Perhaps the easiest way to sum up the various opinions – everyone has their own view of the problem – is to tell you a story.
A gentleman, the owner of some magnificent vines by Lake Geneva, was in the habit of inviting friends and acquaintances to discover the promise and delights of his vineyard, and offer them hospitality on his estate. The gentleman’s neighbours, eager that his prestigious guests should discover their products too, thought they would invite them to their estates. Taking advantage of a lull in their schedule, luring them with the prospect of an enjoyable excursion, they tried to convince them that there was no harm in leaving their host to see what was going on elsewhere. And numerous guests, not even realising how impolite they were being, accepted.
Until one day, the gentleman realised that many of his guests, too many, were disregarding the loyalty which a guest owes to his host, and decided to take action. What did he do?
I’ll let you decide:
a) Wine producers are likeminded people, and so the gentleman invited his neighbours and competitors for lunch and, over a glass of good wine, explained that there are certain rules of etiquette which everyone should respect. Preserving the system also means observing good practice among neighbours. Not wishing to be publicly labelled as freeloaders, the competitors stopped poaching their neighbour’s guests.
b) Bitterly disappointed, the gentleman sent out no more invitations. Instead, he left the doors of his estate open and only welcomed, with the usual amenity and hospitality, those who spontaneously paid him a visit, at their own expense.
c) Not wishing to upset the apple cart, but equally determined not to allow others to take advantage of him, the gentleman invited fewer guests. Those he chose to invite were warmly welcomed, trusting their honesty and courteousness to emphasise how impolite it would be that they should take advantage of this invitation to visit other vineyards.
This is a moral obligation which, in this day and age, cannot hurt. Which course of action will this gentleman take? Time will tell. Meanwhile, I urge all the respectable guests to think carefully about the sacrosanct rules of hospitality, which are as old as time itself.