A new crowd-sourcing Web site will make it possible for you to host the dinner party of your dreams — but it may do so at the expense of good manners.
Zokos is a site that allows people to chip in cash for a friend to host a dinner party for the group, charging $0.30 per guest plus a 3 percent fee to the host. The hosts set the number of guests and the amount they’d like each to chip in for the party. Then, if the desired number of guests RSVP, their PayPal accounts are charged, with the money going to the host for the cost of the soiree.
Social media has led to a slackening formality of etiquette, but charging people for a dinner party is not exactly an Emily Post-approved behavior, even with her new standards. Traditionally, you’re not supposed to host a dinner party unless you have the means to do so — and if you only have some of the means, you’re supposed to scale back your party enough that you can be a gracious host. “A potluck ... is the only appropriate way you can ask guests to contribute to their meals,” wrote advice columnist Ask Wendy. “Sometimes, party guests will offer the hosts money as a small contribution, but again, it is not to be expected, and when it happens, it should be with much gratitude that the offer is taken.”
At the same time, some argue that charging guests to attend a party is no different than a potluck, or the traditional hostess gift of a bottle of wine. I’d disagree: The cash transaction makes what should be a warm social event into a cold transaction, akin to a restaurant bill. One potentially agreeable use for a service like Zokos could be to charge admission to fundraising dinners, but even that rankles Miss Manners.
However, etiquette evolves, and with potlucks becoming more popular in these constraining economic times, Zokos could be the future of entertaining. What do you think: Would you charge cash for admission to a dinner party?
Update: Zokos CEO Christopher Kieran writes:
At zokos, we’re not exactly sticklers for tradition. Our goal is bringing down the barriers to entertaining, so we can all have better parties, more often. Unfortunately, the cost of entertaining is a major barrier for many people who would otherwise be fantastic party hosts. You shouldn’t have to be rich to host a dinner party. All you should need is a group of friendly people who want to spend time together. You’re right that tradition would prevent me from asking my guests to chip in. But that tradition results in me throwing fewer parties. Instead I go out with my friends and we all spend much more money to have less fun. At home we aren’t compelled to leave as soon as we finish eating. We can linger and enjoy the conversation. We don’t have to compete with a whole noisy restaurant to hear each other, so the conversation is more engaging. And we all save money by “going in.”
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the Zokos transaction fees.