Q. Each year we host an elegant, upscale fund-raiser on our estate for a local nonprofit. One of the major sources of income for this event is the multiple cash bars. We offer a variety of beverages, including fine wines.
For the past two years, one couple (who are close friends, neighbors, and business associates) have hosted a “pre-party” at their home, which we, of course, cannot attend due to our preparation obligations. They then arrive late with several other couples in tow.
This year they even arrived with their own wine, which they not only drank but shared with several other couples.
I did not learn of their “private bar” until my husband and I walked them out. Near their vehicle was a pile of wine bottles dumped on the lawn. The amount of alcohol from the bottles left lying on our lawn amounted to about $300 to $400 in lost drink ticket sales.
I feel insulted and hurt, and I am stunned by their behavior. Aside from business associations, we see each other often. Am I overreacting? How should we handle this situation?
A. First, let me thank you for outlining the very essence of the phrase “first-world problem” in this space. And yet, even though your dilemma occurs on an estate and involves fine wine, when you boil it down, this issue simply amounts to people behaving badly and the question of how to respond. And you should respond.
You say, “Daisy and Tom, we found a pile of wine bottles on the lawn near your car, and I think they came from you and your guests. What’s up with that?”
If you’re stunned and disappointed, you should say so. I’m not suggesting that you bill these people for the estimated amount of spilled or drunk wine that might have gone to charity, but the advantage of speaking your own truth, plainly and clearly, is that you give someone who owes you an explanation or apology the opportunity to offer one.
And then after you have had your say, you move on. Don’t dwell, punish or gossip. Consider the matter settled.
Next year you might enlist these people to join with you and use their pre-party as an additional fund-raiser for the nonprofit. That way, not one drop will be wasted.
Q. I was recently told by a relative that I would be in his will. How does one respond to that? “I’m honored” sounds too formal (I mean, I’m not being knighted ...).
“Thank you” sounds weird to me. And “Gee, I don’t know what to say” seems inadequate.
This issue is complicated in that the relative is very ill and may die soon (hence the discussion about the will). What is appropriate?
A. “I’m honored,” “Thank you” and “Gee, I don’t know what to say” are all acceptable responses in the moment, but most important is the realization that this very ill relative told you this for a reason.
Asking an open-ended question would give him the opportunity to convey whatever additional information he wanted to tell you. So you say, “I didn’t really know what to say when you told me you had named me in your will. But is there anything specific you’d like me to know? And is there anything specific you would like me to do?”
After that, do your best to be a compassionate listener. Bringing up this topic is a way for a dying person to acknowledge his mortality as well as honor a relationship he obviously feels is important. I think it’s quite brave and beautiful.