Am I overreacting to proxy invites?
February 22, 2013 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I work in the head office for a hotel chain and know hotel managers all over North America. I travel quite a bit for work and because of my job, I stay free. Occasionally with my accumulated air miles I will go somewhere for a getaway and as long as I am careful to avoid peak times, I can usually stay at one of our facilities free as a professional courtesy. If the room is going to be empty, I feel no guilt at hanging my hat there for a night or two. Often I invite someone along for company and to share in my perk. The problem is when someone invites someone else along. And occasionally that someone invites someone else along as well.

This happens more often than I would like. In the worst example, I was going to Chicago a few years ago and I invited a friend. The friend invited her mother, whom I had met maybe twice. The mother, hearing about the free accommodations on offer, invited a friend of hers along (because woohoo free weekend in Chicago), whom I had never met before. The expectation was now that I would provide two rooms free for three nights and not the one that I had asked the manager about. The rationale was apparently that I was not paying, so what did I care? (Incidentally, I did provide free lodging, for which neither of the uninvited guests ever saw fit to say thank you).

This weekend I am going to Seattle. I invited along my best friend, and she of her own accord invited along her new boyfriend. It took a bit of finessing to explain that I was not totally comfortable sharing a room with my friend since childhood AND a total stranger, and that possibly he might be self-conscious to be heading for a weekend away with his new girlfriend along with someone he had never met before sleeping four feet away.

It would never occur to me to decide unilaterally to invite more people along to take advantage of someone else's professional perks. If I am dating a dentist, I might well get free dental care. Bringing along my cousin and my landlord and expecting they would get free fillings would not even cross my mind.

Perhaps this is Ask Culture Vs. Guess Culture in action. I am pretty shy and retiring, and had some tremendously awkward third-wheel moments growing up. How can I convey politely to people that when I invite them to go to New York City or Montreal - even if it is not a romantic getaway, just two friends hanging out, dining, and shopping - that I am inviting that person only and not anyone else who feels like going?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Sorry, that just won't be possible."

And wow, the people in your examples are unbelievably rude.
posted by lalex at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2013 [89 favorites]

That's crazily presumptuous on the part of your friends. I would just be explicit the next time you offer to make a plan like this: "I'm going to be in [Montreal] and can have one person stay with me at [Hotel]. Would you like to come along?"
posted by scody at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2013 [47 favorites]

"Just so you know, I can only get the free room for the two of us. I had friends in the past invite others who invited other people, too... ...I know, rude, right?"
posted by ldthomps at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2013 [17 favorites]

Are they just inviting these people without even asking you first?? So rude! And that technically wouldn't be Ask Culture because they're not asking you!

If they are asking you, definitely just tell them no, that's not possible. If they've already done the inviting they'll have to do the uninviting.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Uh, yeah, that is really presumptuous of those people. I agree, you shouldn't feel bad at all for being straightforward with them that the invite is not for their friends/relatives/random people they feell like bringing along.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2013

I'm with you, I feel that inviting someone else to share a bedroom with the two of you is not something I would consider appropriate at all. I'd try to think a little about how you're phasing the invite so that you can try to make this as clear as you can make it but no, those people were rude. So instead of "I can stay free at any hotel I want...." maybe more like "I am staying at X Hotel and I have a spare bed in my room and can have a person stay with me..."

And I also agree with lalex. If people say "I invited $OTHER_PERSON" you just tell them that they can't. Stick to something simple, don't try to get involved with anyone else's feelings (the boyfriend may well not care if he's sharing a room with you, and it's totally okay for you to not only mind but not want to share a room with him in any case) and just say that you can't, though I do like ldthomps' example if they push it.
posted by jessamyn at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

To answer the question in the title of your post, you are not overreacting. This is rude behavior that puts you in an awkward position.

I wouldn't have guessed that you need to tell people up front that they can't just invite other people, but your experiences suggest that you do. So, how about something like, "this would just be the two of us. The hotel is giving me just the one free room."
posted by Area Man at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2013

I would say "There are policies about having guests in comped rooms that I can't violate, sorry. I risk looking bad to my directors... they normally turn a blind eye to having the employee's significant other attend, but it starts to seem weird if I invite more than one person. Anyway, I was hoping it would just be a girls weekend! Can we do a group thing next time?"
posted by samthemander at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

What? Who are these nimrods?

Put your foot down. When extending the invite be sure to say something like, "This is just for we two. No others."

Your friends are jerks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:29 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

It didn't mention if the person posing the question is male or female. If you're male, and you are continually inviting women along on trips to hotels... maybe they feel uncomfortable being alone with you and feel the need to invite someone else to establish that it's a friendly non-romantic trip?

In the boyfriend example, it's entirely possible he wasn't comfortable with his new girlfriend spending time in a hotel room for several days with a guy alone, even if that guy is a "childhood friend". Maybe he was pushing her to tag along, and it wasn't her idea in the first place.

If you're a woman well... then I agree with everyone else.
posted by banished at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2013

This weekend I am going to Seattle. I invited along my best friend, and she of her own accord invited along her new boyfriend.

To me this is just major immaturity overall, not just about the hotel perks thing. I would *never* share a hotel room with a new couple where one of them was acting like "How dare you ask me to detach from MY MAN for any reason I'm in LAAAARVE and if I can't be with him 24/7 I will JUST DIE." Because you know someone acting like that is not going to be respectful of the shared space at all and you are going to be sitting there as they are all over each other all the time! "Subtly" giggling and rolling around in bed at night while you are trying to sleep...

I feel like this doesn't need finessing, I feel like you could just say you wouldn't be comfortable with that at all.

In the other situation, it may be that they don't understand this is kind of a favor that you are asking from the manager, they might be thinking based on your job you can just "get" an unlimited number of rooms, no questions asked. In cases like that I really think all you have to do is just tell people that you can only get one, and tell people there can only be one guest in it.
posted by cairdeas at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

It would never occur to me to decide unilaterally to invite more people along to take advantage of someone else's professional perks.

Congratulations! You're not an asshole!

I can't imagine being comfortable sleeping in the same room as my friend and her boyfriend. Sharing a room with a couple is awkward enough when you know both of them and they're not mooching off you.

Cue "Full House"-style "How rude!"

Overstate the professional implications of how this looks you make bad and so on. It might not really be that bad, but if a little massaging of the truth helps you avoid major headache, I say fib away.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Perhaps this is Ask Culture Vs. Guess Culture in action.

No, it's not. It's just being presumptuous and stupid and incredibly rude.

You need to be very clear about exactly what you're getting for free (e.g. one room for two people, not more.) And don't hesitate to emphasize that you will get in trouble if you abuse the perks you're given. It sounds like these people think you own the hotels. (And if you did, it would still be incredibly rude to bring extra people without asking.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

One low-conflict way you might phrase this that still makes it clear that another person isn't welcome is to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I can only get one comped room--apologies for not making that clear." Then it's obvious that you're not offering to share your one room with anybody that your friend(s) think to bring along, and it puts the onus on them to either gracefully save face ("Oh, I didn't realize, sorry for inviting them--I'll let them know it won't work out") or to say something so obviously rude ("Why can't you get us another room too? Why can't we just have four people stay in one room?") that you can pause two beats, then slowly say, "Sorry, I don't think that will work."

The key is to make it sound like you are sorry about the obvious misunderstanding, but also that you're not going to budge on what you can offer. Then it's up to them to resolve it with whoever they extended the invite to in the first place.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2013 [20 favorites]

Because you're shy and it sounds like you have problems around boundaries: In general, if your friend is treating you rudely, you're under less of an obligation than usual to phrase things politely. You can just be blunt when that occurs.
posted by bleep at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Guys, any more than one person in the room with me and it looks like I'm taking advantage of a work perk. If they want to come along I can see about getting them a friends and family rate on their own room."
posted by COD at 2:38 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Perhaps this is Ask Culture Vs. Guess Culture in action.

No, it's that you seem to know people who come from a "freeloader" culture. Or, more generously, people you offer things to tend to feel obligated to "share" those gifts with others, or left they come across as "greedy" to their friends and family. Or they want to feel they're as generous to their own friends and family as you are being to your own, not realizing that if they want to be that generous, they should get their own job in the head office of a hotel chain.
posted by deanc at 2:43 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

It would never occur to me to decide unilaterally to invite more people along to take advantage of someone else's professional perks.

And yet lots of people do this all the time - all the time.

Stand your ground - 'that's not going to be possible' and any variation on it.
posted by heyjude at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2013

Just to clarify -- are they asking you, "I'd also like to invite X along, is that okay?" Or are they telling you, "I invited X along, hope you don't mind!"

Because I think the former is definitely a case of "ask v. guess" -- they're asking you if something is a problem or not, expecting you to tell them if it is. If you're the kind of person who has a hard time saying "no," then it would probably make your life easier to tell people up-front that you can only accommodate them (one person) on your trip.

But if it's the latter -- where by the time they say anything to you, they've already invited their friend or mom or whoever and are just "asking" you as a formality -- then yeah, they're being jerks!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Because I think the former is definitely a case of "ask v. guess" -- they're asking you if something is a problem or not, expecting you to tell them if it is.

I think it's rude to even ask, especially re: the friend's boyfriend (assuming the OP is female). Less rude than asking the OP after inviting the friend, but still rude.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:50 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I get free hotel rooms and flights sometimes because I earn a lot of miles from travel, and never once have I had a friend invite another person along in the way you describe. I have had one person ask me if it would be at all possible to bring so-and-so mutual friend because they REALLY love whatever city, and they would be happy to pay or help defray any costs, etc. In that situation, I was able to get two rooms with points and they bought me a very nice dinner. That was fine. What you describe is rude beyond belief.

"I'm sorry, that won't be possible." And if the invited person who is rudely inviting others protests, disinvite them and find another friend who isn't so presumptuous to accompany you.
posted by bedhead at 2:54 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

How do you word your invites? I suspect that some way you're saying things is hinting to people that this is okay.

Don't get me wrong: it isn't ok, they are being really rude no matter what you say when you invite them along. But you can also figure out how to word the invites that it starts out clearer that guests are a no.

You can just use scody's template, which is very clear, but people might be able to be more specifically helpful if something you are saying is also giving the wrong impression.

Again: these friends are rude to invite extras, their friends are rude to not thank you profusely, and this is really nice of you even though it ends in you being taken advantage of.
posted by jeather at 3:06 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

If this has happened before, you may not be stating the terms of the invitation clearly enough. I think something like this would be clear:

"I'm going to location XYZ on date ABC, and I thought it would be fun if you joined me. What do you think? I will have a free room with two beds--one for you, one for me--because of my hotel connections. Let me know if you want to join me!"

If the person writes back about their mom, boyfriend or whatever, send this back:

"I was just thinking it would be the two of us. If you'd rather room with your mom/boyfriend I can give you the hotel number and a code for "family and friends." Hope we can still go out together just us at least once while we're there!"
posted by tk at 3:15 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

This isn't a guess/ask thing, it's an immaturity/entitlement thing. I think a two-prong attack would be most effective: 1) phrase your invite as "I'm getting a room comped; we can share it" rather than "free hotel!"; and then when/if the uninvited guest is mentioned, say "oh, it's only a double occupancy room, but I can see about getting you a discounted rate."

Or you can get more grown up friends.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:33 PM on February 22, 2013

Yeah, I think either the way you're wording these invites is off or you have a circle of jerky friends. For whatever reason, they're not "getting" it. There's lot of great ways to word the invite so that it's more clear. Also, I have found for whatever reason that lately lots of people don't think invitations are exclusive. I'm not sure why that is or if it's a new thing or what. I'm currently trying to come up with a way to word an invitation to a small party I'm throwing to make it clear that the people need to A) RSVP for serious because it's a small group and B) not invite other mutual friends because there's limited seating and I need to know ahead of time within 1 or 2 people how many will be there. I find myself even wondering why I have this problem but there you go.

So, maybe the problem is somewhere in between -- people not quite getting at what you're offering and assuming there's an "open invitation" component to it. Sorry you've dealt with that, you're clearly a very nice person so I think you'll be able to work it out next time.
posted by amanda at 3:34 PM on February 22, 2013

If they ask first, any of the "can't do it's" above are good, if they don't ask and just tell you they invited other people? Cancel the trip with them. How well you can storytell your time away from them determines whether you can choose someone else and go anyway, or whether you have to actually cancel the trip and know you can't invite them (the same way, at least) anymore.
posted by rhizome at 3:52 PM on February 22, 2013

Just another person telling you you're not overreacting. A lot of the above suggestions for handling it are good. I would just tell people that it's a double occupancy room (since a lot of hotels charge based on number of guests anyway) and that you'd be happy to check on a friends/family discounted rate for the others.

I also think you should look at how you're presenting this opportunity to people because to me it is incredibly rude and I would seriously reconsider whether I wanted to be friends with someone who simply invited people along in this situation...unless there is some way you are presenting it to where it would be reasonable for them to think that they can invite others along.

Either way the friend who wants to bring her boyfriend along sounds pretty clueless...I mean, being the third wheel is sometimes bad enough, who would want to be the third wheel sharing a hotel room? Especially in this case when the third wheel ends up being the generous one with connections who arranged the whole thing?
posted by fromageball at 4:10 PM on February 22, 2013

As others say, the best way is to be clear and upfront in HOW you invite your friends: "I can invite one person to share my room on my upcoming trip, would you like to be that one person?", plus as soon as anyone tells you they're bringing along their boyfriend/mother/entourage, turn it right around and clearly say "That's nice, where will mom/BF/etc. be staying? Do they need the room reservations phone number?"

Also, anyone who has been rude enough to do this to you in the past? Consider never inviting them again..... and if they have the gall to ask WHY they're never invited, tell them their behavior risks your job.
posted by easily confused at 4:16 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am pretty shy and retiring, and had some tremendously awkward third-wheel moments growing up.

I think this might be the root of the problem. It sounds like these friends think of you as a doormat. Maybe these perks are even part of the reason why they are friends with you. The fact that you're here asking us if you're overreacting when you've already gone way above and beyond for these people, instead of having the wherewithal to simply tell them the invitation was only for the one friend, makes me think this is probably what's happening.
posted by wondermouse at 4:27 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Well....maybe frame the invite in a different way? Something like, "I have a vacation coming up and I can take ONE other person along with me. Would you be interested?"
posted by asra at 4:59 PM on February 22, 2013

Chiming in with those concerned with how you're inviting your friends.

If there's jargon involved, or if you're just saying 'I have a comped trip!' that may be sending the wrong idea. Be more explicit in what you are offering, and make sure to explain how it works.

After all that, anyone who goes ahead and invites others along after the fact can be unquestionably deemed a jerk, and ought to be uninvited promptly.
posted by carsonb at 5:02 PM on February 22, 2013

You're not overreacting.

You're underreacting.

If someone pulled this shit on me there would be a cosmic record-scratch and I'd say "haha you what? You are not serious? You are? Ok, no. This just became a solo trip."
posted by kavasa at 6:56 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

My parents used to love making promises on my behalf without consulting me. So I had to learn to say no to something they thought was perfectly acceptable without feeling bad.

"Hey I invited my mom, too, that's gonna be great right?"
"Oh noooo :( you did? But she can't come, there's only room."
"Well I already told her she could come, we could just share."
"Yeah, no :( I'm sooo sorry! Gosh."
"But how am I gonna tell her? She'll be so upset."
"Aw bummer! I don't know! :( I wish you had asked me before you told her it was okay, oh man! :("

Translation: Wow I really feel bad for you that your stupid assumptions got you into this troublesome situation that is entirely your own problem. Good luck sorting it out!

Also, are your friends really young/immature? Because it sounds like they have no understanding or respect for what's appropriate for you/anyone professionally when it comes to work perks. It could also be a cultural thing? I know people who come from cultures where everyone is supposed share their good fortune with as many people will fit on the floor.
posted by thebazilist at 9:44 PM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]

This is insane to me. There was another poster who recently asked a question about her friends walking on her carpet without taking their shoes off and feeding her dog table scraps even though she explicitly asked them not to. Who are all of these people?

I think people aren't being direct enough. It's certainly not your fault that these people are taking advantage of your largesse, but you need to straight up tell them that it's not OK. You don't have to be mean about it, but you can't be wishy washy either.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:43 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Insane was the word I was going to use too. I was going to type it in all caps and follow it by interrobangs. This is not behavior that falls anywhere on the "vaguely acceptable" spectrum. Unless, possibly, you have very young friends, like under, I dunno, 22?

Take some of the phrases above, practice by yourself, and don't think you have to go along with crazy shit like this if it makes you uncomfortable. You have more to offer as a friend than freebies. Also, I know three year olds who say thank you. There's no excuse anywhere for that.
posted by Iteki at 1:58 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know, I'm someone who has had to ask on more than one occasion whether an invitation was just for me, or for a plural "you" that included SomePartner. (Though not when his presence would leave someone feeling like the third wheel on their own trip! Yikes!) There are times when it's genuinely not clear to me, and I'd rather clarify than deal with "What do you mean you didn't think I'd invited him? Oh, what must he think of me??"

SomePartner and I are definitely more Ask-Culture types, freely expecting people that people have the right to say no to any request we make. However, I know that this does put some people on the spot and make them feel like they can't say no. So whenever I've had to ask whether an invitation was being made to us both, if anything I've probably gone a little too far in the "you're quite sure?"s and trying to repay/demonstrate appreciation for the generosity of our hosts.

These folks you describe offend me with their presumptuousness. Particularly when dealing with work-related perks, I'm conscious that they're a great favour to any recipient other than the employee, and that people can and have lost both those privileges and their jobs when the perks were exploited unreasonably. If you're making it clear that these trips are work-related, I'm somewhat horrified that people aren't thinking of the possible consequences of inviting extra people along. (And to not even thank you afterwards - wow.)

All of which is to say that you're absolutely within your rights to shoot this down. Using other people's bad behaviour in the past as an example could work, or just emphasising that you'll have space for "AN extra person" or a "two-person room."

But if people are rude enough to invite others, they've already breached the boundaries of politeness. You should feel no qualm about standing up for yourself, and in no way should you take on responsibility for the hurt feelings of either the presumptuous friend or their intended tag-along.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 1:32 PM on February 23, 2013

You mention that this has happened more than once. You may be inadvertently reinforcing this behaviour as acceptable by going along with all these extended invitations. Being really clear with people will make your life easier.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:36 AM on February 24, 2013

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