Na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na! Hey, hey, hey! Good bye.

by admin on May 23, 2011

A friend had invited me and my husband to a cookout at her home, along with another couple they were friends with (that we didn’t know).  The other couple never showed up to the cookout—neither did they call or in any way contact the hosting couple about where they were, if something happened to them—just nothing.  Understandably, hosting-wife was worried that something had happened and tried to get in touch with no-show couple, but to no avail.

Several weeks go by with no contact between the two couples—hosting-wife had tried a few more times to reach them.  One day, hosting-husband bumped into no-show-husband at the local mall, and asked no-show what happened that day.  No-show-husband’s explanation?  “We decided to go shopping that day.”  When asked by hosting husband if they’d forgotten or lost track of time, he simply said, “No”.  That was it, the whole explanation, spoken without a single iota of regret or apology or further explanation, as if that was a perfectly acceptable reason to ditch a previously confirmed invitation.  This was not a formal event by any means, but still—in my world and most people’s that I know of, if you say you’ll be there, then you show up unless there is an unforeseen emergency that prevents it, at which point or soon thereafter, you contact the host and let them know what happened.

My friend and her husband are no longer in contact with that couple;  as my friend says, she saw where she ranked on the totem pole with them and chose to no longer socialize with them.  This happened several years ago and my friend and I are still in awe that someone was that rude and unabashedly dense about broadcasting it to the world.   0517-11

Good riddance to bad guests!  The best revenge is to just continue hosting the best parties and live life sans rude people.

I’ve known people over the decades who will bitterly complain of being lonely or socially out of the loop.   I eventually discover why after they display a casual disregard for any sort of commitment to their rsvp (if they do it at all) and a total lack of gratitude or reciprocity.   They end up slowly being dropped from future guest lists in favor of people I know what to come.

{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Chocobo May 23, 2011 at 7:53 am

I wonder whether the no shows had some kind of falling out with the hosting couple, even unbeknownst to the hosts. Their behavior is beyond odd — no explanation, not returning phone calls, and the husband’s curt reply when finally cornered about it. It sounds as though the no show couple was upset about something and cut off the host couple and the other friends. Not that it excuses their behavior if that is the case. Even if they were upset about some unseen affront it is also their responsibility to let the host couple know that there is a problem in their friendship, if that friendship were truly valued.

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AS May 23, 2011 at 9:09 am

That is totally weird and very rude. I don’t understand why some people don’t realize that hosts spend a lot of time making arrangements for a party, and not showing up without explanations is extremely rude. This couple just seemed to think that attending the cookout was a casual thing, and hence they had to option to choose not to go if something better came up. It is good that OP’s friends are not longer in contact with them.

This reminds me of an incident that happened to me a few years ago. One day I called about 8 of my friends for a dinner at my house. We were cooking ethnic food, and hence a friend, R, and I were the only ones cooking. 3 of them had already RSVPed in negative. When it was almost time for the party, R told me to call her once people start coming in because she needed her dish to be warm, and I didn’t have the right kind of oven to heat up her stuff. One of the other friends who lived nearby came over earlier. I waited for about 30 mins, and then called up the other 3 friends who were supposed to come. 2 of them said that they were helping a friend move that morning, and were tired, and hence didn’t want to come. The third person said that she just woke up, and didn’t feel like getting ready! I was like… I don’t know – pretty offended! I called up R (the friend who was supposed to bring the dishes) to say what was going on. Now, neither R, nor I, not the other girl who came earlier have a car. R was supposed to get a ride from her roommate who was also invited for the party but declined because she was taking up her qualifiers (we are all grad students). But she had very generously agreed to drop R off to the party, and then pick her up if she didn’t have a ride back. Both R and I agreed that we don’t want to bother her now that there isn’t going to be a party after all. So the other friend and I ended up eating whatever I made.
The kicker was next day when we met the 3 people at the University. I am not a person who can show emotions too easily. R was upset, and she told them that. I joined the group, and told them I was upset too, but then let R answer to the arguments. After sometime, the girl who said she had fallen asleep told me that I am actually not upset but just acting as if I am! I didn’t know what to say – I mean, you just insulted me by ditching my party, and not even being courteous enough to call and let me know you wouldn’t come. And then you say I am not upset!
I stayed friends with them for a while till they moved out. But I didn’t bother to call them for social gatherings anymore.

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Harley Granny May 23, 2011 at 9:20 am

I say good riddance also.

We recently encountered this…I was about to remit it when I saw this.

During my husband’s recent hospital stay a friend said she’ d be up after work. I knew her schedule and since I wanted to be there when she arrived, I put off going to dinner until after she left.
She got off work at 5….it’s a 15 minute ride to the hospital. By 7:30pm I ran down to the cafe and grabbed something quick and brought it back to the room. She never did show.

Two days later she texted me the reason…I never replied. She’s still a friend but not one I would rely on.

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The Other Amber May 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

Just to give some thoughts from the other perspective:
1) did the other couple actually say they’d be coming, or did the host just assume that since they were invited they’d show up? I’ve had more than one person assume that I would be at something even though I have not agreed to or committed to it. Sometimes I’ve said I can’t make it, sometimes I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to and I tell them I will let them know if I am able to come.

2) We have no idea what the relationship between the two couples was like. It’s entirely possible the offending couple had been trying to distance themselves from the host couple and the host couple hadn’t been getting the idea. It’s obvious the offending couple had no interest in continuing any kind of relationship with the host couple otherwise there would have been some kind of contact between them. Haven’t we all had to deal with someone that just won’t take the hint that you don’t want anything to do with them? I’ve even had to come out and tell someone that before and her response was to tell me that I was just stressed and would change my mind and she’d keep checking in on me. I had to block her phone number to keep her from calling me.

The letter writer says her friend “chose to no longer socialize with” the offending couple. Sorry, but I think it’s the other way around – they chose not to socialize or associate with her. We don’t know why. But to me it’s fairly obvious they were sending her a message, which she still failed to pick up on since she still repeatedly tried to contact them.

There are times when being polite doesn’t work, and people who don’t understand that just because you’re politely saying something negative doesn’t mean you don’t mean it. Sometimes being rude is the only way to get through to some people.

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Susanna May 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

This happened to me last year for my son’s 2nd birthday party. I invited 3 families. One said they’d be out of town but the other two said they’d come. I prepared food and had party favors for the kids, and neither family showed up. Fortunately, as a 2-year-old, my son was little enough not to really be disappointed.

My in-laws were there, and I know they were wondering what kind of friends I had that would do this. It later turned out that both were just too busy to be able to make it that day. So why didn’t they at least call? So rude.

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PrincessSimmi May 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

Undeniably RUDE. My family tends to do this – they invent an emergency and call out, and the next time you see them and mention their emergency they have no idea what you’re on about.

I had a good one – I arrived at a restaurant for dinner early with my family. Everyone was supposed to arrive at 6. At 6.15, I called Mum, and she said she was on her way. It’s a 15 minute drive. I called again at 6.40. I talked to Stepdad – Mum was getting out of the shower. At 7, I was starting to get worried, I called again, and Mum said they were leaving now. What the? Turns out, she said she was on her way, took the dog for a walk, took a shower, blow-dried her hair, applied make-up, got dressed, and THEN got in the car to drive the 15 minutes to dinner. They ended up arriving at 7.15.

The best part was that my brother never showed up, because his girlfriend was too tired to drive him over and he no longer has a licence thanks to his own stupidity. Stepdad refused to let Mum drive out to pick him up – 20 minutes each way – because as he said to me: “She has two children, and you shouldn’t keep suffering because your brother is an idiot”.

I love my Stepdad :)

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Hemi Halliwell May 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

It’s amazing how people who you think are friends have no regard for your time, feelings or hospitality.
I wonder is Chocobo is right with the thought that the “no-show” couple were upset with the “hosting” couple for some unknown reason.

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DGS May 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

Definitely rude, even if there was a perceived falling out with the hosting couple – the couple that no-showed should not have accepted the invitation. If the no-show couple was annoyed with/upset with the hosting couple, “sorry, we have other plans that weekend,” would have been an acceptable response, followed by not reciprocating with any invitations of their own, followed by gradual cessation of contact. Barring a genuine emergency or illness, it’s rude to accept an invitation and then, pull a no-show without an explanation.

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Molly May 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

Something similar happened to my family also. For my brother’s wedding, some friends of my mom’s who had moved away expressed interest in seeing everyone again. So my mom got them invited and the wife expressed great interest in coming, telling my mom she couldn’t wait, etc. Day of the wedding, they don’t show up for the ceremony. No biggie, they were coming from a distance and might have been held up. Reception–still no show. And of course, since the places are assigned, it is obvious from the placecards who hasn’t come. The next day, my mom tries to call them to find out if they were okay but there was no answer. It’s been 2 years and they have apparently fallen off the face of the planet because they still never contacted my mom, sent a note of apology (or a wedding gift), or made any other contact. My mom’s phone calls still go unanswered, and she never really cared that they didn’t make it–she just wanted to know if they were all right.

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Zhoen May 23, 2011 at 11:12 am

I’m thinking The Other Amber is right. The no-shows got invited, but never actually agreed to attend, and wanted to distance themselves from the hosts who were not getting the message. The follow up, and the very final “No” really sounds like a calculated rebuff, instead of the extended explanation & excuse of the thoughtlessly late/entitled/flaky. Especially since we are getting this from friends of the hosts, who have never met the no-shows, there is no way to tell what led up to all this.

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Ashley May 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

In my group of friends, it is much easier that everyone just pays their own way and if we chose to go to a restaurant for someone’s birthday, we try our best to pick something in a reasonable price point with a variety of food, to include as many people as possible. Keeping this in mind, I selected a restaurant for my birthday, put the word out about a week ahead of time, and almost immediately got several very excited responses from people saying they would come. I got a negative from a husband and wife who I am friends with, stating they couldn’t afford it. He has been out of a job for some time, so I took it as they were trying to save a bit, wished them well, and agreed to plan a get together with them as soon as we could. All of this occurred a week before my birthday. Thanks to various Facebook posts and those irritating check-in features, I found out that they couldn’t afford my birthday, but they could afford concert tickets, a few meals out on their own, and are trying to get tickets to an upcoming baseball game. I’m biting my tongue about the whole thing, but even getting an excuse/reason can be annoying when you later find evidence that makes the excuse moot.

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Louise May 23, 2011 at 11:50 am

I would love to know more about no-show-couple’s track record when it comes to showing up, because that’s very strange. It’s one thing to not show, but to blow hosting-couple off for weeks and then coolly say they weren’t worth their time is just … hostile. I think Chocobo might be on to something; perhaps hosting-couple unwittingly offended no-show-couple? There has to be a reason, even if it’s a whacky, only-makes-sense-in-a-crazy-person’s-head one.

I think The Other Amber raises an interesting point about whether the couple RSVPed yes, or their presence was assumed when the invitation was delivered.

I think it’s very insulting to have to chase someone down so they can partake of your hospitality. Even a casual get-together like a cookout requires some planning.

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RP May 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

I also wonder if Chocobo is right.

It’s the fact that they refused to take her calls for *weeks* afterwards. They clearly didn’t care if the host couple was freaking out about their well-being. Did no-show couple ever try contacting the host-couple again? If not, then that would really make me think there was a falling out.

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Xtina May 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

hello, I’m the OP–to answer a few questions, my friend’s relationship with the no-show couple gave them no indication whatsoever that they would pull a stunt like this. The no-shows were former neighbors that my friend had kept in touch with, and they had gotten together with them on numerous occasions both before and after their move (with my friend and the no-shows hosting alternately, so it was not one-sided as some have suggested). My friend had received an enthusiastic “yes” response by phone from the no-shows when the party was being planned, so this is not a case of presumed attendance.

@ The Other Amber; yes, you are probably correct in that the other couple actually chose not to continue to socialize with my friend (rather than the way I wrote it), but my friend, who is normally very socially astute, couldn’t come up with any reason for the sudden change of attitude—to her knowledge, their relationship was fine and if she or her husband did anything to rub them the wrong way, it was unbeknownst to her. This was a shock and very sudden.

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--Lia May 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

I’d love to think that the situation is weird, but it has been my unfortunate experience that it isn’t weird at all. There really are people who treat social engagements like movie schedules where they can show up or not with no consequences.

It is possible that there was a falling out between the hosts and the no-shows, but if that were the case, the no-shows would have had reason to give an icy “no, we will not be attending your barbecue” instead of planning a trick in the form of saying they’d come and then purposely not. The no-shows may have thought they had a legitimate reason to be angry, but that doesn’t excuse the. What they did was still rude. Also, if there were a falling out, I’d guess that the hosts would have had some clue. There are always two sides to a story, but since we have only the OP’s side, and since the OP goes on to say that she has remained friends with the hosts for several years, I’m inclined to believe them.

I haven’t had the problem with being blown off like that for the longest time, but it used to a problem back in college. I hit on my solution. It’s the test. The first several times I get together with a new friend, I make sure I do it in a circumstance where it won’t hurt me too badly if they fail it. In the example given, the hosts did have one other couple to enjoy the barbecue with. That’s not as bad as if they’d planned a nice dinner party and had no one show up. I plan get-togethers at my home or in circumstances where I have a back-up plan, not one where I’m stood up at a restaurant by myself or some other embarrassing situation.

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RP May 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

@Molly – Has anyone heard from them again? At this point I’d think there’d be a missing persons case if no one has been able to contact them.

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QueenofAllThings May 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I’m sure, if the other couple had not RSVP’d, that the host/hostess would not have been as concerned – so I assume that they DID RSVP in the positive. Unfortunately, I’m seeing this more and more – a complete lack of regard for others, and the idea that your own wants/needs at any given moment transcend civility, prior comittments, or efforts put forth by others.

A close relative pulled this on me over the weekend – she lives an hour away, and called 45 minutes before my son’s confirmation to say that they wouldn’t be coming (the first time she had bothered to RSVP) because, you know, they wanted to play golf. Oh, and the Preakness was on TV. Good grief, at least LIE to me and tell me you have a prior engagement/emergency surgery/cats on fire.

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C.M.L. May 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

@ Molly: something similar happened at my wedding. My mother’s friend asked that her son be invited. I’m not really close with the son and balked at first, but friend won over my mom and, to alleviate a stressful situation (perhaps committing my own etiquette faux pas in the process…), son and girlfriend were invited. For weeks mom heard from her friend about how excited her son was to come to the wedding. I didn’t realize until after the honeymoon that neither son nor his girlfriend attended either the ceremony or the reception. Mom’s friend never said a word about son’s whereabouts. Along the same lines, I received a text message the night before the wedding from a friend saying how much he was looking forward to the ceremony. He was also MIA. To this day I have never received an explanation. Copping out of an RSVP for a party is bad enough, but for a wedding (or other formal sit-down event)? Incredibly rude.

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SHOEGAL May 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I tend to agree with The Other Amber as well. I think it is the other way around – the invited couple was choosing not to socialize with the hosting couple who didn’t catch the hint hence the unreplied calls and no explanation. They should have just declined to begin with though.

We have a group of friends that sometimes texts or calls ahead of time- like hours ahead or a day ahead – to ask if we’d like to attend something they were throwing together. I have found through some learned experiences that this is all extremely casual – the invitation and the invited aren’t guaranteed so all of this may or may not happen. A couple of times neighbors have invited my husband and I to a get together – we said we’d come – and the wife of the couple calls and says that her husband had to work late and doesn’t know when he’ll be back. Ok – that’s fine. I call a little while later to ask an unrelated question. Her daughter answers and says that she’s gone out to an establishment they frequent. So she found something better to do and blew us off. This happened one other time as well. She invited us over for dinner casually a week ahead of time – didn’t call to confirm though – and nobody was actually home that day. So sometimes when invited to a group get together – we opt out and don’t attend because we are too tired or don’t feel like it. We just don’t go. There aren’t any hurt feelings on either end – it was just a matter of sizing up the formality of the relationship. It is all very casual – there aren’t formal invitations – and accpetance isn’t written in stone.

This cookout may be of the same nature – if they’d said they would try to make it – doesn’t mean they would be there.

I actually don’t like the phrase “I’ll see if I can make it” in terms of formal parties I throw. Ok – so what is that saying to me – if something better comes up I’ll grace you with my presence??? I used to throw an autumn bonfire every year to meet up with that phrase pretty often. I got sick and tired of the maybe replies I refuse to do it anymore. Either say yes or no. I can’t wait until you make up your mind.

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Kitty Lizard May 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Unfortunately, this has happened to me once or twice with a slight twist. A high school buddy of my husband’s moved back to town and my husband ran into him and invited him and his wife to dinner at our house. He accepted. I have attended numerous cooking schools and we have a professional kitchen. I worked like a slave on that dinner and had everything ready for a Saturday night that would have had Martha herself in tears.
One HOUR before they were to have arrived, we get a phone call; one of their kids is sick. Okay. It can happen to anyone. We reschedule for the following Saturday. Next Saturday, same scenario. Guess what? Phone call. This time, wife’s got a headache. Can we reschedule for next Saturday? Um, NO.
Sorry. You want to see him, go have lunch.

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kingsrings May 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I’ve also had a problem with this in the past with certain friends. It was baffling, because in their minds, they had done absolutely nothing wrong in not attending an event I had planned after RSVP’ing in the affirmative, and not contacting me to tell me they couldn’t be there after all. They didn’t feel like attending after all, or something had come up, so there. No big deal or necessary to not contact me to tell me all this. They couldn’t understand how this was rude and inconsiderate. I ended up dumping one friend who had a repeated habit of doing this.

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Sarah Jane May 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Ashley…you certainly know your situation better than I do, but is it possible that your friends who couldn’t afford to celebrate your birthday might possibly be enjoying concerts and dinners out as a result of gifts/gift cards/being “treated” by other people? Maybe they’re not spending their own money on tickets, etc? I’m a teacher, and I get lots of gift cards around the holidays, so typically in the winter I eat out much more than I can regularly afford to (or should) during other times of the year.

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Peep May 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

That is unspeakably rude. I have a feeling the rude couple is going to find themselves left out of all their friends plans pretty quickly, and odds are they’re going to actually be wondering why that is.

I can’t stand it when people do this. One particularly bad example happened to me when I was in college. I invited about eight people over to my dorm room for a video watching party, and I told them I was providing pizza and snacks. All eight people said they’d be coming, so I got a lot of food. I went on a special trip to the grocery store which was not an easy thing without a car. I got snacks. I got candy. I got soda. I got popcorn. I also ordered 3 extra large pizzas right when the first guest arrived in case everyone was really hungry. All in all I spent a good $75 on food and beverages for the evening. I had enough food to feed an army.

Of the eight people invited, two showed up. The rest? Not a word from them all evening. I had a good time with the two people who showed, but I was eating leftover pizza for weeks after the party. I was pretty upset, but I made the best of it. There were more than a few times during the evening that I looked over the very generous spread for eight I had put out and quietly seethed.

I never got answers from most of the no-shows. One friend was notoriously flaky, and I think she was on her way when something more interesting came up(not a unique problem for her unfortunately). Two people I never heard from again, the rest offered no excuses, they just didn’t show and didn’t think much of it.

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Molly May 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm

@RP–it is a weird situation. I used to babysit for their daughter and the mother was friendly with my mother but we weren’t *that* close. After they moved, it was Christmas cards and a phone call once or twice a year. The wedding invite was to really be the first time we had seen them physically in 10+ years. As for missing persons–it really does seem as though they screen their phone calls shortly after the wedding and just didn’t answer. Maybe they are super embarrassed for their faux pas and have consigned the friendship (what there was of it) to the dumpster. I don’t think my mom even tries anymore.

A coworker I have is also guilty of this. He is pretty shy and has social anxiety. He’ll lead you to believe he will show up for an event but then at the last minute, punk out. Since he is otherwise a nice guy, most of our friends make allowances for this and don’t really count on him to show up. If someone drags him, he’ll go and usually have a good time, but if the decision is entirely up to him, usually he fails to show. Lately he has gotten better about letting someone know he won’t be there after the rudeness of a no-show and silence was pointed out to him.

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Melly May 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Doesn’t surprise me in the least. But I come from a family where people RSVP that they’ll be attending weddings and then decide the day of whether they’re going to show up or not. The only reason they get away with it is because they’re faaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily and no one wants to upset anyone by not inviting them.

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Bint May 23, 2011 at 3:25 pm

“they couldn’t afford my birthday, but they could afford concert tickets, a few meals out on their own, and are trying to get tickets to an upcoming baseball game. ”

This struck a chord with me because when my husband was unemployed there were several things we wanted to go to but couldn’t, but that didn’t mean we went to nothing. They couldn’t afford your birthday. Why shouldn’t they go out for meals together because they didn’t go to your birthday? Or go to a baseball game? Why should your birthday come first to them in the things they pay for?

Life when one of you is unemployed can be extremely stressful and upsetting. They probably are choosing what they can afford – all the examples you list, I noticed, were things they are doing as a couple. My husband was not very sociable when he was unemployed – people ask about the job hunt etc whereas obviously I wouldn’t, so he wouldn’t have wanted to go out with a group. But it simply may be that they preferred to go to the concert and therefore couldn’t afford your birthday too, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It hasn’t mooted their excuse. That makes it sound as though you think they shouldn’t go to anything if they don’t go to your event. You don’t know how much money they have, and it’s up to them how they spend it.

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--Lia May 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Shoegal– When you get the “I’ll see if I can make it” response, your answer should be “I’m so sorry you won’t be able to make it.” When your invitee tries to clear up the miscommunication by insisting that she means that she MIGHT be able to make it but will decide later, you reply again that it would have been nice to be able to see her. Treat every maybe as a no, and make it clear that you understand that it is a no. This will convince the mannerless jerks, er, um, the kindly invited guests, to answer in the future that they’ll definitely be there. And we’ve got the situation that we’ve got. Guests say yes in order to keep their options open. Hosts learn not to socialize with that sort.

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karma May 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I’m not clear as to whether the invited no-show couple had *agreed* to actually attend the cookout. The writer does not say……so I can’t decide if the hosting couple just assumed that they’d come?

Unlike the hosting husband, I would not have asked. I’ve have assumed that if it was a simple forgetful moment, the invitee would either have called to apologize, OR he would have flakily asked when the party would be (not realizing they’d missed it).

As neither of those happened, I’d have just greeted him civilly and kept it movin’. It would be the last invitation I’d make to that couple.

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karma May 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm

@Ashley, there’s no really nice way to say, “We have money, but we don’t want to spend it on the event you asked us to. We’d rather burn the money at our favorite restaurant/ski lodge/ballgame.”

Instead people say, “Oh…we are short of money. Thanks anyway.”

You just have to know that they mean well, don’t want to hurt you, and really don’t want to spend their limited resources on someone else’s event.

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LilyG May 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Love the “cats on fire” excuse! I don’t mind not showing up so much, but when it happened to us, the offending party said, “Oh, we got a better offer at the last minute”. !

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Laura May 23, 2011 at 6:50 pm

This happened to a friend of DH’s when he got married. When Jack and Terry got married a few years before, Joe had been the best man and had thrown them a small party. (Jack and Terry’s family were very unsupportive of the wedding because Terry was pregnant.) Joe invited Jack and Terry to his wedding a few years later. (They weren’t in the wedding party because Joe and his wife only had one attendant each.) They had RSVPed yes and never showed up. Joe was frantic, left the reception a few times to call them, and got no response. A few weeks later, Jack called and said, sorry, we did something else. The friendship cooled considerably after that.

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Ange May 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Bint I don’t know that that’s what Ashley is implying, I think it’s just that the excuse didn’t ring true when she saw they were doing a lot of other social things that clearly cost money. As people who are supposed to be friends as well that would make the friendship seem like it didn’t matter that much to them which is certainly hurtful.

At least they had the grace to decline though and not say yes and never show up!

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Anon for this May 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I have had no shows for a children’s birthday party a few times and it really annoyed me to have them say “Yes, he will be there.” then they just don’t show. Often you pay for the number of expected guests, not the actual number there. Plus, I would not buy stuff for a goodie bag if I knew the child would not attend. By the time I was on my last child’s round of birthday parties and after the third no show from the same boy (yes, it took 3 years for me to learn!) I told my son that particular friend was off the invite list for good and explained why. Thankfully, my son understands. Why say “Yes” if it’s really going to be a “No”? I would rather hear “I will let you know on Friday” than “Yes” when it’s really a “no.”

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Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 4:18 am

@Anon: For the birthday party no-show problem, there are some ways around it–you can host the party at home or at a nearby park (the latter option might require a spouse waiting at home for maybe the first hour of the party to wrangle latecomers, or people who got the party location mixed up), . As for loot bags, instead of comprehensive goodie bags, I think that full-sized chocolate bars wrapped up like Christmas crackers (except with non-Christmas wrapping paper, of course), would be just as good, and it wouldn’t matter if some guests didn’t show up to the party, because you could keep the extras on hand for your own kid, for any time a treat is in order. Actually, that method of managing no-shows isn’t too different from what you’d do for adults–an open-house buffet instead of a sit-down dinner, meeting up at the movie theatre where you can go in by yourself if your friends don’t come, instead of at the symphony where you have to purchase tickets in advance, etc. Sure, it’ll mean that your friendships with those people will be limited, and probably more superficial, but I don’t really see any way around it–real friends show up on time, barring a true emergency. It’s also kind of a good lesson to teach kids early in life, i.e., “Jimmy, would you rather have your birthday party at Mouse Pizza Arcade, and NOT invite Johnny, because his parents have been known to be flaky in advance, or would you rather have your party at home, and invite Johnny, because that way, it won’t cause any drama if he doesn’t come after RSVP’ing yes?” Or, you could always just leave it, and let Jimmy learn the hard way and connect the dots, if you don’t mind being out of pocket. I know it’s kind of a crummy lesson, but it’s one I’ve had to live with my whole life–sometimes, you have a choice between catering to other people’s flakiness, or just arranging things so that that flakiness can’t affect you.

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Mechtilde May 24, 2011 at 4:21 am

My children have birthday parties every year- just a few friends over for games and too much sugary food! It isn’t some elaborately hosted even with a children’s entertainer, but I do go to a lot of trouble getting things ready.

I have lost count of all the times I have had non-RSVPers turn up, or children who have RSVP’d not arrive. Annoyingly the worst culprits are our next door neighbours, who are otherwise delightful, considerate people. As my children chose their guests, it isn’t possible to exclude the culprits. I always have a couple of spare party bags for “extras” as I don’t want to penalise the children for their parents’ lack of manners.

In truth I don’t think that there is anything I can do about it, but I do remember when it comes to adult occasions!

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Edhla May 24, 2011 at 5:20 am

I loathe it when people do this kind of thing. I remember one birthday I held at a restaurant; a couple I considered close friends didn’t show up. When they were about an hour late, I rang the woman and asked where they were. “At home.” They had “forgotten” my birthday, despite having a written invitation on their fridge and having mentioned it to me the day before. When I explained this the next question was “oh, could you come and pick us up in half an hour then?” (They had no car.)

My sister MADE me decline that request, because I was at the time too timid to say “no” to someone so rude as to ask me to leave my own birthday party to ferry them around.

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Enna May 24, 2011 at 6:37 am

I can see both view points here: yes it is rude to stand someone up and not tell them or contact them. It is also rude to thrust your hospitaltiy onto someone who doesn’t want it or cannot commit to it. My sister for exmaple cannot make tea at all, it tastes horrible so if she offers to make tea I politely decline. I don’t know she makes it but it comes out not tasting like tea at all – like boiled milk with a dash of teabag.

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Sandy May 24, 2011 at 6:43 am

Wow – I am constantly amazed at the ways people can justify the bad behaviors of some of the rude people highlighted here. I read the original post and thought that there was absolutely no way anyone could stick up for these boors. Wrong again. No matter what the lead up, saying you will come and then going shopping without even being embarrassed that you did it takes the cake for me.

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The Elf May 24, 2011 at 6:52 am

I always viewed “I’ll see if I can make it” as “I need to check my calender, arrange for time off work, ask my spouse, etc.” I don’t see this as a refusal or a desire to wait until something better comes up. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do not have my social calendar memorized!

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Chocobo May 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

Sandy — I’m not so sure anyone is making excuses for the offenders. Of course it was rude for them to accept an invitation and then just not show or call. But their behavior after the fact does seem to indicate they were trying to cut out the host couple from their social circle. Was that the right way to do it? Absolutely not, a polite decline of the invitation and any subsequent invitations would have been the gracious thing to do. They chose the wrong path, but it’s pretty clear to me that the offenders had an agenda in not returning phone calls, not just out of callous neglect of the friendship.

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Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 8:26 am

@Mechtilde: I wasn’t saying that DIY children’s birthday parties are easier to organize than big-ticket “venue” parties, I was just saying that they’re a bit easier to modify in the case of flaky guests. For example, suppose you were planning a birthday party at Mouse Pizza Arcade, or Overpriced Stuffed Animal Factory, or a water park, or a bowling alley/laser tag arena/roller rink/what have you. You invite 20 kids, 15 RSVP “yes,” so you buy the package for 15 guests. Only ten show up–or, to take things in another direction, let’s say that some of those kids bring uninvited siblings. Either way, you either end up paying for kids who didn’t come to the party, or scrambling to accommodate the “crashers,” because after all, it’s not little Joey’s fault that his mom dropped him off along with Johnny (the one time she decided to drop him off at all, let’s say), just because their mother wanted an afternoon of free babysitting. With “homemade” parties, extra favours can be purchased (even if it means a mad run to Dollar Tree mid-party), loot bags can be re-distributed, unclaimed favours can be given to their rightful owners on Monday at school in the case of legitimate illness or whatever, and saved for your own kid in the case of rude no-shows. Also, a lot of “home-based” activities can be modified–for example, you can count yourself in or out of a soccer game or three-legged relay if there’s an odd number of guests, or add/remove the appropriate number of chairs of you’re playing musical chairs, or whatever. With venue parties, a lot of the time, the whole thing gets ruined sitting around and waiting for latecomers/no shows, depending on the policy of the venue–some places won’t let you just say, “Okay, Johnny isn’t coming, let’s get this party started.” So, I’m not saying that either kind of party is “easier”–I mean, I don’t have kids, so I honestly don’t know if it’s more trouble to do a pre-fab, “venue” party (even if I then had to deal with RSVP/lost-value-of-ticket headaches), or do it all myself at home, not be so worried about who’s coming and who’s not, even if I ended up scraping stepped-on jelly beans from the carpet for the next three weeks.

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Cat May 24, 2011 at 9:10 am

Reminds me of a co-worker, a single man. He had no friends or family so I invited him and some other friends to Thanksgiving dinner. I said, “Bruce, I’m having some friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. I’d love for you to join us. Would you like to come?”

His answer, “No.”

That still takes me aback. I expect at least a, “No, thank you.” Even better is a, “That’s very nice of you, but I can’t make it.”

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Lizza May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am

I used to be one of those, “I’ll see if I can make it,” people. I meant I’d check my schedule, etc. I didn’t realize it could be rude until I started reading this site! Now I say, “I will check my schedule and let you know by X (two days from when I was asked.)”

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Anon for this May 24, 2011 at 10:55 am

@ Anonymous–My child is too old for goodie bag style birthday parties, now, but back in the day it was still annoying to assemble the bags and only have a few of the children show up who had RSVP’d. It would have been much better for them to say “NO” than for them to say “yes” then not show. My issue is them saying one thing and doing another. Telling my child “We will not be inviting Johnny, again, because for 3 years his mom said he’d be here, then he never showed up. You can still be Johnny’s friend, but we won’t be counting on him coming to your party.” was perfectly acceptable. They are still friends, we just don’t do parties with him. What always surprised me the most was that his parents seem very mannerly and polite. The only response I ever got out of either of them about him being a no-show was “Oh.”

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Judith May 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

It is amazing how many people don’t know basic etiquette, most of which is just common sense. I have a co-worker who had a housewarming party, and only invited a few people from work. Which is fine – there’s no rule that says you have to invite everyone – but then she proceeded to talk about it in front of all the rest of us who weren’t invited. As in going up to people who were invited and giving them directions to her house “for when you come to my party”, talking about the food she was going to make, etc. Then on Monday morning they all stood in front of the rest of us and talked about what a great party it had been. I felt like I was back in junior high listening to all the cool kids talk about the parties the rest of us weren’t worthy of being invited to.

Re kids’ birthday parties – I’ve seen so many no-shows. Once my two sons were invited to a seven-year-old’s party at a fast food restaurant and they were the only ones who showed up, although about six other kids had been invited and most of the parents had RSVPed yes. Imagine how disappointed that little boy would have been if my kids hadn’t shown up either, and he’d had nobody at all at his birthday party?

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Mechtilde May 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm

@ Anonymous- yes, I do think that homegrown parties can be more work to organise than venue parties, but they have the benefit of being much less expensive. Around here they charge at least £8 per child, with a minimum of 10 guests. £80 is not cheap, and having to shell out extra when non RSVPers turn up must be particularly galling. Pretty much everything I do at home can be stretched to allow for another child, but that doesn’t lessen my annoyance that it has been necessary for me to do so because of someone else’s rudeness.

Frequently I have no idea exactly how many are going to show. I always make plenty of food, and so far I’ve always had enough loot bags, but if for any reason I don’t have enough, popping out to the shops is not an option. You see I’m the one actually running the party- organising the games, setting the food out, clearing up. I might have my husband with me, but he couldn’t get to the shops and back in less than two hours by bus, and he doesn’t drive. Sometimes, when he’s working at the weekend, I might be on my own, so just popping out is completely out.

What it boils down to is that I would like to know exactly how many are coming, and be able to organise accordingly. I can, and have dealt with it when extra children have arrived or not arrived as the case may be, and have NEVER let my annoyance be shown to those children, but it doesn’t make their parents actions any less rude.

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Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm

@Mechtilde–when I was growing up, birthday parties were always a “tag-team” thing–one parent running the party, the other one on hand to tend to injuries/emergencies as they arose, or, if necessary, run to the store to pick up something that was needed at the last minute.

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Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Edited to add: I forgot about the transportation thing–both of my parents drive/have cars, and have done so since before my brother and I were born. Failing that, there’s a convenience store within walking distance. I’ve never lived anywhere where there wasn’t *something* like that around, but I guess some people do. In that case, yeah, even for a homemade birthday party, an accurate head count is a must. I mean, it must be difficult either way–either you buy enough food/goodie bags/resources for the number of “expected guests” (i.e. positive RSVP’s), and risk either having too much stuff, if people flake, or not enough, if extra guests (either uninvited guests, or previously negative RSVP’s) show up, or you deliberately over-buy, and end up eating leftover pizza, birthday cake, and potato chips for weeks on end. I mean, okay, technically, there are some ways to minimize that (for example, baking cupcakes instead of a traditional cake, and frosting them at the last minute, so you can freeze the leftovers, or giving festively-wrapped chocolate bars instead of goodie bags full of plastic junk), but those aren’t perfect solutions either. I had the same problem at Christmas time, when I organized a Christmas celebration for my housemates and some other friends–people didn’t RSVP until the last minute, so I ended up with a fridge full of leftover food, and a whole pile of Christmas gifts that went unclaimed until much later. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again, because it ended up being a lot of fun, but next year, I’m going to say, “RSVP by the 18th, or I’ll assume you’re not coming.”

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The Other Amber May 24, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I don’t see “I’ll see if I can make it” as rude. To me it means exactly what it says – I’d like to make it, I don’t know if I can, but I’ll see if I can. My time often isn’t my own, and I can’t make plans until I check with other people. I’ll often have to check with my husband to make sure he hasn’t scheduled something for us, I often assist my partially disabled mother with things like errands and appointments and I have to check to make sure she hasn’t scheduled something for me to do, I have a number of work-related seminars and events that I have to go to and I can’t remember them all off the top of my head. So when I’ll say “I’ll see if I can make it” I actually mean I’ll see if I can make it. It seems better than saying “I’d like to go, let me check with my husband, my mother, my calendar etc …”

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Anonymous May 25, 2011 at 6:41 am

@The Other Amber–It’s not rude to say “I’ll see if I can make it,” if you put a timeline on that, and amend that sentence so it’s “I’ll see if I can make it, and call you within X amount of time.” Usually, written invitations have RSVP dates on them, so as long as you give a definite RSVP by the appointed date, you’re fine. If there isn’t one, you can give yourself one; for example, “I’ll call you by the end of the week, once I know whether or not I’m scheduled to work on that day.” That way, the other person knows you’re legitimately trying to make plans to attend, rather than just waiting for a better offer.

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