Dear Salty: What’s the protocol for opening gifts at a higher-end restaurant? I understand why people would bring gifts to a birthday dinner, but isn’t it sort of tacky to make a big scene of ripping open paper, rustling gift bags, and yelling about the gifts? I saw this going on at a white tablecloth restaurant last weekend and it was quite annoying for the 45 minutes it lasted. Am I just a Grinch or is this kind of thing rude?
Did the gifts or wrapping involve any glitter? Because if a guest brought that infernal substance into my restaurant, I might scream. I feel like I’m still picking silver shiny bits out of the fake-fur jacket I wore to a bachelorette party years ago… but anyway. Glitter is rude at a restaurant—if you want to argue with me, you can vacuum the dining room.
Glitter aside, opening gifts at a restaurant isn’t inherently tacky or rude. Nor is bringing kids to dinner, or showing your friends a funny video on your phone during a meal, or attempting to go a capella on an Alanis Morrissette song that’s stuck in your head while you wait for dessert.
But all of these things become rude once they get too loud or messy.
That’s basically the restaurant rudeness litmus test: Is this action distracting other people to a point that they can’t ignore it? If the answer is yes, then it’s rude. Or tacky, or whatever word you want to use.
So ask yourself: Was that table really being loud and ridiculous, or were you just sad because no one brought you a present? (Sometimes I think I might have made a hell of a kindergarten teacher in another life.) Could you have turned your chair so you weren’t staring, or struck up an interesting conversation so you’d tune them out?
If you tried to ignore them but they were still loud and distracting, then you have a legitimate grievance. If they let balloons loose or covered the ground in feet of tissue paper or tacked signs to the walls, then the restaurant has a legitimate grievance.
If they were just a group of nice people opening some small gifts, you need to lighten up and stop coveting thy neighbor’s cake.