of this musician and begged me to bring him back a shirt. I said sure and that I’d give it to him as a birthday present to make up for my absence. Long story short, we ended up not going to that side of Mexico, and when I let him know, he sent me a link to where I could order his shirts. (He picked out two.) I told him I couldn’t afford this.

When I came back from the cruise, he instantly asked about his shirts. I got embarrassed and said I had ordered them (lie) and that there had been a mix-up (lie again) and would be a delay (lie). I am usually a blunt and honest person, so I have no idea why I lied. The point is that I am really too broke (being a full-time student who only works part time) to buy this guy shirts and have them shipped from Mexico to where we live in Europe. But I lied and told him I would. How do I get out of this without losing face at my place of work, and how do I avoid these types of situations in the future? — Lies Are Expensive

Dear Lies: Oh, what a tangled web we weave … when we let people maneuver us into tight corners and then lie to get out. What you need to do is fess up. Just say you really can’t afford it and were embarrassed to say so. This man who is your professional superior was out of line, by the way, to send you a link so you could buy him something (two somethings, to be precise). Kinda jerky. You did nothing wrong — except not playing it straight from the beginning. I suspect you will not find yourself in a similar situation again. — Margo, correctively

Child Etiquette

Dear Margo: We recently had a death in the family, and my husband and I are debating about whether or not to take our infant son, currently 11 months, to the services and the gathering afterward. What is the best way to handle this situation? If we do not take him, what do I say to those who are curious as to where my husband is? (My husband would stay with him, as the death was on my side of the family.) — Belinda

Dear Bel: I think it would be fine to take the baby, since he would have no idea what the occasion was, and it might cheer up some of the other mourners to see him. However, should he cry or holler during the service, I would suggest you walk out with him. Just as at a wedding, a crying child should not be allowed to interfere with guests wishing to hear what is being said. — Margo, sensibly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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27 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  There really is no way other than to tell the guy you are sorry, but when you didn’t realize how expensive the shirts were when you told him it would be a birthday present from you.  He should really just let the matter drop and he is certainly out of line to direct you to websites to order not one but 2 shirts for him.  However, you need to realize that you brought this upon yourself by attempting to ingratiate yourself with him and say you would buy him the shirt as a birthday present.   Sadly, you will look like a liar to him.  And this may impact his view of your character and thus your job performance. 

    LW#2:  By all means take the baby to the funeral.  We had a recent death in our family and my nieces brought their 4 children (two each) ages 3,2, and two at 11 mos.  (It was their grandmother’s funeral).  All but one were pretty well-behaved and when one of the 11 mos. old was fussy, my niece’s husband took him out of the service (where he promptly threw up on his daddy’s good suit).  I think having his grandchildren there was a comfort to my brother-in-law who had lost his mother.  If for some reason you do not want to take your baby (perhaps you need to attend to other family members and do not want to be distracted by the needs of your child…there is nothing wrong with this) simply explain that *my husband stayed home with the baby*.  No one is going to think twice about it at such a time, unless they have a sinister agenda already. 

  2. avatar A R says:

    LW1: Well, this is a weird situation. I am still trying to wrap my mind around him sending you a link to order a shirt when you’d told him you were not going to visit the place after all. I think the guy has a screw loose, but that’s just me. Since you’ve promised a birthday present, I’d suggest a belated birthday card with a gift card in it toward a purchase at that rock star’s place (probably available online). Add the script that you are sorry the order didn’t work out, but you hope this will be useful to him. Learn this time-buying, face-saving trick for the future: “Hm. Let me think about it and talk back with you later.”
    LW2: Seriously? This is a real question?

    • avatar snowwhite4577 says:

      LW#1:  I thought I read that part wrong.  Than, your response made me realize that I read it right. People have nerve.  And it sounds like the letter writer is brown-nosing a bit too much. 

  3. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Wow … seems to me there’s a lot of leg-pulling going on here. Could the boss (according to the headline) or higher-up on the ladder (according to the letter) be yanking your chain? You headed off from Europe on a Mexican cruise with family, and can’t come up with the price of a t-shirt? Also am wondering what cruise line changes its itinerary for a ship at the last moment from west coast to east coast? (“We were going to call at Acalpuco Puerto Vollarta but instead found ourselves sailing into Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.”) In addition, if there’s a link for ordering such shirts shipping would not necessarily be from Mexico. Tell Birthday Boy that the order has been deep sixed due to circumstances beyond control (You needn’t mention your off the wall lying) and give him a couple of made in Mexico margarita glasses. Then don’t get yourself in such a pickle (or pickled) again. 

    LW2: A lot depends on how discreet you can be with the baby. Not every grieving survivor appreciates having a sad and solomn occasion like the actual funeral or reception afterward being hijacked by a gooing-cooing baby inadvertently grabbing attention with its cutesiness. Have you heard of baby sitters? If not, why not go solo, pay your respects, and return to the roost?

    • avatar Lila says:

      JCF, I was wondering about that too – how the LW can afford trans-Atlantic luxury travel but not a couple of T-shirts.  The only thing I can guess is that she is a young adult and her family paid for her cruise expenses.
      The boss is a jerk for imposing like that, but in my opinion she may have been inappropriately “chummy” with him from the start.  There should always be some distance between bosses and subordinates, and even though this is platonic, it crosses the line.

      • avatar ann penn says:

        LW1 is a student.  It is possible LW1’s family paid for the cruise and selected the route.  LW may not have known that they had changed their mind about the route early enough, or had selected a different cruise than they had discussed.

        As to ordering in Mexico and shipping to Europe, this could add quite a bit to the price.  Years ago my family lived in Germany and one relative sent Xmas gifts from the US at the last minute, air express, with a very high declared value.  We had to pay tax/duty on ALL of it (even the shipping).  IF the LW were to order A shirt and have it shipped, it should go directly to the “boss” (via sea, not air).

        I think a gift card towards the item, for what LW can actually afford, inside a birthday card with note of explanation is the WTG.  What the LW can afford may make the boss realize how out of line he/she was.


      • avatar JCF4612 says:

        Lila, am in total agreement  on the  “chummy” apsects.

      • avatar boisguilbert says:

        Lila, you’ve hit the nail on the head.  Good advice! 

  4. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Meant Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta 🙁 but you get the point.

  5. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Seems your only options are to confess or lie yet again, i.e. “I don’t know what happened to your shirts; they should have arrived in the mail by now!” Don’t let this man intimidate you into doing further favors for him. And try not to discuss personal plans in earshot to him; he seems the opportunistic sort who’s always looking for someone to do something for him.

    L #2: I should think if the baby stays home and dad with him, people will assume your husband is at home looking after the baby. :- Are you of a different culture or nationality? I’m a US citizen, and everywhere I’ve lived within the States it seems people would presume your husband’s at home with the child while you’re there.

    • avatar sandra b says:

      Saying they should have arrived by now is not going to close the matter and it’s just another lie added to the pile. Boss will counter with asking her to put a trace on them via the shipper. It’s better to just flat out say she checked the link and was floored with the prices and as a student and part time worker can’t afford it. The boss is a jerk for pursuing it after she said they didn’t make that cruise stop after all.

  6. avatar noracharles says:

    LW#1 — Wow, all that for a Sammy Hagar t-shirt?  Your boss never should have sent you the link to purchase them, since the point of your offer was to get him something *from* the club as a souvenir.  Find another job, that guy is a classless jerk.
    LW#2 — Bring the baby.  Depending on the circumstances s/he may be a helpful distraction.  My infant cousin was brought to a funeral for two family members who died young and violently, and as soon as my aunt walked in the room the baby was whisked away and passed around amongst the entire family (I think she didn’t even see her baby for close to 1/2 an hour!).  I have a fixed image in my memory of the older brother of one of the deceased holding my tiny 5-week-old cousin with a smile on his face, and it was probably the best thing for him.

  7. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: I prefer to think the boss (although he’s not your “boss” and the headline is somewhat misleading) is pulling a frat-type stunt on you to initiate you in to the club, as it were. 

    If not, well—I guess you had better come up with some shirts, since you may eventually work for this man someday.

    LW2: Life goes on, and a public display of a baby can be a great metaphor for that message and a comfort at a time like this. Take him—everyone wins. And if the baby fusses, take him outside. 

  8. avatar Noonatic says:

    LW 1–DO NOT lie agan. 
      Just take your medicine like a big girl, confess you could not afford the shirts and learn from this.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Actually I think she’s handled it so well so far—she should sleep with him, and while he’s asleep she should take his credit card and charge the shirts—then practice her gaslighting skills and insist that he ordered the shirts all along and she doesn’t know what he’s talking about… the only thing she knows is that she loves him. 

      Then she should kill him, collect the insurance money and return the shirts for a refund.  

  9. avatar Annie H says:

    LW #1 Okay, I have been to the club/bar/restaurant that you are talking about and the T-shirts are NOT that expensive.  I actually bought one at the airport.  Granted, there are extremely nice shirts that are expensive that doesn’t mean you buy those.  Your boss sending you the links to the ones he likes was crossing a line.  However, you did some line crossing on your own.  I suggest you put on your big girl panties, go to the website, and buy a shirt and/or some type of gift and send it to your boss.  From the begining, you should have bought some type of gift from Mexico for him after all you did promise a gift.  Granted, it wouldn’t be from the bar he wanted but it would have been something.  AND don’t lie!

    LW #2-Myself, would not bring an infant/child to a funeral.  I would be worried that the baby would be too much of a distraction and not in a good way (even if you left when the crying began).  I would try to find a babysitter so you and your husband could go.  Your other option is to ask other family members (not the ones that are close relations) to see what their thoughts are. 

  10. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #1 – Boss is rather nervy – dontcha think? I think the best way to deal is Margo’s advice, own up to it and that you were too embarrassed to admit it.  May or may not affect the friendship, but doesn’t sound like much of one anyway.

    Ltr. #2 – what’s the problem?  If you choose to leave the baby at home with the hubby, just say that.  That you felt it better to leave your son at home and hubby’s stayed home to care for him.  End of story.

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1- I’ve read your letter 3 times and still think I’m either missing something or you and your “not your boss” are both odd. I’m going with odd. Anyway, yeah..fess up, have a laugh and Do Not Do This Again!

    Option 1 – Take baby. If baby cries take baby out and do that cooing bouncy thing that seems to calm them down.
    Option 2 – Leave baby at home with husband. When asked about baby/husband say, “Husband stayed home with the baby”.

    Oh my gawd! I am just exhausted working on that one. Please. No more tough questions like this.

  12. avatar Kathy says:

    Easy response to LW1, but it involves another little lie. Tell the guy, “Oh, I just found out that the order for your shirts didn’t go through because there were insufficient funds. I told you they were a little rich for my account.”  Then shrug and walk away.  After all, she already told him she couldn’t afford them.  I realize this is a young girl, and she is vulnerable to jerks.  But she’s going to have to “man up” if she’s going to survive in the real world. Obviously, the guy could order them online for himself anytime. 

  13. avatar NicoleDSK says:

    I’d go ahead and order ONE shirt for your boss, of your choosing. Yeah, it sucks, but I think it is the only way out of this mess. Next time, say no. But since you did say yes, follow through.

  14. avatar NicoleDSK says:

    Who is the celebrity BTW? Senior Frog?

  15. avatar Grace Malat says:

    About the funeral it seems I’ll be going against most but a funeral is no place for an infant just like a wedding. Infants have a mind of their own and you never know what will happen until you get there, why add an extra stress and the difficulty of caring for an 11 month old at such a time. Your time shouldn’t be divided at this time it should be focused on the deceased. 11 month olds can be very difficult to manage on a good day, one like this you could be setting yourself up for disaster and a very difficult day.
    You’ll be needing to attend to your own grief process and the needs of others and the child will be more of a hindrance. Have you not thought of a babysitter for the few hours you’ll be gone so that both you and your husband can pay your respects? If not for whatever reason then dad stays home and you go on your own.