Q. We have had some rather rich Argentines to stay. No one was able to come in to help before or during their visit so I was exhausted looking after them, making their beds, cooking, quietly washing up etc. Consequently, when I went into their room and found they had left a £250 tip for my cleaner (who had done nothing), I decided I would keep the lion’s share. I left £20 for the cleaner, which she was absolutely thrilled with. Now my husband, to whom I had not confessed, tells me she asked him for the Argentines’ address so she could write to thank them for the £20. There is now a letter on its way over and I need urgent help to avoid huge embarrassment.
— Name and address withheld
A. Email the Argentines immediately to thank them for leaving such a generous sum. Gush that their magnanimity allowed you to distribute tips between all the hidden hands who had worked so hard to make their stay comfortable.
Q. Very good friends often come to visit us in London. A few weeks ago one of them accidentally kicked over a full cup of black tea on to the pale carpet in their bedroom. When it became clear that the stain would never come out, they insisted they would pay for a new carpet. We eventually came to an agreement to go halves as I felt uncomfortable with their offer. They have now written, thanking us profusely for the weekend, but have made no mention of the carpet incident, despite a nudge from us during a WhatsApp conversation. Mary, we can ill afford to pay for the entire cost of a new carpet. What should we do?
— B.S., London SW16
A. The ghastly likelihood is they can ill afford to pay for even half of it. However there is good news. Few householders have the mental stamina to read through the deadly dull terms and conditions of their household insurance policy, yet most include something called Public Liability Insurance, which covers the policyholder for accidental damage to other people’s property. Get a quote for a new carpet, then forward it. So they don’t think your resentment has been festering, write: ‘Sorry it took me so long to get this quote out of the carpet people — but the good news is they say you almost certainly have something called Public Liability Insurance so you won’t have to pay for your half! They have explained to me how you can make the claim so I am very happy to help you do it, if you like?’
Q. Re. your answer in Dear Mary (21 August) about meeting a bereaved person, I suggest people simply say: ‘I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I cannot imagine how you are feeling.’ Then they should shut up.
— T.C., Burpham, Sussex
A. Thank you for sharing this useful variant on my own advice.