My husband and I went out for dinner this weekend with another couple; the husband is in the wine business. We all agreed we wanted wine with dinner, so he selected a very nice bottle (it was amazing) from the list and we all enjoyed it a lot. When the check came, we split it into two checks, but somehow the other couple managed to sneakily get the full price of the wine added to their check without us noticing. It wasn’t until we were home that we figured out what had happened. I was going to write them a nice note telling them that we really had a nice time and thank you for the wonderful wine and company but I wondered if I should bring her a gift when I next see her or do anything else? We want to have dinner with this couple again and we don’t want them to always pay for the wine, obviously, so we could insist that we treat them next time or whatever, but it is a little awkward.
If you bring her a gift because they bought you some wine, say, a cake and a bottle of gin, the next time they see you, they’re going to feel obligated to get you a Volkswagen, and the next time you see them you’ll have to get a NetJet and fly them to Mexico, and then they’ll have to buy you a small island with an elephant that lives on it, and then all of a sudden it’s even more awkward and you won’t be friends with them anymore.
I’m sure that they paid for the wine because he didn’t want you to feel pressured into paying for an expensive bottle that was purchased at his recommendation because of his professional expertise. It’s super nice of you to want to reciprocate, but you don’t have to do it the next time you see them, nor does it have to be for the same monetary amount. That’s definitely awkward. So the next time you go out, just say, “Thanks for picking up the tab on that fabulous bottle of wine,” and then drop it. Don’t even try to pay for something for them that night–just be sure to not order another expensive bottle (go out for margaritas to make it non-awkward!) and then the next time you see them, treat them to dessert.