My friend got us free theater tickets. When I got home she texted me, “Can you get our next meal or activity?” Am I obligated to treat her?

After not seeing a friend for a few months, she asked if I wanted to go to a show with her that night, if she could get free tickets from work. I accepted with thanks. I expressed my enthusiasm throughout the evening and thanked her several times.

I felt that I was both openly and appropriately grateful. For example, I drove us to the theater and paid $10 for parking. When we had dinner I happily split the bill 50/50 even though she had a $15 cocktail and I had water.

The show was great! I told her how random it was because it ended up being a table reading of my all time favorite movie When Harry Met Sally. My friend had never seen the film. It was a Netflix/Seth Rogen NFLX,

Later that evening, my friend texted me, “Since I got these tickets, can you get our next meal or activity?” I replied that she gave me the impression that the tickets were free. She replied that they were free, but, “It doesn’t matter because she still ‘got’ them.”

“I told her I was sorry for disappointing her and I sent her $30 through Venmo for her half of dinner. She didn’t accept it.’

I said, “Oh, I guess you were expecting me to speak for dinner?” She replied, “No, that wouldn’t be fair because the tickets were free.” However, she reiterated that I should still commit, to take care of our next social engagement.

I’m not a tit for tat person, especially with friends. I often invite friends over for drinks. However, this question confuses me. Was it tasteless Not to cover dinner? She told me about her new job and how she makes $30,000 more a year than I do.

She said she doesn’t want to go in circles about it and finds it very annoying. I told her I was sorry for disappointing her and sent her $30 through Venmo for her half of dinner. She didn’t accept it.

“She told me about her new job and that she makes $30,000 more a year than I do.”

In the past year I have invited her and her husband to dinner twice and both times I have given them leftovers to take home. She has never hosted me and to be honest I never thought twice about it. I had her over because I wanted to.

If I took her out to dinner before the show, paid for parking, and drove, it would have cost about $80 for me and $0 for her. Is it reasonable to invite someone over to something (for free) and expect them to treat you?

I enjoy involving friends in fun activities and opportunities. Am I out of touch, cheesy, or unfairly unable to see where she’s coming from? I don’t know how to move forward with a casual friendship as that will feel like a elephant in the room.

I would like to answer her: “I would like to invite you to the next event, for which I will get free tickets. I’ll let you drive, pay for parking, and split the dinner bill, even if I get second course and you don’t. I will then make sure you pay next time.”

So far I have refrained from sending this SMS. What do you advise?

confused friend

Dear friend,

Your dilemma reminds me of this letter I received a few years ago. It’s very similar, but in this case the friend had snagged $70 tickets for free and surprised his friend by asking him to cover the bill for her pre-concert sushi ($150).

In that case, and in this case, you have been presented with a “gift tax”. Her friend put a monetary value on those theater tickets even though she got them for free, and believes she should be reimbursed for that market value.

This is of course ridiculous. First, she surprised you with her conditions after you got home, and second, she did it via text message. She could have said, “I have the tickets, would you mind getting dinner?” You could have made a decision before accept.

You have two choices: admit it and invite that friend over for dinner? And do you want a friend who behaves so frugally? This is the kind of odd use of etiquette that can end a friendship, especially a casual one.

“This is the kind of odd use of etiquette that can end a friendship, especially a casual one.”

Even if you invited her over for dinner, there will be a bad aftertaste for both of you that probably won’t go away. With this friend, you’ll think twice about accepting or offering more invites, or even going Dutch in one evening.

Should you have offered dinner? That would have been generous and a nice touch, but I also believe that going 50/50 and paying for parking and taking your friend home is just as acceptable. There is no right or wrong answer.

If you feel upset, uncomfortable, or bullied about asking your friend out for dinner, don’t do it. You offered her $30 and she didn’t take it. This is passive aggressive as she has made it clear that she believes she is out of pocket. (She is not.)

There is often a financial imbalance in friendships, but solid friendships are a safe place to discuss the state of affairs face-to-face, not via text and not after the fact. Your friend wasted all the goodwill of her invitation.

It cannot lay claim to the moral high ground and Asking you to pay for your next excursion while refusing your $30. It’s too late for them to pretend it’s about anything other than monetizing free tickets. Do you really want a friend like that?

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Also read:

It’s going to be an expensive trip’: I was invited to a wedding in New Orleans. I live in LA. Is it cheesy to ask the bride if I can bring a plus one?

“He was in love with her”: My brother had a drinking problem and took his own life. He left $6 million to his former girlfriend, who used to buy him alcohol My friend got us free theater tickets. When I got home she texted me, “Can you get our next meal or activity?” Am I obligated to treat her?

Brian Lowry

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