to think that if guests stay for longer than 2 nights, they should contribute to food costs?

(93 Posts)
marfisa Mon 31-Dec-12 19:53:13

We have just had some guests stay for 3 nights, a family of 4. They are friends but not particularly close friends. My DH was cross with them (although he didn't say so) because they didn't offer to take us out for dinner while they were here, or shop for food and prepare a meal. They brought us some modest but thoughtful gifts, and also bought us some chocs. We went sightseeing with them on the 3 days (our city is a tourist city) and I noticed that when we ate lunch out each day, they didn't buy sandwiches for themselves, only for their 2 children. They then ate their children's leftovers. The only time they ate heartily was at our house in the evening, where food and wine were plentiful. They never once offered to pay for any food or wine. Our house is also not large, so having 4 extra people to stay isn't exactly comfortable IYSWIM.

We are not badly off financially but do have to watch our pennies. So do they.

My DH says that if we stayed with someone for 3 nights, we would pay for a meal. In fact, we stayed with these friends for a few nights a couple of summers ago, and while staying with them we took them out to a restaurant once and also paid for one communal food shop. Part of me thinks DH is being a little too obsessed with tit-for-tat, but another part of me thinks that he's right: if you're getting free accommodation, you should contribute to food costs.

There is also a Part 2 to this story. Our guests are still on holiday in our town, but have moved to visit another friend of theirs. She has a bigger house and they're staying with her for 5 nights. I saw our friends again today, and they are very unhappy with their new host. She keeps the heating of her house turned down so low that they are cold. She also fed them such small portions at dinner last night, apparently, that the children left the table hungry. Then for tonight's dinner (NYE!) she asked them to shop for food. Furthermore, she specified which shops they should purchase the food from: gourmet butcher, gourmet delicatessen and so on. My friends were quite irate about this. The husband said to me that they would not be buying the food "on principle", because (according to him) if you are staying with someone, it is a rule of hospitality that the hosts should pay for everything. He said that if guests stayed with him, he would not expect them to pay. At this point I couldn't help recalling that he had been happy to let us pay for 2 meals when we stayed with them. grin And we didn't mind paying at all TBH; we thought it was a normal gesture.

My DH is now evilly delighted with their discomfiture and thinks that it's a case of karma: tight people meeting tighter people. I am a little nervous though that they are going to want to return here now instead of spending the remainder of their stay with their less generous friend. Argh.

ChristmasKnackers Tue 01-Jan-13 08:16:22

I would never expect guests to provide food or take us out. Most guests normally bring something though, say some wine, cheese etc...

gettingeasier Tue 01-Jan-13 08:16:54

OK if they invited themselves then they should have taken you out for a meal/produced a very nice gift

You dont go on holiday if you are broke expecting somebody else to effectively subsidise your break

FredFredGeorge Tue 01-Jan-13 08:19:09

I also wouldn't expect meal/food/contribution etc. Yet, I also couldn't personally stay with someone without offering - "Let us take you out?", "The thing I miss most on holiday is cooking, let me cook dinner tonight!", "Should we bring anything?" etc. But as money does sound a little tight for them maybe that's not even really an option.

In any case, they've not done anything wrong, and you'd do nothing wrong if you just consumed their hospitality when visiting. They were okay to accept the offer though, rejecting offers of a meal is not that polite - also remind your DH that quid-pro-quo is about cost to the individual, not the actual monetary value - the billionaire can contribute more actual cash to a situation than the struggling for cash family.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Tue 01-Jan-13 08:20:15

This has been a learning curve for me. Apart from one friend staying a weekend recently we finished having all our guests at the end of September. We calculated that between January and September we had guests staying for 5 months.
It's my own stupid fault, we moved abroad last year and literally gave an open invitation to anyone. I will never do that again.
It was exhausting, expensive and like I said earlier I just got nothing done in terms of work. I also felt grouchy because I needed to spend some time alone.
That was my learning curve for the year but what I've learnt from this thread is how generous a lot of people are compared to my in laws.

My in laws are skint, we pay for them to fly over to us (4 times in 2012), they stay for a few weeks each time. We pay for all their food during this time. They buy their own whisky and brandy - they are heavy drinkers, but we pay for everything else. They might take us out for a light lunch once. They use us to reduce their living expenses and have a free holiday.
Their other son lives outside the UK too and they do the same with him. He pays for their flights and pays for everything while they stay with him.

Basically it's dawned on me that we are complete mugs, yes they are skint but they are immensely tight too. They are awful when they stay too, drinking until they fall unconscious asleep every evening, being argumentative and controlling and expecting to be taken out on day trips all the time.

Sorry I've ranted but its suddenly occurred to me not to let that happen again.

MudCity Tue 01-Jan-13 10:29:36

Accidental, you are quite right...never let that happen again. Set a boundary, say, the in-laws can come out once a year for two weeks or whatever. Stick to it. If relationships are not equitable resentment will grow. If they have enough money to spend on alcohol then they have enough money to buy food / fund their own trips. If they protest, say you are having to watch the pennies and cannot afford it. End of story. No-one can argue with that.

Good luck!

OhyouMerryLittleKitten Tue 01-Jan-13 10:40:17

I am very happy to feed our guests without expecting contributions (though we do try to take our hosts out for a meal and bring/buy plenty of booze)

However we did find it quite startling that when guests offered to bring wine with them they bought one bottle for the several days! Good job we weren't relying on them really!

pleasestopcarolling Tue 01-Jan-13 10:49:43

It all depends on who is visiting and why. When our friends visit it's because they have come to see us and spend time together we have 3 DC so feel it is easier to see friends at our home. It's nice if they bring wine but I wouldn't mind if they came empty handed as I just love to see them. My friends always bring alcohol cos they know me ans we always share it. Where people are visiting for a holiday it's different unless they are close friends or family you have specifically invited for a holiday. It's not fair if their free cheap holiday costs you a fortune and they aren't friends if they don't see that. Y oh can say you're busy.

glitternanny Tue 01-Jan-13 10:55:57

Even if I visit someone for lunch/dinner I tend to take something even if its just flowers/a cake or something for the kids.

hermioneweasley Tue 01-Jan-13 11:13:11

Well, the good news is theaccidentalexhibitionist has had a new year revelation!

atthewelles Tue 01-Jan-13 11:13:23

I would always offer to take people out for a meal if they were putting me up for a few days. I would also buy some wine for dinner, pay for the odd lunch out etc.

However, I think the second hostess in the OPs post was incredibly rude, sending them out with a shopping list and effectively ordering her guests to buy expensive food. shock

ModernToss Tue 01-Jan-13 11:16:27

We always take people out for dinner at least once if we stay with them, and usually buy groceries too.

We have loads of guests (we live in a holiday place abroad), and by and large they are very generous and either bring a gift or take us out for dinner, but I don't expect it. I'm just as happy if they pitch in and help with cooking etcetera.

Our worst guests came for a week (family of five) and ate every single meal here, so three meals a day. They were very good at telling us what they did and didn't like, so coming up with menus was a challenge. We ran out of booze for them at one point (we don't drink) and the husband went to the shops with my husband and let him pick up the tab for further booze supplies. Worst of all, they didn't lift a finger and I waited on them hand and foot all week - not just meals, but incidental snacks and drinks too. I work from home too, and it was impossible to get anything done.

EuroShagmore Tue 01-Jan-13 11:19:42

I wouldn't expect guests to pay for food or take me for a meal, but when I stay with people, I do offer to pay if we go out for dinner.

ModernToss why didn't you just say "there's XYZ in the kitchen, please feel free to help yourselves"?

Gryffindor Tue 01-Jan-13 11:19:52

I wouldn't say I am overly generous, but I know from my own experience of living abroad and having lots of guests that being a host is stressful. I offer to take hosts out for dinner or get a take away because not everyone likes cooking!

I have had a mixed bag of guests over the years, from those who insist on paying for EVERYTHING while here, and those of the deep pockets/short arms persuasion who turn up empty handed and sit pursed lipped when the bill arrives. This year we put a guest up for 5 days and when we went out for dinner she was happy to let me pay for her. She is a very high earner, had invited herself but didn't even bring a bottle of wine.

marfisa Tue 01-Jan-13 11:29:49

accidental, your PIL are terrible (and the other people who have taken advantage of you are just as bad). It's harder to say no to family, but just do it - they are exploiting your generosity. Issuing an open invitation sounds like the kind of mad thing I would do (and then regret).

I agree with pleasestopcarolling about how it all depends on who is visiting and why. The problem with these friends is that while we like them, they aren't particularly close - they aren't our nearest and dearest. We met them years ago through our DC because they used to live in our city; then they moved back to their home country. We enjoy spending time with them but a whole three days of their company is a bit much to be honest. Two days (which is as long as they stayed with us last time) was perfect.

I have a feeling that their other host is not very happy that they invited themselves for 5 days, and that's why she sent them out straight away to do a food shop, even though it was an incredibly rude thing to do.

My attitude when we go on holiday and visit people is that we would be spending money on food shopping anyway if we were at home. So I am happy to continue spending some money on food rather than just expecting the host to provide all the meals. In fairness to these friends, though, I am sure they would happily reciprocate and provide all meals if we came to visit them again.

The friend they are staying with for 5 days has never been to visit them herself and almost certainly never will. They have very different lifestyles. They are quite family-centred and unworldly, and their home is too modest for her expensive tastes. I think that friendship is doomed really.

marfisa Tue 01-Jan-13 11:35:22

There are some horrible anecdotes on this thread - I am shock at your story, moderntoss!

Onezerozero Tue 01-Jan-13 11:36:09

If I go to a friend's for afternoon tea I take cake or flowers, for dinner- wine or flowers, for the weekend- just wine or flowers again. Most of our friends do the same I guess.
We don't ever really act as or get guests for longer except family, and then we don't swap anything!
I would honestly never think of buying groceries or taking the hosts out for dinner.

HardlyEverHoovers Tue 01-Jan-13 12:18:22

I would not expect guests to contribute anything, but would happily accept if they did. When we stay with people we try and help out by taking some food and cooked meals with us (like a saucepan of homemade soup e.g), especially if we know the people aren't well off.
But I would say that part of the pleasure of having guests is to ensure they are well fed and warm and comfy. We are not well off either but that's not something I mind spending a bit extra on.
In Muslim culture how you treat your guest is very important, but there is also a rule about if you stay longer than 3 days you are no longer a guest, this seems a good guide for how long you can expect or be expected to be provided for!

CharlotteBronteSaurus Tue 01-Jan-13 12:28:22

when we go visiting, we never stay longer than 2 nights
we bring a few bottles of wine, chocolates and flowers
we always offer either to take our hosts to dinner one night, or to buy a takeaway - we have yet to be refused.
we always offer to pop to the shops as well, if things need topping up, but no-one's taken us up on this one yet.

if people stay with us, I am happy to provide all the food, but a token contribution of wine or cake or whatever is always gratefully accepted.

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