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Crash a party to get quality chow or free meal?

Is this a myth? Do people get all decked out and attend formal affairs hoping to blend in with the crowd just to eat free chow? I guess it's one way to keep dining costs down, and at the same time enjoy the occasional helpings of fois gras, caviar, chateaubriand, and Bordeaux. Does anyone have any stories they'd like to share either first-hand or otherwise of people landing free chow where they weren't invited? I wonder if caterers or others in the biz are wary of this...Hmmm. Chowhounds aren't whistleblowers, are we? Nah. Not when chow is involved.

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  1. yes they exist, and yes they do it. it's a notorious occurrence when restaurants do invite-only parties --especially openings. they're usually easy to spot, the same people do it over and over so are recognized, and often times behave obnoxiously. it's not worth kicking up dust to kick them out though. you're giving the stuff away anyway, and they'd likely badmouth you all over town.

    as for weddings and such, if i found crashers i'd boot them tout suite.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      i attended a wedding for a friend and met a guy who was a lot of fun to hang with. as the wedding wound down, he told us that he was just crashing the party and did it all the time. we let him stay, perhaps because we were too drunk to care.

    2. At the chow.com launch party, coincidentally, I chatted with a gentleman who had walked in off the street with two of his friends who were visiting from Spain. He had wanted to show them the architecture of the restaurant. They ended up getting free food and fancy drinks and a party favor as well.

      1. My mother used to tell the story of her grandfather who, when he entered his eighties, began going out in his tuxedo on Sundays. Grandma was afraid that he had a girlfriend, so an uncle followed Grandpa and found that he walked into a wedding reception at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel. The next weekend, Grandpa did the same--at The Plaza, and then, he followed suit again one week later, at a different hotel on the upper East Side.

        As it turned out, Grandpa just wanted some nice food, some good champagne, and some nice treatment from these high-end establishments. His reasoning, he later explained, was that the groom's family would assume that he came from the bride's party, and the bride's family would assume that he was related to the groom. Also, he knew that, inevitably, there were always a few no-shows at weddings, so the families wouldn't be paying for an extra plate. Nobody wanted to question a very distinguished-looking elderly gentleman, so he managed to carry this off without a hitch, it seems.

        Everyone was a bit ashamed at the scam that Grandpa was pulling, but they allowed him to have his fun for a few years until he became too feeble to toddle uptown for these weddings.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ted in Central NJ

          I love this story, thank you for sharing. When I turn 80, I shall start doing the same. Only fifty-something years to go!

          1. re: Ted in Central NJ

            I LOVE it!! If he'd showed up at a wedding of mine, he would have been more than welcome. What a character!

            1. re: ballulah

              Yes, I would love to have met my great-grandfather, but he passed away in the 1930s (about 25 years before I was born). Overall, he sounded like he was very straight-laced, but apparently he became a bit impish in his last few years.

              Based on some distinguished photographs of him in his tuxedo, with his HUGE handlebar mustache, I can see why nobody challenged his presence at those weddings.

            2. re: Ted in Central NJ

              Ted, this is something we should all aspire to. I admire Grandpa most for his craftiness -- right down to his reasoning WHY he was doing it. He was a very clever man -- a man who also liked his 'alone' time. He did all this alone. I hope he'd remember to pocket a bag of Jordan almonds or better for Grandma every once in a while. ; ) ... ... GREAT STORY!

            3. An uncle of mine who was in charge of a family funeral spotted a strange woman at the funeral lunch. He asked her who she was, didn't get the right answer, then told her "Out!" with thumb pointed to the door. His wife, my aunt, felt sorry for her and said he should have let her stay. Funny memory, despite the funeral.

              1. it's interesting that everybody finds this grandfather's behavior of crashing special occasions so charming. he gets a pass because he was elderly? if he was a smartly dressed/just lonely 40-year old would it change your opinion?

                i've dealt with plenty of party crashers, and i don't think it's at all endearing.

                3 Replies
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I think the charm factor makes up for the sleaze factor... I too have to deal with plenty of party crashers in my line of work, but when you come across one who has some charm and gumption (regardless of age and quality of dress, but both help) you have to say, "Aww shucks" and give the crasher bonus points.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I wouldn't get too bent out of shape about the "charming" old guy. It sounds like an urban myth to me.

                    1. re: Leonardo

                      Trust me, my great-grandfather was not an urban myth!

                      While I never met him, the stories that have been passed down to me have painted a picture of a very strong-willed man who fled from oppression in Prussia and who became relatively successful in NYC. While he was apparently a stern man in his younger years, he seemed to have become quite light-hearted in his last few years.

                      Incidentally, he was aware of the fact that there were always a few no-shows at wedding receptions (for whom the family had to pay, despite their absence) because one of his daughters (my great, great aunt) was the banquet manager at the Essex House as well as some other toney places. As the story goes, after Grandpa heard her lamenting the hotel management's policy of charging families for the no-shows, he decided that this would be some harmless fun for an old man on a Sunday afternoon.

                      I should probably add that, since Grandpa's wedding reception forays occurred during the 1930s, the overall gentility of that era (especially in those high-end establishments) probably kept anyone from questioning the presence of an impeccably groomed elderly gentleman. Today, people would undoubtedly be more likely to question someone than in that era.

                  2. Actually, one of the best spots for a free lunch and dinner is any given Monday at one of your local private country clubs. Many clubs are closed one day a week, typically on Monday. To boost their income, they sell the Monday slot for golf outings. As long as you're dressed like a golfer, there's probably zero liklihood that anyone is going to question who you are and why you're there. You just need to look the part.

                    1. As embarassed as I am to admit it, between 1st and 2nd year of B-School I was an intern on Wall Street. Every night some I-Bank hosted an event for a particular school to assist in the recruiting. These were usually held at Harry's a very old good old boy bar, in one of their back rooms.

                      I saw many of the same faces on more than one occassion, whether it was an event for Lehman, Paine Weber, etc., or whether it was for Columbia, Harvard or Penn. We hung out, chatted with the bankers, made friends with guys from other B-Schools, had a few apps, a round of drinks and went back to work at our summer internship.

                      It was a free meal, a good chance to network and I gotta believe all the bankers knew we were there three nights in a row, even if it was not our school. They were there to recruit and so were we.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        When I was a university intern for a Congressman in D.C., my fellow interns (from lots of different offices) and I used to do something similar. There was always some kind of reception going on someplace on the Hill, and when one of us found out about one, he or she would notify the rest of us and we'd all wander in (it helped that we had Congressional ID passes). It was a great way for poor students to find a free meal.

                        1. re: Kagey

                          DC plus a Congressional ID was the ticket all right. Went to numerous parties. The trick was to make nice with the Pages or the Receptionist (yes that is what they were called in the 70's). They were invited everywhere, I wonder why.

                          1. re: Kagey

                            That's how most interns and young low-ranking staff get themselves fed. They can't afford to eat on those rotten salaries.
                            But there's great news for them. The new House ethics rules have outlawed anyone buying actual meals for Members of Congress and their staffs. It's called the Toothpick Rule by local caterers - the food has to able to be picked up on a toothpick to pass muster. So that mean lots more receptions to crash! Better eats!
                            Not sure yet what the effect will be on expense account restaurants near the Capital where the Fat Cats entertained before. Those lobbying meals were a huge chunk of their revenue.

                        2. If you are very charming, dressed appropriately and get the dance floor off to a good start (sort of an un-hired party starter) I find that it's hard to get turned away.

                          Esp if you are young, thini-sh, cute, female and blonde.

                          Not saying it's fair or right, but true. :)

                          1. I've always suspected some people as being crashers but could never prove it. These individuals give off subtle hints, for example - they alwas lurk by the food, do not have a real interest in the other guests or if it's a business function, in the business. Best to just stay away from these individuals.

                            1. http://radaronline.com/features/2007/...

                              ...it was the "mustache" that reminded me of this infamous party crasher story....

                              1. Crashing private or family events is despicable. Doing it to professional or organizational receptions maybe less so. In the film The Verdict, Paul Newman is a lawyer who crashes funeral gatherings to do some ambulance chasing -- this is shown to illustrate the depths to which the character has sunk.

                                1. I have never crashed a "private" event such as a wedding or party; I must admit I have crashed several trade shows. Primarily wine trade shows. The "big three" as they call them locally wine distributors, each have a huge trade show at a local resort. The show consists of food and wine tastings. 40-50 tables set up through out the room, one picks up a glass and gets to it. Theses shows are packed. i am in the industry, so i see a lot of people I recognize and have never felt guilty about it!!