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Birthday tea with acquaintance

An acquaintance (seen on 3 occasions) of a new friend (known for approx. 1 year) invited me to a birthday afternoon tea. I was surprised at the invite, but gladly accepted. I am new to town and had not experienced a proper tea since I lived in NYC. I arrived after everyone was seated and since they all ordered the most expensive service, happily obliged. There were 4 of us and when the check came the inviter told the server to split the bill 3 ways. I tossed in my credit card, but was a bit taken aback since her boyfriend and best friend did not offer to pick up her tab. I also bought her a modest birthday gift, to boot, drove into the city and parked (they took the T/subway).

I am hoping I wasn't invited to buffer the bill because it certainly felt that way. Thoughts on etiquette?

Feeling kinda salty in Boston,

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  1. so the three of you paid for the birthday person's tea? that sounds normal to me.

    your preferred mode of transport certainly isn't their concern.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      I wouldn't have have also taken the time to select and bring a gift to the occasion if I also was expected to split the tab of the b-day person, who is a friend of a friend...

      Agree about the transport...just added insult to injury.

      I do appreciate your take on the matter.

    2. This type of question pops up frequently....many feel if you are invited, then they are guests...and guests should not pay. I do not disagree...however, i know not all are like in mind or attitude...so I fully expect to pay my fair share.

      The boyfriend is a CHEAP ASS.

      4 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        my b/f would pay for me, but if it's my friends? we pitch in together and equally to treat the birthday person.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          If I were the BF, for a table of four, I would pay for everyone invited. and thank them for coming....Sometimes it pays to look good on birthday.....I could include a crude joke here, but only if requested.

      2. I also would have felt a bit "used" by the acquaintance "inviter".

        Do you think the birthday friend was aware of the dynamics here? If I was the birthday person and knew about it, I would feel bad. The inviter would forever remain an "acquaintance" for me!

        1 Reply
        1. re: sedimental

          Not sure. I would have just preferred to have been told "we are taking xyz out for her birthday at 123". Then that would have been my gift. Over it now...

        2. We're you enjoying yourself during the tea or was there other aspects that left you uneasy? If these were older/ better friends would you still have felt used when the bill came?

          2 Replies
          1. re: viperlush

            I enjoyed the tea and conversation. It can be awkward when you're getting to know people in some social settings.

            I quite possibly might have been overthinking....I would not have given it a second thought if it was a long standing friendship. In fact this is the first time I have posted on such a topic. So your point is well taken ;)

            1. re: SoFlaSartorialista

              It can be difficult to navigate new relationships. And as you can see from this thread and others on this subject, there is no clear consensus. I'd just be thankful to have friends, and be included in a celebration after recently moving to to new town. Now you know for the next time.

          2. Just be sure they know when it is YOUR birthday so they can repay the favor.

            1. You felt like you were invited so that the others would only have to pay for 1/3 of the birthday person's meal instead of 1/2? That seems.....paranoid.

              I would think nothing of this, personally. It's how birthdays are usually handled in my social circle.

              I have no idea what you are talking about with the parking/subway. Do you mean that you should have paid less because your parking cost more than their T fare?

              1. Sounds much the way we handle things in my circle. We include the birthday person's share in the total, and divide by the number of attendees, not including birthday celebrant.

                1 Reply
                1. re: KarenDW

                  That's how we do it too. We also do it post wedding brunch/dimsum or any other milestone. Good or bad.

                2. Was there something else that may have made you uncomfortable?

                  Financially an extra person doesn't change things that much. Say the tea was $40/person:
                  Birthday girl + 2 = $60 each
                  Birthday girl + 3 = $53.33 each
                  Not really a big enough difference motivate a cheapskate to invite someone to buffer the bill...

                  Sorry things felt awkward. It takes awhile to find folks you click with in a new area.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: meatn3

                    I see your point. Now that I'm days removed from the situation, I think I just assumed the birthday girl's boyfriend would pay her meal. Double standard or not.

                    1. re: SoFlaSartorialista

                      No double standard necessary - I've always paid my husband's tab when organizing these types of group burthday outings for him (no one in our circle expects the organizer to pay for everyone, people would be shocked. But there are generally no gifts either). But I think in this case they just weren't thinking very hard. Maybe they just like you and thought you would enjoy the outing, and it seems they were right (you were excited to go to tea).

                      1. re: SoFlaSartorialista

                        My husband probably would have paid my tab, but he would do this anyway not just for birthday.

                        It has always been this way. I pay for house food he pays for out food.

                        As department head I make less than my colleagues because I have less years in. For a retirement dinner I was hoping that the rest of the groups would chip in a few dollars for the meal of the celebrant. They did not but I didn't think he should be paying for his party and I had to offset the cost of the gift since some folks didn't chip in the requested amount either. I certainly felt used because the celebrant told people where he wanted to go and that he expected this retirement dinner.

                        1. re: melpy

                          Perhaps people were just put off by a grown man requesting that colleagues take him out to dinner?

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            He didn't tell them. He told the previous department head who told me.

                          2. re: melpy

                            I've been the retirement party organizer myself, and more by default than because I love organizing parties, so I do get it. For gifts I collect first and then buy, based on what I collected. For food I have been in the position where people expected me to order food for the group (the party was cocktail hour at a pub); luckily as it turned out I was reimbursed after, but I just ordered what I was comfortable paying for and no more. A full-on dinner by specific request from the retiree would definitely be tricky if there is no budget from the company/institution.

                            1. re: julesrules

                              The "company" would not have reimbursed. It was all out of pocket.

                      2. In my circle we spilt the bill in the same way as in your situation. Usually there are 6-8 in the group and the birthday person's meal gets split among the rest of us. On occasion, one of us will buy a round of drinks or dessert separate from the main tab. If we go out as couples, then each couple pays for themselves.

                        But not all circles work this way, and sometimes you just don't know until you are presented with the bill. My friends and I decided in the beginning how we will handle it, and if a new person joins us, we let them know up front.

                        If you enjoyed their company, and the places they choose aren't out of your price range, then I say let it go--they will probably pick up the tab on your birthday and you'll have a new group of friends.

                        1. We used to all take the birthday friend out and split the bill, each of us paying for ourselves and sharing the cost of the birthday friend's meal. This worked well, BUT we had all agreed to doing it this way in advance and when our birthdays came around, each of us was treated, so it was fair. I think the OP here was surprised at being expected to pay, since the inviter had not made it clear in advance, and also probably suspecting that the treat will not be reciprocated on his/her birthday due to only being an acquaintance. I would be a bit taken aback as well. BTW, who was the inviter?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kat

                            My friend texted me that the acquaintance was inviting me to join them for tea. I actually thought it would be a bigger group than just the 4 of us (which was fine, by me).

                          2. I think the boyfriend was really cheap not to pay for his girlfriend's tea. Jeez!

                            1. As my father taught me;

                              Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things.

                              1. This thread has been educational for me - I'm not surprised at all by the OP's experience. In fact, I would never have expected (or even thought of having) my boyfriend to cover me or to cover him.

                                1. I don't think you were wrong to assume you were a guest (and not going to pay) - and I don't think it's wrong for the bill to be split 3 ways.

                                  I can understand how you felt like a bill buffer, but I don't think that was the case.

                                  The problem is assumptions were made on a subject that was never discussed.

                                  FWIW, unless it's a formal invite (in the mail), I always assume I'm paying my share and a portion of the b'day guest. If I'm uncertain, I'll usually ask the invitee how the check is being handled (under the guise of making sure I have enough cash on hand to cover the tab).

                                  This also reminds me of an experience a friend was just lamenting to me about. She attended a dinner for 8 for a friend's 50th. The other guests she didn't know well. She ate very little and drank no alcohol, while the rest dined lavishly and drank to their hearts content. When the bill came they divided it evenly by 7. My friend didn't want to protest, as to not cause a scene in front of the b'day guest.

                                  1. I find it odd that you would be invited to a B'Day party for someone who isn't really your friend and then be expected to pick up part of the tab. So there was your friend, her friend and her boyfriend? Very odd to me. Unless they felt you were in need of friends and so invited you? I don't think you should have been expected to pay for more than your tea.

                                    1. Since the invitation proferred to you did not specify, I would have expected anything from being treated to my meal to having to split the tab among everyone but the birthday girl, to being expected to pay only for my own meal. I'd have brought along a wrapped gift that was small enough to carry in my purse, and not brought it out unless and until other material gifts were being presented; something that would be a generally-appropriate gift that I'd use myself, or could give later to a different recipient.

                                      1. These threads are invariably characterized by one central point. No one explained the ground rules to start with. People are so reluctant to discuss money that issues like this - that should have been transparent - become, well, they become issues.

                                        So what to do now? Tell your new friend (the year long friend that is) that it wasn't a problem, and you were glad to be invited, but next time please tell you what to expect so that you aren't caught off guard. But when you aren't clear you have two options, either ask in advance or be prepared for whatever comes up. That applies to gift giving as well.

                                        I would like to add that as numerous others have mentioned this is not an uncommon practice, especially among a group of established friends. And as at least one poster mentioned - your turn is coming.

                                        1. It sounds like you were extremely gracious and generous. I wouldn't automatically assume you were being used. However, I would be cautious with this person in the future until you can confirm your suspicions one way or the other. Trust but verify :-)