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Need new tricks to pick up the tab

Family visits my in-laws every December in Florida. They are very generous and have been over my marriage to their daughter. When we go out with the, DW, daughter and boyfriend I find it's important to pick up the tab. Each year I need to find a new trick to tell the maitre d' that it's my expense, and my FIL tries likewise (not as much recently as he can;t run as fast any more.) I've tried the bathroom at dessert, the call-ahead, the slip the waiter $5 to give me the bill, etc. I am running out of ideas.

Any good ones that have worked for others?

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  1. When I want to be absolutely sure, I call ahead and tell them not to bring a check to the table. I can then slip out to the rest room and they will bring the check to me.

    For a long time, I used one restaurant for most of my important business meals and they set up a house account for my company. The owner would always make it easy for me to have a private moment with him on the way out and I would give him a percentage to add for the staff.

    I always felt that there was a certain grace in entertaining without a check in sight. Many times, I had guests ask the waiter for the check and they would simply say that it had already been paid and he hoped they had enjoyed their meal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BostonZest

      grace. such a perfect term for that. and a gracious host you surely must be.

    2. Give the waiter or Maitre D'/Host your credit card sometime during the course of dinner .. the earlier the better - like right after drink orders are taken. Has always worked for me.
      A trick I learned from my father who was in the restaurant business.
      Good luck

      1. On the way in I discreetly hand my credit card to the host/hostess and tell them I'm taking care of the bill. But these days with credit card "skimming" that can be a dangerous thing.

        1. After entree but before dessert I slip out for a restroom break and pay the bill.

          1. if the in-laws take you to one of their regular hangouts you are out of luck, they told the waiter three weeks ago the family is coming, etc. etc.

            1. the classiest thing is what you've done in the past: call ahead with your credit card number, and give strict instructions that the check should not be brought to the table. take care of the bill after dessert, at the host station, and there is no fumbling, no secret hand-offs, and no tussling at the table.

              1. I frequently have this problem with my relatives. I feel that it's extremely awkward for the maitre d to have to deal with two separate people instructing him to hand them the bill. Why force his involvement in your family's quirks? I have found, in my experience, that being firm with my relatives before we even enter the restaurant ("This one's on me, you can take the next one - please?", or "I would really appreciate it if you let me pay for dinner tonight. Would that be alright with you?") is a great way to ensure that I pay with minimal awkwardness for the staff.

                1. Why don't you just let him do it? It obviously means a lot to him. So indulge him. When he comes to visit you, then it's your turn!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cackalackie

                    You are so right!!! It's important to the older man. My Daddy was just like that too.
                    Maybe jfood could say, "If you pick this up, I'll tke everyone out to lunch tomorrow!"
                    The whole family would win.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      I agree that this is his pleasure and when they are in my 'hood all the maitre d's know to give me the tab or have the CC before hand. One more data point tho, my DW really, really, really wants me to pick up the bill. Gotta please the DW!!

                      1. re: jfood

                        That's another story altogether.
                        If it's so important to your wife, why doesn't she pick up the bill?
                        Unless she just wants to watch an uncomfortable situation between you and her father?
                        Smile and tell her you forgot your wallet at home...

                  2. Call ahead, give them your CC# and tell them the percentage you want tipped,and not to bring the check to the table.

                    1. I agree that the easiest thing to do is to just call ahead with your CC#. If for whatever reason you can't do that, I've also:

                      -handed the maitre'd my credit card with instructions when we arrived (everyone was waiting outside and I volunteered to go inside the crowded restaurant to see when our table would be ready).

                      -enlisted a younger relative to give the server my credit card during a trip to the restroom. No one ever suspects that the 16 year old is going to pay for dinner!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Pei

                        This summer my Dad attemped your 2nd bullet point. it would have worked except my husband had already accomplished your first bullet point ;-)

                      2. I have to agree w/ the person who suggested letting him get the tab (at least sometimes.) If you treat when they visit you and yet you don't ever let them treat you (even though he wants to; even though he is choosing the place) you may actually cause him to feel bad when you are trying to do a good thing. I know that we have the same situation w/ my dad. We pay for everything when they visit us, but we let him be the host on his turf if he makes it a point that he wants to be. If you want to make it up to him some other, unspoken way (maybe via a very nice gift certificate to one of these local haunts in addition to his standard gift at his birthday) I think that would be a kinder way of handling it.

                        If I were talking to your wife I would tell her that one of the things we do for our loving dads, as loving daughters, is to let them feel they are taking care of us occasionally, long after the need for it may have passed.

                        1. Depending on the restaurant, I'd suggest buying a gift certificate that will approximately cover the cost of dinner. Then tell your relatives (without lying) that you have a gift certificate to use, and that you need to use it before it expires, etc. It works for my dad, who otherwise insists on paying.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: svt

                            That's brilliant. I havent tried that one. Thanks!

                            1. re: yen

                              Totally brilliant! I am so going to use that one!

                            2. re: svt

                              Ding ding ding. That's the sound of the bell ringing in the winner idea of all time. I can probably do this when we order and pull the bathroom ploy.


                            3. I have to say that calling ahead and speaking to the manager is what I would do. Explain your situation and give the necessary info, including your mailing address and the percentage that you would like to tip, and have them mail the receipts to you.
                              Hopefully, he's not going to make a stink when the server tells him that "it's been taken care of" rather than you saying that you have taken care of the bill. If so, just say that you would rather discuss it at home.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: troutpoint

                                Can they do that, without a signature?

                                1. re: Covert Ops

                                  Yes, as long as you give them the authorization to do it, and don't dispute the charge when it comes through. The signature isn't necessary (think about the internet).

                              2. My Grandfather had a very effective way of getintg the check after anyone in the family went out to eat with him. When my aunts, uncles, and parents fought with each other because each wanted to take the check, my grandfather started to cry. Everyone quietly sat down and handed my grandfather the check. He would usually walk out of the restauarnat with a smug self-satisfied smile on his face.

                                I knew he was reaching the end of his life when I took him out to lunch and he didnt say a word when I picked up the check

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: SteveInSoCal

                                  thank you for my VERY hearty laugh of the day! what a lovely story.

                                2. I get to watch this kind of thing happen at least once a week since I'm a waiter. My favorite one was a table where the patriarch of the family had requested the bill at the end of the meal. A couple of moments later, I'm standing on the other side of the table when I feel a tap at my hip, and the person on that side (the patriarch's daughter) giving me a sly smile that said she was up to something. I checked my pockets when I got back into the kitchen and there's her Amex black card. I was reverse pickpocketed!

                                  1. I know this might not fly with Mrs. JFood, but if it would upset your ILs so much that you pay for the meal, how is it doing something nice for them?

                                    When my parents come to dinner with us, occasionally we pick up the bill, but just once in a while to be nice. And they're usually horrified -- because since they assumed they were paying, they were drinking up a storm, ordering apps, etc., which they would not have done if they knew we were paying.

                                    My husband and I know with absolutely certainty that when our kids reach adulthood and we dine with them and their family, they will never ever pay for a dime. That's the privilege of being older and more secure. My in-laws were the same way when they were alive -- when we ate with them, we knew we were not allowed to pay, no exceptions.

                                    Of course, if your ILs are on a fixed income and the dinner is not normally in their reach, it's nice to treat them. But otherwise, I'd think of another way to show them your appreciation -- or settle it before you go out. "You're being so nice to host us, we're going to take you to dinner tonight." Don't upset them at the table after what was probably a wonderful meal.

                                    1. Calling ahead and tell them to leave it "open' will take care of the problem. It sounds though that you all have a ritutal, maybe you all like doing this? But regardless, to at least be pleasing for the guests, I would arrange a little something extra on me, say a nice corsage placed at the table settings for the ladies to make them feel special.

                                      I just don't care for the grabbing of the tab, and feel it is awkward for not only the diners, but your servers as well. I've watched this display and just didn't know what to say to them until they ironed it out, it almost felt hostile and put a gloom on the evening for them. Because then they tried desparately to change the subject. I just feel that if people ar going to do this, do it quickly, give in.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                        If they won't take my CC# over the phone I go by the restaurant BEFORE I pick up my dinner guests and leave them my credit card so no one can beat me to the punch when we arrive together. So far none of my guests have been able to figure out how they got my card without leaving the table.

                                      2. This thread make me smile but sad all at the same time. In our case when we go out with family, it's always assumed we will pick up the tab. If my in-laws or my brother offered, hubby and I would drop dead on the spot <g>.

                                        I think it's great you all have wonderful, generous families.