Culinary no-no #736


Graphic: LA Times

Suppose. You’re having a dinner party. Friends are invited. A nice meal has been prepared. Guests arrive. And you all have a wonderful time. The evening’s a success.  And then, it happens.

The bill comes.

The what?

The bill.

You present a bill. Just like in restaurants.

Awkward, for sure.

But is it appropriate? Ever?

Back in March LA-based comedian Amber Nelson tweeted, “Got invited to someone’s place for dinner and they charged me for it … this is weird, right?”

Nelson instigated an instant social media discussion.

Here’s what happened according to the Huffington Post:

The dinner party was held in Los Angeles. The host mentioned having guests contribute in passing during the dinner, then Venmoed her friends a request for $20 later on. The dinner was penne alla vodka, not some high-effort lasagna with béchamel or a pasta spun out of a $899.99 Costco parm wheel.

Nelson partook in a few servings and went on her way. She paid when the request came in but she hasn’t spoken to the host since.

While most people replied something along the lines of, “yes, that’s very weird,” some folks said they’ve had this happen to them, too.

Remember, this is…California we’re talking about.

Others admitted they host their friends at a charge themselves. “As someone who hosts often I usually ask for people to chip in what they can to help me cover costs if they enjoyed the food. I would never stop someone from eating, though. I invite my friends I like to hang out with and they pay what they want to make it happen more.”

Consider what happened to Jarrel Benedict, a photographer who works in advertising in Canada, a few years ago.

In his case, it was a 10-person traditional dinner party where pork tenderloin was served. Cheese and nuts, bacon-covered asparagus and mashed potatoes were also on the menu, as well as sugar pie for dessert.

Later, as digestifs were passed around, the host made a beeline to Benedict and casually informed him it would be ”$30 for your share.” (This was on top of the $70 wine Benedict had already brought to dinner).

“In the moment, I was taken aback a bit,” he said. “I thought he was joking so I laughed. Then he said that he was serious.”

What do etiquette experts say?

“Is there a typo in the tweet? I think the person meant to write, ‘made a reservation at a restaurant’ instead of ‘got invited to someone’s place for dinner.’

“Being a dinner party host means enjoying certain privileges: getting to choose the date and time, selecting who is on the guest list, and picking the menu. But if you ask other people to ‘chip in,’ then you are inviting them to be co-hosts of the event, so you’ll need to share these privileges.”
Nick Leighton, the host of a weekly etiquette podcast who said you should never expect those you invite to your house to pay

“It is terribly rude to invite over friends under the guise of a dinner party and then after they have arrived, turn it into an unofficial fundraiser.”
Jodi R. R. Smith, the founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting

“It’s fine when there’s open communication among friends and the host makes it clear that they want to throw a party but would love some help. You have to be upfront and honest so guests aren’t caught off guard. It’s a courtesy to let guests know in advance what to expect and they can decide if they want to attend.”
Diane Gottsman, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” who agrees charging guests is a bad idea

“It is never appropriate to ask your guests to pay you back if you have invited them to be — keyword here — a guest at your dinner party.”
Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert and founder of  The Swann School of Protocol

“If a host sends a request for payment without advance discussion, it shows lack of courtesy and consideration for their guests. This host is making an assumption that everyone can, and will, pay the fee. The epitome of bad manners.”
Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

And if, GASP, you should ever be in a position of being asked to fork over your cash?

“For the person who receives that bill for the dinner party, the best way to react is to be very frank and very straightforward letting the person know that ‘When I was invited to your party I did not expect to have to pay.’

“Too often we feel that etiquette means that we should shrink from speaking up for ourselves or not saying something to someone if we have been wronged but there is nothing further from the truth.”
Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert and founder of  The Swann School of Protocol

I personally turn to the best etiquette experts I ever knew: my late parents. Growing up I recall Mom and Dad hosted numerous gatherings at our far less than mansion-like home. Birthdays. Holidays.

All members of all sides of the family were invited. There was no place for everyone to sit. But every one was a guest, all came, all had a great time, and not a single person was asked to bring anything, including a financial contribution, and wasn’t expected to. A tremendous life lesson. Thanks Mom and Dad.

I close with:

“If you have the intention to charge people for a meal you invited them to, it should be discussed with the invite. Outside of that—you are being a garbage human being.”
Charles Hunter III, a Twitter user who identifies as a personal chef



Tip: Dump this Type of Coffee in the Trash

ICYMI: Culinary no-no #735, and an update

3 thoughts on “Culinary no-no #736

  1. Many times, at large Holiday family gatherings or cookouts, it is not uncommon to have people bring a dish to help out or a dessert. Unexpected cash request would be rude.


  2. Pingback: Culinary no-no #737 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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