I’ve been in this situation at least twice: My wife and I invite a couple to lunch at a nice sit-down restaurant, as part of a larger group. We figure it’s kind of understood that we’re playing hosts, so no need to worry about picking up the tab. At the end of the meal, one guy (inevitably the guy) reaches across the table with a wad of cash in his hand and offers it to me. I feel a tad awkward and say, really, it’s our treat, don’t worry about it, and the dude actually seems a tad offended that I didn’t grab his cash.
Last time this happened, my wife invited a friend of hers, and her husband and kid, to have lunch with us and another couple we wanted to treat. This was at a rather nice restaurant at a club where we happen to be members. So though the lady in the couple is a friend of my wife’s, I don’t know the guy from Adam. But at the end of the meal, sure enough, he extends a fistful of cash across my plate and insists that I take it. I’m a bit awkward and say no, really, it’s our treat, and he shrugs and says “it’s your choice” and puts the cash away. Silly me, I thought “thank you” was the convention, but I guess a shrug and “it’s your choice” serves just as well.
I wonder if I’m being a bit too stuffy or thin-skinned by being really rather offended by this. The cash across the dinner table strikes me as crass, and the visible offense taken when I decline seems – I don’t know what. The only think I can think is that in the guy’s mind there’s some element of dick-measuring going on, and I’ve swatted down his attempt to get on top as the alpha male. Or something. How do you read it?
I think this is the problem. If there’s any room for ambiguity, it would be rude for the other couples NOT to offer to pay. To prevent any potential misunderstanding it should be made clear at the time of the invitation that you’ll be paying. Something like “We would like to take you out to dinner - our treat of course.”
I would rather offer money and have it refused, than to assume an invitation means you will pay for me when that’s not what you expected. I would offer you money, and if you refused, I would say thank you. You should know that inviting someone to eat dinner with you at a restaurant is not social shorthand for “it’s on us.” Just let them know, next time. Say “we’d like you to meet us for dinner at this place, our treat” or something similar.
I understand, and I didn’t drop my monocle or anything, just had an internal “wtf?” moment. It wasn’t the bare fact that the guest was offering to pay – a friend of mine at the same event took me aside and said he really wanted to pitch in for his family’s part, and I told him no, it was really something I wanted to do for them, they can treat me next time if they wanted, and we left it at that. What got me about the other guy was (again) offering up a fistful of cash right across the table in view of everybody, and then just as visibly getting all shirty when I declined.
Next time be sure it’s clear you are paying for it before you eat, and you won’t be embarrassed by money being shoved at you in full view of the other club members.
It could also be worse where the table of adults all start arguing and talking loudly while flipping money at people around the table as they try to decide on the tip amount and collecting to pay for your ma’s mothers day meal at a fancy very nice buffet. This goes on for 3 or more minutes. This was a really nice meal marred by no communication or planning for the bill before the meal and the inability to remember your not in a bar. By the time the money was collected they have ma involved because now they have too much and it’s in her hands while she thinks it needs to be divided back up. I said give me the money, put it on the table, and said any extra is a tip. I didn’t need 3 more minutes of loudly redistributing money at the restaurant table.
I think you are overthinking it. A lot of us have been very strongly socialized to believe that you always need to offer money, even if you know it will be refused. And a lot of us don’t look upon this display of money as anything more than being routinely polite. I don’t think this is much more than a simple difference in what you are used to.
Depending on context I almost always offer to pay our share just to be polite, but by the same token I never expect to be taken up on the offer. I certainly wouldn’t get offended by a refusal to take my money - it’s just an opportunity to say “Thank you very much for the excellent dinner, and next time it’s our treat”.
I also wouldn’t be offended if they did take my money - after all I offered it.
Still in Taiwan, but you’re right that it’s with Americans that I’ve had this encounter. Hence my interest in asking in a IMHO format what’s considered normal and what’s not.
Although I don’t really blame Taiwan for this: when I was growing up some of my relatives came from “old money” (supposedly) (and were of the pre-Baby Boomer generation) and I still have it in my mind that some things Aren’t Done, I suppose.
I always offer money and if refused I give them a simple “Are you sure?” followed by a “thank you” and then an “I’ll get the next one” or “I owe you a couple of drinks” or something. If I’'m being offered money I say “I got it, don’t worry” with a Thank You mixed in. If they keep insisting and I really don’t want to take it I just tell them that I’ll take care of the bill and they can leave the tip. Then I feel like I took them out to dinner and they feel like they paid for some of it and we’re all happy.
This is what struck me. It sounds as though, say, three couples are going out, you and two other couples, and that you’re paying for yourself and one of those two couples. That’s just kind of weird. If you’re in a group and treating, you pay for everyone, and if you’re not paying for everyone, you’d just pay for yourself (and your wife). If this is the case, I’d understand the treatee couple’s confusion.
ETA: If, for some reason, you only want to pay for the one couple, you should invite them out when it’s just the four of you – don’t try to do it in the context of a larger group occasion.