Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Gimme, gimme

2000 Archive

My sister recently received the following truly incredible e-mail from a casual friend. It is so astounding that it deserves quoting. My sister had given the parents a seventy-five dollar gift certificate for the baby, before it was born; she had given a shower for the mother (and had been embarrassed by the mother's request to have a "money tree" at the shower). Then, after the baby's baptism (which she did not attend) she (and a number of other mutual friends) received the following e-mail (spelling mistakes preserved; names changed):

We were looking at Sammy's baby book and noticed that there was something missing. That something was your name! We were saddened by this. We want Sammy to know everyone that has touched his life in some way. It is not too late!! You still can have your name put in the book by simply giving Sammy a Birth or Baptism gift. He is registered at Target and monetary gifts are always accepted.. If transportation is a problem, we can come by your house and pick it up. Thank you and don't loose out on the special little things in life such as this. Thank you. If you want to reach my sister for confirmation, her name is Rebecca Quinlan and her e-mail address is


I have a sister-in-law, whom I shall call Amy, who has two sons, John and Michael (again pseudonyms) who are a year apart in age. For the first few years, Amy threw a large party for John's birthday and a small family party for Michael's, ensuring that John always received more gifts than Michael.

For John's fourth birthday, Amy invited family members to their house for a barbecue and cake. We brought gifts for John since it was explained that this was his birthday celebration. Two months later, just before Michael's third birthday, we received an invitation to a joint birthday party for John and Michael. It was explained in the invitation that since John never got a big party, they were going to combine their birthdays this year and have a big cookout. Furthermore, along the bottom of the invitation was written "John and Michael are registered at Toys R Us" along with the boys' clothing sized. Upon inspection of the registrations, it was discovered that John was registered for large toys and games, while Michael was registered for clothes. I have never received such an invitation before or since, and I hope I never will.

Second Story:  Some friends of mine (we'll call them Jack and Nancy) celebrated their daughter's first birthday (we'll call her Jane) at the end of last year. Normally they are the sweetest, most undemanding couple you will ever meet, but for this they seem to have lost their common sense. We received our invitation to the party, and of course were planning to go. I called to let her know we'd be there and asked for directions to the park. Nancy gave me directions, and then added that I may have to drive around the block to find a spot since so many people were attending. I asked how many and she responded...... SEVENTY-FIVE. This floored me, since figuring for people who said they weren't going, they had to have invited over a hundred people to a one-year-old's birthday party. We had our suspicions about the party that soon proved true. Upon arrival, our gifts were stacked on a picnic table. The first hour of the party was guests arriving. A half hour was then spent on cutting the huge cake and passing it out. The rest of the party centered on gift opening, which Jane showed little to no interest in. Basically, it was a "bring my child a gift" party.


This is probably the tackiest invitation I ever received. Last year, my husband and I received an e-mail invitation to a Christmas tree trimming which we were supposed to bring a nice ornament for the host couple's tree. That's right....they were asking their friends to give them decorations for THEIR tree. The invitation stated that they would be having family visiting for the holidays and needed to have a fancy tree to impress their relatives! It went on to say that eggnog would be served and that MAYBE the wife could be persuaded to make some homemade goodies for the party. (Obviously, they expected their guests to fund their Christmas tree ornaments....and MAYBE this merited a little special effort at hospitality on their part?).

The party was being held between 2:00pm and 5:00pm, (translation: after lunch but before dinner) and the invitation said that take-out would be ordered for any "late stayers". Clearly, the hope was that most people would take the hint, leave by 5:00 and they could avoid having to provide an actual meal! What made the whole thing even more crass is that this couple is doing quite well financially (they are better off than most of their invited guests) and can well afford any sort of Christmas decorations they want. In fact, prior to this invitation, they had taken several months' vacation to travel around Europe. I guess they were just too a) cheap and b) lazy to buy their own ornaments. I was really tempted to send them a bag of popcorn or cranberries, along with a needle and thread, but just sent our regrets instead.


I have a "friend" that routinely advertises his birthday. This usually starts about 6 weeks prior to the blessed event. All the time we hear him say "What are you getting me for my birthday?" or "You know, you could get me a such and such ". (His gift suggestions are rarely inexpensive.) This is said in a half-kidding/half-serious way because somewhere deep inside I think he senses that his behavior is tacky and atrocious but feels he is entitled to do it anyway. But believe me, it's more serious than not.

This person manages to blow off my birthday. If he doesn't blow off anyone else's birthday , he certainly doesn't make the big production out of it (unless it's his girlfriend, give him credit for that). If you don't acknowledge his birthday in a manner befitting his stature, he sulks around you. His girlfriend thinks it's appropriate that he demand special attention and that he get it because he had such a disadvantaged childhood. This is a man in his forties.


I've been friends with "Katie" for almost fifteen years, but lost touch with her after high school. The year after we graduated, she happened to be driving by my house and informed me that she was getting married. I was surprised, as she is only eighteen, and had been engaged to a different man a year earlier. However, I congratulated her and asked her to call me. A few weeks later, upon leaving for work one morning, I found an envelope placed on the windshield of my car. It was an invitation for a housewarming party for the (unmarried) Katie and her intended. Tucked inside the invite was an itemized list of things the couple needed for their new home, which included sheets (a specific pattern, no less), house plants, patio furniture, floor lamps, and even a curio cabinet! I chose not to attend that party (which was being held on Father's Day), and she hasn't called me since.


I'm not sure how many people will consider this story actually etiquette-hell material, but in my eyes it was. Every year our entire family on my husbands' side gets together and vacations at a beach. This year we decided to let my daughters' boyfriend come with us as there are no cousins her age to hang around with. The drive down is quite lengthy (2 days) and is manageable with comfort as we use my mother-in-laws' conversion van.

The ride down went relatively smoothly and actually the whole vacation was rather nice. The problem arose after we returned home. We were having a picnic for a visiting relative to which both my MOL and my daughters' boyfriend were invited. When "Mario" arrived he handed me a card. I proceeded to open it and enclosed was a thank-you card with gift cards to a local restaurant to thank us for taking him along. I gave him a hug and went to show my husband. Big mistake. My MOL was sitting by my husband and looks at "Mario" and says loudly... "Well, where's mine? You rode in my van!" First I was embarrassed, then I was angry. Yes, we did use her van, but we put money into it before we left, washed and waxed it and paid for all the gas except one fill-up. This young man paid for his own food on the way down and the way back and any extras that he needed while we were there. My husband and I paid for his hotel room on the drive down and the food at the beach house. She paid NOTHING for him.

I could have kicked myself now for even showing my husband the card at that time, but I thought it was so nice of "Mario" to thank us in that way, and never dreamed my MOL would make what I think was a rude remark and turn something nice into an uncomfortable situation. Afterward my daughter said that "Mario" was going to get my MOL a gift card for another restaurant (because she loudly proclaimed she didn't like the restaurant our gift was from!) and I told her to tell him not to dare get her ANYTHING! Next year I'm renting my own van...


My Mom is a Mel Brooks groupie. Odd, I know, but she put up with my Siouxsie and the Banshees obsession for many a year, so I humor her. In Chicago, Mel Brooks is mounting a stage showing of The Producers with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Well, she HAD to go. So my sister and I conspired to get her tickets. We wound up paying through the nose, but before we bit the bullet, my sister was trying to exploit some theater connections of hers.

A friend of my Mom (let's call her, let's see, Leechzilla) gets wind of the fact that my sister is trying to get a ticket for Mom. Leechzilla calls my mother and leaves her a long, rambling message about how she'd like to go too, and it's her live-in boyfriend's birthday soon (by the way, my Mom has never met said boyfriend), and she likes Mel Brooks too, although The Producers wasn't her favorite Mel Brooks movie, blah de blah de blah.

She finally gets to the point: "Could your daughter get ME two tickets to The Producers as well?" So far, annoying, but not tacky. Well, she ends the call with a huffy:

"Of course you realize I can't pay her."

EXCUSE ME? First of all, neither my sister nor I know this woman from Adam. Secondly, my Mom has never met Leechzilla's boyfriend. Thirdly, The Producers was easily the hardest show in the world to get into (we wound up paying $280 for Mom's ticket...that's OK, she was kvelling afterward that she'd never laughed so hard in her life).

FOURTHLY, if I was going to ask someone to exploit their connections for me to get me something coveted and rare, I'd at least OFFER to pay SOMETHING! She basically wanted a freebie to give her boyfriend!

My Mom has yet to call this woman back. She doesn't know if she ever will. Good riddance, I say. FEH.   edhGimme0222-01

Here is a story, though not horrifying, was a etiquette blunder by the whole family in several ways. It may not be bad enough to include in the website but you might enjoy it anyway. I used to work in a place that had about 15 employees, most of which were in their mid to late 20s. There was one girl, I'll call Katy, that didn't really spend time with the rest of us and over the years pretty much made enemies with just about everyone. This story is one of those incidents that didn't win her any brownie points and added fuel to the fire.

The brother of Katy stopped by our workplace one day and took me aside. He tells me his mom is planning a big "surprise" birthday party for Katy and goes on to ask me to find another co worker (Jim) so he could tell him about the party plans. I figured the brother had been instructed to find Jim and tell him to invite all Katy's coworkers and keep things a secret. What actually happened was Jim was instructed to only invite himself and one other coworker, even though the brother made it a point to tell me about the big party but then declined to invite me (and I had told other coworkers thinking we would all be invited). Jim was also instructed to "make sure and bring a gift".

What made this little error in etiquette more than just an inconsiderate blunder by the brother, was when we later found out Katy's mom throws her a "surprise" birthday party every year, and Katy always furnishes her with the "appropriate" guest list. We had been wondering how her brother would know the only 2 people at Katy's work to invite since he had never met any of us, and the 2 that were invited were hardly close friends of hers (in fact, Jim was married and I don't think they invited his wife). Unfortunately (?), neither of her co workers were able to make it to the party. However, our boss did. And in front of her parents, put the boss on the spot by gushing to them how great and successful she was at work and that she was receiving an excellent review from the boss- which was, in fact, not true. And she probably wonders to this day why no one she worked with ever cared much for her.


Here is a story of a good friend of mine, John, and his longtime friend Rob. Rob and John have been buddies since high school. Rob has always been spendthrift, has a dead-end job making $8/hour, and is perpetually broke. John has always been the more financially prudent of the two.

One particular weekend, John decided to invite Rob and a bunch of friends to the golf course for a couple of rounds. Approximately one hour before the group was scheduled to meet, Rob realized he had to run an errand. This errand was extremely important, and since he had tagged along with John, he needed a ride. Rob promised John he would pay 1/2 his golf fees if he would drive him to run his errand. John agreed. The errand was run. The men went to the golf course. Rob decided at that time that he was too broke and did not want to participate. This was after promising John he would pay half his fees for running the errand. John's friend Paul took pity on Rob and gave him money for his fees. John saw this, felt bad for Paul, and gave him half the money from his own pocket. So John had to run the errand, pay for half of Rob's fees, AND pay for his own fees. No word of apology from Rob. Unbelievable.


Susan was turning thirty, and determined to get the party she "deserved". One problem, though: She had no money. Her sister offered to host the party at her own home; not good enough. We all pleaded with Susan to have the party at someone's home and visit the local Costco, where anyone can throw an enviable party on $500. Nope. Susan chose to book her party at a local restaurant. She sent out e-mailed invitations with a suggested $20 per-head donation -- for the room. The guests were expected to pick up the tab for their own food and drink. The birthday cake was free, since we paid for it. Susan also circulated an e-mail list of presents she would be happy to receive, from the same guests who were footing the bill for her party. We attended the party against our better judgement. Susan called my husband today to let him know that it only cost her $80 out of pocket to give a party for 60 people.


My husband, Tom, has several sisters and a mother who all tend to be rather self-centered and spoiled, fine.

Story #1: At Susan's wedding, her oldest sister and MOH Lisa, parked herself at the top of the stairs leading from the reception hall down to the exit, sobbing hysterically and crying it wasn't fair her younger sister got married before her while 200 guests filed past!

Story #2:The youngest one, Margie takes the cake. When she moved into a new rental apartment, sent out xeroxed invitations to a house warming party with a list of needed items-fine. Fast-forward a couple of years- she elopes. Fine.

Four months later, my in-laws throw a nice reception for them at a restaurant to which everyone brings gifts.

Yes, she registered at an upscale store for very upscale items. Fine.

She proceeds to open several looking for the Waterford champagne glasses someone got her so she and hubby( a nice guy) can have their photographs taken while holding said glasses.

Fine. All the while being rather snitty to all of her siblings. Fine. End of story- no. Eight months later MIL throws a catered baby shower for her at MIL's home.

Once again she registers at a very pricey boutique. Very coyly she states she doesn't know the baby's sex- but had only registered for pink items.

She proceeds to complain that she dislikes yellow and green baby items! Of course several guests had bought items of those colors!

I spent close to $100 putting together a basket with diapers, bottles,lotions,burp cloths,all the practical items you actually use.

Her response, "Oh!" and promptly moving on to the next item! After knowing my husband close to 15 years- nothing these girls do surprises me anymore!   edhgimme0130-02

My brother in law and his wife (Princess Gimme), held a 2nd Birthday Party for their little boy. My husband and I were not directly invited by his brother and Princess, but rather told by his father that the party was Saturday at 2PM. I asked my father in law if we were specifically invited and he assured me that Princess had told him to make sure that we were coming. Also, he told us that the party's theme was 'Trucks'. Apparently, the theme was to be carried out by the guests as well, as it was requested that any gifts given should be trucks, but not fire trucks, as our nephew had plenty of them.

Cut to the party. We arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled party time. Princess is in the bedroom and does not come out until her parents arrive one half hour later. The birthday boy was taking a nap and didn't wake up until after everyone was there. Despite the fact that we were visiting their new house for the first time, no offer was made to show us the rest of the house that they had been raving about for over four months. When our nephew opened his presents, Princess helped him and oohh'd and ahh'd over every truck he received. "Oh, look at that! ANOTHER truck!! Hee, hee, hee.." While I would not expect a thank you from a 2-year old, neither my brother in law or his wife thanked anyone for their gifts. I don't expect much different than this from a girl who registered for a $75 bathroom wastebasket on her wedding gift registry. But I never thought I'd attend a party where the guests were told in advance exactly what kind of gifts to bring. I think my son will have a 'Major Appliances' party for his 2nd birthday! ;>)     edhgimme0206-02

A few months ago, some friends of mine received the following invitation. I have preserved the capitalization. Astute readers should be able to spot several etiquette violations in the invitation; I counted five or six.

Tina's Double nickel birthday celebration

Wednesday May 22, 2002

BUS DEPARTS from Smallsville 7:00am







2:30 PM


RSVP BY 4/22 (555) 5555

Carpools to Smallsville are being arranged


A couple my husband and I are friends with sent out email invitations to her birthday party at a local Spanish restaurant. She rented out a room and ordered a bunch of tapas (Spanish finger foods) and had pitchers of sangria on hand. Not wanting to indulge in the alcohol, we avoided the sangria and just had water. The tapas dishes arrived and we were instructed that the tiny portions were to be shared with another person-- 6 tapas "courses" and you got three or so for yourself. We don't eat seafood, so I only had one empanada and my husband had one beef rib. We each had a couple of cubes of cheese from the cheese course. After our friend had opened all her birthday presents and all the food had arrived-- slowly-- from the kitchen we thought it was a good time to go home. After we hugged our hostess/birthday girl goodnight and wished her well she stopped us to say, "Oh! And, that's $25 per person!" My shocked husband pulled out his wallet and handed her $25. She looked at me and I dug through my purse and said "Uh, sorry, I only have $15." She replied, "Oh! Well, I know where you live!" and giggled. I'm still horrified much later. Never have I invited people to a party and then charged them a cover charge on their way home! I can't even begin to make excuses for my friend. -----------

I'm horrified too!  It was manipulative highway robbery to spring this on friends with no warning.  At least when someone demands it upfront on the invitation, the invitee can simply skip the "pleasure" of the party.  And you are still friends with beasties like this?


I am attending an introduction class on theatre and we had a few assignments throughout the term to attend cultural events and critique them. The day I huffed and puffed across the hilly campus in the heat to get my tickets for a play, I went to class and found that a classmate was having a hard time trying to attend a function. Priscilla, who I had briefly spoken with occasionally, is physically challenged and has to walk with the use of special apparatus. She was seated right next to me and having a conversation with the teacher about being unable to fill her assignment bc she couldn't get a ride to the play. I excused myself for the interruption and offered an invite for her to attend the play with me and my husband. The teacher offered to procure the ticket. I offered to get that too realizing that if I didn't, Priscilla would get the ride but then, not having a seat next to us, she'd have to watch the play solo - which might feel more like charity than a nice night out with a classmate. So after class I huffed and puffed back across campus and bought the ticket.

Honestly, I was a bit nervous bc I have never had the opportunity to be friends with a physically challenged person and I didn't want to offend her somehow with my ignorance. For instance, I didn't know how much help she would need, or arrangements made, if any, and if she would be offended if we offered it. So I decided to ask her politely. She said she would be glad to take our assistance if she needed it and appreciated that we didn't automatically consider her to be helpless.

Well, the three of us went and had a good time. My husband and I made some special arrangements, we drove two hours roundtrip, but no big hitches. I was however surprised when we met at her apartment and her able roommate was offering her a ride anywhere she needed to go. That's all right, who knows the history - it could have been lip service, right? Like I said, to me it was a delightful evening and I thought it was a broadening experience for me to begin a possible friendship with her. It would help me think about things I don't normally consider, taking my abled status for granted.

The next assignment rolls around and understandably Priscilla was interested in going together again. We would have been too, but my assignment was different from hers, and 1) we couldn't afford to attend two events in one month, and 2) once again, the two hour roadtrip - that's gas money too. I regretfully explained we couldn't do it and she seemed considerably miffed.

Priscilla also doesn't have full range of her arms and fingers. She takes notes by typing them on her laptop. She normally can't type as fast as the professor speaks (who could?) and will use my notes as a reference when she gets behind. Well, one day, in the middle of class, she just stops typing halfway through the lecture. I figured she must be tired, or exasperated, but how did she plan on having the notes she missed while she sat there for 45 minutes?

I found out as the class ended when she asked if I might type up my written notes at home and email them to her. Now I had done something similar before, with a reading list, but a day's full of notes? And she didn't just mean that day, but every class period for the rest of the semester. That's a lot of extra work.

Well, by now, I am beginning to feel a bit taken advantage of. She is disabled, however, she entered the university knowing the obstacles. While we ALL need help from time to time, I felt she was taxing me too much. The part that bothered me the most was that she stopped in the middle of lecture, fully expecting me to say yes to her request. I politely but assertively explained that I just didn't have time to retype my notes, and that I study directly from the pages. She was miffed again.

Well, instead of letting this bother me overly...feeling guilty for not helping someone in need, but wanting to draw the line somewhere, I thought I'd brainstorm a solution that might make both of us happy. I type very quickly, and have always wished that I could use a laptop in class - it would keep my notes more organized. So I offered to Priscilla this option - I would type the notes up for both of us using her laptop and then she could email them to me later. She's relieved of some exasperation, and no extra time is spent on my part.

She was happy with this and agreed. Now for the huge etiquette snare! Last day of class I give her my email address again, typed into the notes. We are to have our final exam a week and a half later. 7 days later and she has not sent me the notes. I call her on Thursday to remind her and she is clueless as to why I am calling! When I remind her, she says she's been busy with exams (like I haven't?) and will mail them out that day. Nothing. Friday afternoon I send her an email reminder. I wasn't rude, I simply had two days - Fri and Mon - with the house to myself to study for this exam on Tuesday morning - and Fri was half gone! No response from email.

Now it is SUNDAY NIGHT! No notes! I can only miss 3 questions on my exam in order to get my A and I am flabbergasted that my entire grade can rest on this other person (I know, I allowed it to happen). I call Sunday night and she says - "As soon as I am done reading, I will send them to you". I haven't been able to even START studying and she needs to finish her reading first? Her PC is right by the phone! I said that I'd call back around eight if I hadn't received them. I finally got them around seven PM.    edhgimme0507-02

I ran into an old 'friend' who I had not seen in 5 years. I will call 'A'. Having not seen him in a while, we exchanged phone numbers, and he called to set up a time to 'get together'. We would meet at a local bar, play some pool and catch up.

Imagine my surprise when he showed up at my house with two people I had never met, the day before we were supposed to go out. He had looked the phone number up in a reverse directory to get my address, then just showed up because he 'knew I wouldn't mind.'

While his friends proceeded to fire up my video game systems (without asking), he took me aside and explained that he needed to borrow $45.00 for bills, and I needed to go to the local fast food place and get some food, because he and his friends hadn't had dinner.

Not wanting to leave people I didn't know alone in my house, I explained that he should have called(truth), as I needed to leave for work in an hour(falsehood), I only had 20.00 on me(falsehood), and they would have to leave(truth).

I ended up giving him and his friends 20.00 to go away. Then, I went to the local hardware store and got new locks for the doors.

He called me up to tell me how rude I had been, and how we weren't going to get together after all, because I had shamed him in front of his friends. I said "Fine", and thought it was the end of the story.

Two months later, I received a phone call - it was his mother, who I had met once for about 2 minutes 6 years ago. She was calling to let me know that they were being kicked out of their apartment for non-payment of rent and that I needed to give them 150.00 by tomorrow morning, or they would be evicted.

I explained that I did not have 150.00 and my payday was 5 days away, so I could not give them any money. Her answer was " Couldn't you pawn something?", I said 'no' and hung up. I have not heard another thing from them.  edhGimmie1106-02

I recently received at my place of work a solicitation of sponsorship for someone running in a marathon benefiting leukemia (I think). As I had no idea who on earth the person who had signed the letter was, I was a bit put off. I was even more put off when I realized that the solicitor was the manager of a local Jamba Juice (who I have met at said shop in the briefest of manners, involving him ringing up my purchase) who had obtained my name and work address from a business card I had dropped into a bowl for a "free smoothie drawing". While I believe that the cause is worthy, and I respect people who make the effort to participate in such activities, I think it is the height of rudeness and unprofessionalism to hit up people you don't know for money when they have not expressed any willingness to participate in fundraising efforts on your behalf.      edhGimmie0725-02

Page Last Updated May 15, 2007