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Dinner with friends - should they show up empty handed?

t
Tidbits Apr 29, 2010 09:50 PM

My SO and I like to cook and we really look forward to having friends over for an informal dinner on Fridays. We make a pasta dish, or roast a chicken, or grill steak. Our friends would show up with a bottle to share or tasty hunk of cheese to start. It was about enjoying the start of the weekend with friends.

Since moving to a new city a few years ago, we have made new friends and tried to carry on this tradition (every two or three weeks). But this group of friends show up empty handed and do not contribute to the gathering at all. Mind you, they will go through bottles of wine, beer, or cocktails. Finish their plates. We open our house to them and we enjoy their company, but we are beginning to feel taken for granted.

I have been open about it being an informal opportunity for us all to get together, contribute to the evening, and relax. They thought it would be fun. For a more formal gathering, I do not expect a thing. But for Friday dinner, we gather regularly. They participate in all the fun but do not even bring a six pack of beer. Do not clear their plate. They rarely reciprocate the offer to meet at their house. I'm OK if they do not like hosting or don't feel like they have the experience, but if that's the case, couldn't they make more of an effort when they are at our house?

What are your thoughts? Is it OK to always show up empty handed to our informal dinner gathering? Would you be OK with drinking your friends' liquor and eating dinner at their house for months and not contribute or reciprocate at your house? Am I old fashioned? Stingy? Or are they pretending to not know any better? It's hard to believe they're in the dark about this.

Thanks for your input and perspective.

  1. Bada Bing May 16, 2010 05:47 AM

    I'm only now reading this post. It reminds me of a friend I had some years ago (still a friend, but we live far apart now) who came over to dinners more or less weekly with nothing. These were not parties, in general, but he would just come to my place a lot for meals and hanging out. After several weeks or months of this, I started to be very conscious that he was not contributing materially and that he was behaving very differently from how I would behave. In his case, I think it was both a lack of extra funds and also that he was a sort of manic-depressive type with a large sense of his own value as a guest. And in fact, he is one of the smartest and funniest people I've known. So in his case, I just said to myself, "Let it slide, that's just the way he is."

    So to the original question--"should" guests arrive empty handed?--I think almost all of us would say that we would not do so ourselves, and we would teach our kids not to do so. But what do you do when confronted with someone who "does" arrive empty handed? The way I am, I'd just ask how I felt. If I felt used, I would say so, first perhaps with hints. Or I would just ask the person to bring something. But as with that friend of mine, I chose not to worry about it. It was more interesting to me, in fact, to see if and how he would ever acknowledge that he was a moocher!

    1. psb May 16, 2010 04:44 AM

      Ahh Yet Another "are my friends moochers/am i their bitch" thread.

      Unless these is a special interest friendship like a food group, it to me is overly narrow to focus on "do they reciprocate for what i feed them by feeding me." Nobody is suggesting keeping an exact tally, but "real friends" do reciprocate in some form ... whether it is by in turn entertaining you in their home, including you in social plans [and i dont mean "would you mind being the designated driver"], offering you a ride to the airport when you tell them you're going to visit your mom ... or even fwding articles they found on the internet they think you'ld like [which is doable even on a unemployed budget], bringing back a gift/food from travel, sending you a book from amazon [although a cookbook, might be hard to interpret :-) ] etc.

      Only you can prevent forest fires and only you can make a "broad spectrum" analysis of where you stand. i do think never even asking what can i bring/how can i help is kind of a bad sign, but i've seen enough cases of payback in different coin ... A feeds B, and B does "IT consulting" for A ... X hosts events in her home and Y organizes the night on the town, and Z is the most likely to pick up the tab ... and X always has an extra ticket for a games/move/play/show ..."

      did you mean to write "they do not help clear the plates" as in clean up [as opposed to "dont finish the food"]? i am betting these people are awful. of course i'm envisioning what i'd call an informal dinner with real friends, where the notion of host and guest are pretty weak.

      To the OP: would you be asking the same question if your so-called friends never offer to reciprocate picking up the check or buying a round? Again, nobody is suggesting keeping score exactly, but if it is 20 to 0 or 20 to 1, that's pretty lame.

      it does seem somewhat remarkable to me that apparently *all* [?] of your new friends in this new town are lamers in the consideration department. to me that is statistically somewhat interesting and asks for explanation ... did you some how lower your standards in efforts to accelerate meeting people, as opposed to the friends cultivated over a longer period at your old location? [i guess my mind has closed a little in the course of writing this].

      I think pretty much the only times I go to someone's house empty handed is if it is a friend with whom I have good "credit" and I am coming striaght from work and stopping to get a bottle/food etc would just make me late for dinner etc.

      BTW, do these people ever inconsiderately cancel/flake on you with no/short notice and flimsy reasons ... that's another standard thread ... "my friend made me change the date of my dinner party and then texted me 15min before dinner they couldnt make it because they decided they didnt want to go out/pay for a sitter/felt like a movie" ... just like generousity shouldnt just be evaluated in the food pale, neither should signs of inconsiderateness etc.

      1. a
        anonymouse1935 May 15, 2010 05:47 AM

        No. Never. Ever.

        1. l
          LiviaLunch May 14, 2010 07:57 PM

          My mindset is that I never expect my guests to bring a thing and am delighted if they do.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LiviaLunch
            l
            lagatta May 15, 2010 05:49 AM

            That would be nice; I wish I could afford to do that as I love to spoil my friends. Unfortunately I can't afford such a mindset, neither can most of my friends, and I would never want to be a leech on the minority who can.

          2. thew May 3, 2010 03:35 PM

            the question really is do you give to get, or do you give for the joy of giving?

            8 Replies
            1. re: thew
              linguafood May 3, 2010 04:04 PM

              i don't know about that. in a 'healthy' relationship, there's a good balance between giving and getting. and if one person always is the giver, and the other one always the taker, it creates resentment.

              1. re: linguafood
                thew May 3, 2010 04:57 PM

                i don't know. i'm a giver. i have some friends that sometimes have taken advantage of that fact. I had to make a choice - be the best me i could be, and accept that sometimes it would bite me in the ass, or i could change, for the worse, to protect myself. I choose the former

              2. re: thew
                s
                StheJ May 3, 2010 04:15 PM

                Perhaps... If you only have friends over once a year. Aside from that, the question (as evidenced by the length of this thread) is considerably more nuanced and complex.

                1. re: StheJ
                  thew May 4, 2010 04:41 AM

                  lengthy discussion doesn't imply nuance. there have been many long conversations about how many angels dance on the pin of the head.

                  1. re: thew
                    s
                    StheJ May 4, 2010 08:04 AM

                    I'm talking specifically about this issue not dancing pins or generalities... and, honestly, if you don't think that this issue is nuanced and complex, that just goes to prove my point that the issue is considerably more nuanced and complex than: "do you give to get, or do you give for the joy of giving?"

                    1. re: StheJ
                      t
                      Tidbits May 4, 2010 12:33 PM

                      I'm learning that it is a complex question. Reading through the thread, there are many suggestions and opinions that are often based on the reader's experience and/or manners and/or personal interpretation of my post.

                      I enjoy giving and I enjoy receiving. It depends upon the situation.

                      When we have people over for a celebration or holiday (only occasionally), then it's a party and please don't think to bring anything. I love to provide a warm atmosphere, good food and drink. Seeing you enjoy yourself is wonderful.

                      If you casually come over every week/few weeks, ask to come over, suggest getting together for dinner, etc. then the I consider it a group effort. Some soul searching reveals that we can't "afford" to always host our home/wine/alcohol/food/time/energy/prep/cleanup when the group wants to informally gather.

                      We have taken the suggestions and decided to start "fresh" by suggesting a dinner club that is a co-op of efforts with some ground rules. On occasion we will still have special dinners so I will always make a point to preface by saying it's a special night for _____ and I hope you can come. Please just bring your appetite.

                      Thank you for your comments. I have learned a lot.

                      1. re: Tidbits
                        boyzoma May 5, 2010 01:45 PM

                        I certainly think you are on the right track. But, only you can make your ground rules. Trust in yourself to set those and stick to them. I commend you for what you have done and know you can move into a new, better relationship with your friends. Good Luck.

                        1. re: Tidbits
                          q
                          quirkydeb May 15, 2010 05:55 AM

                          Did it work? Were you able to keep the same friends with the new ground rules?

                2. s
                  soupkitten May 2, 2010 07:31 PM

                  i have to completely disagree w the folks who say these jokers can show up empty handed or just bring a hostess gift every time--- you aren't throwing a dinner party every other week, you're having a regular gathering with close friends, enjoying the food and company. it's the same situation as if you were having a "regular" low-stakes poker night amongst friends, or a bridge club, etc. people do these types of regular gatherings for 20 and 40 years, and it works out because people are supposed to reciprocate. reciprocity is simple: bring homemade food once in a while--it's a chance to try new recipes & even show off a little. if you can't cook, bring wine/pretzels/storebought goodies. throw some money at the guy grilling steaks, or buy the steaks next time. out of work? offer to help host, or set up and clear away, and contribute when you're able. if someone's hosting a regular party, it's everyone's job to clear & stack, & when appropriate, to wash some dishes, help recycle, and generally pitch in--everyone's "like family." if you go to your buddy's house for poker on the first weekend of every month, you don't bring a box of chocolates/fancy soap/potted plant every time. you bring beer, or chips, or ice, or some other tangible contribution to the gathering. you also don't expect your buddies to wait on you hand and foot. . .

                  unfortunately it does seem like your friends have gotten used to your hospitality. whether they are clueless boors or hopeless mooches is irrelevant at this point-- you're fed up and you're getting bitter about the situation. at this point i'd just be honest with them and say: we've decided that hosting these regular get-togethers is really impacting our budget and our free time together. we've decided to stop, and instead have a dinner out, just the two of us, once a week. we'll miss you guys, but if you still want to get together regularly we've gotta do a potluck or something more budget-friendly, or just get together less frequently.

                  true friends will step up and work to correct the situation, realizing that if they don't, they won't be spending time with you. true mooches will make murmuring noises and exit stage left. you win either way.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten
                    t
                    Tidbits May 2, 2010 09:14 PM

                    Thank you soupkitten. It seems gatherings of this type might be out of style...? In our fast lives with convenience foods people have forgotten about this type of informal gathering? I hope not.

                    I remember my parents having friends over regularly while the kids played downstairs. I also knew a lady who every Sunday afternoon opened her home to friends. We sat around Virginia's round table enjoying a soda/wine/cocktail/coffee and some munchies. She always had something to snack on and friends would bring things. One friend kept his favorite bottle of vodka in her cupboard and every Sunday he'd mix himself a martini. People would flow in and out all day. It was nice.

                    1. re: Tidbits
                      justlauralibrarian May 3, 2010 06:09 AM

                      I don't think these types of gatherings of out of style, and I think you are right to be frustrated. I tend to move around a bit and each time I move I end up making new friends which usually, on account of my being obsessed with food, ends up in the type of occasional informal dinner gatherings that you described. No matter where I've been living I've always found the reciprocity that soupkitten talks about. It just seems like common sense to at least offer to help clear the table.

                      Of course maybe the reason I've never had any problems is because I'm a librarian and my friends are secretly reading etiquette books on the desk when it isn't busy. ;-)

                      1. re: justlauralibrarian
                        l
                        lsmutko May 3, 2010 09:25 AM

                        We've been doing this for years, with a group of three couples. Two couples always alternate the hosting, and the one doesn't. That couple doesn't really cook or entertain. They also don't always offer to bring or bring anything except their two kids, 1 and 3. It's occasionally annoying, but we just accept it as is, we enjoy their company and I guess that's enough. They both bring other things to our friendship that I do appreciate.

                        It may come back from upbringing, of the couples who host, we all grew up with these kinds of gatherings, usually informal and we understand what goes into it. The other couple didn't.

                        Bottom line is, I enjoy the evenings, I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy seeing people have a good time in my home.

                        1. re: lsmutko
                          Bill Hunt May 3, 2010 09:25 PM

                          "They also don't always offer to bring or bring anything except their two kids, 1 and 3. It's occasionally annoying, but we just accept it as is, we enjoy their company and I guess that's enough."

                          With some folk, that IS enough. We are thankful for such folk, though they might seem out of place in the lineup. Much more counts towards friendship.

                          Now, most of our friends have empty houses, but similar exists. Usually, our little events are more wine-oriented, so the general attendees are too, but there ARE exceptions, and we welcome them too.

                          Hunt

                      2. re: Tidbits
                        Bill Hunt May 3, 2010 09:21 PM

                        Could be passe now, but I also recall such. Usually, my parents would head from the MS Gulf Coast to NOLA, and would purchase some exotic (then) liquors, for such occasions. They would always bring those along and the evening would commence. Though my father was much more a beer drinker, he delighted in bringing along some liquor (brand, or type), that others were not likely to be familiar with and mixing drinks from those.

                        I suppose that I picked up some of that, as I normally orchestrate the entire evening, regarding wine and food, unless it's a less formal event with some wino buddies. Then, we will do something akin to pot-luck, but with dishes matched to wines.

                        In general, and unless instructed otherwise, I want my guests to show up with an appetite, a love of wine and an open mind for both the food and the wine being served. Everything else is lagniappe, and might, or usually might not, be served that night.

                        Hunt

                      3. re: soupkitten
                        Ruth Lafler May 3, 2010 10:27 AM

                        I don't think that's exactly what we're saying. We're saying that people should be clear about what kind of gathering they're hosting and making their expectations plain up front.

                        But I don't think it's a good idea to rewrite the "rules" because that just leads to more confusion about what people's roles are and more hard feelings.

                        The problem here, as I see it, is not so much that these people aren't contributing to evening, which they're not required to do, but that they aren't reciprocating in some way, which they definitely are required to do.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          PattiCakes May 3, 2010 12:07 PM

                          I think you nailed it Ruth.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            s
                            smartie May 3, 2010 02:59 PM

                            yep I agree. They have to eat on the nights they go to the OP anyway so even if they just brought some juice, a pineapple or melon it would be a gesture. They could also host a picnic if their house is not host friendly, or even take the OP out for pizza once in a while. There must be something inexpensive they could do to show some gratitude. I suspect they are clueless, and who knows, maybe they say to each other 'this is great they don't even ask us to bring something - let's keep on mooching.'

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              Bill Hunt May 3, 2010 09:28 PM

                              Ruth,

                              Good point. We are clear as to expectations, and those are most often attendance and nothing more. Still, after a half-dozen such invitations, when there is zero reciprocity, the invitations cease. I do not expect them to have anything in their hands, but over a couple of years, an invitation should be forthcoming. If not - off the A-list they go.

                              Hunt

                          2. Dave MP May 2, 2010 03:50 AM

                            I'm curious about your age, and the age of the people who come to your dinner parties. What you describe reminds me of some friends of mine, whose apartment was always the gathering spot for our group of friends. I, and many others, ate meals there once or twice a week, and some guests definitely contributed more than others, in terms of buying food, cooking and eating. Some of the regulars would basically show up at the door expecting dinner.

                            At this point most of us were in our early to mid 20s, and the degree that different people contributed (especially in terms of $ spent on food, and how much they helped do the dishes) varied quite a bit. I tried to do my part, and would often buy ingredients and help clean, without being asked. But I think the key was that the gatherings were often so informal, and we are all good enough friends, that it would have been totally appropriate for the hosts to walk into the living room and say "Hey, can someone come help me wash dishes?" When this happened, someone always would...although again, some people volunteered more than others.

                            At the time, I sometimes thought that other guests at these dinners were taking the hosts for granted, which would annoy me a bit, but I didn't say anything. It wasn't too big a deal, although I sometimes wondered how the hosts felt about it (perhaps they'll read this and tell us!). Now that these days are over (people have moved away), I know that all of us realize how great these dinners really were....hosts who have impromptu, delicious dinners should never be taken for granted!

                            So, as to your situation, I think that if these people are good friends, you should just be more up front with them. Specifically ask them to bring food, or specifically ask them to come help with dishes. If they are still reluctant to lend a hand even after being asked, then you might have a bigger problem. But I think it's very possible that people are so caught up in the good times and good food that you provide, that they are taking it for granted a little bit. I think you should take that as a compliment - a visit to your house is a fun relaxing experience, which is great. But you should also not be afraid to express your real feelings to your friends.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Dave MP
                              Ruth Lafler May 2, 2010 10:51 AM

                              Good point! Friends you don't feel you can talk to frankly aren't really friends. And BTW, where is your SO in all this? It's the responsibility of both hosts to deal with issues like this!

                              1. re: Dave MP
                                t
                                Tidbits May 2, 2010 11:41 AM

                                Thank you for your replies. These friends are in their mid-thirties. Both work, but they are not what I consider a high income couple...neither are we. We met about six months ago and I think you may be right in that they have fallen into a comfortable groove. It is a complement in many ways, but it's also becoming a bit old. My SO agrees with me and we have discussed our feelings along with reading the responses on this board.

                                We really loved the old group of friends in our former city. We gathered for years and it had a nice balance. Some people would ask what they could bring while others (who loved wine) would ask about the main was because they enjoyed finding a wine to pair. Others would instead offer to do some prep or set the table. I was able to try new recipes or make a dish using beautiful ingredients from the farmers market. Money or the level of contribution was not the focus because we all had different income levels. Some would sometimes host at their home while others didn't have the space (or found it overwhelming) so instead they made themselves available to help out when others hosted. It was simply a nice way to gather, have a comfortable meal, and after put our elbows on the table and talk.

                                We have discussed several options (based on the feedback provided here) and for now it's looking like we will start fresh by asking these friends (and others) if they would like to start a dinner club. People can host a main at their home and others bring sides/drinks or they can call pot luck. We can take this as an opportunity to lay down some ground rules and if a person/couple can't host and/or is not equipped to host, then we work out a way to help them host elsewhere (again, with some agreed upon ground rules).

                                Cheers!

                              2. Cherylptw May 1, 2010 08:25 PM

                                Being straight up: you have to take some of the blame on this one. When you described to your new friends your "tradition" of entertaining, did you tell them that everyone brought something to the gathering or did you just say, "hey, we all gather at my house for Friday night dinner"? If you went with the later, I'm guessing your friends felt it was a dinner invitation, not a impromptu gathering as you were used to.

                                That said, I think it's rude to take advantage of your hospitality. I think when people repeatably shows up to your house for a regular gathering (which by the way, is not the same as a regular dinner party) and not offer to bring anything nor show up with anything, the least they could offer to do is clear the table. You don't have to take them up on their offer if you choose not to but it's the thought & COMMON COURTESY that counts. Now, if you invite someone for a dinner party, I would not expect anything but the company. This is clearly a case of people who know when they have a good thing.

                                Personally, I disagree with showing up with flowers and or wine. Not everyone likes flowers or could be allergic and may not be wine drinkers, so it could be a waste.

                                Disassociating with them is an option but if you like their company, you should be direct & to the point about what type of event you're having & what you expect from them. If you want to have a informal get together on the regular, tell them that's what it is, what you're going to contribute and ask them what are they bringing; don't make silly round about reasons for asking them to bring anything. Then, it's a get together not a regular dinner invitation. You're all adults. This way, there's no misunderstanding and if it turns out not to be what you expect, cut your losses.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Cherylptw
                                  q
                                  queencru May 2, 2010 05:23 AM

                                  I agree with you on the flower/wine default gifts. I normally ask what I can bring to help out and people are more than happy to give me suggestions if it is a more casual gathering. If someone has more casual gatherings with a group of people once a month or more, it seems like wine/flowers each time from several people in a group wouldn't be as helpful as bringing other needed items.

                                2. d
                                  daeira May 1, 2010 10:31 AM

                                  It really depends on the host/hostess. If you feel that their arriving empty handed every week is unfair, uneven and you are clearly bothered by it, then you need to either sever that relationship or speak up about it.

                                  I think it depends on the situation and the degree of closeness you have with the people you're entertaining. I was raised to always bring a gift to the hostess/host for a dinner. At the same time, I don't expect my very good friends to always bring something over for a casual dinner. When they ask what they can bring and I state, "nothing", I genuinely mean don't bring anything. If they do, it's a nice gesture. If they don't, I'm okay with that because eventually in time they will reciprocate by inviting me to their house.

                                  Only you can decide whether your relationship is one built on reciprocity and to what degree it satisfies that, or whether you're being taken advantage of. If it were me in that position and they always showed up empty handed and never invited me in return, I would probably sever the relationship because I'm not deriving the same amount of pleasure that they are.

                                  1. westsidegal May 1, 2010 01:11 AM

                                    wow,
                                    your post made me really grateful for the group of friends that i have.
                                    when anyone makes a meal, almost everyone brings something.
                                    it's simply the group norm.
                                    when my girlfriend made easter dinner last month, not only did i bring my noodle kugel (at her request), i also made the brocoli salad that her mom used to make (her mom now is too old to make it). the salad recipe was given to me and i was expect to follow it.
                                    sometimes when i make a meal i request that one of the group arrive early to help me set up.
                                    anything and everything associated with getting the meal on the table as well as the clean up is considered fair game for assignment.
                                    there is no thought given about whether it is polite or impolite to ask guests to help. it is expected. i guess that's why our friendship group has been around almost 30 years. we don't look to books to figure out what's polite to ask.
                                    we all work together at everything unless it's someone's birthday or other special occasion. in that case the birthday girl or birthday boy gets to sit on their rear and be waited upon.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: westsidegal
                                      lulubelle May 5, 2010 11:37 AM

                                      it's simply the group norm.

                                      Bingo.

                                      It appears that is not the group norm in the OP's new group of friends. She can either work towards that, by asking people to contribute, either directly "Hey. I'd really like to keep hosting these get-togethers, but you know there's a recession on, and we really don't have the budget to host every time" or indirectly "I didn't get to the store, would you mind picking up a bottle of wine on the way over" OR she can cut her losses and find a new group of friends.

                                      I have a group of friends who get together once a week to watch movies. The hosts have been very upfront with the "rules" for the evening. Home brew is always available, as are mixers and basic hard liquor, but wine is BYOB. Everyone is expected to contribute a snack. Some people bring chips or cheese and crackers, while others go all out and make fancy dishes.

                                    2. PeterL Apr 30, 2010 10:17 PM

                                      While I personally would never show up empty handed, I also never expect my guests to bring anything. They are guests at my house and I expect to provide all the food and drink. If they bring something, it's appreciated. If they bring nothing, their companies are appreciated. If I don't like their company, they are not invited.

                                      1. s
                                        smartie Apr 30, 2010 04:22 PM

                                        like Ruth Laffler says further up we have been round and round on these kind of posts before.

                                        I believe in not being passive aggressive. If it bugs the OP then stop inviting them or next time make a kind but blunt statement such as 'we love hosting y'all but could you bring something like the beer, wine or dessert to offset our costs'. If they show up empty handed yet again then I would lose their phone #.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: smartie
                                          ipsedixit Apr 30, 2010 04:50 PM

                                          I agree about not being passive-agressive.

                                          Dinner Party = host provides food, guests not expected to bring anything
                                          Potluck = host provides food, guests expected to bring something

                                          Make it clear at the invite stage what type of social gathering it is.

                                          Then there are no hard feelings and no need to be passive agressive about things like saying, "Hey I really really ilke fruit jell-o salad and heard you make a damn good one! And that dessert would go great with my roast chicken!"

                                          Cheers!

                                          1. re: smartie
                                            Ruth Lafler Apr 30, 2010 06:57 PM

                                            The proof that we've been around this before is the half-dozen or so looong "related" threads at the bottom of the page!

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                              l
                                              Lizard Apr 30, 2010 10:42 PM

                                              Chiming in to agree with Thew's, Ruth's, Smartie's and Ipsedixit's excellent advice regarding talking to one's friends. Nothing like being straightforward rather than seething with resentment over unspoken 'shoulds'.

                                              Chiming in also with moderate (pathetic) snark and to wonder if we should have two evergreen threads instead.

                                              Thread 1: You Rock! Guests bring stuff to my dinner party.
                                              This thread praises the generosity of those who come wishing to give what they can and contribute to an evening of friends and family. Wine is discussed as is the panic over whether someone is obliged to serve the wine, or would it be awful to save the wine for another time. This thread is likely to have fond recollections of various 'ethnic' dishes. Praise for kindness, generosity and whoever raised these people is shared. So to will be tips on how to get your guests to bring things and queries about those who fail to bring things (how were these people raised?). There will be those who come to this thread to complain, but they will be directed to:

                                              Thread 2: You suck! People who bring things to my parties. This thread houses comments/complaints on the following:
                                              1. Anyone who brings flowers without regard for allergy or the problems it gives to the host who is busy preparing for the evening. A similar complaint regarding chocolates, allergies, diets, standard of chocolate, etc will be heard here.
                                              2. Anyone who brings a dish, or even a dessert. The food is simply not up to standard, or it doesn't fit in with the theme, or it came on an ugly dish and the host doesn't have any extra plates for a new display. Moreover, what will this host do with all the leftovers??? (Any guest taking back this unwelcome dish will be the subject of a subthread about the rudeness of that action.)
                                              3. People who bring wine and expect it to be served.
                                              This thread will cover the general rudeness of any guest whose gifts clearly signal a lack of appreciation for what the host does followed by a parsing of acceptable gifts and a further parsing that indicates acceptable gifts may not be so acceptable after all. The thread will also attempt to either condemn or forgive how these people were raised.

                                              Up next: Threads on Authenticity and Ethnicity: An evergreen post to question these very categories with expected investigation into what makes some people a nation whilst others are an ethnicity, and why are some allowed to change whilst others are held to a fantasy of a world untouched by change.

                                              Sorry, I have a lot of snark to give, but my brain is kind of dead these days.

                                              1. re: Lizard
                                                g
                                                gloriousfood May 1, 2010 06:31 AM

                                                Ha ha, I like this, Lizard! Addendum to the "you suck!" threads are those that concern guests who don't offer to clean up/load the dishwasher/clear the table/sweep the floor/balance your checkbook, etc., after dinner (ok, the last two are a stretch, but you get the picture!).

                                                I don't understand how having guests over have become so fraught with all these tensions, conflicts, etc., that we see on Chowhound. Ipsedixit's "guidelines" make it clear how easy it is to defuse these situations.

                                                And I firmly believe that no one can take advantage of you continuously unless you allow them to. Even if your guests continue to be boors, the onus is on you, the host, to speak up.

                                          2. h
                                            Harters Apr 30, 2010 02:09 PM

                                            "Is it OK to always show up empty handed to our informal dinner gathering?"

                                            Yes. They are guests. I would never expect guests to bring something to dinner.

                                            "Would you be OK with drinking your friends' liquor and eating dinner at their house for months and not contribute or reciprocate at your house?"

                                            No. I would have invited them to my house for the next gathering.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Harters
                                              k
                                              Kater May 1, 2010 06:44 AM

                                              bingo

                                            2. funklight Apr 30, 2010 12:20 PM

                                              I have a similar situation with a couple of my closest friends. Lately there seems to be a pavlovian effect whenever they come over, absent-mindedly idling toward the kegerator/stove/liquor cabinet.
                                              They call, ask what we're doing in the evening, possibly watching some sporting event or what-have-you implying that they want to be invited over for drinks and a meal. NEVER do they reciprocate. I think I've been to one friends house only once in the past 5 years for a social event. Never been to some others' houses, though they sure see a lot of mine.
                                              Yeah, sometimes I feel taken advantage of, and sometimes it really pisses me off seeing my money and efforts guzzled like so much risotto and moose drool. However, I love to entertain, and I love seeing my friends. It's only after they leave that I get resentful, and that usually only lasts through 2 more cocktails or so. No big deal.
                                              Friends are like bears at a campsite; keep feeding them, and they'll keep coming back.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: funklight
                                                boyzoma Apr 30, 2010 04:33 PM

                                                "Friends are like bears at a campsite; keep feeding them, and they'll keep coming back."

                                                I love that one! You definitely hit that nail on the head. (Of course, it could be raccoon's too!)

                                              2. k
                                                Kater Apr 30, 2010 11:52 AM

                                                Ultimately, you need to decide whether or not you want to remain friendly with someone who does not meet your expectations. I do not believe you should expect them to show up with food to be consumed at the party because that is actually very bad manners. However they should show up with a hostess gift and a bottle of wine. And they should reciprocate on occasion even if you are the better/better equipped hostess.

                                                Whatever you do, do not ask them to bring a dish. That is just tacky.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: Kater
                                                  PattiCakes Apr 30, 2010 12:45 PM

                                                  Unless I am reading the original post incorrectly, this appears to be a friendly gathering that happens every 3 weeks or so, always at the OP's place and never at anyone else's. No one else reciprocates & offers to host. No one else contributes to the supply of adult beverages that are enjoyed/consumed by all. They are, in effect, going to the OP's "restaurant" for a free dinner. In this type of situation, it is NOT tacky to ask them to share somehow in the expense/effort involved in these regular soirees. Given the circumstances, the tack is on the other foot.

                                                  1. re: PattiCakes
                                                    q
                                                    queencru Apr 30, 2010 02:06 PM

                                                    I agree. Not everyone is in a situation where s/he can reciprocate by inviting people over or paying for a night out. I've certainly lived in apartments that were not large enough to hold more than two people, so it didn't make sense for me to invite people over to my place. However, I was more than happy to bring stuff over for others if I was invited to someone's apartment that was more suitable for guests.

                                                    1. re: queencru
                                                      karrill May 1, 2010 06:49 AM

                                                      I second that agreement. Honestly, its just common courtesty to offer to bring something when invited to someone's home - especially more than once. The first thing I do when an invitation pops up is offer to bring something. If I'm told that its not necessary to bring anything, I usually back off but will offer once more closer to the event just in case something is forgotten. Another reason I always try to pitch in has to do with the reciprication issue. I currently live in a small apartment so space for a group is lacking. Also, I have two cats and no matter how much or often I clean, there is always cat hair floating around. I find this a bit embarrassing when I have anyone over and it definitely deters me from having dinner parties. That said, all of my friends know what my living situation is and don't seem offended that I don't invite them over often. Because I feel that I can't recipricate, its one more reason to pitch in when invited. Again, common courtesy in my opinion.

                                                      1. re: karrill
                                                        s
                                                        smartie May 1, 2010 08:07 AM

                                                        I don't offer to bring anything I just bring something. If not a bottle of wine, then either flowers (yes I know very annoying when the hostess or host is busy) or a potted plant like an orchid, or choccies, or something that's appropriate for the host if you know them well.
                                                        I do not offer to cook a course unless told in advance it's potluck or asked to make a dish.
                                                        I don't offer because I might not have time to make what they want. The best guests bring something to drink because it will not go bad if it's not used that night and quite frankly I don't care if they don't open my wine. I don't even show up empty handed at family let alone friends, it's just common courtesy to bring a gift.
                                                        I do not like my guests asking if they can bring something because I feel put on the spot. The first answer that comes out of my mouth is bring nothing but I would rather they brought something - anything!! A good answer is bring what you want to drink I guess. If I am going to spend time and money on dinner then they can stop at the liquor store.

                                                        1. re: smartie
                                                          k
                                                          Kater May 1, 2010 08:30 AM

                                                          That's perfect. Also people seem to have forgotten that it is perfectly acceptable to reciprocate by treating your frequent host to dinner in a restaurant if you are not in a position to entertain. Having a small apartment is no reason to be unmannerly. Bring a hostess gift, offer to contribute and/or take your friends out once in a while!

                                                          1. re: Kater
                                                            karrill May 1, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                            Wow, "unmannerly" is a little harsh. Maybe I should've mentioned that although I don't have people over to my small apartment, I certainly do treat my friends to dinner or bar nights out.

                                                            1. re: karrill
                                                              k
                                                              Kater May 1, 2010 09:09 AM

                                                              I said that your approach is perfect. How in heaven's name is that harsh?

                                                    2. re: PattiCakes
                                                      k
                                                      Kater May 1, 2010 06:43 AM

                                                      Yes, it is very tacky. You do not respond to bad manners with more bad manners. The OP needs to decide whether or not she wants to continue in this vein. I would suggest that she invite these friends only as often as she would like to host them. Inviting them more frequently with the expectation of a contribution is just silly.

                                                      However I agree completely that the guests are quite rude in failing to bring a hostess gift, potted plant, bouquet of flowers, etc...

                                                  2. PattiCakes Apr 30, 2010 10:13 AM

                                                    Very easy solution. When arranging for the next gathering, just say: "Fred, how about if you bring a salad, and Mindy, you bring dessert?" When dinner is finished: "Sally, can you help me clear the table?" If you can't make headway with that, then maybe you need some new friends instaed of the old moochers.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: PattiCakes
                                                      iluvcookies Apr 30, 2010 10:41 AM

                                                      Very well said PattiCakes!

                                                      1. re: PattiCakes
                                                        t
                                                        Tidbits Apr 30, 2010 10:53 AM

                                                        Yes - thank you PattiCakes. It's surprising that we would have to nudge 34 year olds in such a manner, but then I also do not want to be resentful or annoyed. So it's up to us to nudge, put up with it (not going to happen), or no longer let our house be the default place to gather.

                                                        Thank you again.

                                                        1. re: Tidbits
                                                          PattiCakes Apr 30, 2010 11:50 AM

                                                          Hey, I can't get ticked off at my hubby (as much as I might like to) for not emptying the dishwasher or not running to the store for milk if I haven't asked him; he's good at a lot of things, but he isn't a mind reader. Of course it's taken me upwards of 35 years of marraige to reach that happy place in my head (grin). Your situation is a bit like that.

                                                          Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.

                                                          1. re: PattiCakes
                                                            linguafood May 3, 2010 09:34 AM

                                                            Funny how we think men have to be magical mind readers to think of things women just "do". It continues to baffle me, but then I've only been married 9 years. I think I'll start working on that happy place in my head '-)

                                                        2. re: PattiCakes
                                                          Ruth Lafler Apr 30, 2010 03:03 PM

                                                          It's advice like this that leads to long threads about guests who insist in bringing something, even though the host(ess) asks them not to.

                                                          The correct etiquette is that if someone invites you to their house, you don't have to bring anything, although you should bring a hostess gift (which is a gift and not a shared contribution to the evening, although the recipient may choose to share it).

                                                          If you're tired of hosting moochers, there's this thing called a potluck -- maybe you've heard of it? That's the correct way to ask people to bring something without teaching people bad etiquette "rules."

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                            t
                                                            Tidbits Apr 30, 2010 03:40 PM

                                                            I apologize if my post was not clear. When we first became friends we told them how in our former city we used to have a group of friends who gathered regularly - usually at our house. I would usually cook dinner, they would bring something to eat or drink (much like a potluck) and it was an opportunity for us to get together and enjoy a Friday. Our new friends said it sound like fun and would love to do it.

                                                            They come over quite often but seem to have forgotten the part about contributing in some manner. If they don't have much money or space, a contribution can be helping load the dishwasher, setting the table, etc.

                                                            My SO reminded me that near the beginning of this they once brought over a six pack of beer, which was great, and when they left they took the remaining two beers with them. Nice.

                                                            The more I read this thread I think I'll start a MeetUp group for a dinner club that is potluck style.

                                                            1. re: Tidbits
                                                              Ruth Lafler Apr 30, 2010 04:04 PM

                                                              Ah, well. Sounds like you need to remind them that it's supposed to be a potluck and give them specific assignments, then. I think it's important to use the word "potluck" so that people don't get confused about when they're expected to bring things and when they aren't. I say this not to chastise you, but because there have been innumerable long discussions on these boards by hosts who insist that guest should always be expected to bring something, guests who believe that it's rude not to bring something, hosts who hate it when someone brings stuff and insists on serving it, even when specifically asked not to, etc.

                                                              I think it helps to make very clear distinctions about what kind of event you're hosting so that people don't develop these misunderstandings about what's "right" and "rude" in various situations. And yes, it's tacky to take home the leftover beer (there have been threads on that, too!).

                                                        3. b
                                                          beevod Apr 30, 2010 07:42 AM

                                                          The simple answer, if you're so "hurt," is to stop entertaining.

                                                          1. t
                                                            Tidbits Apr 30, 2010 07:29 AM

                                                            Thank you for your replies.

                                                            To me, formal dinners and "occasional" gatherings are what I call entertaining. In that situation we never expect a thing and really enjoy the whole experience. However, if friends come over quite often, even call on occasion to ask what's going on Friday, I think it crosses the line for us to "entertain" them in this manner. I just couldn't imagine myself regularly going to someones home and not feeling compelled to bring an app, or clear dishes, or bring something to drink, or offer to host more often. But then there are some people who think if you host (even in this context) you should expect nothing. So maybe I'm out of line and receiving your feedback has given me some interesting perspectives.

                                                            Maybe an informal gathering of friends is no longer the norm, maybe enjoying dinner with friends is a lost art, maybe after college it is suddenly a forgotten option. It's really too bad because I think it's nice to gather for dinner.

                                                            I will try the potluck route and then maybe ease back into cooking dinner on occasion. See how it goes. They do know how to cook, and one has been saying he's inspired to start cooking more, so I guess this will be their opportunity.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: Tidbits
                                                              l
                                                              lerkin Apr 30, 2010 09:49 AM

                                                              According to what I know from etiquette books: as a host you should not expect anything. While it is nice to for guests to bring a hostess gift, it is not required of them. However, what is required is that they reciprocate, which from you original post I understood they don't.

                                                              So yes, you are right to be annoyed, but probably should be annoyed for a different reason.

                                                              1. re: lerkin
                                                                l
                                                                lagatta May 2, 2010 07:40 AM

                                                                Hmm, methinks those etiquette books were written by and for people with money. (Historically, often for the nouveaux riches).

                                                                Casual suppers among my circle of friends entail bringing a bottle of wine or something else to complement the meal.

                                                                1. re: lagatta
                                                                  PeterL May 3, 2010 11:06 AM

                                                                  Good manners are not only for people with money. Everyone can and should practice it.

                                                                  When you say "entail", does that mean "require"?

                                                                  1. re: PeterL
                                                                    s
                                                                    StheJ May 3, 2010 12:21 PM

                                                                    I think it probably means "entail" http://dictionary.reference.com/brows...

                                                                    1. re: PeterL
                                                                      l
                                                                      lagatta May 3, 2010 01:51 PM

                                                                      Entail was the precise word I wanted to use - neither "require" nor "involve" would give exaclty the same meaning.

                                                                      Good manners are for people of all incomes and social classes, in the sense of kindness, courtesy and not humiliating others. But codes of etiquette vary widely among countries and cultures, and etiquette books were written at precise times with a precise readership in mind. For example, nowadays classes on etiquette in international business dealings with colleagues from different parts of the world are very popular.

                                                                      If I had to provide the wine for six friends, then i'd rarely be able to afford to invite them for my splendid cooking, (Wine is relatively expensive here in Québec). And that would be a darned shame.

                                                                2. re: Tidbits
                                                                  chocabot Apr 30, 2010 01:13 PM

                                                                  Tidbits, I'm with you...
                                                                  For a special dinner or party I am hosting I don't have expectations as it's like a one time gift of a party. For regular nights, I think a consistently empty-handed guest is somewhat rude.

                                                                  I had the same situation and when I stopped catering it, the next week the empty-handed guest offered to bring pizza. I got 2 frozen pizzas (!) but I was more than happy to bake them. Since then, I feel better not always cooking and letting them know ahead so they can pitch in to fill the void, or, cook the dinner but ask them to bring something simple like cooked rice or a garnish I'm missing...

                                                                3. thew Apr 30, 2010 07:21 AM

                                                                  you cannot expect anyone to bring anything. it's nice if they do, but that's as far as it goes. If you stop inviting them because of it , it seems like you wanted their goodies, not their company.

                                                                  If you do want to say something, no need to be disingenuous and pretend to forget something, or make a theme night to test them. If these are friends (and even if they ain't) the best approach is direct and honest. Anything is else is an insult

                                                                  1. iluvcookies Apr 30, 2010 07:12 AM

                                                                    Sounds like you need to decide whether to continue to entertain these people. While I wouldn't expect any gifts or contributions from friends, if this is an ongoing thing there should be some amount of reciprocation--or at least an offer.
                                                                    I wouldn't dream of showing up empty handed even at my own parent's house.

                                                                    For your next gathering you could "test" this... say "Hey I'd like to have you guys over next Friday. Can you pick up some bread/milk/wine/whatever since I won't have a chance because of my kid's soccer practice?" OR "Shoot I forgot the salsa and chips... can you grab some on the way over?" See what happens. If they don't get the hint, well....
                                                                    I am suggesting this only because its been an ongoing thing... I would NEVER ask this of someone on a first or even 5th occasion. On the 8th time when they've continually brought nothing, however....

                                                                    1. rockandroller1 Apr 30, 2010 05:12 AM

                                                                      I agree they're probably just ignorant. If they're young, they probably think this is a great way for them to save money and have fun and think you guys are so well off that you can afford to pay for everyone's food every week. The fact that they indicated it would be "refreshing" not to have to go out to dinner means to me they're glad they don't have to pay.

                                                                      I would make the next several dinners potluck around a "theme" (makes it easier for them to figure out what to bring) and see what they show up with. If they show up empty handed or with feeble offerings not even in keeping with the theme (say, the theme is thai food and they show up with a container of store bought chocolate chip cookies), you'll know they're just using you for free dinners. And however "nice" it is for them, it's not fair for you and your SO. The potlucks should allow you to weed out who you should keep inviting and who you shouldn't, and will get people in the habit of bringing something when they come, so then after a few weeks you can say, there's no theme this week, we're having X, and if you'd like to bring something to compliment that, that would be great.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                        q
                                                                        queencru Apr 30, 2010 05:39 AM

                                                                        I have to say I am not a fan of themes. Someone may not be familiar with that type of food and have no clue how to cook it or what to bring for that event. Not everyone has great cooking ability. Just asking someone to bring drinks or something basic is easier to do for people who don't cook. If these people go out a lot normally, it may be that they really don't do that much cooking for themselves.

                                                                        1. re: queencru
                                                                          Jennalynn May 1, 2010 08:38 AM

                                                                          Your theme doesn't have to be a specific cuisine... My friends have a pot luck once a month and the themes have been as open as: Comfort Food. Childhood Favorites. Crunchy. You can get very creative with themes.

                                                                          And you don't have to cook. This is a big pot luck and many people buy things to bring.

                                                                      2. q
                                                                        queencru Apr 30, 2010 05:03 AM

                                                                        It's polite to offer to bring something, but I don't think a host should expect it. They may be the types who normally go out to dinner and rarely have the opportunity to eat dinner at someone's house. I don't think there's anything wrong with asking your friends if they can bring beer or cheese if you think that would help you out. If they refuse at that point, I'm inclined to say that they are just really rude, but now I think they are just ignorant.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: queencru
                                                                          Bill Hunt May 2, 2010 07:54 PM

                                                                          Good points. We host and attend events that allow for guests to contribute, and also ones, where the entire menu is set in stone. For the former, we discuss the dishes and suggest offerings. For the latter, it is ONLY their company, that we require. It just depends.

                                                                          I also ask, when receiving an invitation. If it is our company only, then we bring a "little something" just for the host/hostess, and let it go at that.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                        2. l
                                                                          loukoumades Apr 30, 2010 02:39 AM

                                                                          "What should I bring?" is the first question I'll ask if I'm invited over for dinner somewhere. Of course they should be contributing.

                                                                          But like the others say, they might just be ignorant or have different standards. I can just about believe that.

                                                                          The worst thing to do is say nothing and end up resentful. Why don't you just casually ask them to bring something next time. I'll often ask a friend to bring a bottle of wine. You'll be able to gauge from their response whether they were being ignorant, willfully ignorant or just rude.

                                                                          1. g
                                                                            givemecarbs Apr 30, 2010 12:35 AM

                                                                            Tidbits they may be just ignorant. How you are raised really has an impact. I'm stunned at some of the things my friends don't know. For example my one friend did not know that the bar would get mad if he bought a six pack and then sat there at the bar and drank one of the beers. Well the bartender educated him right quick but he really did not know any better. At one time another couple, Donna and George and my other friend and I had a saturday night arrangement. We would take turns having a card party for four at each others' homes and the way my friend Donna wanted it was that the host provided all the munchies and a good bit of the beer, but back up beer or beer runs were appreciated. It worked fairly well for a long time. Since these new friends come over so regularly it really isn't right that you should foot the bill for everything every time.
                                                                            My grandfather taught my mom never to show up as a guest with one arm as long as the other. And she taught me. Let us know how this turns out for you. Moocher and freeloader and sponge were quite the insults back in the day. :)

                                                                            1. ipsedixit Apr 29, 2010 09:57 PM

                                                                              I would never show up empty-handed, and would always try and reciprocate.

                                                                              That said, different people have different social values and standards. Your "friends" may think it is entirely appropriate to arrive sans gift.

                                                                              This is why when I decide to entertain it is NEVER with the expectation that my guests will bring anything except themselves, and I do it without any expectation that the guests will reciprocate in the future.

                                                                              At the end of the day, entertaining should be about enjoying other people's company, not as a quid pro quo exercise.

                                                                              Just my 0.02.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                t
                                                                                Tidbits Apr 29, 2010 11:11 PM

                                                                                Thank you for the input ipsedixit. I guess my disappointment with all this is when we first met, we told them about the gatherings we had with friends back in CA and they thought it sounded fun to do it here. They said it would be refreshing to not always go out for dinner and instead have dinner in.

                                                                                Months later, the type of gathering we discussed is not really happening. Maybe I should suggest potlucks instead.

                                                                                1. re: Tidbits
                                                                                  Indirect Heat Apr 30, 2010 10:22 AM

                                                                                  My friends almost always ask what they can bring, and I usually say wine (as large, frequent gatherings can get expensive to serve wine). But if folks were routinely not asking, I would make a gentle suggestion like, "Do you think you could bring a bottle of ___ on Friday?". I generally don't want folks to bring food, but it's nice to help defray the costs of large, frequent gatherings. Especially if those gatherings are almost always at your house.

                                                                                  Edited to add: We also do a large tapas party a few times a year, and some of our friends have offered to contribute money as they're aware of how much it costs to cook a large number of dishes. That said, if folks aren't aware, just ask them to bring something. There's nothing wrong with, "Would you like to come over for dinner on Friday? I'll make the food, and you can bring the wine."

                                                                                2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                  Bill Hunt May 2, 2010 07:51 PM

                                                                                  Well said. Guests are guests, and nothing more.

                                                                                  Now, there are many threads on CH regarding the guests, who show up with a wine, that they expect to be served. In my case, the wines have been planned for days, or even weeks.

                                                                                  I usually ask our host/hostess if we can bring anything, and make offers. If the answer is "no," then a floral arrangement, or something special from my cellar will accompany us, but that is us. I never expect any wine gift to be served, as that is not my intention, unless I have been given the full menu and a request has been placed.

                                                                                  Hunt

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