Check please...or not

Check please...or not

A couple of weeks ago I was having dinner with a newer girlfriend who I had not dined with before. She chose the spot; I just went along. I should preface this whole story by noting that I am pretty much of a cheap ass when it comes to dining out. Not because I don’t want to spend any money – just that I don’t want to end up paying for food and drink that I didn’t eat or order.

When my friend and I sat down and opened the menu, I went into cardiac arrest. It was an upscale sushi restaurant but I was unprepared for the prices. I didn’t realize I was going to pay for the chef to actually fly to wherever, catch the fish, fly back and prepare it for me. I was flipping out. Particularly when my friend started firing off items to the waitress. Because I have had bad experiences in the past, I was nervous that I would order a $5 bowl of edamame and pay $100.

I am talking about the issues of splitting a bill. As I have come to learn in my life, there are occasions when splitting a bill means that the person or people you are with order many more drinks, expensive appetizers and entrees then you do then decide it’s easiest to just split the bill. No, no, no. Not so, not at all. Not no way, not no how. Of course it’s easier on them as it’s easier on their wallet. But cheap as I can be, I don’t want to pay for everyone else.

I’m sure that everyone at one time or another has encountered a bill splitter. Often times it’s when there is a large lunch or dinner group when someone secretly figures that since there will be only one check, they can over order things they normally wouldn’t, then it will get absorbed into the bill. Once the bill arrives and someone says lets just split it, that person is all too willing to keep silent about that extra 2 or 3 glasses of wine on the bill and that cappuccino they had to have.

When my husband and I were about to get married, we were saving for our honeymoon. We were having dinner with three other couples. We decided ahead of time to each have a drink and a reasonable entree. We didn’t want to appear cheap but we needed to be conservative. The other couples ordered surf and turf, numerous drinks and desserts. For the two of us we owed around $30 including tax and tip. We paid $70. I had that gagging feeling when one of the wives announced we would just split it and I couldn’t speak. I was kicking my husband under the table, hoping he would say something. His macho pride took over and he remained silent. We had 2 chicken breasts and 2 glasses of wine. Pricey.

The anticipation of this happening has spoiled many a meal. The way I see it, no one should ever assume that their dining partners can and should pay for their food and drinks. When you are out with a work group, pay what you owe. When you are out with another couple, pay what you owe. When the check arrives, look at it. Pick out the items that you ordered, add them up, add tax, add your portion of the tip and PAY WHAT YOU OWE. I am not beneath whipping out my IPhone calculator and adding it all up. Tacky? Maybe. Do I care? Not at all.

Wait staff may get annoyed but you can always ask for separate checks. If there are 20 people that may not be possible. Just don’t be the person that ducks out to pee when the check comes up short and extra money needs to be put in.

My meal with my girlfriend was spoiled because I let this issue worry me the whole evening. It was childish but I didn’t know what to expect. When the check came, I quickly took possession, added up what I owed and told her what I was paying. My share $40. Hers $80.The cost of that meal? A whole other blog.


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  • My goodness, do I EVER know what you mean! With the economy as it is, my family and I are ultra particular about paying only for what we order.

    On the flip side, here's another thing that's been bugging me. Many of our friends and family vote to have gatherings at our house because we (apparently!) make it fun and always have lots of good food. That's great and, for the most part, we do like having people over. But while we may have opened up our home, that doesn't mean we should always be the ones buying all the food and drink! Sure we love it when you call and say: "Why don't we all meet at your house again this Thanksgiving? It's always so much fun at your house" - but please don't expect us to bear all the costs, folks!

  • In reply to jiyer:

    I think the best way to handle that is to have everyone bring a dish or drinks. I'm no etiquette queen but I never go anywhere empty handed nor should your guests. I think it's common courtesy to offer to bring something. But if they dont; ask!!

  • In reply to Teppi Jacobsen:

    This Thanksgiving I am being really aggressive about specifying what people should contribute. Otherwise, it goes something like this: We buy/cook the turkey, the ham, the pies, all the beers and wine, I usually make a salad, beans and mashed potatoes - and everyone else brings juice or other soft drinks, cranberry jelly, sweet potatoes and fruit salad.

    This year we will do the turkey and ham - everything else is being assigned! (I have already sent out an advance e-mail notifying guests of the change in arrangement)

  • Preach on woman!!

    When I take my hot females out on the town I at least expect them to ask if they can pay for half! When they don't, that usually tells me they either want a one-night stand, or they really hate my guts. Nonetheless, I like this thread because it's real and it's something attractive coeds in Chicago should memorize.

  • In reply to gwill:

    Wow...aren't you a prize. :-P

  • In reply to juliepie628:

    :), right?

  • This is only a dilemma if one lets it be. Still I know where you're coming from. I always seem to err on the side of "splitting" before we---my wife and I---split the scene. I guess it's all situational. If you know your messmates, you should know what to expect when the check comes. If your companions at the table are first-timers, you better pay close attention to the price tag of their comestibles before you wind up subsidizing their 'champagne tastes'.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    That's exactly what happened with my first time dinner with the girlfriend. The first appetizer she ordered was $18 and then she went on and on. I flipped because I wasn't sure what would happen when the check came. Which is why I made sure to grab it when it came and add up what I owed. Which was 1/2 of hers. It's a touchy situation. Most of the time my husband and I split and don't worry about it but most of our couple friends eat and drink the way we do. If it's 5 or 10 bucks here or there we don't care. It's when we start subsidizing others "champagne taste" we get pissed. Thanks for writing.

  • I would rather pay what I owe and chip in for the tip. This has happened to me before If I did not buy as much food as others why should I make up the difference?

  • I guess I go too far back, as I remember someone who whipped out a slide rule at Due's to figure out how to split the tab.

    Now, Chase is advertising that you can smartphone your share of the bill to the host's account.

    However, I never got into the situation indicated in your post, in that usually people were of the same mind as to what to order (two double cheese with sausage, peppers, and mushrooms). The only thing analogous was when I was talked into splitting evenly with my sisters, except both had husbands and children who ate, while I did not.

  • In reply to jack:

    Your reply made me hungry. Wanna split?

  • In reply to Teppi Jacobsen:

    Since Due's isn't what it used to be, Lou Malnati's?

    However, as I implied about my sisters, its not an even split if your husband and children come along. But, personally, I am tired of the "pizza for one" size, or the frozen substitutes that do not have enough tomato or sausage.

  • Loved this! We are the exact same way when we dine with friends. I love the fact you grabbed the check and paid what you owed. That is the way it should be. Each person put in their portion. It's common courtesy. Anyone who would get offended evidently planned to sponge off the generosity of others and hopefully learned their lesson.

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