Doorbell etiquette
June 23, 2012 2:38 PM   Subscribe

You get home with two bags of groceries. Do you ring the doorbell so that your flatmate lets you in or do you drop your bags, fetch your keys and let yourself in?

I would be interested in hearing honest opinions on this practice, as my flatmate and I have differing views on whether or not it is okay to ring the doorbell to be let into your own apartment.
posted by Milau to Human Relations (60 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You know you're going to have to open the door, so have the keys in your hand.

To expect other to drop what they're doing, just to open the door for you when you have keys, is rude, thoughtless and self-centered.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2012 [67 favorites]

Let yourself in.
posted by smokingmonkey at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would let myself in. If my flatmate were my spouse, I might ring the doorbell. Might.
posted by MillMan at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

My basic rule is to not expect others to do for you what you can do for yourself. Even if it's a little more work.

If my wife sees me coming to the door, she will usually open it. But I wouldn't dream of ringing or knocking and expect her to come running. She could be in the shower, have her own hands full, be in the back yard, or otherwise indisposed.
posted by The Deej at 2:42 PM on June 23, 2012 [12 favorites]

Every single time? No, that's annoying. (Unless there's some reason why you can't easily unlock the door: sprained wrist, third trimester of pregnancy, pouring rain, etc.)

In my shared household, when one of us has a ton of groceries (especially if it's groceries for everyone, not just, like, a personal Target-run for toiletries or whatever), the shopper might text as they're leaving the store and ask that someone be down in five minutes to help carry stuff in. But just to let you in? I don't think that's reasonable.
posted by Aquifer at 2:42 PM on June 23, 2012

If you can do it, do it.
posted by mleigh at 2:43 PM on June 23, 2012

Drop my bags, fetch my keys, and let myself in. Or have my keys mostly ready from a keychain wristband, so it just takes balancing for a few seconds to open the door.

I'm not sure why anyone would ring the doorbell - I doubt it would be any faster, so it just seems like a waste of time for two people.
posted by raztaj at 2:43 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why wouldn't either be okay? I've lived in multiple roommate situations, and none of us balked at unlocking the door in this situation. I don't think any of us ever thought twice about it either way. It's hard for me to understand how this could become a serious etiquette argument. People are uptight, though.
posted by Coatlicue at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

I always let myself in that scenario. If I need assistance, we have a code kick.
posted by Ardiril at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Well, I guess a spouse is somewhat different from a flatmate, but for what it's worth, Mr. HotToddy always knocks on the door when he gets home in the evening and I let him in. I guess it is a little odd now that I think about it, but I don't mind opening the door for him. He's usually carrying a bunch of stuff. If I don't come to the door right away then he goes digging for his keys. What's the big deal? It's not that hard to open a door. Especially if you're the person whose hands aren't full!
posted by HotToddy at 2:45 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Let yourself in. It less less effort for you to put down and pick up bags than it would be for your flatmate to stop what they're doing, walk from wherever they are to the door, and then go back to what they were doing.
posted by puritycontrol at 2:46 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm married, and I get out my keys and open the door. But if I know I have a bunch of stuff and I'll need help in, I'll call the house when I'm 2 minutes or so away so my husband can come help me unload.

Convenient keys are helpful, like on a lanyard around your neck or a stretchy wristband or attachable to your purse strap so you can get to them more easily. It is annoying when you have to dig through your whole purse to find the house keys at the bottom.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:46 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I use my keys unless I've got more than one trip's worth of stuff. Also, it's my spouse who helps me carry that stuff in; the dynamic is different.
posted by rtha at 2:47 PM on June 23, 2012

I juggle what I'm doing and let myself in because the buzzer on our apartment is useless. That said, in unusual situations where there is a lot of stuff I might request help by phone, but this is rare.
posted by CheshireCat at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2012

I would let myself in. Doesn't matter if I'm struggling to make it up the two flights of stairs. I can handle this.

It would be rude and demanding to ask your roommate to help you out unless they offered. I would also be very annoyed with my roommate if they asked me often. Mainly because it puts me in an awkward position, especially if I don't want to help out which would make me feel obligated in order to avoid coming across like a jerk.

At the very least, I'd expect them to unlock the door and bring everything into the main entrance.

There have been a couple of times where my roommate saw me struggling to bring everything up the two flights of stairs so she offered to help me out. In these cases, I offered her something to drink like a can of coke with lime or popsicle to say thank you.
posted by livinglearning at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2012

do you drop your bags, fetch your keys and let yourself in?
This. But I don't get all the negative responses to ringing the doorbell for assistance either.
posted by sm1tten at 2:49 PM on June 23, 2012

I live and shop alone. I carry my bags home 3-7 blocks (unless I hit Trader Ho's, which is a 2-mile round trip), and I set them down - not drop them - in front of the door and unlock it. Then I put my foot between the door and the frame to keep it open, pick up my bags, and, easy peasy, I'm inside; when I get to my apartment door, I do it again! It's not even something I'd consider bothering someone else for.
posted by heyho at 2:49 PM on June 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Let yourself in. I'd be annoyed if a flatmate rang the bell for that.

On an aside, perhaps get some reusable grocery bags with handles, so you can sling one over your shoulder while you open the door.

(this is for only two bags of shared stuff, or any of your own stuff. If you've bought more than two bags of shared stuff, it would not be rude to ask for a hand - but even then they should be warned you're going out and might need help upon your return)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 2:50 PM on June 23, 2012

This. But I don't get all the negative responses to ringing the doorbell for assistance either.

It's inconsiderate. You don't know what the other person is doing, but you want them to stop and attend to your needs, when you could do it yourself.

If your'e sick and there's some sort of emergency, ok fine. But as an everyday or every time occurrence? Hell no. You have keys and were able to carry the bags this far. It won't kill you to carry them a bit further.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:54 PM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input. It really annoys me when my flatmate does it. I was wondering if I was being unreasonable. (Today flatmate woke me up from a nap). I just told my flatmate I would really appreciate it if she used her own keys.
posted by Milau at 2:54 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh and by the way, it isn't everyday. Probably once every week. Still annoying.
posted by Milau at 2:55 PM on June 23, 2012

I'm married and I let myself in, but I do appreciate if he sees me coming and opens the door.
posted by something something at 2:56 PM on June 23, 2012

My husband always knocks and expects me to open the door for him and it irritates the crap out of me. I don't mind, you know, if he lost his key, has his hands full, whatever, but every single time, drives me me nuts. It's sort of funny, actually, because he's normally a considerate, and independent, person, but he has some kind of blinders on regarding the door key. I often snark at him that I'm going to carve his index finger into the shape of our front door key.
posted by upatree at 2:58 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

They should use their own keys, unless it's raining or there's some other reason you need to get inside right now.
posted by corb at 3:00 PM on June 23, 2012

In my house the protocol is that you look in the front window; if anyone sees you they'll open the door, usually. But I wouldn't ring the bell.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:01 PM on June 23, 2012

There is no "should" about it either way, but if it's annoying you, then definitely tell flatmate to knock it off, unless it's an emergency. You aren't his/her doorman.
posted by emjaybee at 3:03 PM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

If they know it's annoying you and they still continue to do it, just don't answer the door. They'll learn that it won't get them anywhere.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:13 PM on June 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think it might depend who the groceries were for. If they are shared groceries, and the person asking to be let in has done the household a favour by going out and fetching them, then I don't think asking the other flatmate to answer the door is outside the realm of good taste.

If they are individual groceries, or, to take groceries off the table, say, lots of luggage or bags from a shopping spree at the mall, then I think it's more reasonable to let yourself in, unless you're certain your flatmate is available and awake because, I don't know, you saw them through the window or something on your way up the walk.

However, I'd change my answer to the latter question if there's little room to maneuver on the landing outside the door, or if the door leads directly outside and it's raining, snowing or filthy.

To summarize: not something to get overly peeved about either way.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:14 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would just ignore the doorbell. That's what I do anyway unless I'm expecting someone.
posted by KogeLiz at 3:20 PM on June 23, 2012

Hmm, I grew up in a family where the partner that was home always helped the partner carrying in groceries. Usually, I open the door myself--unless my hands are really full. Then I put down the bags and ask my husband for help with the rest of them. In fact, as I was writing this comment, my husband came in and I got up to help him as soon as I heard him. It's kind of an instinctive teamwork thing. So I wouldn't find the knocking/buzzing annoying at all.

I might feel differently if he were just my roommate, especially if we didn't share groceries.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:23 PM on June 23, 2012

This is inappropriate of your roommate. If you happen to be right there and notice she's at the door, it's fine if you let her in, but she shouldn't expect you to be available to do this — in fact, she should assume you're not available. I don't even understand why she would find it more convenient for herself to have you open the door. She could probably get any cold or frozen food into the fridge/freezer faster by letting herself in, the way 99% of people would.
posted by John Cohen at 3:28 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would not expect my partner to drop what he's doing and open the door for me; it's pretty easy to put a bag down for a second to fish out my keys. I'd be kind of irked if someone did that to me on a regular basis. Maybe one time, let's say tough week, raining, something -- but as a practice, no.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:29 PM on June 23, 2012

Only if you were buying the groceries for both of you, then because you did the favor of shopping your flatmate can help in unloading the car & putting things away.

But otherwise, no. What do they expect to happen if you're not home - would they stand there waiting all day until you arrived home to help?
posted by jpeacock at 3:52 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find people who expect me to drop what I'm doing to come and help them perform a simple task annoying. I think to myself, "Is it really much more work for you to put the bag down and get out your keys than it is for me to drop what I'm doing to open the door?"

To respond to PhoBWanKenobi's comment ... I think this is a different issue than helping out with the groceries. It's not helping unload a whole bunch of groceries, which is the kind of thing where teamwork really eases the burden on one family member. It's opening a door, which the roommate could easily do themselves.

It's the trivial nature of the task that makes it so annoying. If my roommate asked me to put down my cross stitch to help him unload a couch, I'd be happy to help. If it's for something tiny like opening the door because he doesn't want to fetch his keys, fuck that.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:00 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

It depends on the roommate - are you real friends who live together, or basically strangers who just happen to be sharing space? It also depends on the situation - are you seriously struggling to open the door for some reason, or just being lazy? If you're friends and/or can't open the door, it's no problem at all to do it sometimes, imho. If you're strangers and/or just lazy, you should never do it. In any case, doing it regularly, and with the expectation that your roommate will open the door, is very annoying.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:16 PM on June 23, 2012

Two bags of groceries? I just let myself into the house an hour ago with six bags of groceries, one bag of other shopping, and my very large tote bag. Two bags of groceries is nothing.

Really, though, it depends entirely on the dynamic between your roommate and you. We're on a friendly-but-not-friends basis, so it'd feel weird to ask that sort of favor (although obviously if I saw her struggling I'd offer to help and vice versa.

Plus, who's to say your roommate is even home when you ring the doorbell? If not, that's technically taking even longer than just letting yourself in.
posted by dekathelon at 4:26 PM on June 23, 2012

wow. how lazy and entitled do you have to be to feel someone should drop whatever they are doing and come to the door to let you in rather than you just setting the bags down and opening the damned door yourself?
posted by violetk at 4:34 PM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ringing the doorbell doesn't even make sense from an efficiency standpoint. By the time someone has opened the door for you, you could have done it yourself. If you really have so many bags in your hand that you can't get your keys without putting something down, it would be too heavy to hold while you're waiting for the door to be opened anyway.

The way I usually do things is to open the door first with one bag in my hand and then go back to my car and get the rest of the things I'm bringing in. But this also presumes having a car and a driveway.
posted by sonika at 4:47 PM on June 23, 2012

This really, really depends on whether this is a "ring the bell / flatmate buzzes you in" situation or a "ring the bell / be let in by flatmate physically coming all the way down to the front door of the building" situation.

If it's the latter, your roommate is being unreasonable. If it's the former, I think it's possibly quite understandable (assuming they're not doing it late at night or anything like that).

My own experience, which causes me to sympathize with your roommate:
The building I live in has a buzzer system and a heavy front door that can be difficult to hold open while simultaneously trying to pick up things that you've set down. For this reason, I sometimes ring the buzzer if I'm carrying a lot. When I get buzzed in, I can just push the door open with my shoulder instead of setting my stuff down and then struggling to pick everything up again while simultaneously holding a heavy door open. (Oh, also, the lock to the front door of my building is the kind where you have to turn the key in the lock while simultaneously pushing the door in order to open it — so having keys out doesn't get you very far, either, if you don't have both hands free). So, in my situation, ringing the buzzer is an obvious and convenient way of avoiding struggling with the front door when carrying lots of stuff. (I've even pressed it with my elbow or face occasionally, if my hands were REALLY full). It wouldn't even occur to me that it might bother my roommates since (aside from the fact that they also do this from time to time) the buzzer of our apartment is no louder and no more inconvenient to walk over and use than our landline telephone.
posted by bubukaba at 5:01 PM on June 23, 2012

I think you get this habit from living in a rowhouse where there's stairs directly to the door. Also, if you really fill up every grocery bag, they tend to fall over and dump your produce out, versus if you have more bags for the same amount of stuff.

But it's still totally fine to be all "hey, roomie, there's plenty of room to set your stuff down, stop waking me up".
posted by anaelith at 5:33 PM on June 23, 2012

Get reusable bags. I regularly open my apartment building with 4 or 5 full bags draped on me PLUS a carseat on one arm. I just keep one hand empty for the keys.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:54 PM on June 23, 2012

Do it yourself. How do you even know that your roommate is home and in a state to get up and answer it anyway? She could be having raging diarrhea for all you know. Unless they are outside and see you, it's not fair game to expect that someone can get your door.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:51 PM on June 23, 2012

I would tell the flatmate that they woke you up.
posted by rhizome at 7:06 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I'm going to be carrying half a dozen bags of groceries, I arrange them on my arm(s) so that I can open the door myself.

I am a not particularly strong woman and my roomate is my boyfriend.
posted by bilabial at 7:13 PM on June 23, 2012

Keys, though in rare circumstances I'll call ahead to mrs jeffamaphone and ask her to be standing by when I pull up to help me carry stuff inside.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:09 PM on June 23, 2012

Well, I am divorced with my kids regularly. If I come home from grocery shopping for the family I will ring the bell and bring in as many bags as I can carry with the kids getting the rest. The one who does not get bags out of the truck has to put the groceries away. But, when the kids are at the ex's, I put the bags down and fetch the key, open it and go.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:32 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in a 5th-floor walkup so I generally ignore the doorbell unless I'm expecting someone.

If it was a first-floor apartment and I was in the living room near the door I'd probably open it.

Although for most places I've lived, I don't generally lock the door unless I'm going out or going to sleep for the night.
posted by that girl at 4:47 AM on June 24, 2012

But if I were on the groceries-holding side of the equation . . . I would open the door. 2 bags doesn't seem like that much, and I generally get out my keys ahead of time, like when I'm getting off the bus/tram or out of the car.

I might ring the bell if things are particularly unwieldy and I can tell that there are people near the door.
posted by that girl at 4:49 AM on June 24, 2012

I let myself in. No reason to make my flatmate come all the way down to let me in.
posted by maryr at 8:32 AM on June 24, 2012

I think JohnnyGun is on to something. It makes sense to me that a parent would do this -- ring the bell and have the kids come help. But those kids then become adults and might think that it's just what you do -- without realizing that you don't do it with other adults who are your roommates.

Even if that's not the case with your roommate, it might be sensible to assume that it is, and approach her from this perspective. Like "hey roomie! It puzzles me that you ring the bell when you get home with groceries, and it just occurred to me that this might be something your folks did when you were growing up." now you guys can talk about your different "grocery cultures."
And you can sheepishly admit that you're a bit put out every time it happens. And then say "please don't be offended if I'm in the middle of something and don't come running to open the door." And then don't open the door next time. "Sorry! I was in the middle of something!"

It probably won't have to go that far.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:37 AM on June 24, 2012

Huh. I would let myself in, but I'm a little mystified by the consensus that ringing the bell is so offensive - is it really that much of a trial to walk 15 feet?
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2012

I think it would depend on whether we would be sharing the groceries.

With my old flatmate, we shared the groceries and so, of course, I would have been happy for him to ring the bell and I would let him in -- because he's just gone to the trouble of doing a chore that we both benefit from. Also, I would then help him put them away.

If we didn't share the groceries, maybe I would have felt differently. Then it would be just his thing.

That said: with spouses and/or children, not only do I ring the doorbell, but I ask them to come down two flights of stairs to help carry them up (we're now on the third floor with no elevator). I don't think I would have felt as comfortable asking my flatmate to do that, though (given that he was such a nice guy) he might have spontaneously offered.
posted by jb at 12:26 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Huh. I would let myself in, but I'm a little mystified by the consensus that ringing the bell is so offensive - is it really that much of a trial to walk 15 feet?

I think some of the difference of opinion is coming from people not really knowing what opening the door entails in this scenario. There is a big difference between running down four flights of stairs to let someone in to the building in a walk up apartment, vs answering the intercom to buzz them in to the same building, vs picking up the pho e to buzz them into a more modern building, vs walking across the room to actually open the door to the suit. People who have lived in these different scenarios are likely to have different feelings about how much trouble opening a door is.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:30 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

If the stuff is heavy and I'm tired, I'll ring and my husband will come get the door for me and help me carry the stuff in. If it's not bothering me and I'm not pooped, I let myself in.
I don't really see why there needs to be a hard and fast rule here; it's nice to have someone help you with the door when your hands are full, and it's fine to carry stuff in yourself. Myself, I prefer to err on the side of giving someone a hand.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:00 PM on June 24, 2012

As a data point, I once had a housemate who insisted on leaving the door unlocked all the time. Why? Because in spite of a string of robberies in the neighborhood, Enlightened Yoga Namaste Princess found it inconvenient to have to get her keys out. Even if she had no groceries.

I'd ignore the doorbell and say "I was sleeping."
posted by cyndigo at 1:38 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ragged Richard: "Huh. I would let myself in, but I'm a little mystified by the consensus that ringing the bell is so offensive - is it really that much of a trial to walk 15 feet?"

From the OP's update: "Today flatmate woke me up from a nap"

Flatmate doesn't know what OP is doing. OP might be sleeping, OP might be reading, OP might be on the toilet, OP might simply be sitting down with feet up and relaxing, OP might be doing any of a number of things that one would prefer not to be interrupted while doing. If the only reason Flatmate is ringing the bell is to avoid having to pull out their own keys, they're being inconsiderate.
posted by Lexica at 4:43 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just told my flatmate I would really appreciate it if she used her own keys.
Does that mean that all the times before she'd been doing it, you never let her know this bothered you? Because if you had to re-iterate, then yeah, I'd consider her to be doing something rude.
posted by sm1tten at 5:51 PM on June 24, 2012

My basic rule is to not expect others to do for you what you can do for yourself. Even if it's a little more work.
posted by The Deej at 2:42 PM on June 23 [11 favorites +] [!]

My household is completely different. [And I'm aware we may be a bit off the normal range]. It consists of me, my sister, and my partner. And our rule is: If someone is capable of doing something, then you should feel free to ask them to do it.
I don't know, that's just how we are. We don't really expect the other person to say yes, but we ask. And about 99% of the time, the other person says yes, anyway.

We also realize how ridiculous we are, and sometimes we'll ask someone to do something that might be no effort for us, but a bit of effort for them, just because it's absurd and we like to be silly. Like, If I'm in the dining room, and my sister is in the living room, and her drink is on the coffee table, she might ask me to hand it to her-even though she can reach it. And, hell yeah, I get up and walk into the living room and hand it to her. [Unless I'm doing something, then I'll say "Eh yo gimme a minute" and she'll go "Nevermind!"]

Now, I would never ever ask any of this crazy shit from someone else. But I figure I'd just offer up the evidence that there's a complete polar opposite from how most people do things.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:22 PM on June 24, 2012

Whenever this happens I come to the door with a smile and unlock it. I mean: groceries, right?
posted by chrillsicka at 6:54 AM on June 25, 2012

Response by poster: To answer some of the questions:
No we don't share groceries. Those were her own.
There is room on the landing to set the bags.
There is a door to the building and a door to our apartment. So when she rings the doorbell, I answer a phone and buzz her in the building and then wait by the other door to let her in (She has her hands full right?). The second door has a security device on it that keeps it shut unless someone holds it. We live on the second floor, so this can take about one minute. While it seems to me that it would be more efficient for her to take out her own keys, what bothers me most is that it interrupts me in whatever it is I am doing.
I myself would never ask to be buzzed in, nor expect her to help me carry in my groceries. (I have done more than one trip carrying my groceries upstairs). As a child, I was expected to help my parents bring in the groceries.
This was the first time I told her I would prefer she use her own keys. The conversation went well. We'll see how it goes!
posted by Milau at 3:34 PM on June 25, 2012

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