A few weeks ago, a girlfriend and I met for drinks on a Friday after work. As my friend and I were chatting and sipping our drinks, a waitress came over with another drink for me and indicated that a guy at the other end of the bar had sent it over. I asked the waitress to return the drink to the buyer and to tell him I said, “Thank you, but the only man I allow to buy me drinks is my husband.” (Not a lie or excuse – I really am married.) I made eye-contact with the guy, gave him a small smile and a nod to show that I appreciated the gesture, and made a mental note to increase the waitress’s tip by a few bucks to thank her for the extra service of returning the drink.
When I turned back to my friend, she was staring at me with a horrified look on her face. She said, “I can’t believe you did that. That was the rudest thing I’ve ever seen. You should have accepted the drink. That poor guy. You just threw his gift back in his face like it was beneath you or something. He’ll never be brave enough to offer another woman a drink in a bar again.”
I always thought sending a drink to someone was an opening gambit to show interest in getting to know him/her, and that accepting the drink implied that you reciprocated that interest. If he had asked me if he could buy me a drink, I would have said, “No, thank you,” in a friendly manner and gone about my business. It’s not that I thought the guy was unacceptable or beneath me in any way – he looked nice enough. It’s just that I’m at the bar to catch up with my friend, not network or get to know other people.
I never meant to behave badly, but my friend has me thinking that I may have inadvertently earned myself a nice, toasty spot in Etiquette Hell….where I’ll wish someone, anyone, will offer to buy me a drink. 0824-12
It is certainly well within the parameters of good etiquette to decline to accept a gift, particularly one with implied strings attached. I think you were very gracious in how you handled it and your friend is a tad too hysterical and presumptive about your admirer’s fragile ego.