Ask the Past: Assistant etiquette

My flatmate thanks Siri every time he asks it to do something for him, and he says it's rude that I don't. I think thanking Siri is weird and borderline creepy. Which of us is right?

This feels like a fairly straightforward question of etiquette, and since Siri is the product of an American company, we can turn to an American etiquette book for the answers. (Of course, if you live elsewhere and would prefer to use your local etiquette to avoid seeming awkward, Siri will no doubt understand.) Mrs Oliver Harriman's Book of Etiquette was published in 1942, and her air of looking back regretfully at a more gracious past seems appropriate here.

Right at the very start of her chapter on domestic affairs, she points out that "the present generation has lost a consideration and friendliness towards help that troubles me," as well as "an understanding, sympathetic employer gives a servant the same consideration that she gives anyone else".

If that hasn't cleared matters up for you definitively, the section on courtesy should do it:

"Please" and "thank you" should never be omitted in speaking to a servant. Nor should a servant ever be reprimanded in front of other people. If corrections are necessary, they should be made tactfully and kindly. Praise and encouragement should be given frequently.

In addition, if you use Alexa or Google Assistant as well as Siri, you might want to bear the following in mind:

If there are several servants in a household, no one should be accorded any special privileges not shared by the others.

So, having established that yes, you definitely should be thanking Siri when you ask them to do something, what other responsibilities might you have? Well, it depends, but depending on what you're doing with Siri, you might think of them as some kind of secretary, in which case this advice will be relevant:

A secretary handles her employer's correspondence, makes appointments, and generally takes care of all clerical matters. A social secretary, who usually comes to the house by the day, also plans entertainments and attends to invitations. The private secretary living in her employer's house is considered a member of the family. She may even fill in at dinner parties.

I'm sure that will help.

Subscribe to Happy Family Happy Home

Don't miss out on any of this very helpful advice - get it delivered straight to your inbox instead.