Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Do the Right Thing...It's Just Business"

As a freelancer, I do a lot of business with different clients. Usually we contract for a certain rate (only in rare cases does that actually involve a real contract), I do the work and they (eventually) pay. Ideal would be immediate payment on delivery of the product, which is submitted by a certain deadline adhered to by both parties. But realistically, there's often a delay on the return. And sometimes, an initial client meeting clarifies that there's no chemistry between us and we go our separate ways. That's business. With that as preamble, allow me to introduce the following situation (already well-covered in the blogosphere during my Middle East assignment, most notably here, in a post cited by the ever topical Steve Silver). A man and a woman meet on JDate (or any other online site). They trade an email or two, talk once or twice and decide to go out. They go to an expensive dinner (his choice); when the bill comes she offers to pay half, and he tells her he'll take care of it. They both go to their respective homes; when he calls her a few days later, she doesn't call him back. And that's where it all goes to hell. He gets it in his head that she owes him her half of the dinner bill and that he aims to collect it. He sends her emails and leaves her a series of voice mail messages to that effect, first appealing to her to "do the right thing"--since dating is equal to business in his world, her agreeing to accept his offer of dinner payment was her unspoken acceptance that there would be a future date--and ultimately threatening legal action against her at her place of business. The guy has a strong confident voice, and conveys that he's used to doing business. Even while threatening, he seems socially able, if annoying--as if he's reporting on traffic conditions or conveying information about an apartment she might be interested in, telling her that "the ball's totally in her court" and that she should "do the right thing." Soon the voice mails and emails are all over the internet, including his name and hers, and being discussed all over the blogosphere. But it's fifty bucks. Let me repeat that. Fifty bucks. While fifty bucks is nothing that's ever been spent on me for a first date, and perhaps it shouldn't be, it's still not a major amount of money for anyone with an actual job. For him, I doubt it's about the money. It's a control issue; it's a rejection issue; and it's the principle of the thing--he wanted to go out with her, and she didn't, therefore he feels that she owes him. But that doesn't mean she owes him money, whether it's fifty or two hundred and fifty bucks. But this situation raises questions about what's right from a point of etiquette, from a point of technical legality, and from a point of menschlikhkeit (behaving like a mensch). There's no way to know if "let's split it" means "let's split it," or "let's never do this again." I understand the pain of not being called back. And, although not proudly, I will admit to not having called guys back even if I said I would; when a guy asks if he can call again, it's harder to say "I don't think so" than it is to say "sure." Is agreeing to go on a date a business transaction? If so, is there any standard contract, terms to which both parties have implicitly agreed even though no one signed anything? How does one dissolve a partnership that was never started? And what are our obligations to the men and women we date?

8 comments:

VJ said...

The story has been making the rounds for awhile, I think Moxie also posted it. But I think your take on it is correct. It's a control issue with him. Love and attraction are not typically business ventures, which is why this clueless nebbish is probably often alone. If he showed up on my doorstep 'demanding satisfaction', I'd sic the dog on him. And that's only because I'm a kind hearted soul too!
Cheers & Good Luck. 'VJ'

Jerusalemcop said...

unfortunately, there are both men and women who can be control freaks.

In dating situations tho, it usually is the guy since "dating etiquette" leaves the ball in the man's court as to whether to call for a second date or not.

This guy is a real idiot, especially since she was away and actually was interested in going out again until he started ranting.

This story reminds me of what happened to Jon Favreau character in the movie Swingers. He was trying his best to make such a good impression on the phone, he screwed it all up making the girl think he's a total nut.

The obvious difference between these two stories is that in the movie, it was by accident, the Jdater was deliberately being an ass because he (wrongfully) felt she was playing him.

If only he woulda had a bit of patience.....

Anyway, I know from personal experience that when a girl says she wants to go out a second time, she doesn't always mean it. I was hurt, but got over it, but since then, I NEVER (ok, rarely)ask for a second date at the end of the first date.

Not looking forward to getting back into the dating scene....

Sorry for the long post.

Shabbat shalom.

J.

Essie said...

Before I post I just had to say that as I read the last paragraph, I heard Carrie Bradshaw's voice ;)

Yes, there is dating etiquette and people don't always follow it, but just because she offered to split the bill from the first date does not mean she wanted to go out again! Where does he get that logic? And I totally agree with you that a first date does not need to be a $100 dinner. That is absurd, IMO. I actually prefer if a first date is more relaxed and we can get to know each other a little in a natural setting. Save your money, dudes, for when you actually LIKE the girl. Anyway, he is in the wrong. She never indicated that she did or did not want a second date. Yes, she should have returned his phone call. She is at fault for that, but that does not make her obligated to pay for her half the expensive dinner that he chose.

Anonymous said...

personally, I find I only offer to pay for half the bill if I like the guy. Don't know why... but I made myself a deal that I would not offer to pay on dates, I believe my good company is worth the cost of dinner for two. Apparently that arrogant philosophy flies out the window when I feel like the guys company is worth the same. I try not to offer, because I don't want him to think "I guess she isin't into me if she's gonna offer to pay" but I always feel inclined to offer. Also, if I am into the guy, I try to make it clear I'd go out with him again, usually just by asking him out for a second date.

10/10 said...

life's twist of fate. Just why I'm responding to an obvoius dumb date ing story is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

FYI, the story is phony. Similar stories have been e-mailed around in the past. Nevertheless, the issue is real. My 2 cents - in the US, there is a tacit understanding that the guy pays on first date unless the girl asks him out, and even then the guy should offer to pay. There is no need to go out for a $100 dinner on the first date, unless its one of those situation where you've known the person for a while and finally the friendship blossomed into a romance. Otherwise, its coffee or drinks on a first date. $20-30 bucks. No big deal.

Lyss said...

I guess that he should've taken her up on ehr offer to pay half of the check that first time.

annabel lee said...

Here's an interesting variation from the Jewish Journal.