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when LBYM gets awkward
Old 05-10-2011, 08:39 PM   #1
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when LBYM gets awkward

A few weeks ago I traveled out of town to visit a new friend. She was a very gracious hostess and put me up in her spare room, cooked for us, etc. Her BF bought us dinner a couple times. Throughout my few-day visit I repeatedly offered to pay for things, to buy groceries, etc, and was politely turned down, except for buying one small dinner on the last day.

I feel kind of guilty since I suspect that from my outward appearance and lifestyle, she thinks I don't have a lot of cash to spare. Now I don't see the need to share details of my finances with friends, but am unsure of how to deal with this. I thought about sending a thankyou note with a gift card, but am unsure if this will come across as too snobbish or formal. We're both in our 30's and pretty casual in general.

Interested in hearing what you all would do.
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:06 PM   #2
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A few weeks ago I traveled out of town to visit a new friend. She was a very gracious hostess and put me up in her spare room, cooked for us, etc. Her BF bought us dinner a couple times. Throughout my few-day visit I repeatedly offered to pay for things, to buy groceries, etc, and was politely turned down, except for buying one small dinner on the last day.

I feel kind of guilty since I suspect that from my outward appearance and lifestyle, she thinks I don't have a lot of cash to spare. Now I don't see the need to share details of my finances with friends, but am unsure of how to deal with this. I thought about sending a thankyou note with a gift card, but am unsure if this will come across as too snobbish or formal. We're both in our 30's and pretty casual in general.

Interested in hearing what you all would do.
A thank-you note is definitely in order, and maybe you could include some local food or beverage that they can't get at their place. Every time I travel to the Mainland I'm bringing macadamia nuts & Kona coffee to my hosts.

It sounds like you made the appropriate number of attempts to support your share of the expenses. If they choose to think of you as impoverished then that's their problem. Either way you made them feel good about themselves, and that's always appreciated from a houseguest.

Would you be expected to reciprocate with an invitation to stay with you someday, or do you think they'd find a polite excuse to decline?
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:22 PM   #3
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A few weeks ago I traveled out of town to visit a new friend. She was a very gracious hostess and put me up in her spare room, cooked for us, etc. Her BF bought us dinner a couple times. Throughout my few-day visit I repeatedly offered to pay for things, to buy groceries, etc, and was politely turned down, except for buying one small dinner on the last day.
Could it be just cultural / family tradition as opposed to them thinking you are poor?
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:34 PM   #4
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It sounds like your friend was simply being a good host. A nice thank you card with a gift card for her favorite restaurant would be nice.
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:34 PM   #5
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I think you acted perfectly appropriately. When I have guests in my house, I absolutely refuse to have them pay for anything no matter how wealthy they are (unless of course they insist on buying us a small dinner as a token of appreciation). A thank you note is always appreciated though.
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:39 PM   #6
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Everyone loves getting a note in the mail. Physical letters in general (well wishes, thank yous, etc etc) are just nice to receive, IMO.
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:56 PM   #7
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I think you acted perfectly appropriately. When I have guests in my house, I absolutely refuse to have them pay for anything no matter how wealthy they are (unless of course they insist on buying us a small dinner as a token of appreciation). A thank you note is always appreciated though.
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Old 05-10-2011, 11:02 PM   #8
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I doubt they were acting out of pity or concern. They were just being good host. I'd do the same. I've learned to just say thanks.

We've been staying with a friend of ours on our trips up to Oregon to deal with my father-in-laws estate. She insists on making us meals and refuses any cash. She isn't loaded and the trips cost us a ton of money. We have bought her flowers and dinner a couple of times, but getting her to go is like pulling teeth.

Honestly, it's not necessarily about paying your friends back, but doing the same for them if the positions are reversed and failing that passing it along to someone else, if you get my meaning.

Or you can do what my dad does. I've seen him sneak off and switch his credit card for whomever he's arguing about paying with. He doesn't take no for an answer. I've given up trying to pay.
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Old 05-11-2011, 05:56 AM   #9
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Or you can do what my dad does. I've seen him sneak off and switch his credit card for whomever he's arguing about paying with. He doesn't take no for an answer. I've given up trying to pay.
I used to do this a lot when I was living in Brazil. Since I was paid in $US, and they were having horrendous inflation, whenever I went to dinner with Brazilian friends, I would excuse myself for a bathroom break after ordering dessert, and go find our waiter. I explained that I wanted to pay for the whole table's bill right then instead of waiting. I also promised a good tip if he would help me out with this little transaction. It gave me a lot of satisfaction and avoided any awkwardness.
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Old 05-11-2011, 05:57 AM   #10
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I think you are too frugal. I always want to take care of my visitors the best way I can by paying for everything in reality you COST them a ton of money and most important, time. I would definitely do my best to be generous by ACT on it NOT offer alone. I wouldn't think that they want you to be back to their house if you ask to visit them 2 months from now. My 2 cents

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Old 05-11-2011, 06:32 AM   #11
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I think you are too frugal. I always want to take care of my visitors the best way I can by paying for everything in reality you COST them a ton of money and most important, time. I would definitely do my best to be generous by ACT on it NOT offer alone. I wouldn't think that they want you to be back to their house if you ask to visit them 2 months from now. My 2 cents

enuff
I don't understand anything you said above. Are you saying the OP was wrong? If so, how? By trying to pay for things and failing to convince her host to allow that?
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:07 AM   #12
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I think they were just being gracious hosts. I think a thank you card and a gift in the mail would be a nice gesture and would certainly be sincere by the sounds of your post.
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Old 05-11-2011, 12:15 PM   #13
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I never let house guests pay for food that I'm cooking or dinner out if it's at my suggestion (as in, hey, let me take you to this restaurant we love). We're frugal but we still like to spoil our guests and make them feel extra special.

I am always grateful, but never expect, help with chores associated with having extra people in the house. It's always a delight to find someone else has washed that extra pan, loaded the dishwasher, or put the dishes away (even if they're not quite where I normally put them). Of course, that requires a bit of familiarity to not feel like you're intruding.

And, of course, thank you cards, a token of appreciation (home made is best, things I can't get here are just as good) or just knowing you enjoyed your visit are always payment enough. Just be sure to reciprocate in kind if the roles are reversed.
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Old 05-11-2011, 12:16 PM   #14
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Buy her a Porsche.

But seriously, you could send her a gift certificate for a dinner for two at a nice restaurant.
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:30 PM   #15
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Buy her a Porsche.

But seriously, you could send her a gift certificate for a dinner for two at a nice restaurant.
I agree with most of the suggestions here. Thank you note with a gift card, or local gifts. I have been given such gifts myself and I appreciated them every much.
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Old 05-11-2011, 05:20 PM   #16
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A few weeks ago I traveled out of town to visit a new friend. She was a very gracious hostess and put me up in her spare room, cooked for us, etc. Her BF bought us dinner a couple times. Throughout my few-day visit I repeatedly offered to pay for things, to buy groceries, etc, and was politely turned down, except for buying one small dinner on the last day.

I feel kind of guilty since I suspect that from my outward appearance and lifestyle, she thinks I don't have a lot of cash to spare. Now I don't see the need to share details of my finances with friends, but am unsure of how to deal with this. I thought about sending a thankyou note with a gift card, but am unsure if this will come across as too snobbish or formal. We're both in our 30's and pretty casual in general.

Interested in hearing what you all would do.
My take is a little different. I agree that they were being gracious hosts and you did all you could/should WRT groceries, putting you up and them cooking for you. That's all very nice.

But there is no way they could actually keep you from paying for dinner out (more than once) to show your thanks - that's what I would do/have done, it's not enough to passively offer IMO. I've even had to pull a few waiters aside and threaten them if they didn't give me the check after dinner when I've gone out with my BIL in particular. It all does down as a cute little test of wills, no hard feelings either way.

But a thank you card/gift card is OK as an alternative. My 2¢...
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Old 05-11-2011, 06:12 PM   #17
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There are always different points of view, depending on the relationship or family tradition. For my part, I find such tests of wills exhausting, rather than cute. I would not go behind someone's back to pay. It would be like saying "I don't think you can afford to treat me as well as you are."

I think at most: you offer, sincerely, to pay (and act swiftly to slap down your credit card); they say no (and try to give back the card); you insist; they insist back; you desist, and let them pay.

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done, it's not enough to passively offer IMO. I've even had to pull a few waiters aside and threaten them if they didn't give me the check after dinner when I've gone out with my BIL in particular. It all does down as a cute little test of wills, no hard feelings either way.

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Old 05-11-2011, 07:06 PM   #18
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There are always different points of view, depending on the relationship or family tradition. For my part, I find such tests of wills exhausting, rather than cute. I would not go behind someone's back to pay. It would be like saying "I don't think you can afford to treat me as well as you are."

I think at most: you offer, sincerely, to pay (and act swiftly to slap down your credit card); they say no (and try to give back the card); you insist; they insist back; you desist, and let them pay.

Amethyst
I'm getting flashbacks to my passive-aggressive (with a black belt) EX-MIL.

Nowadays I do all negotiations upfront.
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:26 PM   #19
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I really appreciate all your replies - this is an issue I've struggled with before, and I think I'm bad at intuiting what's socially called for when it comes to expressing thanks. You've definitely convinced me that sending a card and small gift is appropriate, so I'll be doing that.

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Would you be expected to reciprocate with an invitation to stay with you someday, or do you think they'd find a polite excuse to decline?
While there, I did offer to host my friend anytime she was in my area. Not sure how likely she is to visit, though.

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Honestly, it's not necessarily about paying your friends back, but doing the same for them if the positions are reversed and failing that passing it along to someone else, if you get my meaning.
I like this sentiment, and completely agree.

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I think you are too frugal. I always want to take care of my visitors the best way I can by paying for everything in reality you COST them a ton of money and most important, time. I would definitely do my best to be generous by ACT on it NOT offer alone. I wouldn't think that they want you to be back to their house if you ask to visit them 2 months from now.
Thanks for the feedback. I must admit I'm rather taken aback that you (and likely some others) think my actions were rude and/or ungrateful.

By way of some background explanation, most of my life has been spent around friends/classmates/coworkers who are geeky and often socially awkward, and I'm sure I could be described the same way. My preference is usually to interact as straightforwardly as possible and with a minimum of unvoiced expectations. So I'm likely to take someone's statements at face value if they offer or refuse a favor/gift. When I offer to pay for something it's meant sincerely, and if someone turns down my offer, I interpret that literally as well. It seems rude to me to second-guess someone's intentions.

I've witnessed (and sometimes participated in) the hunt-down-the-waiter-and-pay-before-the-other-party dance, and it gives me the willies! I'd much rather people could just agree to take turns paying or gracefully accept being taken out to dinner.

I wonder if I should try to err more on the side of tangible thankyou gifts. Personally, I really appreciate when people thank me in any manner (in person, phone call, email, card), and I do appreciate small token gifts. But I dislike receiving expensive (say, over $50 from a casual friend) or elaborate gifts unless I know the giver very well. Those tend to create a feeling of obligation to reciprocate (even if the giver didn't intend that), and I'm wary of giving expensive gifts because I don't want someone to feel obligated in the same way.

If you have any more feedback/advice, please chime in! I would like to be generous with my friends and at the same time not make them feel like I'm flinging excessive gifts at them. But my whole life it seems like I've been walking an invisible tightrope between the two.
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:36 PM   #20
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A thank you card and a very well thought out gift sounds appropriate.
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