[Haveil Havalim is here!]
Tonight we held a dessert/discussion program (“Two Modern Orthodox approaches to secular study” - it was actually pretty good, if I may say so myself) we had advertised a full month in advance. Every event listing included RSVP options for both email and phone. Because we were serving food, we stressed the need to respond in advance.
- We had eight RSVPs.
- Two of those did not show.
- And we had twenty people at the program.
This is not unique to our shul; the phenomenon is not age-specific, gender-specific, synagogue-specific or even religion-specific. It’s human. People just don’t RSVP.
Classes. Friday night dinners. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur seats. No RSVP. No ר.ס.ו.פ.
Somewhere in the back of my mind lurks an old Archie comic, in which Svensen explains the acronym: “Rite Soon Vit Pen!” Oddly, I can’t find any reference to it through Google. I must be typing something incorrectly.
Approaches to RSVP-failure vary:
Some people apologize as they enter, “I completely forgot to RSVP,” “I'm sorry, I didn’t realize I was going to be able to make it,” “I didn’t want you to count on me, because I wasn’t sure I’d be here,” “Don’t worry, I won’t eat, I just decided to come at the last minute.”
Others are blame-shifters: “Oh, did the announcement mention an RSVP? I didn’t hear that.” “Didn’t you get my message? I left it on the machine in shul.” "My e-mail must have bounced." “I told my husband/wife to call; (s)he always forgets.”
And some people are simply above the law, with lines like the immortal, “Oh, you know me, I never RSVP for these things,” as though RSVPing were like choosing the right style of dress for the occasion, or knowing what goes with white wine at a meal. Another reliable excuse in this category is, “Oh, but you knew I would be there; I always come to these!”
So tonight I decided to Google “people who don’t RSVP” to see what sort of advice might turn up. I received 1,880 results, but not much advice.
I found a wedding planner who solicits her couples’ permission to bounce non-RSVPs. But I can’t do that - I want to reach everyone with these programs, and it would be a case of cutting off the old proboscis for me to keep people out. It’s not as though people will learn from being kept out. (Granted, I excelled at nose-cutting-face-spiting in my youth, but I'm trying to avoid it as I age.)
414 of the responses were from Blogspot sites, including this one discussing RSVPs for general parties and this one for that all-time non-RSVP event, children’s birthday parties. No advice, though.
If the synagogue were to charge for events, we could always have a discount rate for early RSVPs. Trouble is, though, that it likely wouldn’t work; people would rather pay the going rate than decide and notify ahead of time. And, we rarely charge for events.
So I guess I’ll go on with the same non-strategy as the people in this Washington Post article: Grin and bear it.
And, at least try to make sure I RSVP on time, myself.