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Plain and simple, this weekend I ended up  proving a painful point while throwing a dinner party.  My wallet is a little lighter, but I’m excited that it should be the last time, thanks to Zoko.

I love eating and college football, so the fact that tailgating is one of my favorite types of ‘dinner party’ should come as no surprise.  Coming from the Midwest I’m used to having big tailgates all football season long.  College football in the Northeast is fairly mild, but there is one game that always results in a top-notch tailgate.  In fact, the game is known simply as “The Game” referencing the 136 year old match between Harvard and Yale.  Fans bring UHauls filled with food, drinks, games and music hours before the actual game.  Ironically, a very small percentage make it through the gates to see the actual game but the tailgate continues until long after the sun has set.*

As a recent alumni I figured this would be a great opportunity to meet-up with classmates and friends that I hadn’t seen in quite a while and decided well in advance I would send out an invite encouraging people to make the trip to New Haven for the day.  People quickly wrote back talking about how excited they were and that they would be happy to chip-in.  Everything seemed to be going perfectly, but as expected there were several issues that prevented the get-together from going off as smoothly as I had hoped:
  • It’s hard to know how much to buy when the guestlist never gets confirmed.  When there is no way to firmly set an RSVP by Date a host has a difficult time knowing not only how many people will be at a party but what their preferences are.  For instance, if a group of vegetarians decide to come at the last minute you might not have enough veggie options.  Alternatively, if a group is supposed to come and then doesn’t, you’re stuck with a bunch of extra food
  • Not everybody that said they would be there actually came.  When there is nothing on the line, people have no reason to actually come to an event making it hard to get a final count.
  • Some people brought friends that I hadn’t accounted for.  When people start bringing unexpected visitors the food and drink supply quickly dwindle and the people who actually RSVPed or chipped in are left with little.
  • Shopping for a large group of people is quite expensive.  When a host foots the bill on behalf of all of the guests expecting to be repaid later, he or she is essentially gambling that they’ll not only have the right amount of food but that they’ll get something back in return. Even with the best of intentions on everyone’s part, this doesn’t happen as often as it should.
  • It’s fairly awkward asking your friends for money in the middle of a party.  As with most hosts, my number one goal was for my visitors to have fun, so being the jerk who asks for money in the middle of an event is far from enjoyable.
  • Even when you ask for money, a lot of people still don’t pay.  Despite multiple emails and several reminders, less than ½ the people actually chipped-in leaving me almost $200 in the hole.

These points seem fairly obvious, but that’s why the team at Zoko is so excited about what we’re doing.  Dinner parties should be fun and one of the best ways to ensure that parties happen more often is to spread the financial, social or organizational burdens between all party goers so that no one is stressed and no one gets stuck not only planning the party, but paying for it.

Sometimes proving a theory hurts, but at least we had fun doing it.

*For those interested, Yale was soundly defeated 45-7.