Dear Miss Manners: On a wonderful weekend in New York City with a friend and our two daughters, ages 9 and 12, we enjoyed a Broadway show, dinners out, sightseeing and crowd watching. At the theater, after the show, we were told that cast members would be at the exits collecting donations for a charity supported by the members.

As we exited, sure enough, actors were holding buckets just waiting for our cash. At the restaurant that night, the singing waiters came around and asked for donations to help them attend acting and singing classes so that they, too, could become Broadway stars.

Both situations made me feel pressured to donate to their causes, which aren't necessarily on my philanthropic list.

Is this a new trend to solicit donations from captive audiences? How should I politely refuse to donate as the wait staff comes by my table and holds a collection cup directly in front of me?

I also see this trend at stores. When I check out, I'm asked to donate to the "cause of the week." I usually politely decline, but would rather not be asked in the first place.

Gentle Reader: Anyone who raises money for a living — whether as a panhandler or as a professional "development" officer — will tell you that it is hard work. It therefore amazes Miss Manners how many people voluntarily add such activities to their more immediate duties, be those serving dinner, reciting lines or even getting married.

You may curtail your waiter's side business by appealing to his supervisor, who is unlikely to be supportive of his hope of singing his way out of the restaurant. Theater troupes and newlyweds are less likely to listen to management, assuming that it is not management that put them up to it. But you may merely smile at them, say "Thank you" to confuse them and pass by without donating.

Holding on to the past

Dear Miss Manners: My brother's wife passed several years ago, yet some family members continue using her name, to this day, in e-mail addressed to my brother.

He is engaged again, and while we will always remember Olivia, I feel it is disrespectful not to stop addressing the e-mail to "Olivia and Will" and have stated so. The response has been, "He didn't tell me to stop, so I don't have to."

Gentle Reader: Shockingly, it is just possible that the relative who so responded was being serious.

Whether this is so or not, Miss Manners advises you to treat it as a misguided attempt at humor. She suggests, "I don't think joking is the kindest response to his loss and our hope that he is again finding happiness." This will be more effective than getting into an argument about whether a funeral is not sufficient notice that the person in question is no longer checking her e-mail.

"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website,