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“Dropping By” Can Possibly Be Rude If Done Wrong

Have recently come across an incident of etiquette hell I would like to share and I think a lot of people who don’t have a lot of free time might be able to relate to it. I earmarked a specific time to spend with a friend – meaning naturally that I had to give doing up at least three other things I need to do at this point in time. Was ready to go out and meet him when I was told in a quick email and SMS with just minutes to go that friends from out of town had dropped by and he wouldn’t be able to meet me. I don’t of course blame my friend for this as he is a very gregarious and hospitable person who does 100 per cent respect the time of others. That’s why he’s my friend!

Yet surely I cannot be the only person who thinks that it’s rude to unexpectedly turn up somebody’s house? It is an imposition not only for the person who lives there but other people that they may have made arrangements with! Because it impacts on them too! Also – if you are prepared to do this – who knows what situation you might find round at the house? Is it not a breach of privacy too? I should point out that this was at 10 o clock in the morning – on a Sunday!  Come on.  That’s rude! 1105-17

It’s not a breach of privacy unless they peek into your windows, try to open the door or when the door is opened, push past you to gain access into the house.   You don’t have to answer the door.  I ignore the door bell/knocks when needed.

For people who drop by,   a text warning of your impending arrival  would be nice. There shouldn’t be any expectation of being received either. That’s the risk of just “dropping by”.   And if the door is opened and you are invited inside, stay for just a few minutes before making movements towards the door. Then if your host wants to play the game of asking you to stay and you demur a few times to make sure they really meant it, stay only a little longer.


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  • SamiHami April 24, 2018, 12:14 pm

    I think OP’s friend was pretty rude to bail on their plans because someone decided to just drop by. I get that the friend is a wonderful person, based on what OP wrote, but in this particular instance the uninvited guest should have been told regretfully, “Oh, no! I am so glad to see you, but I have plans right now! How I wish you had called first to see if I was free! Now promise me that you will call ahead next time so we can plan some time together. What an awful shame!”

    • Lyn April 24, 2018, 2:41 pm

      absolutely perfect response!

    • Sarah April 25, 2018, 5:59 am

      Perfect answer! He never should have let unexpected guests stay – or even enter the house – when he already had plans.

    • Melissa April 25, 2018, 7:38 am


    • Livvy17 April 25, 2018, 1:41 pm

      Yes, absolutely this. My reaction was that it was rude to cancel longstanding plans in favor of uninvited visitors. If he was loath to miss the opportunity to spend time with them, he could have asked OP if s/he would mind if he included these unexpected people in their plans, but if s/he wasn’t game, he should have shuffled the visitors off, after making plans to get together at some other time.

  • staceyizme April 24, 2018, 12:16 pm

    I will plead to being extremely guilty of being curmudgeonly on this topic, but nobody should by “dropping by” on someone from out of town (or IN town, for that matter!). Hosts who don’t mind regular company can have a day or afternoon set aside for such purposes (way back in the day I believe it was called an “at home” as in, “I am at home every first Tuesday from 2pm to 5pm” or whatever the case may be). But to “drop in” just because isn’t nice. To cancel another appointment in favor of those who dropped in is rude, in my view, irrespective of the distance traveled in order to pay a call. If they could drive so far in the hopes of seeing someone, they could certainly call ahead to see if it is convenient. (And they really should invite the person OUT to lunch or some such, instead of barging IN without an invitation to do so.)

  • sam April 24, 2018, 12:29 pm

    Obviously your friend doesn’t want to be rude to these sudden arrivals, but I see nothing rude with saying “It’s really great to see you, but unfortunately I was just on my way out to [an appointment/a previous engagement/etc.] that has been planned for weeks”

  • kingsrings April 24, 2018, 12:42 pm

    I hate dropping by unexpectedly and unannounced. I think it’s rude to do that when you have no idea what the people could be up to then. I certainly wouldn’t want to risk being a rude intrusion and inconvenience on whatever it was they had going on. A quick text or phone call ahead of time is the polite thing to do.
    And I don’t want anyone doing that to me, either. I’m very conscientious about my and my home’s appearance. I would want it all to be just right before visitors arrive.
    I think the op’s friend was kind of rude for cancelling plans for someone who crashed the plans. They were made first.

  • lkb April 24, 2018, 12:55 pm

    As a busy, introverted homebody, I really dislike people “dropping by”. While it is possible to ignore the door bell/knocks, why should I be forced to hide in my own home? Or drop what I have going on to entertain? (Our (adult) next door neighbor when we were growing up would come by, driving my even-more-introverted mother bonkers. There were times when she instructed my siblings and me to basically hide when the neighbor would knock on our door.)

    I’m not the type to just drop by unexpectedly, so I haven’t been on the other end of things. I suppose if I needed to drop by to pick something up or drop something off, I’d call or text beforehand.

    • Queen of the Weezils April 25, 2018, 8:37 am

      That’s what I do, and I’ve teased friend and family with “Stop by anytime….. but call first. I want to make sure I’m wearing pants when you arrive.” It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that it is MY HOME they will be going to.

  • bgolly April 24, 2018, 12:58 pm

    I think dropping by unannounced is rude. Maybe if you have a close family member or a best friend it is okay. However, I would never dream of doing it. Most people don’t sit around in a perfectly clean house, with no plans, ready to entertain at a moment’s notice. Especially after work during the week or on a weekend morning.

  • Queen of the Weezils April 24, 2018, 1:05 pm

    Rude, but sometimes it just happens. That out of towner might not have anticipated having free time or not realized that it was the same area as so-and-so.

    I am also always busy, so I completely understand how you had to clear your calendar to do this meeting. If this isn’t a regular thing, I’d just try to look at the silver lining and give yourself permission to not do anything for a while. It’s just so rare!

  • Abby April 24, 2018, 1:15 pm

    That happened to me once. I had planned a night out with a friend and was *really* looking forward to it, and she calls me the day of and explains that her parents decided to surprise her (they lived several states away) and so she was no longer able to go out.

    I didn’t have much of a social life at that time, and I had been really excited at the prospect of going out with my friend, and of course being that I had such a limited social life it wasn’t like I could find anything else to do at the last minute. I was really disappointed and kind of hurt, but I knew she’d rather stay in and visit with them, so even if she kept her plans with me to be polite, I would know it was out of obligation and it wouldn’t have been fun. My friend and her kids absolutely loved being surprised by her parents so I am they didn’t feel it was rude to stop by unannounced.

    • staceyizme April 25, 2018, 9:51 am

      I think the key to being able to successfully surprise someone without the rudeness of interrupting their life spilling over onto their other friends and family lies in the making of an alternate appointment by either a co-conspirator or by other sleight of hand (as in, “your father wants to discuss our will with you on Friday evening, so I need you to plan on Facetiming with us and our attorney…). It’s a bit deceptive, but it prevents the rudeness of interrupting plans that are already made. What would have happened if they decided to surprise your friend on the same weekend that she had agreed to attend a wedding or on the same evening that she was having a dinner party? Surprises are vastly overrated, in my view. How is a spontaneous visit more pleasant than one that is planned? In the first instance, you’ve had no time to clean, plan meals or even an itinerary. In the second, you can be as organized and concrete or as relaxed as you wish, but you have been given a choice in the matter. And you haven’t left anyone else hanging because you either “love surprises” or have friends/ relatives that do.

  • Zhaleh April 24, 2018, 1:58 pm

    I’ve read many threads about just dropping by on e-hell. I really think it’s awful, but I’ve heard many ehellians adamantly state that it is an acceptable social practice. So much so that barely a word can be said against it.
    But if I was about to meet a friend, and someone suddenly dropped by, even from out of town, I would have to tell them sorry. Someone is waiting for me, I’m on my way out.
    In this case, although I honestly despise people just dropping by when there are so many methods to find out if the person is ready and willing for such a thing, I think it was the friend who was rude.
    He had a choice to keep pre-made plans or to cancel at the last minute because someone else decided how he should spend his time.
    I’m sure the people who dropped by unexpectedly wouldn’t mind him saying sorry, I’m on my way out. Had they shown up 10 minutes later, he wouldn’t have been there.
    So he is the one that is rude. We can’t know if the drop ins were rude because they didn’t get a chance to say “oh, you’re going out? No problem, we’ll give you a call next time.

  • Shalamar April 24, 2018, 2:06 pm

    Back when I was married to Husband #1, he went away on business for a while. My then-MIL noticed that our garden was getting a bit overgrown with weeds, and she said “Since my son isn’t around to help, I’ll stop by sometime this week and help you weed your yard.” I said “That’s very kind of you, but no thanks. I hate weeding (and gardening in general), and I’d prefer to pay a neighbourhood kid to do it for me.”

    MIL: “Don’t be silly! Why pay someone? Besides, weeding is fun!”

    Me: “REALLY, I don’t want to do that. Please don’t bother.”

    Well, later that week (after I’d forgotten all about that conversation), I was relaxing in my livingroom when my doorbell rang. I glanced outside and froze when I saw MIL and FIL, laden down with gardening equipment. I’ll admit that I basically threw myself on the floor and hid while they repeatedly rang the doorbell, until they finally gave up and went away!

    • Airelenaren April 25, 2018, 6:36 am

      I probably would have done the same, and possibly had a panic attack from the repeated ringing. Gah!
      I hope they learned from that and don’t do unwanted drop-ins anymore.

    • Jinx April 25, 2018, 7:32 am

      I feel like if they reaaaaaally wanted to weed, they could have done that rather than leaving when you didn’t answer the door 😉

      Something like this happened to me shortly after my husband and I moved into a fixer upper. We’d been working so hard on fixing this and that, and we decided we were going to take a day off and relax. Hubby’s parents knew we needed help with out out door maintenance, but they’re not really fit people, and he had told them we didn’t want help. They stopped by on our relaxing day and just started working in the yard, which is a nice thought, but then we both felt obligated to go out and help/entertain them.

  • Devin April 24, 2018, 2:40 pm

    I wonder if the friend used dropped by in a figurative rather than literal way here. I’ve had similar events occur where a friend ends up with an extended lay over in my city so we meet up at or near the airport for a quick coffee, or their last meeting in my city ends early so they have time to grab a cocktail before jetting off, not that the person actually rang my doorbell without notice. In the OPs case technically it is rude that your friend blew off your plans for the unexpected visit, but you obviously care and respect this person so it’s an easily forgivable snub. If Being flakey was routine, I wouldn’t let them off the hook. I find friends like this will go out of their way to make up the missed visit by bringing and extra nice host gift or buying dinner/drinks when you reschedule your meet up.

  • Beez April 24, 2018, 2:41 pm

    I am probably attributing negative motivations where there are none but a last minute cancellation in favor of another engagement wouldn’t go over well with me. It feels to me that the out of town guests probably said “We might have enough time to stop by” and the friend decided to keep his options open and see what happened. On the topic of just dropping by, if you are just dropping something off I don’t necessarily have an issue with it. If you are expecting someone to have time for you then yes, advance notice is a must.

  • Shannon April 24, 2018, 2:48 pm

    Count me as another person who hates drop-bys. If I’m not expecting company, I straight up don’t answer my door. In my experience, the surprise is usually unpleasant – missionaries, politicians, salespeople, charity muggers, etc. Plus it’s a safety issue. I’m usually home alone, and I live near a major city with a high crime rate. Also, sometimes burglars will pretend to be door-to-door salesmen of some sort, so they can peek inside to see where you keep your valuable.

    I figure if it’s important, whoever it is will leave me a note. Or better yet, give me advance notice. But it’s almost never important.

    • staceyizme April 25, 2018, 9:57 am

      “Charity muggers” is right! Door to door collections or proselytizing both seem inefficient and inconsiderate, to me.

  • shoegal April 24, 2018, 2:54 pm

    I have neighbors who live up the road from us and they drop by all the time. I was never upset or put out that they came by. I always tried to make them feel welcome and encouraged them to stay. I actually don’t really consider it rude – I call it friendly. Conversely, I don’t get the same treatment if we happen by. A couple of times, they made it very clear that they weren’t into receiving visitors. I’m okay with that too. I don’t just go up there unannounced too often and if I want to for some reason I’ll generally check with them first.

  • kgg April 24, 2018, 3:15 pm

    I think it was rude of the friend to cancel.

  • Bea April 24, 2018, 4:02 pm

    It’s about knowing the person. This friend clearly dropped everything for their drop by, he seemingly didn’t mind.

    I don’t mind drop ins but most know I may not be there.

    I always text first, I hate interrupting others and my friends have weird work schedules.

  • ladyv21454 April 24, 2018, 5:01 pm

    Boy, does this hit close to home with me! When I was married, I had inlaws that I adored – but the one thing I DIDN’T adore is that my MIL felt it was fine to just drop by our house any time. Since my husband worked nights/weekends and I worked days M-F, our time together was limited to begin with – so when the inlaws just “dropped by”, it cut into the small amount of time we DID have together. Not to mention that, although it thankfully never happened, they could well have interrupted us when we were, shall we say, engaged in activities that we wouldn’t want to have interrupted. It isn’t as though they never saw us, either – we went to church with them just about every Sunday, went out to eat as a family after church, and then usually spent some time at their house as well.

  • pennywit April 24, 2018, 5:15 pm

    “Dropping by” without advance notice was fine when in college when we all lived in the dorm hall. As an adult … not so much.

  • Sasha April 24, 2018, 5:16 pm

    We moved from a big city to to a rural area where I grew up. People here drop by all the time without a heads up. Extremely annoying and we have had to come to terms that that’s how it’s going to be. We have learned a few tactics shorten the visit. We have tried acting like we are not home but a couple of family members have gone so far as to check if our vehivles are in the garage. I swear some day I’m just going to answer the door nude. No one wants to see my middle age body sans clothes!

    • cleosia April 25, 2018, 7:52 am

      Time to put a lock on that garage!

  • Kay_L April 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

    With so many means of communication nowadays there is no reason for anyone to be dropping by unexpectedly.

    “I don’t of course blame my friend for this as he is a very gregarious and hospitable person who does 100 per cent respect the time of others.”

    He apparently does not 100% respect other people’s time–he just prioritized his unexpected friends’ time as being more important than yours and that’s rude.

    As others have stated. You tell the unexpected arrivals that you are sorry but you have other plans and to contact you and you’ll plan a time to get together. No excuse for a last minute text cancellation.

  • Ember April 24, 2018, 8:06 pm

    We drop in unexpectedly sometimes, but only when:
    – they are good friends and there is no expectation that everyone keeps a spotless house at all times
    – being good friends, they understand that if they have other plans, or just don’t feel like company, they can just tell us to go away.

    Cancelling established plans because someone else dropped in is just rude, it says your time and feelings aren’t as important as this new, shiny distraction.

  • Celestia April 24, 2018, 8:36 pm

    I’ve read a bunch of arguments on this topic by now…people have explained that when they “drop by”, they’re hoping that it happens to be a good time and completely prepared to accept if it isn’t. In that case, I think it’s fine (and up to the drop-ee to say so). Anyone who would be disappointed or huffy or hurt to be turned away should call first to avoid the possibility.

    (Personally I don’t like the unknown so I always call. Because I wouldn’t end up happy if I got everything together to call on a friend who didn’t happen to be home)

    • SamiHami April 25, 2018, 12:02 pm

      “Anyone who would be disappointed or huffy or hurt to be turned away should call first to avoid the possibility.”

      I have to disagree with this. Everyone should call first, because it’s not just about the dropper-inner. It’s about the person who is minding their own business at home and being disturbed by unexpected visitors.

    • Dee April 25, 2018, 12:02 pm

      Celestia – But this puts the onus on the visitee, who may not be comfortable being disturbed unexpectedly AND having to turn away good friends/neighbours/family. I hate drop-bys. Anytime. They make me very uncomfortable, even if I adore the person. My friends have learned that and I am so rarely disturbed by the doorbell these days that when I am there’s a good guarantee it’s either a parcel delivery or a JW. But it takes years to train someone, and I often meet new and wonderful people and I always have to put out major “no” vibes to discourage the “oh! we will stop by sometime when we’re in your neighbourhood” declarations, lest they actually do just that. And it may take quite a number of unexpected visits before they’re trained, and it may kill the budding friendship. It’s exhausting fighting such personalities and, honestly, not worth keeping the relationships, no matter how wonderful these people seem.

      • Celestia April 26, 2018, 9:48 am

        Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be dropped in on either, but after reading a lot of ehellions explain the other side I can’t find anything super-wrong with someone who would cheerfully back away if it wasn’t a good time. If they’ve been asked not to like in your case, then yeah, rude.

        But then, I’m also an Asker, and I wonder if that has something to do with it 🙂 I guess I see ringing the doorbell as similar to asking for a favor – completely OK to do if you’re able to cheerfully back off when the answer is No. In this case the favor is “Hi, can we come in and socialize?”

  • Rebecca April 25, 2018, 2:14 am

    I think the OP’s friend was rude to cancel plans. Just because someone dropped by, doesn’t mean they have to be accommodated. As other people have pointed out, he could have said, “Oh, so great to see you but unfortunately I have plans with a friend right now. Next time please warn me because I’d love to see you!!”

    Whether dropping by is inherently rude or not, I don’t know. I don’t like it myself (caught off guard, and how hard is it these days when everyone has cell phones to just call and say you’re in the neighbourhood. and ask if I’m free?)

    But I’m told that in some other places, people tend to be offended if you are nearby and DON’T stop by. I am not sure I could live in a place like that!! I’m sociable but I like a little warning!

  • Vicki April 25, 2018, 7:35 am

    I have a friend who occasionally texts to ask “would you like company?” if she happens to be near my house anyway. If I say “yes, sure” she may ring the bell 90 seconds later, having texted from the corner; if I don’t answer, or say “not now” she goes on home, or takes care of whatever errand would come next if she wasn’t visiting me.

    This works because she does it when she genuinely happens to be nearby–for example, seeing a client three blocks from where I was living.

    It occurs to me that this is also an advantage of cell phones over landlines: I’m never going to be dealing with “but you’re home anyway,” from anyone, because answering the phone isn’t evidence that I’m home.

  • NostalgicGal April 25, 2018, 8:48 am

    A drop by and priority… here everyone will drop by on you very unexpectedly. I’ve managed to get that trimmed because in my perennial summer shorts (the attire of desire for at least four months straight sometimes five) full of yard muck or pond muck or both, and offering to share the work I’m in the middle of… no I don’t own a coffee pot. We can go to one of the ‘watering holes’ but that means you’re not in my house then either. (and most places that have coffee and other stuff, are used to working people in working attire so as long as the ventilation is minimal and the stains are not too many and too fresh (grease, dirt, paint-one fellow has a denim shirt, some dark red splotches and ink with an arrow added by his wife that says ‘this is paint’ because it does look like fresh dried blood), yes, you can sit there for a bit).

    1) Family from out of state, if they actually came that far, know better than to pull right up into the driveway without announcing, we might not be there. They do take #1 because of how infrequent this could happen. 2) Friends from out of state-they know about the better call first. One showed up one day in our driveway, finally called us and found out we were in the middle of a rare day trip two hours away to shop in a large city. Oh. 3) Planned stuff local. I’m sorry but I had plans… and if possible I will invite them along, if not I will try to make plans with them for the near future. 4) Anybody and everybody. Remember what I said I might be full of yard or pond work? Sure, come on, I can use a hand with this. Heh. 5) door to door… I can be nice, I can be mean, I can be inbetween. I have found let them know you’re ordained and you don’t see the church people ever again. And trot out the framed wallpaper swatch if needed. Told all the steaks sold from a freezer in the back of their truck people I have a medical reason I can’t eat steak, I don’t see them anymore either.

    #3, it is rare that #1 or #2 will be a problem, most are very good and understanding and sometimes the plans can accommodate others, sometimes it will be apologies and reschedule. YMMV.

  • Lerah99 April 25, 2018, 9:41 am

    Unpopular opinion time:
    I think it’s a little harsh to say the friend was rude for cancelling.

    He said someone from out of town dropped by unexpectedly.

    I think cancelling in these circumstances is equivalent to canceling when you get hit by food poisoning or because you got into a car accident.

    This really random and unexpected thing popped up in his life forcing him to cancel last minute.

    I live in Florida. A ton of my family lives in California and Washington state (over 3,000 miles away). Some of them, I haven’t seen in 20 years.

    If one of my cousins showed up at my doorstep saying “I’m catching a cruise ship out of the Port of Tampa this afternoon. My plane got in ahead of schedule and I realized I had a few extra hours. Want to grab lunch?”

    I’m not going to turn them down with a “Sorry. I promised my coworker I’d meet her in a hour to wander through the flea market looking for bargains.”

    I’m going to call my coworker, apologize for cancelling last minute, and go out to eat with my cousin that I haven’t seen since we were both 16.

    And if my coworker through a fit about it insisting that I made plans with her first and should have brushed off my cousin, I would not be amused.

    It is totally understandable for the OP to be disappointed and even a little angry. She had plans, and they were cancelled last minute. Just as she might be disappointed if her friend cancelled due to food poisoning or a car accident.

    But she says this is a friend who is NOT at all the type to cancel plans unexpectedly.

    So I’d give him a pass rather than roast him in e-hell for this.

    • Livvy17 April 25, 2018, 2:18 pm

      Yes, even though it is a little rude, in such extraordinary circumstances, I’d probably do the same.
      However, it’s not the same as being sick – there’s still a choice being made to cancel plans with a friend. (you don’t choose to be sick) It’s still technically / officially the wrong thing to do, even if there’s a LOT of justification. So, it’s really a matter of the friend begging forgiveness. I’d expect a good friend to give me a pass in the situation you describe, but maybe not if it was a lesser set of guests, such as some friends who live in the same town and just happened to be driving by. So, for me, no matter what, it’s rude – it’s just a question of whether it’s totally understandable, forgivable rudeness, or out-and-out-you’re-not-as-important-as-anyone-who-is-at-my-door rudeness.

    • Vicki April 25, 2018, 6:34 pm

      The question here is what level of friendship OP has with the person who canceled on them. They said “friend,” not “coworker,” and “friends from out of town” could be anything from OP’s much-loved cousin they haven’t seen in years, to relatively casual acquaintances.

      It’s not in this letter, but OP’s friend may have been more specific about either how close they were to those friends, or how genuinely unexpected this was for the droppers-in, and I think that matters. “My best friend is here for a few hours because his flight to London was cancelled” is different from “some friends of mine are in town on a last-minute trip to the Field Museum.” Also, “they just found out they’d be in town for a couple of hours” is different from “they planned this trip a month ago, but forgot to call me.”

  • Margaret May 4, 2019, 5:57 pm

    I remember when people did this. It was a lovely thing when people just dropped by for a visit. How did it come about that one has to call before coming? In my generation (I am 78) and the ones before me this was welcomed! It seems that somewhere in my children’s the latter years, it was when this began to change….and it sucks! Open your eyes, look at what has become of family and friendships, it is down right sad. And the worst is yet to come! Wait until you are in your senior years and your children have moved on. I stayed connected to my mom to the end. I traveled about and hour, almost every week just to visit with her. All my siblings stayed connected, and friends. No one had to check to see if they were welcomed. I think the way company is regarded now a days is horrid. People’s hearts have become narcissistic and hard and cold.