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Friends are late - how long do you wait?


My DH and I arranged to meet another couple for dinner at 7pm. The restaurant is a small neighborhood joint that serves excellent food, is very popular and doesn't take reservations. We arrive at 7pm, the restaurant is 1/3 full and our friends haven't arrived. We wait 20 minutes before friends ring to say they are a few minutes away. We inform the hostess who decides to seat us.

We order drinks then wait 15 -20 more minutes - still no friends. Restaurant is now getting busy. Our server says we can't hold the table once all other tables are taken. Fair enough. We ring our friends who say they are at the end of the street parking their car. We tell our server and then proceed to wait another 15 minutes. STILL no friends!! At this point, the server asks us for the table back which both my DH and I immediately do and we pay for our drinks. We are in fact mortified for keeping the table for so long esp when we could have waited at the bar.

My DH and I decide to give them 5 more minutes and they still don't show. As we are walking back to our car, we hear our friends calling to us. Overall, they were 1 hr+ late. DH and I with hindsight think we should have bailed after 35 minutes and told our friends we were going to go ahead and have dinner elsewhere but would like to know what Chowhounders think. How long would you wait before leaving? Or is it rude to leave, no matter how late your friends are?

  1. Friends were definitely the rude ones here. They obviously lied about their updates. Having said that, I don't know. Are they habitually late? I suppose, after 1/2 hour waiting, I might have just ordered dinner, or at least appetizers and let the friends know after they arrived that I was just too hungry to wait any longer. I've seen customers do this, and it seems to work.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hilltowner

      Yeah, I'm pretty dumbstruck here as well, and I have no great answer. I pretty much agree with hilltower, but will add that going ahead and ordering without them could backfire. If they're as clueless as they seem, they might then go ahead and order a full meal, regardless of your progress with yours, which would leave you sitting there watching them eat long after you are finished. Awkward all around.

      An hour late, and lying about it all along, to boot?!? Totally unacceptable, but I know it can be difficult when dealing with friends. Well, now you know and you won't make dinner plans with them in the future.

    2. Well, I wouldn't make plans with them again, and frankly, I'd be reluctant to even invite them for dinner at my home. They might be a couple you all would only want to do open ended social activities like say, a gallery walk or museum where they could join you "whenever." Definitely not movies or theater. Gosh, their habits are really rather limiting, aren't they? That behavior is completely inexcusable, and dare I say it: Anti-social? Narcissistic? Wow. It's not rude to leave in such a situation, unless you call them up and lie to them that you'll continue to wait and hold the table while you're getting in the car to drive off. Seriously, do they just have no concept of time, or do they lie about other stuff?

      1. imo - those aren't friends. based on your situation where there was a set time to meet, even 35 minutes is a long time to wait. i think waiting that long would be completely fair and after you could do what you wanted -- eat there (at a table for 2) or elsewhere.

        1. They LIE about being a few minutes away and then about being at the end of the street after 40 minutes? Questions:

          a. Is this the first time you've eaten out with them?


          b. Why didn't you go ahead and eat without them?

          1 Reply
          1. re: anonymouse1935

            This is the 2nd time we've had dinner with them - they were 15 minutes late the first time but they did ring us to say they were running a little late. I guess that is part of the reason why my DH and I waited so long since we really thought they were only a few minutes away based on previous experience. This is also why we didn't order anything -it was suppose to be dinner together and like purple bot wrote above we didn't want to end up with our dinner finished while they were still eating.

          2. what did you do after your 'friends' whoo hooeed' at you? Did you find somewhere else to eat all 4 of you or did you separate and go on your way?

            What a difficult situation, you are being lied to every few minutes leaving you in an almost impossible spot to stay or to go. I agree with others don't go out with them again, or keep it to very casual like ' we are going for coffee if you want to join us we will be there between 11 and 11.30'. I wouldn't even do museums with them - who wants to wait at the front of a museum for latecomers either?

            8 Replies
            1. re: smartie

              After they finally showed, we went back to the restaurant but of course the wait was now 45 minutes. Friends started to make murmurings about staying and waiting but DH and I were both too hungry and we said no, let's go somewhere else.

              We went to another neighborhood restaurant that was able to seat us right away. During dinner, friends kept commenting about what a shame it was we couldn't eat at the first restaurant since their food was so good etc. I got so annoyed and angry hearing those complaints that I point blank asked them, "Well why were you so late then?"
              They sheepishly replied "we got caught up doing stuff and left the house late"
              "But you only live 10 minutes away, what took so long?"
              At this point my friend (the wife) flushed a bright red and said "we had to go to my husband's work first"

              That was the conversation killer/straw that broke the camel's back. My friend's husband works 15 minutes in the opposite direction! DH and I were both floored and in fact, we have never had dinner with them since. DH refuses and I don't blame him . I still see my friend but also invite other girlfriends as well. We all now know that she's chronically 15-20 minutes late, so we've started giving her an earlier meeting time to make sure she is actually on time! LOL

              1. re: SeoulQueen

                "We all now know that she's chronically 15-20 minutes late, so we've started giving her an earlier meeting time to make sure she is actually on time! "

                I've used that tactic as well on some people!

                1. re: SeoulQueen

                  WOW. I wouldn't eat with them again either.
                  My Brother in law is perpetually late, he'll start getting ready (ie showering) 5 minutes before my sister wants to leave. it makes her crazy. we try to give them an earlier meeting or starting time like you do with your friend.

                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                    "At this point my friend (the wife) flushed a bright red and said 'we had to go to my husband's work first'" -- between the sheets?

                    1. re: Stephanie Wong

                      An interesting possibility, and one I find far more amusing and less objectionable than a stop at the office. It's still bad manners, but -- more power to 'em!

                      1. re: Stephanie Wong

                        i assumed either sex or they were fighting was the real story all along

                        1. re: Stephanie Wong

                          this is the thought that I had too...I would feel quite angry regardless of the reason, this is just so rude.

                        2. re: SeoulQueen

                          I do this with female family members; depending who they are, I tell them 30 minutes to an hour earlier than the meet time. I learned this lesson after my inlaws were AN HOUR late for wedding photos...which preceded the wedding.

                      2. We have good friends who are habitually late. We simply tell them if they aren't there by the designated time, we are going ahead without them. With that policy, they have not been late once.

                        1. honestly, without knowing more about why they were late, or if this is their usual MO, i couldn't say one way or another

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: thew

                            I can't believe that after several "lies" about their ETA, you are on the fence about whether this was OK or not. What more is there to know? They were 1.5 hours late all the while making their friends wait so that they could run some errand first? Pretty self-absorbed and incosiderate behaviour, regardless of past history.

                            1. re: tuttebene

                              i hope your friends are more forgiving of you i guess.

                              and note when i posted my reply the OP had not told of any of the reasons for the lateness, just the lateness.

                              1. re: thew

                                There's still no excuse for the lying, though. They were communicating with them throughout their wait, and the friends had more than one oppotunity to give a more realistic length of time they were going to be late. It definitely bothers me when someone is like, "I'm almost there, i will be there in 5 minutes" when they know all along they're still ten miles down the road. Just be honest and realistic and then a person can decide if they are able to wait or if they should proceed without you. Also, if i was running that late, i would insist that my friends go on without me and be uber apologetic...not act as if it were no big deal.

                          2. I have a ten-minute window. Then we either eat, or leave. Being late is offensive.

                            1 Reply
                            1. My window is about 15 minutes. If they haven't showed up by then, I leave or I order. If I can schedule my time to punctually arrive, there's no excuse (short of emergencies) that my companions are late. All of my friends know this and very few are late now. Since I do not own a cellphone, neither I nor my friends can call each other to reschedule and adjust time. I actually prefer this method of setting a definite time rather than a fluid one. I wonder what people did prior to cellphones

                              1. The friends were insanely rude in this instance. I think you could have told them you were going to order appetizers after 20 minutes (after their FIRST phone call) and they could play catch up with entrees when and if they ever got there.

                                Did you ask them about their "few minutes" statements when they were obviously lying? And why couldn't the one driving drop off the passenger so you were aware they were almost there? If they're usually this late, I wouldn't make plans with them again. That's just completely inconsiderate -to you and to the restaurant.

                                Ahhh - I've read your follow-up post - they actually forgot about meeting you and THEN had to go to her husband's work.

                                So they're just completely inconsiderate of others. 'Nuf said. The earlier meeting time is the only way around someone like that. Or, as your husband now does, don't go out with them again.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  Ya know,Linda, posts like this make me wonder why people who seem as nice as the OP consider those friends friends. This just has to be a symptom and I'm betting there are plenty more.

                                  Hard to believe that in January I resolved to never reply to another NAF thread :)

                                2. Your "friends" leave you hanging in the wind for an hour and you are worrying about being rude by leaving??

                                  Five or ten minutes late--that's traffic, too many missed lights, etc. More than that--they have affirmatively (though possibly not consciously) chosen to make themselves late. No matter. THEY are the rude ones. Did they at least apologize?

                                  I would write off these people as dinner companions and figure out other ways to get together, if this friendship is worth salvaging.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Erika L

                                    it's a surprise to me that many of you have friends, as you are so quick to write them off. I am not defending the latecomers behavior here, but i'm at least as equally appalled by how lightly some people take friendship, and how much more weight they seem to put on rules of behavior than actual human emotion

                                    1. re: thew

                                      I believe chronically late people are mostly narcissistic . . . as in "my time is more valuable than your time and so I will keep you waiting to accommodate me and my own agenda". That's different than someone who is unavoidably detained by an unusual incident. Patterns become apparent relatively quickly . . .

                                      1. re: vday

                                        Absolutely agree with this. I can completely understand unexpected things that individuals cannot control: weather, impossible traffic and/or accidents and other related events. All I ask is that the late person be honest and open about it. What I can't tolerate is a pattern where the person is consistently late. If I could plan my schedule and hold off doing something to be punctual, surely the other party could do likewise.

                                        1. re: vday

                                          +2. The fact that they continued to lie about their reasons for being late were a major issue for me. The first call? Why not say "OMG, we lost complete track of time and we're running a bit late!" That would have been OK.

                                          But to *then* make a conscious choice to head in the other direction to her husband's workplace when they KNEW they were late? They just didn't care that they were letting the OP sit there waiting for them.

                                          And then to whine and complain about not getting to eat at the restaurant they were supposed to? I would have felt exactly as the OP did - angry.

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            I have to agree with you LindaWhit. My problem is that if I'm supposed to be somewhere at say 7:00, I'm probably there at 6:45. I can't remember the last time I was late. And I hate it when someone keeps me waiting. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. And the latecomers were just plain rude. But, I would probably have been a little more vocal about it.

                                        2. re: thew

                                          the truth is, most of our friendly social situations hinge on everyone following the rules....even if someone is a dear friend, over time they will wear you down with behavior like this because you begin to realize that what looks like careless/absentminded behavior is symptomatic of a very selfish, self - centered outlook on the world. Everyone deserves a chance, and certainly if these two had never behaved so rudely before or since, I wouldn't worry about it. If there is any kind of pattern whatsoever, I would indeed write them off.

                                      2. Back in my salad days, when I was dating my now-husband, he was a clerk for a U.S. Supreme Justice whose wife had graciously had us over for dinner. To reciprocate, we invited them and my BF's fellow clerks and spouses to dinner. I made roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. Everyone was on time, except for the Justice and his wife. After 45 minutes of cocktails, when the puds were in danger of getting soggy, I announced that dinner was served. The guest of honor and his wife showed up 30 minutes later, no apologies and rather affronted that we hadn't waited for them to show up.

                                        I learned a lot from this episode: No matter how high you might rise, you are not above the rules of good manners. And, if someone has taken the time to fix you a home-cooked meal, be on time, or be a jerk.

                                        3 Replies
                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            Well said, pikawicca, well said.

                                            I find it interesting that there are people willing to excuse such bad manners, but it makes perfect sense if one looks around supermarkets, retail stores, and restaurants. The scary part are the kids who have rude, manner-less people for parents. I hate to think what 'they're' going to be like in 25 years.

                                            Emily Post is probably spinning in her grave.

                                            1. re: anonymouse1935

                                              O tempora, o mores.

                                              People have been getting 'worse' in their manners since the dawn of time.

                                          2. wow, jfood seems to be in the minority here, but things happen and if the worst thing people do to you is show up late for a meal, you have led a pretty sheltered life. OK they were late, and you did not eat in your first choice. big whoops. Yup they probably should have told you up front they needed to go the the office to pick something up. But the idea that you blow off a friendship over it is just wrong. Poster calling them narcissistic, c'mon guys, beating an ant with a sledgehammer.

                                            Just have a mature conversation with them. Tell them it was upsetting and please be forthright next time.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: jfood

                                              It's best to be punctual, but being late isn't the end of the world. The real question is how someone handles it when they can't be on time. In this case, the OP's friends (a) failed to make a reasonable effort to be on time, (b) decided to make a half-hour detour once they were already running late, and (c) misrepresented the situation to the OP.

                                              The first problem - failing to make a reasonable effort to be on time - falls into the "shit happens" category. Better planning would have avoided the issue, but most of us have been there. The second problem - deciding to spend half an hour going to the office while friends were waiting - smacks of self-involvement. But it's the third issue - failing to be honest about the situation - would tend to be a deal-breaker for me.

                                              If you're going to be an hour late because your kid's getting stitches and the urgent care place is backed up, only an uptight fool would hold it against you. If you're going to be an hour late because you chose to run a non-essential errand while your friends were waiting for you, I have serious questions about your judgment. But if you call repeatedly during that hour and each time falsely promise that you'll be there in a few minutes? I have serious questions about your character.

                                              Mature conversations are all well and good. They can be effective ways to address cluelessness or inconsideration. But IMO, they'll never fix fundamental character flaws.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                what alan said! my bff is perpetually late. only once has it really been an issue. She is always up front about her lateness, so generally we are able to just plan around it.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  Jfood will agree about 90%. Noone knows what the husband needed to do or get at the office (if there was something in plain site on jfood's desk that should not have been there, sure as shootin' he is going to the office to get it), or as others have stated, they may have been too embarassed in giving the real reason for the lateness. Maybe they were having a little dessert before dinner or maybe some part of the husband's anatomy sorta got stuck in the zipper as they tried to rush to get there. Who knows.

                                                  Not being upfront about it is not good, no question about it, no argument, no push back, full stop, full agreement. But jfood cannot get to character flaw with the limited info on these posts. Friends are friends and the idea that they can be cast off because some cluelessness is just not in jfood's character, and he is glad with that position.

                                                2. Like many threads about the rudeness of others, this one is going in circles and getting awfully personal. We're going to lock it now.