Hosting a wine-tasting party -- with strings attached!

Ever host one of those parties where you invite your friends and they’re expected to purchase something? Jewelry, wine, sex toys, tupperware, etc.?

My good, good friend has recently started her own business where she sells wine and purses. She dove in headfirst and with much enthusiasm. And now she’s asking all of her friends to host parties. We provide the guests, and she takes us on a magical wine-tasting adventure.

I agreed to host a wine-tasting party, because I love my friend and I love wine and I love parties. My friend sent me a list of things I had to do, including:

  1. Purchase 6 bottles of wine from my friend. Total, with shipping, is $50.
  2. Purchase cheese and crackers and chocolate (to enhance the wine tasting). My friend gave me a recommended list of stuff to get, although she said I didn’t have to stick to the list. Estimated total, probably around $30.
  3. Invite 8-12 friends to the party. And then (in her words), “Sit back and relax!”

Now, my mom has a little jewely business where she often has people host a party, and she shows up with tons of jewelry, and everyone buys jewelry, and everyone is happy. The host arranges everything – buys drinks and food too, usually – and my mom gives the host an amazing piece of jewelry (or pieces) as a thank you (and she’ll often give the host discounts on any future jewelry orders).

But not in this case. Good friend says she can’t give me any wine, because that’s against some sort of liquor-license laws. But I can get a small discount on futre wine orders.

So…am I being royally screwed here? I totally am. I have to do ALL the work (including cleaning my house for a party!), and she gets to show us how to sip wine and eat cheese (that I bought). There’s no payback for me!

And I’m happy to do it. My friend has given me love and gifts and friendship worth much more than $80. But what bothers me is I can’t tell if my friend KNOWS that I’m not getting jack out of this whole deal. I think she thinks that people should be jumping at the chance to host these parties, when in reality, they’re not getting anything in return.

Part of me wants to talk about this with her – let her know I definitely want to host the party, but that I’m actually going to be spending a fair amount of money and time for the priviledge, and not really getting anything in return. I think she thinks she’s doing me a solid by giving me a good excuse to have a nice wine-tasting party, but in reality, I would never have such a party (or if I did, I wouldn’t expect my guests to shell out money for additional bottles of wine afterwards). FYI – all guests know and understand the reason for the party is for them to purchase wine afterwards.

So what say you, Dopers? Would you just suck it up as doing a nice, one-time favor for a friend?

Doesn’t sound like much fun to me, but then I’m not much of a hostess, it makes me feel very insecure. I would hope your friend could at least comp you a bottle of wine for your trouble.Why doesn’t she provide the cheese at least?

You’re not wrong. It does seem a little off to me, as well. Happy to hear you love and encourage her in all her endeavors, I think that’s awesome.

And I can certainly understand why you feel, how you feel, even the urge to say something to her, as she seems somewhat unaware of any imbalance, but I don’t think now is the time.

Were I you, I’d wait till the party was a huge success and everyone went home happy. When next she speaks of a party, would be the time to gently point out that this part seemed curious to you.

I agree with this, and would add that you should frame it as a question about the business model. “That was a blast! How are you planning on marketing this to prospective customers?”

…And go from there.

You are having a pleasant evening with friends, there is that.

Very politely tell her to take a hike.

Unadulterated cheek isn’t in it !

I think all these sales “parties” are soul crushingly horrible, and trying to get your friends to host one for you is orders of magnitude worse than just hosting your own party. You should either find an excuse to get out of it, or just tell her you’re not comfortable shilling overpriced crappy wine to your friends.

If I was ever invited to a party and found out it was that kind of thing (which thankfully appears to be pretty much a women only event), I’d quickly text my wife with a “Call me and say it’s an emergency” plea.

Maybe you are doing her a “favor” to host this party, but what about your friends you are inviting? You are putting them on the spot to buy things. They will do it once to be nice to you but will more than likely grumble about it or end up being “sick” that night.

I think these parties are awesome ways to lose friends.

From what I know about these sorts of parties is that she has two jobs, to get people to buy a bunch of wine and to lure someone new into the coven, Typically the way they do that is to ply the hostess with swag, and bonuses for different sales levels. You really have to buy the wine, too? That seems hinkie to me.

But I think the bottom line is:

Yeah. I would. In your shoes I would definitely not say anything to her before the party. If she asks afterwards how it went, or if you’d host another, or whether you’d suggest hosting to your other friends that’s your opportunity.

I would find a way to bow out of this. I can’t see paying $80.00 and losing an evening to any kind of sales party, no matter who’s doing the selling or how much I loved the merchandise.

Sales parties tend to be awkward at best. There’s always someone who doesn’t know that the purpose of the party is to sell stuff, and there’s alway someone (maybe several people) who decide they don’t want to buy but feel obligated to because they’re at the party.

If you really want to help, maybe you could do something other than host (and pay for) this party. You could offer to babysit her kids during the party or to help her get her own place ready to host. If I were you, I wouldn’t offer to invite my friends or have the thing in my house, though.

I’d chalk it up to a lesson about multilevel marketing schemes; they’re pretty much designed to extract as much money and goodwill from the “salesperson’s” friends and family as possible. Providing you with something in exchange for hosting the party would not be consistent with that.

This. My wife went to one of these things for some scented candle company, and got guilted in to spending $40 on $10 worth of candles, and hosting her own party afterwards. That’s the part that doesn’t get mentioned: your friends aren’t just expected to buy wine, they’re expected to host their own parties.

She was very clear, in her OP, that she is looking forward to, and happy to, host the party regardless. And that everyone invited knows what it is, and is fine with that.

She doesn’t seem to have any illusions, about it’s purpose, and that attendees will become fodder for more party hosting.

So, while I also would avoid such an event, like the plague, (and raise an eyebrow, to any friend who would seriously think I’d enjoy it!), the OP and her guests feel otherwise, and appear to be looking forward to it.

I’m finding some of these posts confusing, is all. They don’t seem to address the question the OP asked really. Maybe it’s just me.

She was very clear about that. She was also very clear that she was confused about what’s in it for her, which makes it sound like she’s not so happy about it after all.

I think this nails it on the head for me. I don’t think my friend realizes this. I’m dying to know if she really does realize it, but I can think of no way to ask her without sounding like a Debbie Downer.

To be clear, I’m definitely hosting the party.

All invitees know that the purpose of the party is to test out some new wines (very reasonably priced and quite tasty) in order to potentially purchase additional bottles. I’ve been upfront about the whole she-bang with my guests, so they know what they are walking into. It’s not just a wine-tasting – it’s a tasting with the intent purpose of stocking up your wine rack.

I’ve been invited to parties like this before – the candle one, for instance. And I turned down the invite to the candle one, because I don’t need or want any candles. They can be soul crushing (to use muldoon theif’s term), but only if you don’t know what you’re getting into.

And yes, I’m certain my friend will try to get some of my other guests to throw parties. That’s up to them, of course. And if my guests ask me if there are any wonderful benefits to hosting a party, I will be completely honest with them and tell them no, other than a small discount.

I will be firm with my friend that once my party is over, I will not assist her in convincing other people to throw parties, and I will not throw another party.

I think my main sticking point is that I have to purchase the wine and cheese myself. It makes sense that my friend would want someone else to host the party – she only knows so many people, and my purpose is to introduce her to new potential customers. But as I said, I’m really doing all the work.

If the marketing plan for this business instructs individuals retailers (like my friend) that the host is always supposed to be paying for the wine/cheese, then it’s the marketing plan that’s fudged up. And I think my friend needs to know that. But I don’t want to be the one to tell her. :frowning:

Given how much work you’re doing, you should be splitting the commission with your friend.

You should. Be clear that you are happy to host because she is your friend, but you feel that the “host buys” concept is going to limit her ability to get others to host parties. There needs to be a clear and convincing benefit to being the host. You don’t need her to help you blow $80 on a wine and cheese party, you can do that all on your own, and not have your guests being asked to spend money or host a party. No small discount is going to cover your cost, unless you’re a wino.

To be fair to her, cracking open 6 bottles of wine and a bunch of cheese to drum up business is a big expense and she’s not going to ever make money if that’s what it takes every time she gets a few cases ordered.

This is a tough business model, because the wine is not savable. You can light a candle 50 times before it burns out, and show off a vibrator or storage bowl as many times as you like. Once you pull the cork on some wine, that bottle is never going to be used again.

Thanks, Cheesecake. This is good wording for what I should be telling her. :slight_smile:

Yeah, that is messed. I know some people who do programs like this and it’s not the host that pays for needed items, it’s the salesperson. After all, they’re the one getting the profits. The host usually gets free items or substantial discounts on items (often based on the total amount sold at the party), not a big bill.

I’d probably try and do something like go ahead and host the party, have fun. And wait for my friend to ask me to help her get someone else to throw a party, or complain about how hard it is to find people to host, at which point I’d say that it’s hard to get people to host when there’s a lot of cost to them and no benefit.

That way I’m not complaining personally, but I’m pointing out the messed-up model.