Monday, March 8, 2010

Paying a friend

Hey Etiquette Bitch,

I'm staying at a friend's place for 1.5 weeks. She is in an apartment with a landlady. She's let me stay in her room for a few days, as she's not here for the entire time.

When I initially asked to stay at her place, I offered to help pay for rent. While we were talking, she mentioned how expensive her rent is and how she might need to move next year. I brought up my offer again, but she refused any money. I have written her a check for $150, put it in a thank you card along with some small earrings. I also got the landlady some chocolate and a thank you card.

Is the check awkward? We're both students, so money is an issue.

Hi Student,

You've sent the check, so "awkward" doesn't matter at this point, does it? You get a pass on this one, but what you need to do now is drop it -- don't mention it unless she does, and if she does, just say you were glad to do it and what a nice stay you had. Then switch the subject to how upset you are that this is the final season of "Lost."

Here's the thing: I get why you sent the check, I do, I've done it myself (not for a stay, but to a relative who lost her job. She never cashed it). You were kind to offer money, your friend refused (although she mentioned money later). Take her answer (the refusal) at face value.

Here's the deal with money and friendly hospitality: they shouldn't mix. When a friend or loved one puts us up, it's not because they want or expect anything in return, except maybe to enjoy our company, assuming we're not overbearing houseguests (which I can tell you're not).

When someone plays host, you pay it forward in the future by hosting someone -- that friend or another traveler.

Money is awkward, so in the future, leave it out. When you're a houseguest, it's standard (and good manners) to bring your host a gift and/or take that person out for a nice meal. For future reference, instead of money, or a crappy host gift (like soap), give something s/he would appreciate and wants/needs: an amazon gift card, a nice bottle of wine or case of good beer (don't laugh), pre-paid netflix.

Just in case you haven't mailed the check yet: While I'm sure she'd appreciate it, it's still awkward, so send the earrings. (Love it!) Oh, and the chocolates to the landlady? Massive kudos on that one. Well done.