DEAR MISS MANNERS: We accepted an invitation for a week's vacation without cost in another couple's condo with them and one other couple. There wouldn't have been any additional charges to our friends for us being there. We intended to fly there, while our friends intended to drive, which is why we provided them with six bottles of expensive wine ($300 total) for all of us to enjoy while we were together.
At no time was it ever said or implied that the wine was a gift. We did, however, say that the wine was for all of us to drink while we were there as a "thank you" for the free lodging.
We got "cold feet" due to six adults being housed in a small condo, so we canceled. The hosts said our cancellation didn't matter; that the wine should still go with them to the condo.
We politely declined. When they returned, they not-too-subtly wanted to keep the wine for themselves. We declined that "request" as well. What are Miss Manners' thoughts?
GENTLE READER: Well, they are not pretty. Not about you nor about your alleged friends in this unseemly tug.
You give yourself away when you speak of a supposed friend's offer of hospitality as "free lodging." Even the hotel industry now uses the more delicate terms "host" and "guest."
As you have baldly stated, you accepted an invitation, and then canceled because you decided that you didn't like the pre-stated terms. You had sent what anyone would interpret as a present, but are now declaring it was payment for services you no longer wanted.
Miss Manners would have preferred the scorned hosts to return your wine and cross you off their social list. But perhaps they were caught with no wine in the house, other guests on the way, and themselves being badly in need of a drink.