Over time I’ve developed social relationships with several dancers at a certain gay nightclub, and I want these relationships to continue. This includes special recognition from the dancers when I come in. In exchange, they expect me to return the favor. However, I might not be into the same person every night. I like to rotate between several favorites. Sometimes this gets competitive as they “fight” over me. How do I keep everyone happy? They make me feel like I’m cheating on them but, hey, aren’t they with someone else too? I have some money, but I can’t blow out the budget either.
In all honesty, you’re talking about people’s money. They’re going to get defensive, and that isn’t surprising; however, you make the very good point that you have different preferences each night, and that the dancers themselves interact with patrons other than yourself. If you are dealing with reasonable people, then I should think that the best way to approach this situation is to say, “(insert name), you are one of my favorites. But so is (insert name). I am not trying to offend you, I am simply trying to spread the patronage I can afford amongst the dancers that I like. There will be nights when I choose you over him. For tonight, I am choosing him, and that doesn’t mean anything bad about you.”
To reassure him you might let him give you a simple chair dance, as opposed to a full-on V.I.P., and/or a $5 tip on stage, as opposed to a $1. However, you should not say “I’ll get you next time,” because if you don’t you will look like a liar. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Not being picked can be a smack against a dancer’s ego, so if you want to soften the blow, that is how I would do it.