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Ask Amy | Warm up in-law with gifts

Dear Amy: My sister-in-law hosts many family holidays and events at her home. We don't live nearby, so these offer our main chances to see family.

Dear Amy:

My sister-in-law hosts many family holidays and events at her home. We don't live nearby, so these offer our main chances to see family.

When my husband and I enter her home, she never acknowledges us. She even goes as far as to walk past us without saying anything or looking at us.

It is unusual behavior for an adult woman, and I find it rude and offensive.

There has never been a fight or argument to cause her to act this way. In fact, she has never been one to initiate any conversation with me (or even my husband, her brother), so there is no chance that she ever has been offended.

My husband and I always bring something for the hostess and even for her three children. The rest of my in-laws are loving, welcoming people, so I don't understand why my sister-in-law is rude.

It is getting to the point that I want to decline family invites, but I will miss out on seeing the rest of the family.

I never have a chance to be alone with her because her big family is always around (and are helpful to her, so that she is not overburdened with being the host).

Do you have any suggestions on how I should respond/act when she doesn't acknowledge us?

- Can't Handle Rudeness

Dear Can't Handle: Your sister-in-law might be wrung out, what with the kids and the husband and her large extended family to feed. She may be passively expressing her frustration with these hosting obligations. That's one explanation. Another explanation is that she just doesn't like you. Let's assume the first.

You say that you bring something for her and for the kids, but she might need more than a hostess gift. She might need an entree. Offer to supply it (or dessert) for the next gathering.

While at her house, you and your husband should offer to organize the cleanup so that she can retire her hostess duties and hang out with her family for a while.

You should also share some of this burden by offering to host a family event, either at your home, or, if that's not practical, at a park or restaurant convenient to the rest of the family.

And don't underestimate the magical power of a big basket of treats, delivered the day after the event as a thank-you.

If you've tried any or all of this and she's still frosty, then you or your husband will have to say, "Sheri, we sense that something is bothering you. Can you tell me what it is?"

Dear Amy: Could you please poll your readers about how they feel when they call a catalog company to order something and are hit up to order more products than they really want?

That last sales pitch was completely unrelated to the items that I called to buy. I resent having to listen and tell these operators "no" three times!

It makes me not want to call those companies again, but they all seem to be doing it! The people are so polite and nice, so I don't want to hang up on them, but they are wasting my time!

What can be done because I'm sure they are forced to do this?

   - An Oregon Reader

Dear Oregon: Consider my readers polled. I can anticipate their reaction, however. Everybody loathes this practice.

I recently had an experience with a sales clerk at a "big box" store who went through a pitch for five things (including a magazine subscription) before ringing up my purchase. I said, "I have everything I want, thank you." And she kept going and going, like the Energizer Bunny. When I said, "I am begging you to just ring up my stuff," she told me that she has to go through the list.

I'll hesitate to shop at that store again.

Perhaps you could write a letter to the CEO of the company. Trust me, the people at the top care very much how their pitch is going over with their customers.