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Oct 20, 2008 05:37 PM

The perpetual empty handed guest

I entertain a fair amount, several times a week. Not large lavish affairs, but dinners of 4, 6, 8 people. I love cooking so I enjoy having friends over and trying new dishes. Normally, I buy and prepare all the ingrediants, and the guests bring wine or dessert. This works out great for everyone I feel. A friend of mine who lives very close, started to come to dinner often, I would suggest a wine when he asked what to bring. Somehow, over the course of months, I am no longer asked "what can I bring?" and he is now bringing his partner to dinner. They come over, eat the dinner, partake in cocktails and wine. I honestly would be happy with a six pack of beer, and appreciate the gesture and be happy. What do you suggest? Next dinner, even though I am not posed with the question "what can I bring" should I say, "if you are coming, please bring x". What do you think?

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  1. Wow - several dinners each week? You are such a nice friend! If your friend is bringing his friend on a regular basis and not even asking if he can help with ... something ... I would then suggest ... something he Can bring. Anything you can use, actually. Doesn't have to be extraordinary... fresh bread, wine, fruit. Seems like that's the respectful thing to do.

    1. Or maybe "If you're coming, perhaps you and (partner) could pick up x and y. Thanks, I'll be counting on you."

      5 Replies
      1. re: yayadave

        you are right, I need to speak up! I am just not used to requesting items since the guests I normally have just seem to know to bring something. I guess speaking up is better than scowling as he has his third martini and another toast full of pate de campagne. grrr.

        1. re: cassoulady

          Sounds as if you need a break from this guy -- maybe not inform him of your next event?

          1. re: Sarah

            you are right! I guess I am currently accepting applications for the Thursday dinner guests.... haha

            1. re: cassoulady

              Yup. He's wore out his welcome and he just cannot continue being a freeloader. It has to stop.

          2. re: cassoulady

            how is he getting these invitations? Is he just showing up? Does he ask about the plus 1?I would definitely follow the above advice, but if he's still empty handed just start decreasing the amount you invite him until it fades to nothing.

        2. I have struggled with this issue quite a bit - the people you invite, that never return the favor. The people who come empty handed and eat and drink everything in site. The friends you never hear from until your "annual" something or other is about to happen. I have decided several things:

          1) Maybe we are so good at this we intimidate people?
          2) Some people are there because they add to the social occasion by force of personality, whether they bring booze or not....
          3) I don't care anymore...I need to have friends and family at my home , and if the don't bring anything, I'm doing the Zen thing...

          1. I'm going to voice a small contrary opinion. As "guests", they are not traditionally obliged to bring anything. If your dinners are pot-luck affairs, or "I'll make the main, you do the sides", you should make that clear with the invitations. Your friends may just feel that you're a generous host who likes to entertain frequently, which apparently you are. Has this friend ever reciprocated?

            5 Replies
            1. re: Jeri L

              I dont typically expect an invite back. I did at one point, but realize that cooking for a crowd is not something for everyone, so I never assume that I will get a return invite, and that doesnt bother me. Growing up, I was taught a guest shouldnt show up empty handed, a box of chocolates or cookies or something should be brought. I know that traditionally it is insult to the host to bring wine, implying that their wine is not good, though I never feel that way of course, I appreciate the gesture. I entertain the same rotating group of 15 or so people and this is the only one who doesnt bring anything.

              1. re: cassoulady

                It's just fine to bring wine as a hostess gift. Bringing wine implies the host doesn't have good wine as much as bringing cookies implies that the host can't bake, i.e. not in the slightest. A hostess gift is not expected to be used at the gathering. It's a gift, she can do what she wants with it, whether it gets served at the party, stashed for later personal enjoyment, christening a new yacht, et cetera.

                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester


                  FWIW I never expect or care if someone brings something but then I don't entertain as often as the OP. Certainly a gift is appreciated but not expected. When friends ask what to bring we just tell them to bring their appetite.

                2. re: cassoulady

                  Maybe your friend is not good at big group things, but he should still be reciprocating. That doesn't mean he has to fete you in exactly the same way you do him. He doesn't have to have a big party with lots of people just because you do. If he's not into big parties, he could just have you over one night. IF he doesn't cook, he could invite you to a restaurant, or theater tickets, or whatever. If he's poor, the food doesn't need to be expensive - burgers in his backyard are fine. It's the thought that counts, but he should be making the effort.

                  You should ask yourself "do I enjoy this guy's company enough that I don't feel I am being taken advantage of?" If the answer is no, then consider cutting him from your guest list. I think the fact that you are asking here means you already know the answer.

                  1. re: Reefmonkey

                    i agree completely with your fine reply.
                    this is not about the "balance of payments" with regards to food, it is about your relationship with another party.

                    see this vintage thread:

                    >I think the fact that you are asking here means you already
                    >know the answer.
                    it's fascinating how reticent people are to pull the "judgemental trigger" ... almost like conflating judgements -> "you're soooo judgemental" -> "you are intolerant".

                    hence all the "person X spat on me ... maybe it was a neutrino hitting his brain! ... should i cut him some slack? should i check if there was a lot of sunspot acitivty?" type inquries.

              2. I have "friends" like this also. There is a group of us who often gets together at one another's homes. We also invite this other couple more out of obligation than b/c we really enjoy their company (long story). I get so frustrated b/c they have NEVER reciprocated. They accept every invitation that is given to them, but have never had any of us over to their place. We continue to invite them to "keep the peace" but it is growing old and we're all growing weary. I've often shrugged it off & chalked it up to that they don't know how to entertain, but it really gets to me at times.

                I feel your pain, cassoulady. I guess when subtlety fails, a polite but direct approach is best?

                2 Replies
                1. re: lynnlato

                  You and cassoulady might just have run into a couple of people who feel entitled to contribute nothing food wise because every body knows they're on hard times, their places is too small, they can't cook as well as you can, they are so witty and charming that you should be glad they brought their wonderful selves and so forth.

                  1. re: yayadave

                    What can I bring? I have th esame problems with non reciprocating non guest. But I continue on, just bought a whole new set of crystal and china at a country auction! Full place settings for six for forty dollars! Soime people may feel intimidated and not dare to reciprocate, but I make sure I tell them how frugal I am and suggest its not reallly all that grand, anyone can entertain.