Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Ethicist: Should I Tell Guests How Much Dinner Costs?

Dear Ethicist: I am having friends for dinner tonight. I went to the butcher and ordered a rib roast. It was only when I got to the cashier that I realized how ridiculously expensive it was. However, I was embarrassed to return it. The couple we have invited are very nice, but they’re not the kind of people who could do anything for us and I feel loathe to go overboard. Still, it's getting late and I don't have much of a choice. At the very least I feel I have to tell them how much it costs and reap some benefit for being such a generous host. Otherwise I would be throwing good money after bad. My first thought is simply to place a little note at each place informing our guests of the price of the meal. My idea is to make it like a big joke. No one advertises how much they have spent when they invite guests over, but secretly I want to make my point which is that the roast I will be serving comes to the ridiculous price of $53. My wife feels I am displaying one of the worst sides of my character. Every time I try toput the little name cards down (with $ signs), she removes them. She is in the other room now and I don’t know what to do.


Conspicuous Consumer


Dear Conspicuous Consumer: My advice to you is to serve the roast and forget about the price. It’s water under the bridge. During the cocktails part of the evening you might make a casual remark about how expensive meat has become, if that makes you feel better, but I wouldn’t risk further alienating your wife by knocking your guests over the head with how much the rib roast cost.

Read "Lamb Stewed" by Francis Levy, Dispatches From the Poetry Wars

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