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Would this rub you the wrong way? (House Guests selectively picking up the tab) and questions on house guest expectations

I recently had a couple stay with us from out of town. They were not invited guests, per se. They were friends who chose to visit (e.g.: we are coming to town for a visit) and by default, our place was the only option (other than a hotel).

So far, all good - no issues. We spent a few days prior prepping for their arrival - all the usual things - washing linens, cleaning bathrooms, clearing out space, etc.

I had another thread on the Home Cooking board, where I asked for food suggestions for them during their visit - as it was my desire to make them feel welcome and comfortable.

They came in late Friday, and I had snacks waiting for them. It was late (after 9pm) and they arrived straight for the airport. We noshed on crackers/several kinds of cheeses/salami and hummus/veggies, mixed nuts, and another friend brought over mini cheesecakes.

The next morning we headed to breakfast. There were 5 of us in total (the couple, us, and the friend from the night before (a lady)). When it came time to pay for the check, the male house guest announced he'd like to cover the tab for the lady... and long story short, we ended up splitting the tab evenly between the house guest couple and ourselves (it was my suggestion to split it evenly vs 3 and 2- which I was happy to do).

We parted ways for the afternoon, with the intent to reconvene in the evening around dinnertime. So, my husband and I decided to host a bbq - the same lady from breakfast would be in attendance as well as another couple who are mutual friends of everyone. We spent the afternoon shopping for the supplies and prepping and had a wonderful evening surrounded by great food, good wine, and pleasant company. So far, all good!

Fast forward to the next day - and the situation that rubbed me the wrong way. We met for a late brunch - this time it was us, the house guests, the same lady and another female friend of one of the house guests that was new to the rest of the group. When the bill came, the male house guest picked up the tab for both of the ladies and left my husband and I to take care of our portion.

Had he not picked up the tab for the others, I wouldn't have been AS bothered by this - but, after spending quite a bit of money on their visit, I was taken aback by his lack of reciprocity towards the only people at the table that had been shelling out for his visit.

I will say that as I think about this - I know I'm being especially sensitive as money is tight for us and deciding to go out twice and host the group on Saturday, as well as the snacks on Friday - used a big chunk of our 'food' budget. Which, again, I willingly and knowingly did.

To me, picking up the tab for everyone EXCEPT us communicated an air of ungratefulness on the part of our house guests and the effort we went through in having them stay with us for the weekend. Again, that's not to say that's my expectation of all house guests (to pick up our tab if we go out to eat)... I know everyone's monetary situation is different.

I was starting to think if this was a male/female thing - meaning, the male wanting to pick up the the tab for the females and not picking up our tab because my husband was present?? I know it's not a money thing for the house guests (I know everyone says you really 'can't know someone's financial situation' - but in this case, I do). I also wondered if there was an expectation that their tab be picked up (since they are the visiting guest). I know I don't feel that way when I visit someone (I try to pick up their tab, since I know it takes work to host someone!), but perhaps that's not how everyone feels. Ages range from late 30's to mid 40's.

As I was doing the clean up from their visit - I found myself increasingly annoyed and insulted - and also feeling silly/petty over such a small thing. I switched gears and focused on their visit and the fact they cared to make the trip and spend time together - but the miffed feelings still crop up.

So, 'hounds - I ask you - what's your standard when you host or are house guests? What do you expect of your guests and what do you do in return? And, if you were in a similar situation as mine, would the house guests behavior of excluding you when picking up the tab for everyone else phase you at all?

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  1. So if I read this right, they didn't treat you to anything other than the privilege of their company....That is just weird. I've never witnessed a partial treat. Usually if someone treats, it's for the table. They should've treated you on both the breakfast and the dinner. Or they shouldn't have treated anyone at all.Very odd behavior in my opinion.

    I always treat the host when I visit someone, and I'm always treated if I'm the host. Unless someone is out of work or short on funds, then it will be a dining in only option and the guest will often have brought wine or a gift.

    5 Replies
    1. re: uman

      +1. I think this is just rude and strange behavior.

      Sorry this happened to you after being such gracious hosts!

      1. re: thingmaker

        Thank you! I was starting to feel petty for feeling this way - but after putting thought/time/energy into having them over for the weekend, it really felt like a slap in the face to be passed over like that!

        1. re: The Oracle

          like you I let things creep up on me over time. somehow the seeming rudeness becomes heightened and more intense.

          most have probably witnessed this same behavior either being a house guest or having house guest(s).
          when we were young kids staying over at a friends house, I'm not sure our etiquette was completely proper but then having same people to our home as quests went the same direction so I probably thought it evened out.

          there's something about older and wiser that begins to sink in. our very good friends we met in 1986 camping in Yellowstone. great time. last summer they asked us to join them at their time share. we did. they insisted we stay in their bedroom as the only other place to sleep was the living room on a pull out. breakfast was made by the wife, picnics were always provided by them, they're great picnickers. dinners out were on us.

      2. re: uman

        The dinner was actually hosted and suggested by us in our home - so I didn't expect them to contribute at all... but the meals out were just strange - especially the 2nd one.

        1. re: uman

          " Usually if someone treats, it's for the table."
          agreed and their behavior all together sounds quite off to me.

        2. I would've thought I've heard every variation on who pays for what by now, but this one is just . . . bizarre. Every time I'm a houseguest I pick up the tab for my host[s] at least once, and the same goes when friends or family stay with me. The only possibilities I can think of are (1) some sort of weird gender issue as you mentioned, i.e. that your husband's manhood would somehow be insulted by the guests paying for him and you; or (2) your houseguests thought of the other attendees as "their guests" and therefore felt obligated to pay for them. But it's just weird.

          1 Reply
          1. I find your guest's behavior odd as well; when I visit friends for a weekend I either treat a meal or cook one. If I'm there for a week, I do both.

            From reading similar stories on these boards, this kind of behavior is not all that uncommon in self-invited "guests".

            1. That's weird. Personally, for a weekend stay I like to treat my hosts to at least one meal (either cooking or dining out) and I either arrive with or send a small gift and thank you note afterward. I do agree that you can't know everyone's financial situation. Maybe they weren't able to treat and that's ok. But to treat just one person (not even a host!) to meals just draws attention to the fact that you're *not* treating your hosts.

              In a word- rude.

              1. I would be incredibly put off, yes!