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Doing Something Nice for Someone, Maybe Not

Some time back went to a leading restaurant in a leading city, where does not matter. It was on a Monday night when BYOB was encouraged not just permitted. Had brought too much beverage for the two of us as l generally do. Saw a gentleman eating by himself and had the waiter give him a glass of my superb and very old vintage port to make the experience more enjoyable for him, or so l thought. When we got our check sometime later we found he had paid for our dessert course which was a great surprise. We had had eye contact and then he came to the table to thank us very graciously for the wine and discussed the year and other tasting notes, we knew nothing about the dessert payment until we left. l thought this was very generous of him and considered the experience a great one. After talking to my GF about this she had an entirely different read. She felt that we put him in the uncomfortable position of forced reciprocity and l do not know which of us is correct, please weigh in and let me know who read the situation better.

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  1. I think only this man knows how he felt about it...

    1. Each is a plausible explanation for what transpired. Our interpretations of such things are generally guided by our personalities and belief structures. Without asking the man, you'll never know why he did what he did, but you can learn something about yourselves.

      1. Yes, you did something nice, which he obviously appreciated, and he returned the favor.

        Don't worry about it. :)

        1. I would say it depended on whether you may a big point about the fact that what you sent over was "my superb and very old vintage port." That may have prompted him to think he should pay for your dessert, or maybe he's just a nice guy who wanted to return the favor. Water under the bridge at this point.

          1. Sounds like, if he was uncomfortable, he hid it very well… But I do find it strange to send glasses of alcohol to strangers without asking them. I assume you saw him drinking already (otherwise, very unwise), but what if he was trying to stay under the legal limit, or just didn't like port?

            I think you did a nice thing and it was well-received (and very well reciprocated), but it's not something I would have done.

            1. It sounds lovely and doesn't sound like the kind of thing that puts anyone in an awkward situation. (I mean, you gave him a glass of port, not a yacht, although it sounds like a great glass of port.) I bet he was generous in return for the fun of being generous, just like you were. Hard to know, but I'd say, don't stop being generous just for fear that some people will be uncomfortable accepting the gift.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                My read is that your generous gesture was well-recieved and reciprocated in a likewise fashion. Body language combined w/ his action is what tells the tale: had he been uncomfortable I'm sure you'd have seen the strain, but the eye contact combined with his choosing to greet you personally and discreetly pay for your dessert indicates to me that this was a genuinely nice person, and that he was fine with the situation. You didn't strap a bomb to him, dear; you sent him a glass of port, e.g. he didn't have to do ANY of those things. : )
                I thought this was pretty fascinating - and it's really interesting to see some of the responses you've gotten. It's almost like a personality test on people's worldview!!

              2. If he enjoyed the port, came to your table, discussed the port. Why over think it? All he did was behave in the identical manner that you and your gf did. Is it better to give than receive?

                1. Life is short Deluca, why look for problems that don't exist.? Buy your gf a pair of winged moccasins so that she can walk lightly as you obviously do. Sounds to me like your thoughtfulness made someone happy.

                  1. I think the fact that he came over and talked to you means that he appreciated the gesture. I think if he had felt trapped by it and forced to reciprocate then he would have avoided too much contact with you.

                    One small point but I do have to ask - I assume you discretely checked that he drank before sending the port across?

                    Anyway, basically I think it was a very nice, very human gesture and it's little stories like these that people remember for a long time. What I especially like is that you thought you would do a nice thing for him, and then he unexpectedly did something nice for you! What goes around comes around.

                    1. I think it was a very nice gesture. However, by sending him a glass of port, you could have been putting him in a very awkward position and I agree with some of the others. Did he drink, did he drink port, was he trying to limit his intake, etc. The gesture was well-received, but there is no way to know if it was truly appreciated.

                      I would perhaps have an even third read. Could be that he was demonstrating that a graceful gesture of generosity should be offered for something of that person's choosing and not what you assume they will enjoy. By paying for your dessert, he let it be your choice, but his generosity. In your case, you made him receive something not of his choosing. He could have thoroughly enjoyed it or could have been backed into a corner. No way to know, even if he did come to talk to you. He was perhaps just well-mannered.

                      Like I said, I think it was very nice, but next time, perhaps I would consider paying for something like their appetizer or drinks (if it's not BYO).

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: gardencook

                        On a BYOB-specialty night, I would find it a lovely gesture to have someone send me a glass of whatever they're having. But on a nothing-special night, I think I'd find it a little odd for someone I didn't know to just up and pay for one of my courses - unless it was evident they were TRYING to get to know me, as evidenced by the delivery of a business card or somesuch, delivered by the waiter with the information that the course had been covered by the card's sender.

                        1. re: mamachef

                          Oh, I agree. I probably wouldn't think twice about this as being anything more than a kind gesture if the OP wasn't thinking more about it.

                          We had a situation once where we were the bar area having drinks while waiting for a table. It was a special night for us and we had tickets to a show much later. The couple next to us also had after dinner plans and were talking about whether or not they would make it in time, as they were running late. When we were called to be seated, we asked that they take our table so they'd have time to eat and not be late (we had plenty of time and wanted a relaxed evening anyway). We found out when we were finally seated that they had picked up our bar tab. Nice gestures all around, but since reading this thread, I'm glad they didn't pay for a bottle of wine for our dinner, as they didn't know our preference. In this case, there was nothing to think about. This is *probably* the same situation, but if the OP wants to second guess, then there are many ways to do so. ;)

                          1. re: gardencook

                            A friend of mine was entitled to a free pastry while waiting for her coffee order and declined the offer. The lady behind her proceeded to order a pastry. So my friend said to the cashier why not give her my free offer. Left the woman and cashier to work it out and joined me at the table to gab and enjoy our drinks. Later, the lady came by and thanked her for such an unexpected gesture. Turned out they lived a few blocks away from each other. I was just an bystander in that moment and I loved it.

                            I just read about the good deeds of strangers, especially from young people, paying it forward on Veteran's Day....

                            call it what you will but if it weren't for the kindness we all have the capacity to learn and preach where would our view of humans be?

                            Doing something nice for someone need only be that. Embrace it.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Someone just sent me this video, I really think it's becoming a trend to be nice to strangers. And I'm all for it.


                              1. re: coll

                                I hope it's not a trend. I'd prefer to think of it as an innate element of being human.

                                1. re: coll

                                  Funny a labor and delivery nurse friend I know sent this to me around the holidays. It's filmed in Red Bank,NJ...a neighborhood near & dear to my volunteer heart.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    Oh I was wondering where it was filmed, thanks! It looked sort of European to me.

                        2. It''s refreshing to hear that random acts of kindness still occur. We could use more of them.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Veggo

                            Absolutely. RANDOM being the operative word. Once you over think an act enjoyed in the moment, it becomes something else.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              "it becomes something else"

                              Yes, it does. In this case, it becomes a rather interesting platform for others to grant us insight about more than the instant question. Fascinating.

                              1. re: mamachef

                                You made a very generous gesture. And I'm sure that the gentleman appreciated your kindness even more than the port.

                            2. Nice story. Dessert payment aside, given that he stopped by to thank you and you had a pleasant conversation, my read is that he greatly appreciated you gesture.

                              You did something nice.

                              1. I vote nice. When possible, assume the nice aspect. It makes life much more pleasant and joyful.

                                1. I don't drink, and if you'd sent me the glass of port I would have had to decline it. That said, I would still have felt a nice warm and fuzzy feeling at the reminder that people out there are still nice enough to perform small gestures for perfect strangers. I wouldn't overthink it, and I'm totally on your side vs. your GF's.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: PegS

                                    I think the server should ask the person being gifted whether they want it instead of just bringing it over. Even if you do drink, you might be at your limit, or may wish to decline other reasons.

                                  2. We recently were at a very crowded micro-brewery/spots bar that was PACKED on a Saturday night. The wait for a table was 90+ minutes with bar area tables being first come first serve. We went over to check out the situation in the bar and to see if anyone was paying a tab so we could stalk, etc. (hehe...just kidding) and a couple at a 4 top overheard us and offered the two additional seats at their table. Very nice couple and we ended up ordering snacks, ribs and pitchers of beer to share. We left before them and unknown to them, we had the waitress put the entire tab on our credit card as a gesture of thanks.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. That was a very kind thing to do. You were generous with the port, he was generous with the dessert, and you both probably left feeling good after the encounter.

                                      1. it's nice to be nice. The other person probably enjoyed his gesture of generosity just as you did.

                                        A couple of weeks ago, my husband paid the tab for soldier in uniform, the serviceman sent him dessert. I trust no one was uncomfortable.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: danna

                                          That is extra special, and your husband needs a great big thank you, for that gesture!

                                          Here's to him, for his sensitivity and generosity.


                                          PS - because of our levels on many many airlines, we get to board first, but, as many airlines extend that boarding to "soldiers in uniform," I always search the boarding area, and invite them to come to the fore, and board before us.

                                          Back when I was in uniform, things were not so, but that was then, and this is now. I support our troops.

                                        2. I am completely in your camp. The gentleman had many options, from a nod to you, all the way up to paying for your entire dinner.He chose something in the middle, to say "thank you." That was nice, and it showed (vicariously to me), that he enjoyed the Port.

                                          I often do similar, and it might be to a fellow diner, or to the staff, but we often find ourselves with far more wine, than we can enjoy. To share, is our nature, and we never expect more than the nod, and maybe a raised glass to us. That is all.

                                          While I will never know every possible aspect of the situation, I think that your GF is a bit off, here.

                                          Enjoy, and this glass of Lambert Bridge Sonoma Coast, Cabernet Franc (2009) is for you!


                                          1. Going back some years, I was in a wonderful brew bar, and had experienced many wonderful beer, ales, and stouts with lunch. I wanted to try some of the cask-aged Thomas Hardy ales. I had the bartender set up a vertical of several of those, but two were ONLY available in larger formats, and I only wanted a slight pour of each, to taste.

                                            Down the bar from me, were two gentlemen (I'd speculate Georgetown U. students), and they had a little plastic coin purse, with some coins in it. They were pouring over the 32 page list of beers, and trying to decide what they would order. Considering that they only seemed to have coins, it did not seem that they would be likely to dig too deeply into the list. As I had much more, that I could comfortably drink, I had the bartender pour the remainders into two glass for them. They accepted, raised their glasses to me, and that was that. I expected no more, and was happy that they might have experienced ales, that they might never have had the opportunity to do so. Reward enough.


                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Love it! It's people pouring tastes for me that got me really excited about good wine. What a gift you may have given.

                                              1. re: Vetter

                                                I try to do just that. Many servers have never tasted some of the wines, that I often order, and if there is only the slightest indication of that, they definitely get a glass, and if they have a moment, we discuss those wines.

                                                For me, wines are best, when shared (same for some great ales, also), and I never hesitate.


                                            2. Delucacheesemonger (the OP),
                                              I think your GF's supposition that you put the guy into a position of forced reciprocity would only hold true if the guy were to have been Japanese. In general, most everyone else doesn't think that far ahead.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Tripeler

                                                The 98% of the world that is not Japanese, cannot think ahead? Interesting.

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  Hey, you certainly know that I cannot.


                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Yeah, but 1%ers don't have to...:)

                                                  2. re: Veggo

                                                    You may have missed "in general" and "most everyone else" and "doesn't" which doesn't mean "cannot". I am talking about tendencies here.

                                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                                      I'm just pokin' fun atcha. I have no issue with reverse racial profiling....:)