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how to split the check?

All the talk of expensive eating, stealing meals and tipping got me thinking about group dining when some diners are clearly consuming much more than others. I eat out with colleagues when we're at meetings so I confront this problem fairly often. I don't drink alcohol (it gives me headaches) and I'm not a big eater. It's rare than I have more than a small appetizer and main course, and I'm not the only one eating lightly. But some of my companions will have three or more courses with wine, liqueurs and cocktails all of which make for an impressive bill at the end of an evening.

In most cases someone will just divide up the bill equally and no-one objects. On occasion when I expect a very lopsided bill, I'll ask for a separate check when we're seated. Is this being petty? How do other people deal with this situtation?

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  1. I don't think it's petty. I wish my husband would do it when we go out with friends. Everyone drinks about the same amount but one friend gets the expensive after dinner drink, the most expensive wine, the most expensive entree, lots of appetizers,etc. and we end up paying much more than our share. It irks me much more than my husband and since he's the one paying the bill, that's his issue.

    In your position, I would do the same.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Janet from Richmond

      I'll guess that we all face this situation from time to time, while only some face extreme versions. Personally, I do not like to dine with anyone who takes advantage when the check comes. I am generous by nature and would never notice a small difference. I also would never be the one to suggest a variation on the usual split unless I am the person who has consumed more.

      My expectation is that dining companions make an effort to keep expenditures equivalent or the couple responsible for the greater portion of the check proactively contributes more. We find it very simple to keep our order on par with our companions. On an evening when I am going to have just an appetizer we'll choose expensive wine or my husband will chose an extravagant entree. If we're dining with friends who are ordering less than we might have chosen we take note and order in kind. You never know when someone may be working to pull in their dining expenditures while trying to preserve the chance for an evening out.

      I was raised to place an order that keeps with what my companions have ordered. If they're all having an extravagant special, go ahead. If they're choosing moderate entrees and foregoing wine, do the same.

    2. Not petty at all. The alternative is to make clear when accepting an invitation that you assume that the check will not be split equally but that each tub will rest on its own bottom, as the saying goes, plus [ (local tax) + (15-20%) %] for tax and tip on top thereof.

      Checks may only be split by unanimous consent of the group, which can be inferred from prior practice of the same group and in which case those objecting should pipe up as I note above earlier rather than later. It is *never* correct to assume the check will be split equally if there is someone in the group who has not dined with the group before and is expected to pay. I realize people do this, but it is very rude nevertheless.

      If someone feels offended by this, that's a clue not to dine with them in the future until they get over it.

      17 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        Call me silly but negotiating with friends on going out for dinner is petty. And I am always on the short end of the bill because my DW and I do not drink. Normally we arrive late, and the others are well into their first round, then during dinner, another couple of glasses of wine or even a bottle of wine for some. When the bill comes i am always upside down for $30-40. I never feel uncomfortable about foie gras appetizer or dessert and still am the short straw. My feeling is c'est la vie. i spent a wonderful evening with friends, had a good meal, went home with my wonderful DW. My total loss is a lousy $40 bucks. Do i bring up the subject with friends, no way baby. Price of life and glad to pay.

        1. re: jfood

          Friends vs. colleagues. Does that make it different?

          1. re: danna

            Business meals go on somebody's expense account.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              True, but it seems to matter to the OP...so perhaps these colleagues are self-employed. Doctors, etc?

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Not all business meals are charged. And there are limits. The example I gave of the Colorado meal would have cost roughly twice the daily amount. In some cases we have students not on expense accounts in the group. I've seen them go pale when the person with the check announces the total. You know who's going to live off doughnuts the rest of the meeting.

                I'm not so much concerned with the cost to me. As I said, I usually wimp out and pay up without objecting. But is it fair?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  - I am way too old for my friends to get trashed at events, so these would be colleagues; even if these were friends, once the table gets to that drunken state I pull a Snagglepuss and "exit stage left"
                  - Employees have responsbilities not to go hog-wild on expense accounts. in my comany that is grounds for dismissal with cause. i still need to sleep at night with myself

                  1. re: jfood

                    jfood said "- Employees have responsbilities not to go hog-wild on expense accounts. in my comany that is grounds for dismissal with cause. i still need to sleep at night with myself"

                    I always liked your posts jfood. I couldn't agree more. If I were a CEO, people who abuse the expense account get fired after one warning. To a certain degree, I understand that it's the price of doing business (although I doubt that it's really efficient). However, when they invite their friends (who have no part in the deal) to a $300/person expense account dinner--that's theft.

                  2. re: danna

                    No - people should be prepared to pay for what they order and pay their share which includes tax and tip on their portion, be it business or pleasure. It's actually often easier to assert one's share when paying on business as many have to work within company accounting guidelines (I can't expense a major meal without scrutiny).

                    Likewise, with friends, each person should own up to what they order. I've got some friends who've got great incomes and also great tastes in wine, etc. They'll not hesitate to order tequila at $20/shot or a $200 bottle of wine. Thankfully they assert themselves and insist on covering what they order for the table. I've also got friends who are kindergarten teachers and cash starved students. And one of my best friends stopped drinking after a DUI. I want them at the same table as they are all great people.

                    But even if all things were equal, some nights you're happy with just some soup. On others, you can eat 5 courses. The bottom line: Each person should cover their portion of the tab.

                  3. re: jfood

                    While I can appreciate your generosity, please try to remmeber that not all of us have the financial means to be as as nonchalant about consistantly spending $30-40 extra per meal with friends. Having everyone pay their share allows those with extravagant tastes (and can afford it) to comfortably dine with those who have less extravagant tastes (and/or can't afford it).

                    1. re: Melanie

                      Exactly! If you know that you're not gonna drink and are a vegetarian or salad eater, then you're not gonna go and share a meal with people who invariably order the filet mignon and an expensive wine. Why SHOULD you in effect "subsidize" someone else's meal? Maybe it's a male/ female thing: Are women less willing to bear the cost, and are men just too proud to look cheap (or even worse) too lazy to do the math?


                      1. re: Melanie

                        You are absolutely right Melanie (apology extended) and fortunately i am in that point of my life that i can be generous (a long and winding road to get here so i understand the other side as well).

                        I keep reading all the additions to this thread to learn different points of view and i think this thread has many sub-plots. The yutz at lunch who orders the extra appetizer, the cocktail, the "this and that" is pissing off more than just you, he is pissing off everyone and if the efficient market theory works will eventually be uninvited. I agree he also normally gets the check and declares the evenly-divided amount due. At some point someone will say, "Hey Johnnie, throw in an extra ten for all the extras you had before dividing." Next time he's drinking tap water and a regular sandwich like everyone else.

                        I think that friends will understand economic situations of friends and not impose their extravagant tastes. If certain friends are asking to uneconomically split checks, mention something to them. Just because they have more economic means doesn't mean they have economic sense. "I love going out with you guys but can we split the tab a little more in line we what we ordered?" If they are pissed at that suggestion, reconsider if they are truly a friend.

                        1. re: Melanie

                          YES! I am not at a point in my life where I can afford to spend tons of money on a night out with friends. As it is I have to turn down lots of invitations because I cannot afford it.

                          I recently dated a guy who was financially much better off than I was. I always expect to pay my own way, but he would always order much higher-priced items than I would and expect us to split the bill down the center. Then he'd tell me I had "issues with money" when I got annoyed. Needless to say that relationship didn't last long.

                          1. re: queencru

                            Uhh, wouldn't most guys usually insist on paying for the whole bill on a date? It seems a bit crazy that he would do something like that, especially considering he's much better off financially. What a loser.

                            I also think people should pay for their share and calculate their own tip and tax. Sometimes I've found that people will pay for their dishes, then split the tip and tax, but the people who've ordered substantially more pricey dinners should be paying a proper proportion of tax and tip, no?

                        2. re: jfood

                          Not everyone can afford this. Hopefully one's friends or colleagues would take this into consideration.

                          1. re: jfood

                            Friends, by definition, will Always understand splitting accurately. Why did we learn math if not for situations like splitting bills?

                            1. re: jfood

                              If it's someone I dine with regularly I'm usually comfortable with splitting the check evenly, because I know that if I pay a bit more than my share this time, they might pay a bit more next time. It all evens out.

                          2. There's no better way to end a fun dinner on a sour note than with a long discussion about who owes exactly what.

                            "Never trust a man who doesn't drink."--W. C. Fields

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I'm with you, but frankly many are not. Some would say "There's no better way to end a fun dinner than to pay for half of your cheapskate friend's dinner". Different people have different preferences and beliefs on this (duh!) and that's why Karl's point above (like most of his posts) is right on: you have to know your dinner companions.

                              1. re: Darren72

                                I haven't had this problem dining with friends, this problem arises (for me) when I'm dining with colleagues so there's not much choice of companions involved. The problem is most acute if there's a fair amount of alcohol since this can really raise the cost of dining.

                                One example: we were about 10 dining out in Colorado during a conference. One end of the table was doing all the drinking and most of the eating. When the check came it was delivered to them. They announced that each diner owed about $60. My colleague across from me indignantly said he was paying for what he had consumed which came to about $25. My dinner consisted of a single dish, grilled trout, costing under $20. Neither of us had any wine which was the biggest part of the bill. A couple of others also opted out of the "equal shares" deal. This meant that the lavish diners paid for what they had eaten, around $75 or so.

                                I frequently encounter this level of disparity and I'm usually too much of a coward to do much about it. Even when I ask for a separate check, I use the excuse that I don't have enough cash and need to charge my share.

                                1. re: cheryl_h

                                  I didn't mean to imply that one should *choose* their companions on the basis of how the bill would be split.

                                  1. re: cheryl_h

                                    this really irks me sometimes. i don't mind swallowing a $7 difference, but when we get into multiples of my original bill... there's no need to be nice.

                                    they didn't choose to be considerate of your choices so why should you of theirs? i refuse to let people do things like this because my general rule of thumb is that if you let them get away with it once, they're bound to do it again.

                                    1. re: cheryl_h

                                      I take the following approach since i do not drink. When things are getting to that drunken state by many, I place my napkin on the table, explain that i've had a long day and am going back to the hotel. I take the appropriate amount out of my wallet and leave with the most sober at the table and excuse myself. Let the drunks fight it out when the bill arrives.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I like your thinking! I might try this some day.

                                2. I have never, in all the time I've eaten out with friends or colleagues, split the bills equally. Someone who's good in math takes the check and tells everyone what they owe, and everyone chips in extra on top of that for tax and tip. At the end that math whiz counts it all up, and if we're short one or two people will kick in a few bucks more. No one ever saw it as "ruining the mood," because no one wants to pay more (or less! these people aren't cheap either!) than they should.

                                  I understand the concept, but not the practice, of trying to match what your companions are ordering. What if you're asked by the server first? What if they're waiting to see what YOU order?

                                  1. Of course, there are the people on the other side of things who essentially do the same: say they want to pay less because they ate/drank less, then underestimate what their food actually cost, ignore that "bite" of a dessert" they had and the "taste" of a shared dish, "forget" to add tax on their portion and add a 10% tip...

                                    I generally favor splitting equally, but you do have to be willing to call somebody on it if they were far and above everybody else and fail to offer to contribute more, and also if they fail to recognize that somebody ordered far less than the rest.

                                    1. As one who know longer drinks much (by choice), I sympathize with your plight. Long ago, I decided it was just too much trouble to insist that the bill be adjusted. While some of my friends might be drinking multiple bottles of wine, I just order more and/or more expensive food. Have a 2nd appetizer or, dare I suggest, a 2nd dessert! Sometimes, you just have to break down and order a scotch neat.

                                      1. Splitting the check evenly is fine if you actually have the money. Unfortunately, I have to plan ahead when going out for a nice dinner. If I have to make the decision to forgo dessert so I can have a more expensive entree, there is no way on earth that I am going to chip in on somebody else's appetizer, drinks and dessert. Quite simply, I don't always have $40 to spend on my self, let alone anybody else. Fortunately, my friends are all also in the underpaid professional/grad student pool and feel the same as I do. We never have a problem with people paying their share.

                                        1. This dilemma comes up again and again.

                                          As Karl noted, there's only two ways to deal with it: either don't dine with people who split the bill evenly, even when all have not ordered the same; or take charge of the matter, and pay what you owe.

                                          Only you can let yourself be taken advantage of, either in feeling or actuality. If the value of the meal when splitting the tab is not worth it to you, then you should do something about it.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: DanaB

                                            There's a third way: don't dine with people who have a problem with spliting the bill evenly.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Which, as best I can tell from commentary over the years, is a majority of people, if you include people who acquiesce in the practice but don't actually like it.

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                People who aren't assertive about what they want have more to complain about.

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                One option that might work if you're obligated to join the group... only order a drink... from the bar... Enjoy the company and skip the meal. Pay for the drink on your own.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  It's funny how there's all this talk from the "split bills evenly" people about how you shouldn't care about the cost of an evening spent with friends, but basically, what an attitude like this does is preclude having dinner with people who can't afford to spend as much money on wine/drinks as you choose to. What kind of friend says "you have to subsidize my wine habit or I won't eat with you"?

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    I go out with poor friends fairly often. If the bill is beyond their budget I pick up the tab.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      I think that's appropriate in some relationships (for example, people who of a different generation and with whom you can have a pseudo-family/mentoring relationship) and on some occasions (taking them out for their birthday, anniversary, etc.). But for someone who is a peer, I think it can get uncomfortable if you do it more than once -- people start to feel beholden, or they start feeling that you're making a subtle issue about the difference in your economic status.


                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        I'm fortunate to have lots of disposable income, and I'm generous to my friends who don't. If somebody has a problem with that, we're not going to get along very well.

                                                2. In these situations, it seems to me that the people suggesting splitting the bill evenly are the ones who are ordering the most $. If there's only a few dollars difference, then I have no problem with even splitting. But when it's pretty lopsided, it irks me. I think those people have no manners. I would ask to see the bill, and say aloud that I want to see what I owe for my portion.

                                                  When I'm the one ordering the most $, I always make it evident that I'm paying for my entire share of the bill.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: slacker

                                                    "I would ask to see the bill, and say aloud that I want to see what I owe for my portion."

                                                    I find it incredibly rude when people who do that at the end of the meal. It suggests that the meal was not a communal activity but rather just a bunch of individuals satisfying their personal needs independently.

                                                    At the beginning of the meal, better, but that'd still be the last time I ever went out to eat with that person.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      When there is a communal wallet by unanimous consent, paying is a communal activity. Otherwise, it's an individual activity because there are individual wallets. The rudeness is in presuming upon those wallets without consent, and in our culture that presumption is not the norm.

                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                        If some people think it's rude to split the check evenly and others think it's rude to do otherwise, there are plenty of places where each person pays on ordering, so the issue doesn't arise.

                                                        To me, the big faux pas is not raising an issue you find important until it's too late for other people in a group to accommodate it in a way satisfactory to everyone. I call that passive-aggressive.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          RE your first comment: The rudeness is in assuming the consent of a group that has either not dined together before or has not had that as its custom.

                                                          Re your second comment: I agree if all members of the dining group have previously been in the habit of splitting the check. But if anyone in the dining group has not been with the group before, it cannot be presumed without their consent. The host or organizer of the group should, ideally, check in advance with newbies if they might have an issue with that. Failing to do that could likewise be considered passive-aggressive.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            "there are plenty of places where each person pays on ordering"

                                                            Where are these places? What standard sit down restaurant allows you to pay upon ordering?

                                                            And I'm sorry, but in what universe of mixed company dining groups do you discuss payment issues upon sitting down at the table?

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              Where I live, in the San Francisco area, there are numerous Pakistani/Indian places, taquerias, by-the-slice pizza places, and cafes where you pay on ordering and they bring the food to your table.

                                                              They're all inexpensive places, which is another plus if some people are worried about money.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                "too late for other people in a group to accommodate it"

                                                                Why is it too late when the bill comes? Do you mean it's too late for the big spenders to reconsider their habit of over-ordering now that they know it will not be subsidized by the rest of the group?

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  If you think the point of rules of etiquette is to correct bad behavior after the fact, then it's never too late.

                                                          2. Sometimes I am drinking and my friends may not be, in those times I clearly pay for my drinks, I always contribute more money. I have also been on the other side of that story. Sometimes I will go out with a group of people who make alot more money then me. I am a single person, a clerk in a store, my dinner companions are the managers. When I say they make at least 3x's what I make, I am not kidding. In those times, I will often choose not to drink because I am driving, and when I end up paying the same amount of money, it certainly irks me. I pay because it is not worth making a scene, and I will look like a petty person, but being single, sometimes it is just hard to swallow paying $50, when your meal was worth $20. In their defense, I truly think they don't think about it.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: jennaroo

                                                              "In their defense, I truly think they don't think about it."

                                                              Actually, that's *not* a defense. Thoughtlessness is not a defense. It's not something considerate friends do to one another. Rather, if repeated, it's a sure way to ruin a friendship. And that is precisely why etiquette rules were devloped to instill habits that, while constraining in the particular, were liberating in the general, as it were.

                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                There's no consensus on how to divide the check, which means that the one real rule of etiquette is that you must discuss it in advance to avoid misunderstandings and bad feelings.

                                                                "Do not wait until the end of the meal to decide how the group will pay the bill. I have seen this happen and there is usually at least one person who forgot their wallet, or thought that they wouldn’t have to pay and now can’t. While discussing payment may be uncomfortable, it’s necessary.

                                                                "This would be different for business meetings, when attending a business dinner/lunch; In these cases, it is the responsibility of the party that requested the lunch to pay for the meal."


                                                                "Although it can be awkward to talk frankly about money, Geller believes it's better to endure a little discomfort by communicating your feelings up front than pay the financial penalty afterward. And set the tone long before you get to the restaurant, Geller advises. If the restaurant in question is too expensive, suggest a cheaper one. If someone is hosting a birthday, ask whether they will be picking up the tab or expecting guests to share it. If you're not comfortable with how the check is being divided, Geller suggests saying something like: 'I know people do things differently, but what works for me is X.'

                                                                "Richard Sand, the 'Protocol' author, has an ingenious system. 'Always offer to pay the check,' he says, 'But always accede to what your guests want.'

                                                                "His theory is that you can't lose by being gracious -- and in most cases, your guests either will insist on paying their share or will reciprocate. If they can't, and you foot the bill, 'the friendship is maintained. And sparing people the embarrassment and the tussle is worth the extra money you might spend,' he says

                                                                "I like the generosity behind this method, but relying on people's sense of honor seems like a recipe for going broke. Sand says that when it's not possible to make such a magnanimous offer, then split the check evenly -- 'unless someone had six drinks and you had none. Then you should leave early and steal their umbrella.'"


                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Well, in the days of hosted dinners, this was never a problem. A host would invite, and guests would enjoy, and the host would pay. Guests would host in turn. Et cet.

                                                                  By the way, I heartily endorse discussing money matters before the event. But I also do not approve of taking advantage of people's failure to do so where they are being caught unawares. I've seen it far too often. I have seen passive-aggressive gaming, too, but more by folks who want others to foot their greater portion of the bill than those who are trying only to pay their own portion of the bill.

                                                            2. Separate checks say only one thing: I Shouldn't Be At This Table Eating With You.

                                                              It's petty, it's taxing for restaurant staff, and it says alot about what a table really thinks of each other. "I don't trust you or your accounting methods".

                                                              It has been a strict policy of mine to either pay for it all or split it evenly, all because of something that happened in my youth. I'll never, ever forget the dinner party for 14 at The Bistro in L.A./B.H. I could have crawled under a table after a half hour of negotiation plus one idiot who actually asked how much the souffle' was! Never again.

                                                              Statistical fact: People who split checks are horrible tippers too!

                                                              11 Replies
                                                              1. re: TheDexter

                                                                i think that's terribly unfair.

                                                                a fair number of my friends are still students while there are those of us who have been working for a couple years and are putting away good sums. to disallow them from eating with us simply because they won't split a bill equally (even if all they did order is a main) would be an insult to them. i enjoy their company. if the restaurant cannot do separate checks in these instances we will figure it out for ourselves but double check our total amount to ensure we've left a more than fair tip. my friends very willingly will put in a little extra as we see fit. but more often enough we end up leaving more than was necessary.

                                                                no "negotiations" are done and it takes all of 10 minutes for us (while we're sipping our coffees no less) as we've become rather efficient at disecting who had what. additionally, no presumptions that everyone at the table is having wine or extras unless they want them. i don't think it's petty, i think it's considerate that everyone recognizes that we're all at different income and value proposition levels.

                                                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                  this is a wonderful way of keeping friendships going beyond the year of graduation.

                                                                2. re: TheDexter

                                                                  "... a half hour of negotiation ..."

                                                                  I had a similar experience years ago. It was a double birthday party at Chez Panisse, and despite the fact that the dinner was prix fixe the discussion went on for a half hour. It was one guest of honor's friends who thought that was proper, the rest of us found it offensive and awful.

                                                                  1. re: TheDexter

                                                                    A ridiculous thing to say. I'd like to see where you got that "statistical fact"

                                                                    One of the (many) reasons I like to have my check separate is because I a a very GOOD tipper and I worry that if my tip is combined w/ others it may water my tip down in front of waiters that know me. And it's really uncomfortable to add tip to the table FOR someone else...I've done the behind the back cash drop before and I 'd rather not do it again.

                                                                    1. re: TheDexter

                                                                      You're absolutely right. There's always one cheapsake who wants to be sure he doesn't pay a dime more than his food cost, tax and 3% tip and he's always able to find a mathematically minded woman who's not embarassed to bellow "Who had the grouper" down a long table. You think it's nearly over and then she calls the server over for coins so that each diner who threw in a $20 gets their $.46 change!

                                                                      Not only is it humiliating to engage in this kind of pettiness in a public place it's very expensive. Never has this gone down when I haven't wound up going back to the table to add to the tip.

                                                                      I suppose the moral of the story is to become suddenly ill if you should ever hear the words "We're all going out for lunch...."

                                                                      1. re: TheDexter

                                                                        Oh, I see. You don't mind other people subsidizing your alcohol consumption, but you do mind subsidizing another person's tip. In my book, that makes you just as much a cheapskate as the bad tipper.

                                                                        People who are rude and thoughtless will find a way to be so however you decide to deal with the check. And for the record, I do it either way depending on the situation, and I often put down some extra money if I think somehow in the process someone has shorted the tip.

                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          Very well said, Ruth. I do exactly as you do... go with the flow, as we say down here in Smog Angeles, and add a bit on if it looks short.

                                                                          The standing on principle and the sweeping generalisations just completely hysterical. And I love the attitude of "I can afford to treat my friends, so everyone else can too," especially when you then refer to them as "poor". Wow, you are really doing the Lord's work there! "If you don't want to split the bill evenly, go to Fuddruckers." Just... wow.

                                                                          I go out with my coworkers to lunch most days. We never have an issue... most times we split the bill evenly. If someone had a $5 salad while everyone else had $10 pasta and someone had the $15 fish, the fish-eater kicks down a bit to make up for the salad-eater. Sometimes one person will just pick up the entire bill, and it's always reciprocated at some point. Fortunately adding tax and tip in Los Angeles is easy math -- the menu price of your food plus 25% -- so if we ARE paying by person someone will hand the bill round and say, "Don't forget to add 25 per cent for tax and tip."

                                                                          And funny... despite the fact that I sometimes dine with people who pay by person, I always manage to tip 20% or so... therefore, due to that "statistical fact", I don't exist!

                                                                          We don't have accounting discussions, we don't have acrimonious arguments at the table, we have all been eating together for four years without a scene.

                                                                          At dinners, we'll often play the telephone game, but with two prices. "$40 if you drank, $25 if you didn't," or some such thing like that. It takes all of one minute with a calculator (which comes free with your cell phone) to figure this out.

                                                                          The only time we've ever had a problem was with a woman who continually tried to shortchange us. She'd leave before the bill was settled, or she'd owe $42, turn in $40, and then try and get $10 back, or whatever. Every time. We stopped eating with her, but before we did that, we ended up resorting to having to write names on the back of the bill (we're talking a dining group of 20 or so here). The very last time, she put up a scene about how she didn't drink (she did) and didn't eat any dessert (she ate an entire creme brulee). It went on and got louder until my wife cut across her and said, "It's OK if you can't afford the food you ordered, Karen, we'll all be happy to subsidize it for you, we know you don't make much money as an executive at a bank." Rude, yes, but this was the fourth or fifth time it had happened... as I said, it was the last time.

                                                                        2. re: TheDexter

                                                                          I actually just learned how to work a POS machine (the computer at a restuarant that I had only before seen the staff punching things into). Splitting a check on one of those into 4 different checks would take under 20 seconds. I was shocked. I had never asked for a split check before, even when we all needed the receipts for an incredibly stupid work accouting system becuase I thought it would be a hassle.
                                                                          And as far as tipping goes, if you assume most people aren't like the person below belowing for their .46 cents, 4 people rounding up to the nearest dollar to 20% is going to be more than one rounding up of the same amount. Or at least that was what I was thinking last night watching the process.
                                                                          There was a cafe near my old work that always did separate checks unless you specifically asked for one bill (old-school diner type) and though the cost for the 4 people would be about $28, everyone would leave at least $2 - making it more than a 30% tip.

                                                                          I still usually just prefer to split the meal evenly, but for those times when you really can only spend what you budgeted for the night, it was amazing to find out how little effort it takes to split the bill.

                                                                          Edited to say - I just found the other post about the POS machine making it easy - apparently 20 seconds was a good estimate!

                                                                          1. re: Meredith

                                                                            Huh, you don't say. That actually changes things for me. I used to be deathly afraid of pissing off the waiter by requesting separate checks, but seeing the way some of my friends aren't capable of figuring out a proper amount for tip and tax, maybe I'll do that...

                                                                            1. re: janethepain

                                                                              Some POS's are easier to use than others. And if a table decides to split the check unevenly (e.g. using both cash and credit cards, specific dishes/drinks for specific checks), it can be more time consuming/stressful.

                                                                          2. re: TheDexter

                                                                            For those of us who need to put the meal on the company credit card, separate checks are necessary. Restaurants that refuse to provide separate checks are providing very poor service.

                                                                          3. While I don't generally like the idea of separate checks, it seems pretty mainstream in some parts of the country from what I can tell. My father and stepmother, from the midwest, routinely prefer separate checks when dining out, and so we go along with it when we are in their neck of the woods. When they visit us in NYC, we've come up w/ another arrangement to even out the tab - I send them a check at the end of the trip to make up the difference for splitting the bill since my husband and I eat and drink more than they do. Can't speak to the horrible tipper issue.

                                                                            1. We used to go out a few times a year from work at lunch time, about 20 to 30 of us. Invariably the poor sap that sat where the waitress would bring the check had to pass it around and have the individuals cough up their fair share, in the 20 years of doing this we always, I say ALWAYS, came up short and had to the hat around for another buck or 2. With that many people the only solution was to just divide the bill by the amount of people and that was that. Sure some, like my boss who was mormon and ordered water and a salad, while others ordered steak and 3 drinks, got shafted. The real soultion for you as an individual in the above circumstances is to make sure you sit where the waitress will not put the check. I just heard a good way for an individual or couple to ask the waitress for a seperate check, tell her that you need a seperate check for Income Tax purposes as you can write it off, works very good.

                                                                              1. When I am out with a friends who don't drink, I ask them to put in what they think they owe (they're invariably accurate) and those who were drinking split the rest. This seems always to work out without hard feelings. Of course, you have to be out with reasonable people.

                                                                                1. Wow - glad I don't hang around with the folks you all do!

                                                                                  Here's how it works with everyone I know. When the bill comes, someone divides the total owed (plus tip) by the number of people at the table. They announce that number; say it's 60 dollars. Everyone pitches in, and a few people toss in extra, citing their second cocktail, expensive wine, extravagant main, dessert, coffee, whatever.

                                                                                  The person collecting the money totals it, then returns what's left over to the folks who consumed less. And everyone else helps figure that out - "Sabrina didn't have a salad," "Jeannie didn't have any wine."

                                                                                  Civilized, huh? And yeah, it takes a few minutes to figure out, but it's fine IMO because everyone's behaving generously, rather than tussling.

                                                                                  I can't believe no one else does this.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: spigot

                                                                                    Yup, my friends do this. I love it. It's generous and it feels like everyone is looking out for each other instead of trying to get something over on someone else or get out of paying. Yay good friends!

                                                                                    1. re: spigot

                                                                                      This is how it works with like-minded friends who are comfortable with each other. In these cases, we can also say, "Hey Jane, I'm not paying for your three drinks" with a smile, and Jane will cough up an extra $30. But there are times when this doesn't work. I'll share after reading the rest of this thread.

                                                                                    2. This happens to us all the time. The trick is, I tell the restaurant to divide the check up per person, or couple, or whatever. In those that don't (the dreaded "no separate checks" policy), you've got to glance at the bill yourself and preferably leave the correct CASH inc. tax and tip and then let the other people make up the difference. The problem still arises where 9 people all want to pay by credit card!


                                                                                      1. We regulary dine with one couple. None of us are offended when one couple tells the other, "You owe $75, we owe $50." It's fine by all of us and and it's what we all feel is fair. This being said, it's just as frequent for each couple to pay their share as it is for one couple to pick up the whole tab.

                                                                                          1. re: georgeb

                                                                                            I has dinner a while back at an upscale chain (McCormick and Schmick's) and even though we hadn't asked, the bill came itemized and subtotalled per diner, which I thought was really cool. In these days of computerized order/billing systems there's no reason not to do that. Then people can choose how to handle it.

                                                                                            In this case, I wouldn't have minded splitting the bill evenly, but one of my companions is a poor grad student. Even though she was polite enough not to have made an issue of it, I'm sure she appreciated not having to subsidize the extra appetizers and cocktails the other women (one of whom is married to a tech millionaire) ordered.

                                                                                            Honestly, do you really think it would have been better to split to bill evenly, or to tell my grad student friend, "sorry, if you can't afford to eat with us, you can just go back to the hotel and eat crackers"?

                                                                                          2. IMHO what is the difference between 10 couples(20 people) coming in to a restaurant where the waitress pushes together tables to accomidate these 10 couples and issuing them 10 seperate checks, or 10 couples who don't know each other coming to the restaurant where obviously they have to issue 10 seperate checks? Dont worry these restaurants are making plenty of money, I dont understand what makes it so much more difficult, can somebody explain the difference to me! TIA

                                                                                            1. I work for a company who makes software for the restaurant industry, and I can tell you that depending on their POS system, it takes the waitress maybe 20 extra seconds to split the checks. I am trying to save all the money I can at the moment, and when I go out for an informal lunch with my co-workers where we are NOT on an expense account, I find it extremely stressful and upsetting to finance the lunches of the gourmands at the table. Ergo, I have begun to quietly request a seperate check from the waitress at the beginning of the meal. This way, she can open my check when she opens the check for the others at the table, and it does not even take up that extra 20 seconds of her time.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: galiana

                                                                                                Just a small point: It's true the POS software makes splitting checks easy, but that doesn't mean all restaurants make it easy on their servers. When I was a waitress only the manager had the authority/ability to split checks. Tracking down a busy manager and getting her to split the check at any time, but especially at the end of the meal when she would have to go through the check line by line and as I pointed out what item went on what tab, often took considerably longer than 20 seconds.

                                                                                              2. I'm not often in the position of having lunch with co-workers, but from what I'm reading on here, it seems as if there are quite a few mooches out there looking to have others subsidize their drinking habit. From several examples on here it seems quite rude that the one that spent the most seems to be the one that speaks up to evenly divide the bill.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Rick

                                                                                                  There are mooches on both sides. Unless people request separate checks, it can very easily turn into a hassle -- especially if people kick in what they think they owe, rather than divvying it up evenly, and whoever is designated to tally up the cash realizes that they are far short...

                                                                                                2. weaver, please help me understand how someone like me who is always paying more than my "eaten" share can be a mooch? thx

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                    ? Where did you get the idea I was referring to you (or anybody) specifically?

                                                                                                    1. re: weaver

                                                                                                      I am trying to understand the "both sides" comment. I understand when a person orders several drinks, a bottle of wine and when the bill arrives announces the even split, definitely mooch material. I do not understand what the other side is in "both" that's all.

                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                        People who say they want to pay less because they ate/drank less, then underestimate what their food actually cost, ignore that "just a bite" of a dessert they had and the "just a taste" of a shared dish, forget to add tax on their portion and add only a 10% tip...

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          The other side is, I just enjoyed a convivial meal and now some passive-aggressive jerk is spoiling the good mood by insisting that we enage in a complicated accounting exercise.

                                                                                                    2. wow.. this topic has made me realize how happy i am to be korean.. haha.. just kidding..

                                                                                                      maybe it's just the 'american' thing, but in the traditional korean culture (and not americanized korean culture), one person just pays for the entire table. i know that may sound really unfair, but that's just the way it is. it's considered very very petty and ill-mannered to split the bill. in fact, when koreans talk about americans in a derogatory way (sorry, not me, im talking about other koreans), they always mention the fact that americans split the checks at restaurants..

                                                                                                      usually, the person who does the inviting pays. or the person who's the richest. and typically, at the end of a meal, there's usually a big mock-argument over who gets to pay (cuz everyone's trying to pay, not because everyone's trying to avoid paying).

                                                                                                      "americans" will say, "that'd work if you're good friends with the people and you can take turns paying but what if it's just some people you only see once in your life-time?". well, it's just the way it is, you do almost-strangers a good turn and maybe in the future someone will do the same for you.

                                                                                                      of course, in business setting, for obvious reasons, bill-splitting is allowed. and for a huge group (like 20+), there may be more than one person. but even then, for events like birthday dinners and what not, the birthday person is expected to pay for the entire table.

                                                                                                      anyways, this whole discussion over splitting the bill just made me realize that there is this huge cultural gap between 'america' and korea after all. personally, i like the korean system, even though i am not rich. if i can't pay for the table, i just wont go out to eat. =)

                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: koreankorean

                                                                                                        Well, in the United States, if there is a host(ess) who issued invitations (oral or otherwise) to dinner, it is expected they would pay. It's just that host-free dinners are much more common than they once were. And the American cultural emphasis on egalitarianism means that it is usually poor form to show off how rich you are by playing Lord & Lady Bountiful (to use an old-fashioned American expression designed to cast a shadow on the idea, as you can see), so discretion in paying when one is not otherwise expeected to do so is prized. If you search the old threads, you'll see an interesting discussion somewhere about the etiquette of and reactions to people getting treated by strangers and others, which reveals many cultural assumptions common in the US.

                                                                                                        Another American cultural value would be that we would normally think before criticizing Koreans for behaving in ways traditional for their culture, and hope that Koreans would reciprocate. That value, of course, is not necessarily realistic, another American foible...

                                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                          "That value, of course, is not necessarily realistic, another American foible... "

                                                                                                          Come on, let's not be so ready to be offended. In no way was Koreankorean criticizing American culture, in my opinion. Yes, she/he preferred the Korean method of bill negotiation, but was just explaining the reasoning behind fighting for the bill. And she makes it clear that it's not even as she/he is the one who looks down on Americans for splitting the check.

                                                                                                          "Another American cultural value would be that we would normally think before criticizing Koreans for behaving in ways traditional for their culture, and hope that Koreans would reciprocate."

                                                                                                          Haha, as an American, I beg to differ...

                                                                                                        2. re: koreankorean

                                                                                                          > in the traditional korean culture (and not americanized korean
                                                                                                          > culture), one person just pays for the entire table

                                                                                                          I spend a lot of time with Japanese Americans, and there is this ritual of fighting over who will get to pay the bill. And the magic number is three. Once the first person has grabbed the bill, the second person will have to challenge for the right to pay three times before the first person will surrender the check. Arguments might include: you paid last time, you did me some favor, I'm celebrating something, but never I can afford it more easily, or anything logical like that. My strategy is just to say thank you a lot, and every so often be the one who grabs and just say "my turn." There's no way to know whether this comes out even, but no one really seems to care. There is a pride in taking care of and providing for others, and seemingly no resentment about people who don't demand to pay either their share or the whole thing. In fact, if you toss down cash, the person with the check will throw it back at you with disdain. Even "let me get the tip" doesn't work. So, yeah, it's a different culture entirely.

                                                                                                          1. re: koreankorean

                                                                                                            I've been on both the receiving end of this and the giving end with Korean acquaintances and friends, and it certainly saves a lot of anguish at the end... and then you can reciprocate later.

                                                                                                            Actually, I was in a Korean restaurant in San Francisco once while travelling on business, and it was me (alone) and a party of about 10 Koreans being 'presided over' by the grandfather. The grandfather sent the waitress over to ask me to join the group.

                                                                                                            I still have no idea what some of the items were, but we ate and drank and ate and drank... it truly was a feast. The entire time, I was freaking out trying to figure out how I was going to pay for my share of the food. At the end everyone got up and I nudged the young man I'd been talking to and asked, and he said, "Of course my grandfather paid for you too, we don't talk about money at the dinner table!"

                                                                                                            So I bowed and thanked the grandfather and said "jjalmogosumnida" (in my terrible Korean accent)... but I've never forgotten.

                                                                                                          2. I am reminded of Dear Abby's admonition that the meek do not inherit the earth; based on that, in a group Mme ZoeZ or I (who do not either drink very much or not at all) say, let's see the bill - followed by: our share is $$ - give a credit card and add a nice tip. We have relatives who chew their way through multiple appetizers and bottles of wine plus drinks at the bar on the way in. This is the only way to survive (I put this into practice last weekend in Red Lodge, MT and it worked like a charm). I think its safe to add on 25-27% onto the bill to cover tax and tip.

                                                                                                            1. This all reminds me of something that happened to me many years ago. When my son was a toddler he was in a play group w/3 other kids. When one of the moms got pregnant again, I received an "invitation" via my home phone message machine, which went something like this:

                                                                                                              "Hi, this is Joan, [college friend or wife of Kathy's husband's co-worker, I forget], we're having a shower for Kathy at Max's Restaurant on Saturday, etc." Joan left a phone number, and I got her machine and left a vm. I went to the baby shower, there were about 8 of us total. It was a lunch, so we didn't order huge meals, or wine. One of Kathy's non-playgroup friends brought a cake for dessert. When the check came, the non-play group friends (all strangers to me) huddled together and figured out the bill. Imagine my surprise when one of them whispered to me that my share was XX (I forget how much)! I didn't want to make a scene, so I paid it. The other moms (play-group friends) were pretty surprised at having to pay too.

                                                                                                              Now, many years later, I'm much more assertive, and would probably handle it much differently. I'd say something like "I'm sorry, I thought this was hosted" but then again, I'd probably not make a scene and pay up.

                                                                                                              Another thing that happened much more recently: I went out for dinner with a friend and my son. I've gone out with her quite a few times, sometimes splitting the check evenly when it's just the 2 of us and we've ordered similar items cost-wise, sometimes in a small group and splitting the check more in line with what each of us have ordered. This last time, we 3 went to a Chinese restaurant, and it was family-style. We ordered too much, and there was lots of leftovers, which my friend insisted that I take. My friend wanted to split it evenly, but I insisted on paying at least 75% of the check since I got the leftovers. That only seemed fair.

                                                                                                              1. So, my DW and I are having a wonderful meal at our favorite local bistro, me fully enjoying my miso glazed cod over soba noodles, my DW her favorite sole picatta. At the next table over are four people of the same sex and the bill arrives. By the time it took for us to leisurely eat our entrees, relax, order some tea, drink two cups of tea, relax some more, pay our bill, visit some friends at another table on the way out, the other table finally negotiated who should pay for the profiterals. We all left simulaneously.

                                                                                                                I do not know how they divided the bills, why it took so long, but it took 45 minutes of very collegial conversation. I am not sure it was the most efficient use of time on a friday night, but it appeared they do this often and have it down to a tortoise-speed science. They all left laughing and hugging.

                                                                                                                I guess it worked.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                  In that 45 minutes, my friends and I would polish off a cheese plate and another bottle of wine, but then we all prefer eating and drinking to accounting.

                                                                                                                2. I'm not above shaming other people into pitching in something extra, but usually I will include myself. So for example, "it's $30 a head except for X and me because we had the blah blah it's $38 for us." X has no chance at that point if he doesn't want to look like an a$$. Or, conversely, if two people split a salad, I will adjust so that they pay less. It's rough justice, but it's justice.

                                                                                                                  (Carrying a Treo is handy, as the person with the calculator gets to do the math.)

                                                                                                                  1. This may sound ridiculous, but why aren't some boundaries tossed around when the restaurant is being chosen in the 1st place.? We eat w/ my best friend and her husband very often and, depending the husbands' moods and desire to spend/ or not, we pick a restaurant that reflects those needs. ( Ex- Jon wants to keep it lowkey tonight. We spent a fortune on X yesterday. Can we keep it casual?) Then, once we are on the same page, we go out knowing we've laid it out there. We always offer to pay more if we've had more to drink etc...but generally we split it b/c someone always has something else that would "make it all the same in the end"

                                                                                                                    1. When we dine out..we all order something different and then share, so splitting isn't hard. It's split evenly. If one person is not drinking alcohol, I don't think they should pay the same as everyone else. Their check is less. If everyone orders and eats their own..and has a cocktail or wine, then they should pay for exactly what they ordered (plus their share of the tip). If someone orders a bottle of wine without asking others if they want to share it...then they should pay for their own bottle of wine (even if after they order it, they pour some into everyone's wine glass).

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: melly

                                                                                                                        A few years back we were out on the East Coast for my nieces wedding. The day after about 10 family members headed to Cape May..I was among them. We ate at the Lobster House. I treated everyone and when they insisted on helping, I suggested they leave the tip. I was surprised when the tip left was only 20 bucks! I added 40 more!

                                                                                                                      2. It is often a sensitive issue and asking for a separate check is a good way to deal with it. Other than the food, it also saves on deciding how to tip. I've dined out with people who don't really believe in tipping more than about $1 per person (seriously!). In order to compensate, I would end up paying more to cover their share of the tip. With a separate check, you won't have to worry about other's tipping habits.

                                                                                                                        1. I always order more alcohol than others, and I pay for it. I shouldn't be ordering it if I can't dang well pay for it. I just like to keep the wine coming throughout the meal, maybe a martini to start; part of the whole dining-out experience for me.

                                                                                                                          Nobody should have to subsidize my drinking and I would feel absolutely ashamed if I didn't pay 100% for what I drank. Alcohol can get mighty expensive.

                                                                                                                          I have never had any problems declaring a simple, "I'm adding this much for my drinks" when it comes time to split a bill.

                                                                                                                          1. In case of social dinners - it's ungracious to not divide the bill evenly. Have you eaten at your friends home more often that you've invited them to yours? Nothing in life is totally even. Don't eat out with someone you begrudge treating to a little extra something.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: serious

                                                                                                                              It depends on what that little extra something is and to an extent, I agree with you. Good friends, especially since we have some good friends that are still students or starting out, are not the people to nitpick over the tab with. They're also not people that would "stiff" us anyway.

                                                                                                                              However... I went to a friend's birthday party where one couple that we didn't know made grandiose choices. Several beers, the most expensive dishes on the menu, etc. By the end of the night, everyone paid up and we were $40 short. My BF put in the extra money and he did it because he knew the birthday person felt horrible that all of her friends (few of whom actually knew each other) were essentially in a stand-off over the check. One of her friends loudly snapped, "I've paid enough and I won't pay any more!" Our combined meals were $25 with no alcohol. Guess who didn't pay for their beers?

                                                                                                                              I don't mind paying a little extra with friends, but $40 for someone we didn't know?

                                                                                                                              The following year, this same couple asked for a separate check, then put a glass of beer on their tab for my friend, leaving the rest of us to split everything else she ate/drank, plus tax/tip. On the account of that one couple, BF and I haven't been to a birthday dinner since and instead, do something on our own for her.

                                                                                                                            2. I don't "begrudge" treating my friends to a meal. I just can't afford to.

                                                                                                                              1. Bill splitting can be a problem, but mostly for folks who dine with groups on business.
                                                                                                                                Has anyone seen the billsplitting software (some of it is freeware. One is called Tipsy for Palm OS. There's another for windows PDAs, I think its called Pocket tip Calculator.
                                                                                                                                It computes the seperate checks and allows for a uniform tax and a revisable tip. It allows for sharing ( such as a bottle of wine, or a couple of appetizers)and for dividing 1 meal to be paid for by the other diners, for a special occasion, like a birthday.

                                                                                                                                Also, for our large dining club we use a preprinted seperate check that each couple or individual fills out. The event host/hostess does the calculations and sends it back. The checks are folded over the cash and handed back to the hostess. Its done very unobtrusively and is very fair. The best part is that its a quiet, civilized way to settle a bill amoung so many people...we've done this in first class restaurants without a hitch.


                                                                                                                                Pocket PC Tip Calculator shareware

                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: sassille

                                                                                                                                  here's my problem...i have a friend who never, & i mean never pays her share. it's been going on for years. we were young when it started & i didn't mind, but for the last few years i've been trying every nice way i know of resolving the issue. at this point, she can't not know & it almost seems like she's doing it on purpose despite having surely gotten my hints by now. here's the real kicker, she brings her husband - univited - & then doesn't pay for him! this happens on a regular basis. it's always "i'll get next time" with her, she orders a lot & then just goes to the restroom when the bill comes. my other friends are starting to complain, & pressuring me not to invite her anymore. i fear it is probably the end of the friendship. i have tried everything, making a fuss about who had what rather than splitting equally, seperate checks, going to places where you pay before the meal, etc. the results are the same, next time comes & once again i'm eating $40 a meal. i'd swear it's a game to her by now, & it feels like she's stealing from me. i don't want to be her retirement fund any longer.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Danibm

                                                                                                                                    "she brings her husband - univited - & then doesn't pay for him! this happens on a regular basis. it's always "i'll get next time" with her, she orders a lot & then just goes to the restroom when the bill comes"

                                                                                                                                    And you've been putting up with this for HOW long? This is inexcusable, and she is certainly no friend if she continues to do stuff like this. At this point, either tell her up front at the next invite "BTW, this meal is on you - the rest of us have been carrying you for WAY too long". And if she brushes it off, either disinvite her to the gathering, or tell her you're all getting separate checks to pay for yourselves and she's on her own. And if she says she doesn't have the money to PAY for her check, tell her to start washing dishes. You're done paying for her.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                      thanks for the response, i've been puttin up with it for a very long time, years actually. i appreciate the suggestion, but have decided that she is simply not invited any longer. there is no excuse for what has been going on.

                                                                                                                                2. In a business setting it is always appropriate to ask for a separate check - it makes your personal accounting with your charge acct or tax accountant at the end of year easier.

                                                                                                                                  When we're out with friends and family, we either treat or it's separate checks, and either way known to all present and concerned from before we set foot in the restaurant. It saves the hassle of math and discomfort at the end of the meal, no one has to worry about ordering what they want or not, and if a couple of folks need to leave early, or a couple want to stay late, it's not a problem. I believe that splitting a check at the table is usually in-equitable or unpleasant and often both - and not something I want to deal with when I am eating out.

                                                                                                                                  Tipwise, when there are separate checks, I always make sure to tip on the table total, so that I am comfortable the server has been appropriately compensated. And ever since I caught my step-father taking back tip money, I always make sure to be the last to leave, or else to tip directly to the server.

                                                                                                                                  Quite honestly, while equal check splitting might work for some rare groups of friends, I've known too many cheap thieves (see aforementioned step-father, for one) who would insist on splitting a check equally and then later brag about how they took advantage of the people they dined with.

                                                                                                                                  1. We had a company/department reunion many years ago, and I ordered a salad as my entree and an ice tea. My portion after tips probably came to $16 at the most. There were probably 20 of us from different departments and at different levels. I was an individual contributor, there were several admin assistants, other individual contributors, and several higher level employees (managers, supervisors). I knew some pretty well but not all of them. There were people way down the table who ordered alcohol, had an appetizer, an expensive entree, a dessert, and a drink of some type after dinner (coffee, tea, port). We divided the bill, and I paid $42.

                                                                                                                                    I wanted to hang out them see how things are going, so I wanted to attend this function. I know a lot of them eat like this when they go out on their own, so this is normal to them. If they aren't paying attention to what others ordered, they might think that everyone ordered as they did (so sometimes it's not intentional or mean spirited). Paying $42 for a meal is normal for them. As the lower person on the totem pole, I wasn't going to speak up and say, "Umm, I only had a salad and an ice tea." I'm just going to pay for it. That was over 10 years ago, and I was much less confident. In cases like this, it would have been great if someone who knew they ate more than $42 said, "Let me throw in a little more since I had three glasses of wine and the lobster," to spur others who did the same. That's what I do, even with close friends. If nothing else, I feel like I should acknowledge that I ate/drank more than they did.

                                                                                                                                    I've heard different versions that I think I'll try next time, like "So how much is my portion?" or "I had the salad and drink. How much do I owe?" When I get to pay my normal share in these cases, I'm always happy to throw in the needed $3 or $5 at the end for someone who miscalculated. I just go nuts when I find out I have to pay $25 more than what I actually ate. And no, I never went out with them again.

                                                                                                                                    1. I deal with it by knowing what I might be getting into on the way in. To a point, I don't worry about it (that point depends on the occasion and the restaurant) but might be up to, say, $50 more than I technically ought to be chipping in.

                                                                                                                                      That said, if I end up out with people who appear to be trying to scam others or intentionally not paying their fair share, I'm not likely to end up out with them again or at least not end up in a situation where I may become a victim of their practices again. I'll avoid actually having dinner with them (ie, come just for drinks to say "happy birthday" or what have you and get my drink at the bar).

                                                                                                                                      The people that my wife and I dine with regularly are all attentive to price differences as are we and when someone suggests "should we just split it?" whoever feels they may owe more speaks up and says "no, you didn't have anything to drink so we should kick in a bit more" sometimes a bit of math ensues, usually its close enough that everyone agrees its not worth the effort and it all comes out in the end anyhow. The last few times we've gone out, one or the other of us has actually grabbed the whole check for different reaons.

                                                                                                                                      1. I dont find myself eating in a group often so I havent (yet) run into difficulty with how everyone pays. I just put what I owe in the kitty and that's it. I do find it easier to come prepared with small bills.

                                                                                                                                        And in a small group I will pay for the meals of unmarried/widowed women.

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                                                          tp- that might have been the sweetest thing you've ever said. I know it's not PC, but it is charming somehow.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                                                                            Thank you, numma

                                                                                                                                            psb, if you consider abandoned children orphans then, yes, I do cover their meals also. :))

                                                                                                                                          2. re: tom porc

                                                                                                                                            do you subsidize orphans? :-)

                                                                                                                                          3. I just got back from having breakfast with my friends. Paying the bill was aweful. One of my friends was saying loudly, "We don't want to overtip the server." Two were using their cell phone calculators. One was saying, "Just double the tax." A few of us included the tax and tip in our share, and a few did not. It was a nightmare. Five women conversing about the how much should be left and if we split it correctly.
                                                                                                                                            What have I learned from this situation?
                                                                                                                                            Well, because I will encounter these situations in the future, these awkward situations, its best to divide each persons tab pre-tax, then each person add the tax and tip to their own tab. Thats that. You will see calculators out for this, but sometimes thats just how it has to be. This will make sense for everyone.
                                                                                                                                            Also, I have learned that you have to base the tip on the bill total, not just double the tax (I used to do that.) One night the bill was $70, and the tax about $3. There were 3 of us and we left $2 each for the tip, totalling $6. Without realizing it, we under tipped our server. We should have left about $11 minimum. I suppose some of the items were non-taxable. So, I have learned to base the tip, on the total amount of the bill, not on the sub-total.
                                                                                                                                            Also, its better to overtip, than to undertip, don't you think?

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: csofiatv

                                                                                                                                              Here in NYC, tax ix 8.375%, so doubling it is actually pretty effective.

                                                                                                                                            2. I usually only go out in small groups of friends and things get split pretty evenly so it's not an issue. What I hate though is when people don't have cash. Too many times one person with a credit card will collect every one's nicely divided amounts + tip, then they will undertip on the slip and pocket the cash! I've felt guilted into leaving more cash on the table even though I had already generously tipped!

                                                                                                                                              1. I've been in this situation many times because I can't drink and mix my medications. In most instances, I'll just split the bill evenly. However,there have been times when I've been with heavy drinkers and the alcohol/wine portion of the bill is twice the amount of the food. In this case, I'll try to reach for the check before the 'designated accountant' at the table tallies the check, and I'll put cash on the table for what I ate and drank plus tax & tip.

                                                                                                                                                When I've put cash on the table with the check, I must admit that sometimes the biggest boozers will complain that the check isn't being split evenly. I just reply that I didn't have any alcohol - that's it - period. I can't see being burnt for $20-40+ extra. It's like being penalized. Any non-drinker will probably agree and their dining companions should be understanding if they know the person doesn't drink.

                                                                                                                                                1. My group of friends and I always use the same system when dining out at upscale restaurants: we ask for the liquor on one check and the food on another. We tip +/- 20% on both bills, but those who don't drink aren't forced to pay for our multiple bottles of wine.
                                                                                                                                                  This usually works out well, as we frequently share appetizers and desserts. It takes the pressure off those who don't drink, and allows those of us that do to know exactly who's going in on that $200 bottle of wine with you.

                                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                    I regularly go o ut with a group and we have started to go to the bar for drinks and pay for them separately. seems to work well

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                      jfood only wishes that restos left a sticky in the menu and did this regularlt. Only once in 30 years of dining with friends has anyone offered this to the non-drinking jfoods.

                                                                                                                                                      A wonderful means to take the tensionout of ordering wine, watching others drink wine and not be concerned with the geez it cost us $45 extra for the others to drink the wine.

                                                                                                                                                      Bravo for this idea.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                        If it's really close friends we either divide it up to what each couple ordered, or depending on the price one of us will just pay the whole thing.

                                                                                                                                                        If it's friends but not real close, or new friends, it seems more likely to just divide the bill up evenly, seems to cause less confusion and avoids the need for one person to end up feeling like the cheapskate as they itemize the bill among new friends.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rick

                                                                                                                                                          I believe the point of much of this discussion is the asymmetry between the
                                                                                                                                                          cheapskate feeling and the freeriding feeling ... i.e. why do people look askance
                                                                                                                                                          at the "itemizers" but not the person not offering to pay his "fair share".

                                                                                                                                                          The dynamics change in groups that dont have a "1 hop diameter"
                                                                                                                                                          [everybody knows each other] or even a "2 hop diameter" [somebody at
                                                                                                                                                          the table knows everybody], e.g. you go out to dinner after meeting friends
                                                                                                                                                          and friends of friends who bring their friends ...

                                                                                                                                                          I've picked up the tab in friends + friends of friends scenario when it was
                                                                                                                                                          4-6 people, but that's not reasonable with 12 [although i've seen that in
                                                                                                                                                          manhattan with the corporate cards coming out].

                                                                                                                                                          [and i am on the heavy eater side, so the split even norm certainly
                                                                                                                                                          would be personally advantageous ... although i'm not so big on wine].

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: psb

                                                                                                                                                            There is a relative in my significant other's family whose middle name is "separate checks". During group outings that happen on an annual basis, he will announce this not only to the waitress, but to the hostess who is seating us. He and his wife will order first, be served first, and wolf down half their meal before mine or any one elses arrives. If separate checks are not an option, Mr, Largess will collect everything (including tax and tip down to the penny) from everyone else, then use one of his credit cards that give him airline miles or some other freebie, pocket the cash, and, although Ive never checked the receipt, I doubt he's a generous tipper. Observing this division scene (including a guest appearance by you-know-whose pocket calculator) is agony. I once watched him argue with his teenage son over whether or not the kid could have the "too expensive" $17 steak. It is tacky beyond belief.

                                                                                                                                                            I love the scenarios outlined above, where the hosts compete for the total check. This is how my family was raised, and I knew that if I was out with my dad, he would always be the first to reach for the check. Now, my brother is the same way. No, he has not met the gentleman above (who is an in-law). THAT guy doesn't get invited to my family functions.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: psb

                                                                                                                                                              Our dining group has lots of big eaters and some small tasters who like to share plates. We solved this problem ages ago with our own separate checks. We pass them around ahead of time. Couples make out 1 check, individuals make out their own. Share a bottle of wine among 3 diners? Note 1/3 the price on your check...split the dessert with the guy across the table?...Note 1/2 the cost on the "dessert" line of the check. NOBODY complains, NOBODy gets burned. and it's all very quiet and doesn't disturb the ambiance of a fine meal. The tip is usually 20% because we like to eat in great restaurants with good service. The only time we tipped less was for the most terrible service -where 1/2 the table waited 40 minutes for their entrees while the others were served in a timely manner. On one occasion we dined at Mastros, a great Bev. Hills steak house, and we ordered just about every side on the menu, split steaks and wines and deserts every-which-way. It worked perfectly and was a good experience. Sometimes the Host tallies the individual tabs with a small calculator and sometimes we pass the little calculators around and folks tally their own. This is a Food & Bev Club, so it's not comprised of all couples who know each other really well. This method allow for members to go out for a special dinner and know what to expect because they don't have to pick up the slack for someone else's large appetite. They can go out and have a glass of wine and 2 apps and not pay as much as those folks on a limitless budget. Waitstaff love it too. I scanned a copy and attached it here. Let's see if this works...
                                                                                                                                                              P.S. We can thank Abby of the L.A. board for this concept.

                                                                                                                                                              "....life is a banquet and some poor fools are starving"
                                                                                                                                                              Auntie Mame

                                                                                                                                                      2. This evokes emotional memories of when I was a later in life grad student and would eat out with much higher paid friends. To those who say "it's no big deal" - it's a HUGE deal to your friends who aren't making what you make. I think splitting is an appropriate thing to do if you're all sharing - like at a Chinese place, but what is really so hard about calculating what each person owes? Maybe those who have had too much expensive alcohol can't add anymore? I finally started speaking up and I would pitch in for my share and the rest of the group would split the rest. I ended up feeling like the poor stepchild, but couldn't afford to kick in for caviar when I had only eaten soup and salad. After awhile I felt so conflicted about it I cut back my socializing with this particular group. Interestingly, I've been out with the group since (after I started earning a decent wage.) The group no longer splits the bill like they used to. I'm guessing more than a few others figured out they were kicking in too many extra $$$ each time.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I don't think that's petty at all. One of my pet peeves is when someone who ordered much more than me wants to split the bill evenly. That sucks for the people who ordered less! So I hear ya! I know it's much more complicated, but it's only fair to pay what you owe.


                                                                                                                                                          1. I served a party of 14 elderly men and women who insisted that they wanted to have their check split between (what I believe was) seven different couples, although they had difficulty articulating to me exactly who these indeterminate groups consisted of. One would logically expect them to be seated next to each other in such a situation. But no. There were couples seated beside each other, across from each other, and one woman even pointed down to the other end of the table, saying "I'm sharing with her." ...I'm not sure they realized how ridiculous they were being.

                                                                                                                                                            I explained to one woman, "I will just bring you the bill and everyone can circle what they will be paying for, because not everyone is seated next to each other."

                                                                                                                                                            "But the two of us are." They said.

                                                                                                                                                            I hate it when customers act like they are the only people I am taking care of, or that they somehow are an exception to the rule. By the end of the meal, I decided to split off EVERY single item on the table's bill separately. Thus, I presented them with eleven different checks. Thats right. Eleven. They thought it was funny. But I was just trying to get my point across.

                                                                                                                                                            The whole process of check-splitting and running their credit cards/giving back change took me a terrible amount of time. My other tables were a bit neglected.

                                                                                                                                                            The moral of the story is, if you want to split a check, make sure you are the only one doing it. In addition to being time consuming, it often results in the server getting stiffed because someone doesn't put in enough. I don't mind granting a request to split a bill two or three ways. But splitting any more than that is inconsiderate and frankly, it makes you look cheap.

                                                                                                                                                            1. Just spent a weekend in Vegas with 7 other couples (there were 16 of us total). The first night we split our bill 8 ways and it was about $400 a couple.

                                                                                                                                                              The second night, only 8 of us ate together so we split the bill 4 ways which came to about $100 per couple.

                                                                                                                                                              The last night all 16 of us ate together and split the bill eight ways and it was about $100 per couple. One of the couples replied, "We only had sandwiches and water". We didn't notice that so we immediately recalculated and got their amount from them and reconfigured the bill seven ways.

                                                                                                                                                              It was no big deal and I think we wore more mortified of overcharging the couple than they were of asking.

                                                                                                                                                              My point is definitely speak up. No one wants anyone to overpay any more than anyone wants to overpay.

                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: BlueHerons

                                                                                                                                                                What would everyone think about this: when the bill comes included are a number of credit card size sleeves. You just insert your credit card, indicate how much your card should be charged on the sleeve and then the waiter doesn't have to haggle with you about what each card should be charged. Each person can pay less or more but you don't have to go back and forth with the waiter.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: tak217

                                                                                                                                                                  And then the waiter would come back 5 minutes later and say "Your individual totals add up to less than the grand total..."

                                                                                                                                                                  I've often been the accountant in group dining situations where after everyone pitched in we were still short the total. It was awkard enough for me to address; I'd hate to put that on the waitperson. I just wish individual checks were more common. It would alleviate a lot of dining out stress.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: stolenchange

                                                                                                                                                                    Sometimes individual checks are literally impossible. Take, for example, shared bottles of wine, shared desserts, shared appetizers, etc. Many POS machines don't allow you to break split the cost of one item between multiple checks. So how do you determine who's going to get stuck with the wine bill?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                      agreed. and individual checks take up an unreasonable amount of time for waiters and restaurants. with this idea-you get the sleeves with the bill and all you have to do is indicate how much your card should be charged. you have to figure out the split, but you don't have to explain it to the waiter. when you get the bill back, you don't have a mess of credit cards and receipts.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: stolenchange

                                                                                                                                                                      Well it's not a cure all; you would need someone who could add up those portions and make sure it computes with the total. The idea is that you could divide the check a little more discretely and you wouldn't have to explain to the waiter what each card should be charged. Think about the lost productivity each year when waiters hear, "put 40 on the amex, 30 on the visa, 70 on the discover." Each time this happens, the restaurant is losing sales and probably has unhappy customers who are waiting for this 10 minute transaction to be completed.

                                                                                                                                                                      If you're going to request this service (and I think it's fair to expect restaurants to divide checks) you ought to be able to add up the portions and make sure it computes.

                                                                                                                                                                2. The solution to this is to only go to restaurants with counter service. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. I don't think it's petty, though I usually just split it, and depending on how well I know the diners, might feel uncomfortable about pointing out that I should pay less, b/c I only had a salad, while others had appetizers, dessert, wine, etc. But I do appreciate it when people voluntarily say, "Oh, I had wine, so let me put in an extra $10", etc. I always make sure to do that myself (e.g. if I have a dessert and others don't), so I don't see why people can't be reciprocally considerate.

                                                                                                                                                                    Most of the time, I can't drink, so I really don't like subsidizing people's alcohol tab. Especially when most people in this area make six figures and I don't even make half of that. (And take home even less). If I made more, I probably wouldn't care. Ditto if this happened just once or twice. Also, if it's a few bucks, fine. But if you order wine, that usually adds $10-$15 to the tab. Do that several times, and that's a whole meal that I could've gotten, had I not had to subsidize your drinking bill. If someone expected me to subsidize their meals on a regular basis, I would probably stop eating out with such people. I'm sorry--I'm sure that sounds petty/stingy, etc., but some of us eat out about once or twice a month.

                                                                                                                                                                    Luckily, with my friends, this is hardly a problem. However, one time, I did eat with someone at one of these dine downtown things at Aziza in SF. We all got the fixed price thing, which was $30, so for me, $40 including tax and tip should've been plenty, since that was all I got. Well, the couple I was with (the guy in particular) ordered 2 glasses of wine, a $20 appetizer, a dessert, etc. etc., so when we got the bill, it was $170, not including tip. I put in an extra $10 (total $50), even though my food total was $30 or so. He didn't bring enough cash, so I think our total combined that we left was $200, which is a really skimpy tip, but I wasn't about to put in more. He should've freaking put it on his credit card and given them a proper tip and not make me subsidize his gluttony. Or not order so freaking much if that was all the cash he brought.

                                                                                                                                                                    Needless to say, I have never eaten out with that couple again.