If you bring stuff to a party, cottage for yourself, not as gift to your host, must you leave extras behind?

We just got back from a weekend at a friend's cottage. We brought up a variety of things for ourselves: food, sheets, towels and toilet paper.

When we were packing up, I gathered up the extra, unused rolls of toilet paper that we had brought, and left one we had put on the holder, to replace the one that we had used up.

When we got home, my wife was adamant that I should have left the extra rolls we had brought for the cottage owners and other guests to use later. I must confess I hadn't even thought about leaving them.
I certainly didn't begrudge leaving the roll on the holder, and in retrospect, I wouldn't have minded leaving the other rolls, but my thinking was that since it was not intended as a gift, there was no good reason to do so.
The upshot is that we ended up staying late into the night arguing over this.

There have been other instances where we have disagreed over my tendency to bring back surplus items we have brought with us somewhere. Most commonly, when we have gone to someone's house for a party or BBQ, and I bring several beers for myself, but also for the hosts, or other guests to consume if they wish. If there is any left over I bring the surplus back home.

She insists that everyone simply knows that you just don't do that, and finds it mortifyingly embarassing. I disagree. I can see leaving stuff, and I don't intend to be ungenerous to someone who has hosted us or loaned us their cottage, but it's just not my response in this situation.
I argue that while a tendency to generosity of this type is laudable, I don't agree that it is universally understood to be the only way to properly behave. I feel that the sense that this is an absolute obligation, is a response that is conditional to the particular social cultural and social circumstances she was brought up in. And that simply because my response is different, does not mean that I am completely wrong, and cheap, and out of bounds to proper behavior in middle-class, North American society.

I posed several rhetorical questions to her to probe what the boundaries of this expectation are. For the toilet paper, we brought 4 rolls and had not used 3, so she felt we must properly leave those behind. I asked, what if we had brought a
dozen, or a hundred? At what point are you allowed to recover the surplus? What if we she had brought 2 diamond rings? Since she only needed one, should she leave the other behind? Needless to say, she was unimpressed by these hypothetical situations.

As for the beers, she asserts that because hosts would have seen that we had brought, say, 6, and I had consumed 3, and someone else 2 more, that we MUST leave the remaining one, or else be known as cheap and anti-social. How do I even know that they want it, that they will drink it, that they won't pour it down the drain? I'd prefer to bring it home. What if I happened to bring 24, and only 5 were consumed? Should I leave all of the remainder? Where is the dividing line?
She says I'm thinking like a kid (I'm 41) going to a high-school party, but I argue that many kids have more discretionary income that we do. Should the dividing line between leaving it and taking it be prorated according to income? Age?

While in most instances, the cost of leaving surplus items behind is minimal -- a few dollars here and there, and could even be seen as a wise investment, that will have a good return in future reciprocation -- over time, the cost will accumulate, so I guess my inclination is to try to avoid unnecessarily expending resources on things left behind, that the hosts may not need, may not use or may not want.

What do people think? Is it simply understood that if you bring stuff to a party, cottage or wherever, not as an explicit gift to your host, but primarily for yourself, that you should leave any surplus behind? Or am I a total cheap, anti-social kook?
By alecz_dad 11 years ago :: Marriage
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