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What to do when dragged to a bad restaurant...

Was hoping you guys could give me some advice...

What if you know a restaurant is terrible without having ever gone ( in my case, Villa Sorria in Pasadena which has consistently gotten horrible reviews), but you are forced to go because of a birthday-party dinner that the birthday girl chose.

What troubles me is that I am broke and cannot afford to go to a fancy restaurant, especially one that is apparently terrible.

What does one do? Do I just order an appetizer or a cup of soup to save myself money but not say anything? Do I just have wine? Do I still offer to pay for some of the birthday girl's dinner?

What is the most polite thing to do in my situation? I'm almost thinking of skipping out and making a lame excuse!!

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  1. I think it's fine to politely bow out of the occasion. If you're strapped for bucks, there's no need to spend it on something you don't want. Just say you won't be able to attend, and send your good wishes. No need to chip in for the dinner. It's sort of weird to go and not eat while other people are eating, and if you try to do it on the cheap, you'll still end up chipping in for everyone else's wine and such, and then you'll be hungry and broke and resentful.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pomme de terre

      Exactly what pomme said....if you go and try to eat "light," you'll still end up chipping in for drinks, etc. that you didn't consume...

      A couple things to add, though: the deciding factor should be your true issue with cost -- ie., you simply can't afford this occasion. Nothing at all wrong with that.

      The "houndish" issue, though, is absolutely, IMO, irrelevant. In life, plenty of friends and relatives pick bad restaurants, and sometimes we just have to go along....(some people on this site disagree, but I think it's very rude to try and "convert" people, especially when they've picked a birthday restaurant).

      Why make a "lame excuse?" Why not just politely decline?

    2. If you go and just order a cup of soup, you're going to have to lie to people's faces when they ask you why you aren't ordering anything else.

      So if this place is really that hideous, either don't go or do your research and find the least hideous thing on the menu. Surely they have a salad or something similar that won't kill you.

      But if you can't afford it, you can't afford it whether it's good or bad, so maybe skipping out is the way to go.

      1. Skip it (any excuse will do) and offer to take her out for coffee and dessert another time. I think some declines are to be expected when you plan an event for an expensive restaurant.

        1. If I were that uncomfortable and/or uncertain about it, I would skip out.

          I have been in the situation of not having the money to go to a restaurant (good or bad) and was talked into it, then felt just awful all evening. The problem is, if you are just having soup or wine or something, you end up calling undue attention to yourself, and it inpsires curiosity at best, friction or even pity, at worst, among the other guests. If the meal is being evenly split many ways, you may not even get away with having your meal on the cheap, regardless of what you order. I think it's pretty much unthinkable to not offer to pay for part of the bday girl's meal....

          If I could afford it I would just go and choke down the bad food. But based on what you are saying, it does not sound like you can afford it, regardless of how good or bad the food is.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lisa13

            Don't go. Don't criticise your friend's choice, but you have every right to turn down the occasion. Buy your friend a nice small present instead.

            An uncle of mine, who is diabetic, wound up having to go to an "East Side Marios" in downtown Toronto - he was with other relatives who were with a child. In that area there are lots of Chinese and Southeast Asian restaurants that are economical, family-friendly, and have healthy food choices. He ordered chicken cacciatore and it was not the usual stew, but a mess of overcooked white pasta = glucemic index through the roof. He sent it back and got a salad with chicken or some such overpriced cafeteria food...

            I don't think people should be expected to be gourmets, but it would be nice if they at least had an inkling of what constitutes food... Unless you are specifically going out for poutine or some other junk-food feast.

          2. When faced with a similar situation, I opted out of dinner but cleared it with the birthday girl to swing by her place before she left for the restaurant. I brought a bottle of wine, we each had a pre-dinner cocktail and went our seperate ways. It worked out perfectly.

            1. True Story:

              1981 the jfoods buy a house and we are dead broke, in fact we asked the church mice to treat us to dinner. Old friends ask us along for a dinner. We explain we just bought this house are VERY strapped for cash. We were assured not a problem and it's a fairly cheap resto. Long story short. Mrs Jfood orders Fettucini Alfredo - $8; Jfood orders pasta with tomato and basil - $7. Other thre couples eat apps, entrees (all in the $20 range) dessert and at least two drinks each. Bill arrives and one of the hubbies says OK let's split 4 ways. One of the most embarassing situations I have been in. I politely mentioned that we ate very little and I was willing to contribute $20 and they could split the remainder.

              Long way around saying you can not avoid the end game if you show up for the dinner. Either tell the b'day girl you can show up for a quick drink, order a seltzer, pay, do the Huggy thing and leave (if you think you really can pull it off). Or else beg out with a reasonable excuse.

              22 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Have to tell you jfood always enjoy your posts - not sure if it is the mrs jfoods type of words or what - but I also put a alot of stock ( no pun intended ) into what you say.

                1. re: tuxedo

                  I do also. jfood is one of the great ones on Chowhound.

                  1. re: tuxedo

                    Ditto - jfood's balanced and reasonable posts are always a pleasure to read.

                  2. re: jfood

                    Yes, the situation I'm afraid I'll be in.

                    Just thinking, these are REALLY close friends...so I think I might be honest and tell them I cannot afford it. Basically, what I want them to understand is if they want to help me out, fine, otherwise I'm staying home.

                    Seriously, I have about $20 for the next two weeks.

                    1. re: graffitipassion

                      If these are really close friends, then be honest with them. They should understand, and if the party will be lacking without you, they should cover your meal. I tend to be pretty generous with my friends and if I invite someone along to an outing who is strapped for cash (e.g., people paying college tuition for their children, etc.), I cover their tab or ask them to contribute a small, very reasonable amount.

                      Friends should understand your situation.

                      1. re: graffitipassion

                        I agree -- just be honest with them and tell them you can't afford it. I'd be short and say - I'd love to celebrate with you, but at this time, I can't afford it -- have a great time - without any pretense of hoping that someone will offer to pay.

                        Now, if money wasn't an issue, I'd just go and make the best of it. (Ordering more than just soup or just wine...) And, while I wouldn't pick Villa Sorriso as a destination for any occassion (because I feel it's overpriced and very underwhelming for what you are served) - it's not as if the food is inedible or truly horrific... I've had "average" meals there - I just always feel completely ripped off when I'm subjected to the experience. Think 'chain' food for higher-end restaurant prices.....

                        1. re: The Oracle

                          p.s. if you really are that close to them, they likely already know your money situation and obviously weren't taking that into consideration when planning the b'day festivites.

                        2. re: graffitipassion

                          Be honest with them and do not ask for them to cover the cost. They will understand. Ifthey are close friends they will understand, if not then "close" has a different meaningthan you and I have.

                          If they offer to pay remember you will be in a situation at the end of the meal where they say something to that effect. Could be a little uncomfortable. Better to do something little when you get back on your feet. Good thing about birthdays is they come once a year. Always another one to participate in.

                          1. re: graffitipassion

                            Or just be like normal decent people and have a barbeque! That's my thing. I'm doing alright myself, but I have friends who aren't so much. Understandingly, I have a barbeque or cook around the house, stay up till the wee hours talking and drinking cheap beer, then pass out and remember a truly good time.

                            Bigger parties weren't meant to be had at restaurants, unless there's an expense account or a really rich person.

                            Tell your friends that if they just got some inexpensive meat and beer then magic could very well ensue!

                            1. re: therealbigtasty

                              Sounds like so much fun, but where I live (NYC), birthday dinners at restaurants are the norm. While chipping in for the bday person's meal can be a pain, I wouldn't accept if I didn't know what I was getting myself into money-wise and it can often turn into a really fun night out. Sometimes getting dressed up and spending an elegant evening out with close friends is the best way to celebrate.

                          2. re: jfood

                            Wow, did you remain friends with them? I find that incredibly rude and insensitve of them after you had explained the situation. When first reading the story, I was hoping for a happy ending of them treating you.

                            I've been on both sides of that equation. Grateful for friends who treated me when I was broke and when I was flush, I tried to pay forward by taking out someone who was broke and needed a break.

                            1. re: Jase

                              Drink heavily (but be sure to save enough for cabfare.............)

                              1. re: Jase

                                Never went out with them again. I think this falls into several buckets, i.e. who needs friends like that and life's too short.

                                The story has an even more bizarre adder. The friends wanted to drink so I was the Desig Driver. Mrs Jfood is lactose intollerent and ate Fett Alfredo (cheapest thing on the menu). So here I am madder than a wet hen driving M&M yutz in my car. Mrs Jfood leans over and says, "Jfood could you drop me off at the house, drive the Yutzes home and then come back to the house and take me to the hospital." Not really knowing what's she talking about, I take the Yutzes home come back, Mrs Jfood explains what Lactose intollerent means, OMG (notice it is not Dr. Jfood). She is feeling better and lighter (if you catch my drift).

                                I put her to bed, stroke her hair til she falls asleep. Twenty plus years later I still get pissed when I think about it.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  To me, the best reservation is always for two !

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    If Mrs. jfood knew she was lactose intolerant, why did she order the alfredo? You mentioned at least another cheap entree with little or no dairy (tomato and basil). If you were that poor, I can't imagine that a trip to the ER would have been cheaper than splitting the tab with your insensitive friends.

                                    1. re: thinks too much

                                      She is not a foodie. Did not know what alfredo was but knew that $7 was the cheapest thing on the menu. She's a real trooper.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        Thanks, that makes much more sense. You did mention that it happened a long time ago, but having read your posts, I couldn't imagine Mrs. Jfood making that kind of mistake recently.

                                    2. re: jfood

                                      So not right... the designated driver should always get a free meal, in my opinion!

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I'm lactose intolerant also and fet alfredo sometimes bothers me. I feel for her. Really I do. Eating is a big experiment to determine what one can or cannot eat.

                                        My last "episode" was caused by mashed potatoes. The server said milk wasnt added. And still said so 4 minutes later while I was doubled over in pain with the bathroom so far away.

                                        I'm so grateful for Lactaid milk.

                                    3. re: jfood

                                      I had a similar experience recently. Two friends wanted to try a new, trendy place that I and my SO had already been. We warned them that it would get pricey and we didn't have that much money. We all agreed to be careful when ordering, since they were tight on cash as well. Well, they ordered two bottles of wine and a few small plates that my SO and I would never have ordered. I started to add everything up in my head, and realized we were almost doubling what we had intended to pay. When they picked up the menu to order more, I made an excuse, put some cash on the table and left. Very uncomfortable.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        well, I had to jump on the jfood's fanwagon, it's funny how you get to know people through their postings.

                                      2. In the past, when I had a similar dilemma, I arrived very late (with a reasonable "excuse") and joined the group for a glass of wine around the time everyone was having their desserts. I would then put in my $20, which covered the wine and a bit more towards the birthday person's dinner. That way, no explanation was necessary. Also in my group of friends, being late for dinner or a gathering is almost expected.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kayonyc

                                          I agree, I've done the same thing in this sort of situation. I'd show up late and order a drink, which is 5-6 bucks, and then you can throw in 10-12 bucks and I doubt anyone would question it.

                                          Personally, I'd hate to bring up my financial situation to my friends, as it puts them in an uncomfortable situation as well. If you really only have 20 bucks for two weeks, I'd skip out and make it up to the birthday girl at a later date.

                                        2. I agree with most of the posters that suggest politely backing out and offering to take the birthday girl out another time.

                                          Ugh, this reminds me of a time when a bunch of friends that are older and wealthier than myself had made reservations for me and my other friends (most of them as poor as I) for my birthday. I insisted that they pick an inexpensive place (note that I didn't even want to go out at all) but was very grateful for the gesture. That being said, the bill ended up coming to about $70 per person which was NOT what I consider cheap. I felt awful as my poor friends shelled out more money than they had planned on spending. I wanted to chip in, but everyone insisted that I not.

                                          Fast forward to when it was one of my wealthier friends' birthdays. They picked a very expensive place and insisted that I join. What an awkward situation. I ended up telling them that I just couldn't afford it (not to mention the fact that it was far from when I live and late reservations a weeknight) but that I would take the birthday girl out at another time. Well, of course, they freaked out about how they had shelled out money for MY birthday and how could I do this, yadda yadda yadda. Not to completely hijack your thread, Graffiti, but...was I in the wrong here? Should I have sucked it up and gone and cut costs elsewhere for the next couple of weeks? (haha...FYI, sometime later, one of them said to me: "man it's a good thing you didint go - it ended up being over $150 per person!")

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Melanie

                                            You were in the right and if they are such good friends, they shouldn't have given you such a hard time. What a grievous error on thier part.

                                            1. re: Melanie

                                              any "decent" friend would understand your plight. It would seem to me that these wealthier friends are also control freaks.

                                            2. If I were in your shoes I'd send the birthday girl a nice card and some flowers with a note saying "I am so sorry I cannot celebrate with you this year, know I am thinking of you and hope it is a very happy birthday" . No need to explain anything and no excuses needed. There should be no hard feelings and you will have done something gracious. The flowers don't have to be a dozen long stemmed roses either. Just a pretty colorful bouquet.

                                              1. If you don't want to miss out on the occasion, say you'll join them at the restaurant for pre-dinner drinks or for dessert and coffee afterwards. That way, it's understood from the start that you'll only participate in a limited way and you won't have to shell out as much (plus, you'll reduce the damage on your tastebuds).

                                                1. Update on the dinner:

                                                  So I me and my sister decide to go, after letting the best friend of the birthday girl know we were only planning on paying for ourselves, and felt badly about it, and would make it up someother time.

                                                  Villa Sorrina was empty, but the waitress was still slow. We had a table of nine, and everyone ordered what they wanted, incuding the mother of the birthday girl, who ordered a bottle of wine ($22). I got a vodka martini($10), a cup of terrible gazpacho soup($5), and a salad that look like the bagged American lettuce with shredded cabbage and carrots you get at the grocery store. Threw in plum tomatos and their "homemade" dressing that tasted fake. ($8) When the check was passed to me, I put 10+5+8=23+tip=$28

                                                  My Sister split an entree ($14) of Rosemary chicken she says was unimpressive and a glass of wine ($8)

                                                  The check is passed around, people claiming here-and-there to be paying a portion of birthday-girls meal. The mother contributes $30. (Remeber, she had the $22 bottle of wine and $36 steak)

                                                  So who gets stuck spending more? The people who couldn't afford to to begin with. How did this happen? My sister coughed up $40!! When it was only $22. My other friend had to pay $50 for her split-entree wine combo.

                                                  So, I ended up dipping into credit and savings to do this. But i feel like something went wrong. Shouldn't the mother have chipped in more? Offered to pay half of the dinner? I seriously doubt its acceptable to hide behind the daughter and hope we pay for HER food too.

                                                  What do you think?

                                                  P.S. Confirming what every already knows...the restaurant was not worth the money.

                                                  15 Replies
                                                  1. re: graffitipassion

                                                    How did this happen? Because you volunteered your money for fear of creating a scene. I would have contributed not a penny more and let others be fearful of creating a scene.

                                                    Learning to set boundaries in a polite, quiet, non-confrontational way, is far more important over the long term than food quality. Way too much energy is wasted on emotions (namely, fear of social shame) over money.

                                                    If someone asks you to put more in, you can explain as explained in earlier comments. The world will not stop spinning. If the friends would shun you because of it, their friendship is not worth much anyway because they would be willing to abuse you - and true friends do not abuse each other.

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      Someone should have taken charge and calculated each person's portion of the bill. (In this case, maybe the best friend of the birthday girl.) Usually nobody wants to be the one who does that, but this is what you'll get if people calculate for themselves. There's always somebody going to be stuck with a bigger portion than what he/she ate. This can be intentional, as in somebody contributes a bigger share (for reasons unknown, shame being one of them), or unintended (somebody just has poor math skills). Speaking from experience, if it happens often enough among the same group of people though, then not-so-good feelings start to develop and the group ends up not eating out together at all.

                                                      See, math is precise and transparent: just add up whatever you ate plus a percentage of the tip and then you'll get what you should be paying for your meal, including the birthday girl's. Appoint a "treasurer"/"accountant" to do all the math when the bill comes and he or she is responsible for collecting what each person owes for their share.

                                                      Or, get a better group of friends to eat out with. ;) There should be people with whom you don't calculate bills to the last penny.

                                                      But in most cases, the method above works. Just be matter-of-fact and transparent vis a vis the calculation.

                                                      "Total bill comes to $1000. How much of a tip would we like to leave?"
                                                      "Ok, so birthday girl share of meal, BG, divided among us, would be BGS."
                                                      "So, Mrs. Birthday Girl Mother, you had the bottle of wine + the steak. That's X, plus a 20% tip, plus the BGS. That would be XX from you. Thanks."
                                                      "Ok, let me add up everybody's share to make sure we got everything out. Oh, great. Everything adds up!"

                                                      Show your work if you have to. LOL

                                                    2. re: graffitipassion

                                                      How did this happen? Take this as a compliment and a criticism, You were too nice. And you are a good friend. But you were as big a reason as everyone else for the situation. Once you ordered both an app and an entree the slippery slope was in front of you and you stepped on the ice. Likewise you told the b'day girl about your situation and you should assume that noone else at the table knew. The bill arrives and you now want a free pass. The mother was wrong but why are you assuming she should pay half? You have some culpability in this situation as well.

                                                      Once the bill started to make the rounds, the gig was up. The only time I have seen everyone pay their fair share was for someone to act as the leader. That person takes the bill and pencil and sates, "Graffitipassion, you had the martini, soup and salad you owe $28, plus $7 for the b'day girl (remember know else knew). Mother of the B'day girl, you had the wine and the steak, please contribute this plus $7 for your daughter..."

                                                      So how did it happen? You were there, ate two courses plus a drink and then wanted the special consideration that noone knew about. Everyone let the mother have a free pass as well. So if you want to finger point, there are plenty of potential pointees including yourself.

                                                      Sorry for being honest.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Right there with jfood on this one (this is starting to happen with some regularity I think). In a situation like this, once you show up and committ to food....you're in. People generally don't pay attention to the amounts on menus, lose track of what they've ordered and don't understand how it adds up nor how the tax and tip factor in. I think there are only two good ways to handle such a situation (and its always what C and I do): 1) don't go - don't make excuses, just lay it out ("i'd love to come, but I'm strapped, how about lunch at my place?" or whatever) or, 2) go and be ready to lay out a bunch of cash (or credit). I have accepted my role (as one who has waited tables, cooked in and managed both kitchens and restaurants themselves) as the person in the group who makes sure the bill is taken care of appropriately. With some groups that can be as easy as saying to the whole table "ok, it looks like no one put enough in" at which point I'm beating people off with a stick to keep the money from piling up (that's rare). Usually, we get somewhat close and I end up tossing in maybe 30% more than I should have to. If I think its a group like the latter...I try to make sure we end up in a place that I'm going to enjoy.

                                                        So, to sum up, in a slightly shorter version:
                                                        1) don't go
                                                        2) be ready to pay more than you think you should have to

                                                      2. re: graffitipassion

                                                        Very awkward situation. I would not have been comfortable asking someone's mother to pay her share (meaning for her food alone) either.

                                                        However, if you were expecting the best friend who knew about your problem to fix it for you... that was not likely to happen.

                                                        Do your friends know your financial situation? These kinds of things can take a long time to sink in.

                                                        1. re: julesrules

                                                          Really? Would you have felt uncomfortable because you see the Mother as like a guest of honor, or did you just mean you would feel uncomfortable asking anyone to chip in more?

                                                          1. re: danna

                                                            Actually both :) yes, I am passive. But the feeling would be worse with a member of the older generation. Even if she appeared to be really milking the situation with a bottle of wine and steak.
                                                            FWIW, in my various circles it is a rare person who will take charge and tell everyone what they owe. Generally everyone throws in what they figure they owe and usually there is *almost* enough. I personally would rather throw in an extra $5 if I am concerned the wait person is going to get stiffed, than go over the whole bill with a fine-tooth comb. I can afford to and that's my choice. No reflection on the OP.

                                                            1. re: julesrules

                                                              I would also have a hard time asking the mother to chip in properly if she were elderly. Even though I am agressive ;-)

                                                              I just assumed in the situation above that the birthday girl and her friends were quite young and that's why the OP expected the "adult" to pay a larger portion. Likely a completely wrong assumption.

                                                              Anyhow, like Jayes below, I am the ENFORCER whenever there is a group meal that requires check-splitting. I got tired of ALWAYS being the one to pick up the slack. Buying someone's meal when they are caught short (or simply poor) is a pleasure, but constantly paying for the forgotten 2nd beers, about 1/2 the tip, and ALL the tax for larger groups was getting on my nerves.

                                                              1. re: danna

                                                                In this case, everybody could have just agreed that the mother was the guest of honour and both she and the birthday girl would be getting treated on this day.

                                                                But again, the problem was NOBODY took charge. Everybody was working off their OWN assumptions -- and now the OP, her sister, and her friend, are not entirely happy. It's really too bad.

                                                                By the way, this is not intended to be a criticism of the OP. But if she already recognized the problem in the beginning and expected that there will be a problem come bill time, then it would have prevented so much grief had she just taken the "bull" by the horns and took charge of the situation. Never expect other people to take care of problems for you.

                                                              2. re: julesrules

                                                                I don't know if I'd call that your choice. I'd say that somebody else is making the choice and you're too afraid to do anything about it. IMO if you get stuck paying a bunch of money you can't afford for somebody's food you shouldn't have to pay for because you won't take the responsibility and say something, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

                                                                1. re: luniz

                                                                  Are you responding to me? Absolutely I blame myself, that's why I'd say it's my choice. And it's a choice I'm happy with thanks!

                                                          2. re: graffitipassion

                                                            I really hope you at least had some good time, and that your friend was happy and you were happy for her being happy. Otherwise, it sounds like you need to re-evaluate your friendship, maybe you are not as close you had imagined.

                                                            1. re: graffitipassion

                                                              It sounds like from the above calculations you kept your damage low at $28 (If that's what you meant, and that you had to dip into credit/savings to do that.) It does sound awful that the mom didn't even pay her fair share if that's what happened - unless there was widespread insistence around the table that she not do so.

                                                              I think in situations like that I'd probably ask if they're going somewhere for drinks later and could you join them.. but it's also hard when it's a big group and you'd really like to be there for the occasion. In situations where you get stuck suspecting the bill-sorting isn't going to be done considerately, I think it does sometimes help to 'just get an appetizer' or something that makes it incredibly obvious you didn't have what everybody else was having. It makes it easier to say you just got an appetizer and soda and here is your portion for that than something like 'well, I had a low-priced entree that I split with so and so and we didn't get dessert and...' ... and I don't think you need to apologize to anyone for not getting more (eat beforehand!), unless the restaurant has some requirement.

                                                              1. re: graffitipassion

                                                                I'd like to preface this with the knowledge that I will probably be slammed.

                                                                I recognize that you cleared your needs with the birthday girl first, but she really had nothing to do with the division of the check. Had I been seated with you, you conveyed a feeling of having plenty of money when you ordered the $10 martini. Ordering soup and salad could have simply been looking after your girlish figure, or that you were in the Atkins cult. If you were sticking with your budget of $20 for two weeks, you overspent it by your beverage.

                                                                That being said, you may now point out that it was the only portion of your meal that you enjoyed. I'm certainly not condoning other party members not paying for their fair share.

                                                                1. re: graffitipassion

                                                                  G- I feel sorry for your sister! She put in nearly twice her meal?! The evening sounds poorly handled -- on so many levels -- all of which have been stated well by others so I won't repeat them.

                                                                2. No one takes advantage of your without your permission. If you didn't want to or couldn't pay the amount, you should have spoken up. The mother of the birthday girl may have been a cheapskate, but she may have just made a mistake in her calculations. As other people have demonstrated, there's a perfectly polite way of doing it.

                                                                  Even as someone who likes to dine out, group birthday dinners just always seem like a terrible idea to me, because someone always ends up overpaying.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: pomme de terre


                                                                    And when it happens several times, these generous people would end up a little gun-shy. I don't mind overpaying for my share (if I can afford it), but when I see someone who *always* seems to end up not paying their fair share, then I must admit I can devolve to a non-magnanimous beast.

                                                                    One reason why I usually just take charge of the bill -- and it doesn't give me great pleasure to do so -- is the tipping issue. When eating out at a less-expensive restaurant (e.g. less than 30 bucks per person), without a person designated to calculate, people tend to overpay and thus leave a MASSIVE TIP for the staff. Yet, when eating out at an expensive place, then people tend to underpay and leave an inadequate tip for the staff. Now, if we wish to eat again at these restaurants, the measly tipping becomes a problem.

                                                                    Take charge of the situation and give people the benefit of the doubt. Just assume that most people don't calculate correctly and miss items, not because they're wanting to take advantage, but because it happens, especially in the rush of trying to figure out the bill.

                                                                    Having everything clear and transparent will avert any future resentments and such and will lead to better group dinners in the future. You'll eat out more and enjoy each other's company when doing so, because you know when bill time comes, there's no question of everybody not paying their fair share.

                                                                    1. re: jayes

                                                                      could agree more with you jayes - esp. your suggestion about "helping" people figure out what they owe.

                                                                      what i find is that people forget to include the TAX in their bills (in CA it's 8.25%) - so, on a $50 bill, even if they think they are tipping well and contributing $60, their bill is really $54 - wihch means their tip is only a bit more than 10%...

                                                                      Sometimes I give up (I'm usually 'the banker') and ask the restaurant for seperate checks - the last few times I've gone out with groups, they've been more than accomodating and done this for the group (i realize this is likely a pain for them).

                                                                      When I'm with groups that this has been an issue for in the past, I usually ask before hand for a seperate check. To the OP: perhaps if you did this when you placed the order, you could have let the others figure out the mess.....

                                                                      1. re: The Oracle

                                                                        Most restaurants too -- if they won't separate the check -- will have the option of grouping and subtotalling items that a group ordered. Which makes it pretty easy to figure out who had which.

                                                                        1. re: jayes

                                                                          Most restaurants have pretty damn good computers these days and have zero problem separating cheques for the whole table, you can even say " we are together - they are togther, etc etc"

                                                                        2. re: The Oracle

                                                                          Oracle - Your point is spot-on about people forgetting about tax. Seems like perhaps the OP forgot too, or the service was bad enough to warrant a <15% tip. $23 in food and drink + 8.25% tax = $24.90. $28 - $24.90 = a $3.10 tip, which is 13.5% of the OP's food and drink total. Here in CA, the tax + tip comes to about 25% of the price of the food, and that's if you only tip 15% on the food, rather than on the total (including tax). Painful, maybe, but any less means you're docking the server or free-riding on your dining companions (even if others are free-riding more). I also agree with jfood that ordering a $10 martini undercuts the "I'm on a strict budget" image. But that said, I was a starving student for a long time, so I know situations like these are no fun.

                                                                    2. I don't feel taken advantage of or bitter, becaues I put in what I ate, and stopped at that. What peeves me is that other people were not mature enough to put in their fair share. And I'm thinking particularly of the mother here.

                                                                      Anyways, everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves, so it wasn't a big deal. I just thought this was a post everyone could relate to.

                                                                      This whole experience reinforces how much I hate big birthday dinner celebrations, and when I do have them at a restaurant, I prefer it to be 6 guests or less!!!

                                                                      19 Replies
                                                                      1. re: graffitipassion

                                                                        How many people were present for this event?

                                                                        1. re: jayes

                                                                          About 10 people, everyone (besides mom) at or a little below their mid-twenties.

                                                                        2. re: graffitipassion

                                                                          Disregard the question below, because it just strikes me as not particularly relevant. With the advent of calculators, it should be easy enough to work out the bill, as long as we're not talking about more than a 100 people here. (In which case, you would need a team of "accountants" to expedite the process.) LOL

                                                                          There's also a qualitative difference in having 3 people to a party or 6 people to a party or 10 people to a party. So, deciding forevermore not to have more than 6,5,4,3,2 persons to a party seems to me a pretty heavy-handed solution to a minor problem. Sure, calculating bills at the end of group meals is a tad pesky, but so is a mosquito bite, and you don't use surgery to remove a mosquito bite.

                                                                          But what I don't understand is why the mother is being blamed for not paying her fair share. Sure, she might have forgotten that, yes, she did actually have a steak and a bottle of wine (or she had pretty poor eyesight and could not see the prices on the menu; or she has extremely poor math skills; and the list could go on why). . .But, but, but. We really don't know what kind of arrangement she has with the birthday girl. Who knows? Maybe she didn't want to go with her daughter and her bunch of friends but the daughter or the friends invited her and told her she's like a semi-guest of honour.

                                                                          Again, I don't know. But it doesn't seem entirely fair to me to blame the mother most of all for not being mature enough. The person organizing the event should have taken better charge of the situation.

                                                                          1. re: jayes

                                                                            Anyone who didn't want go to this event should feel free to just say no. And I would not accept an offer for a bunch of relative kids to pay for me - especially if the person making the offer was not part of the paying group!

                                                                          2. re: graffitipassion


                                                                            Not to be argumentative, but did you really put in what you should have or what you think you should have. Yes you told the b'day girl about the dilemma you are facing. No one else knew. Did you think the b'day girl would pay for herself? That normally is the guests chipping in, so you were short in your contribution to the team. I also doubt that the mother drank the entire bottle of wine, so she probably felt that others should help pay for that as well.

                                                                            The question that is unanswered is who arranged the meal. If it was the b'day girl, and she expecting people to treat, that seems unfair. If it was the mother, she should have treated everyone. If it was was of the friends in her 20's and invited the mother as well, she whould have been treated as well as her daughter. There is no way this was going to end well.

                                                                            I am not sure how having 10 people makes it worse. If there were only 6, think of that outcome. B'day girl contributing zero, you contributing only for your portion, mother contributing less than her share and that leave the balance to be assumed by less people. There would have been even a higher level of stress and frustration by those three people, including your sister.

                                                                            Bottom line is that this situation had way too many parameters to make for a simplistic financial conclusion.

                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                              You have good points. The birthday girl organized the party herself, and no, the mother did not share the bottle with the table.

                                                                              There was no simple financial conclusion...just lots of different opinions on how it should have been dealt with. :)

                                                                              No problem, though, these things happen alot. Just have to suck it up and move on.

                                                                              1. re: graffitipassion

                                                                                Let me see if I understand this ---- When the BD girl organized the party herself for herself did she make it known that she expected everyone to pitch in to pay her share? Did she put her "guests" on notice that they would be paying for her and her mother as well? If BD girl "invited" friends to come and celebrate her BD at an expensive restaurant, then she should have been prepared to pay (she was considered the hostess; she issued the invite). Or, if she just wanted to go out with friends to celebrate, then she should have made it clear that everyone (including herself) would be paying for their own meal and she should have asked for some input on the location I think it was in poor taste for her to plan a dinner out honoring herself. It sounds like she was taking advantage of her friends / guests.

                                                                                1. re: Sister Sue

                                                                                  Agreed. A self-honoring birthday party. Very poor taste.

                                                                                  1. re: tom porc

                                                                                    I have to disagree. If nobody else is willing to do it, does that mean you have to stay home on your birthday?

                                                                                    1. re: luniz

                                                                                      I do not think tom p's point was that the party should not have been planned by the b'day girl, but it is quite unfair to plan a party and expect everyone else to pay and treat you.

                                                                                      How does that invite work, "Hello, graffitipassion, this is Doris. Since no one planned a party for me I was hoping you and a few of the girls could join me and my mom at XYZ resto. And by the way I'm expecting you to pay for yourself, for me and for a good deal of my mom's meal when she sucks down a $36 steak and a whole bottle of wine. I know I can count on you, cause your such a dear."

                                                                                      OMG - Gee I wonder how the b'day got into the position of no one giving her a party? I'm being sarcastic so there is no misunderstanding.

                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                        At the very least, everybody should pay for their own meal.

                                                                                        Since the birthday girl, although she herself organized the party, obviously had no intention of paying for the dinner for her mother and her friends, she should not have expected her friends to pay for her and her mother's meals as well.

                                                                                        1. re: jayes

                                                                                          So if the b'day girl and her mom are not paying and the others are only paying for themselves. Query - who pays for the b'day girl and her mom? the resto?

                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            The one organizing the party (hostess) should certainly see to it that the honoree’s dinner bill gets paid, as well as that of any other special guests (mother of honoree). In this case the hostess and the honoree are one and the same. So the hostess / honoree should pay her own bill and her mother's. Hostess / honoree did make sure that the bill was taken care of by pushing it off on her friends to pay. Tacky!

                                                                                            By the way, did the OP also have to take a gift to this event?

                                                                                      2. re: luniz

                                                                                        The question is: Why is noone "willing to do it?"

                                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                                          On the other side of the coin...(we are all assuming the brithday girl is/was trying to hose everyone). In my experience: we were/are a large group of friends who hung out all the time over the course of ten years or so, single in the city :-), For all birthdays we went to a big (10 or so in the dining group) planned dinner at a restaurant in NYC and the brithday girl/boy NEVER chipped in. And yes, it was their responsibility to "plan" it. They had to remind us of the date, pick the restaurant, the guest list, etc. It was another night out but with a guest of honor. No one thought to have the guest of honor chip in anything. I still would not. We are all married and mostly in the 'burbs at this point, way past our twenties and for some reason (off topic), we had more disposable income then, go figure! :-)

                                                                                          To the OP's point, if someone was short on cash, it was not a big deal with us, those who could were happy to throw in a little extra cash and noone was made to feel badly. If this would not be the case, I agree with some others, meet for a drink and eat before or after.

                                                                                          How good of friends are you and are we all assuming the worst here? It sounds like, perhaps, the mom was out of line. There are cheap, take advantage people but to trash the birthday girl simply for getting friends together on her birthday is wrong. IMO.

                                                                                          1. re: Michele4466

                                                                                            Yup, I'm 33, very similar circumstances, and we had/have this type of party all the time. When it is my birthday I do offer to chip in though. I know some people are really offended by thise idea, but I think it might be somewhat generational/cultural?
                                                                                            When you're single and live away from family it's not always obvious who is "supposed" to throw the party for you - friends also being single and broke or just busy. I'd rather the birthday person plan the kind of outing they want anyway.

                                                                                            1. re: Michele4466

                                                                                              Many of my friends and I operated in a very similar manner but its really a question of whether that's understood. From the OPs post, I presumed that it wasn't an understood thing between them all. If it was, in fact, to be expected, then the OP really shouldn't have gone to the dinner at all.

                                                                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                Yes I agree. Our system has also developed over the years to take into account different finances and preferences. I learned, for example, not to expect certain friends to be interested in more expensive restaurants - this isn't always a reflection on finances either, it's what people choose to afford and place priority on. I realized I can go to a fancy restaurant with other friends or my husband, and the group outing should be about the group. The OP needs to speak up if these types of plans and financial issues are ongoing.

                                                                                      3. re: Sister Sue

                                                                                        I have the solution to this dilemma. Yes, I always organize my bday party (partly because I organize MOST of the parties in my group anyway;) The format is always: 1) meet somewhere cheap and kid-friendly for afternoon/evening drinks 2) if you want to stay for a mid-price, order off the menu dinner, let me know to include you in the RSVP -- always clear that everyone goes dutch. Sometimes the friends have helped pay for my dinner, often not - - either way is bueno. 3) Then, we move for drinks or lately coffee and dessert elsewhere -- so if you can't afford/are too busy/don't drink, you can still come out for the party and buy a cup of coffee. Although I often do entertain at home, I just can't stomach the lot of all of that work on MY birthday:)

                                                                                2. I'm going to have to disagree about the number in the party not mattering. The smaller the party, the easier at the end of the meal to collect cash from those who have it and say something like "Myself and _____ will split the rest on our cards". Also, the more items on a bill, the more confusing it is finding your share.

                                                                                  Also, the friends in this particular situation are people seen on a daily basis. Backing out or "passing" on the dinner would have seemed suspicious. It was one of those "suck it up and go" type situation.

                                                                                  All I know now is how I plan on having my own birthday dinners henceforth. Alot more organized, smaller, and a good restaurant.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: graffitipassion

                                                                                    Good to hear. Now at least you know what type of party you want for your own birthday.

                                                                                    The number of people DOES matter, from the group dynamic perspective and from the bill collecting perspective. What I meant was simply don't let the prospect of bill collection (a pesky problem, but relatively minor in the scheme of things and easily handled) daunt you or anyone else from having a large party should that be what one wants. A 2-person party is different from a 6-person party is different from a 12-person party and so on.

                                                                                    1. re: jayes

                                                                                      Will definitly keep this in mind...as well as all the advice/comments others have given. Thanks guys!!

                                                                                      1. re: graffitipassion

                                                                                        A game of silver lining here: what if we look at the situation from this perspective?

                                                                                        You seem to be in better straits than the mother, because she went to the party so she can score a $22 bottle of wine. Which would have cost $8-$10 bucks outside the restaurant. LOL

                                                                                    2. re: graffitipassion

                                                                                      Organized is good :) Personally I like to plan my own birthday parties for these types of reasons.
                                                                                      I'm not sure the quality of restaurant is the issue though. You may have a firm idea of what constitutes a worthwhile restaurant, but that place might make the bday girl just as uncomfortable when your turn comes around - since you seem to have quite different tastes. Of course the precedent has been set, your birthday, your pick.

                                                                                      I have to agree with those who've said that friends will understand if you truly can't make it because you are broke. However, if there is an ongoing income difference between you and these friends, it might take quite a while to sink in for them. You have to be consistent and NOT "suck it up" or they're never going to get it.

                                                                                    3. If these are really close friends, then tell them you're broke. If not, bow out with some excuse, and have the birthday girl over for dessert and a movie. Even without any money you can still lure friends over to your house with good food and good films.

                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: ECB

                                                                                        Sounds like going out with your group would be more of a hassle than a pleasure. Sounded to me like the easy thing to do here would be to take the total bill, divide by 9. If you're not able to afford this then you should have just passed on the event. A birthday party where you only pay for your meal and don't even chip in for the birthday girl's meal then come on here to complain doesn't sound like much fun.

                                                                                        The birthday celebration that I've been to that have been held at restaurants have either been the birthday person or their family inviting people and paying for the entire bill, or a group of friends taking the birthday person out for dinner. Not sure how it's really a birthday celebration if you can't even chip in for the birthday person!

                                                                                        I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I'll be you that the birthday girl's best friend that you called up and told you'll be attending, but not pitching in for the birthday girl, thinks of you as a cheapskate that shouldn't have attended.

                                                                                        1. re: Rick

                                                                                          I agree and disagree. You're right that if you go out for someone's b-day, you should be willing to pitch in for their meal. (If they're your friend, you should _want_ to do this.)

                                                                                          But that doesn't mean you should pitch in for everyone else's meal. I've gone out to b-day dinners where I've had a salad and a soda, and had to pay the same as others who ordered a three-course meal with wine. Not cool.

                                                                                          1. re: piccola

                                                                                            Look, it's a fact of life that no one EVER just pays for what they ordered when you do these group things (Did no one see the Friends episode about this very subject?!).

                                                                                            You might as well have had the drink, because the assumption is that everyone's going to end up splitting the bill anyway, so your drink would therefore add only an extra 1.50 to your own contribution. But my point is, when you go out in these groups, minimally you're going to end up splitting the check, and often the one who's feeling the most guilty ends up putting down more money where necessary (and in my experience, there are people who habitually put down more -- and people who won't EVER put down more because they know someone else will).

                                                                                            As for mom, if you guys were putting down for your own, I would have made her put it for the steak at least, although I'm willing to grant that she ordered the bottle for the table.

                                                                                            Now, one thing that perplexes me on chowhound: It seems that there are an awful lot of fearful, very passive diners. People who pay for substandard meals, or have bad service, or are afraid to send something back, then seethe after they leave. Or who end up picking up the slack for Mom and her expensive steak, then get upset about that.

                                                                                            You don't have to pitch a fit to send something back, nor do you have to start WW III to point out bad service, or to get more money out of Mom. You can be polite, respectful, but still fair, and then you end up happy and not feeling taken advantage of.

                                                                                            THAT seems to be much more of the issue with alot of these types of discussions: that people don't know how to communicate their displeasure in a productive way and end up suffering themselves because of it.

                                                                                            1. re: bebevonbernstein

                                                                                              We could solve this entire problem by dealing with birthdays the way they do in Europe - at least I know this is how it works in Germany - the birthday boy/girl treats everybody and everybody brings a gifty. Not ambiguous at all. I solve it by never doing this kind of thing for my own birthday - I throw a dinner party - buy all the food myself and tell people it's for my birthday. I buy enough beer and wine, but everyone will bring something. Often I end up with more wine than I started out with. Again, gifties for me.

                                                                                              1. re: suse

                                                                                                If the birthday girl organized the outing herself, then I would assume that it would be the birthday girl herself who would be footing the bill. Inviting her own mother to the party would then thus make more sense.

                                                                                      2. I cant get past that birthday ppl plan their own parties at expensive restaurants and expect others to pay for it.

                                                                                        What happened to good taste?

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                                          it sounds to me like maybe the birthday girl's friend was the organizer, the birthday girl merely picked where she wanted to go.

                                                                                          if you're not willing to pay, don't go. don't blame other people for your own passivity.

                                                                                          1. re: luniz

                                                                                            In the OP's follow-up post of 4/3 she states that the BD girl organized the party herself. I agree with tom porc regarding the lack of taste. I also agree with you about the paying.

                                                                                            1. re: Sister Sue

                                                                                              If the birthday girl was herself the organizer, I wonder why the OP didn't tell the birthday girl her dilemma and instead called up the best friend who may or may not know anything about the bill arrangements. I don't know how the birthday girl or the best friend reacted to the OP's news that, yes, she would be attending, and no, she won't be chipping in.

                                                                                              Regarding the OP's sister and the friend who coughed up $40 and $50 respectively, I have a suspicion that everything evens out in the end, because -- think of it this way -- they might have paid for the OP's share of the birthday girl's meal.

                                                                                              Again, without the itemized bill in evidence, it is hard to say definitively, but my feeling is everybody paid more or less what they should have paid. My own personal experience is people always feel they paid more, but when you add everything up, it evens out, give or take 5 to 10 dollars. (It's rare that somebody ends up paying $10+ for his or her own meal.)

                                                                                              Do you pay liquor tax in CA?

                                                                                        2. My friends are at different stages of their careers. We who are more established are always careful when going to restaurants to be aware of what each of the others can afford. One of us takes the bill, and we simply throw in more and pass back any contribution that we think is more than a person can afford by saying, "you paid too much". No one else ever needs to know. And it works out: if there are a lot of relatively new younger people and one or two geezers, the decision is always to go out to a less expensive place. That is, the system self-regulates and no one gets abused. And its not because I'm a good person: I benefitted from the same system years ago.

                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                            This whole thing is just silly. "Honoree" - please, it's just a birthday. I can't even believe that someone would consider paying for the "Honoree's" mother unless she can't afford to go out to eat and it's a super special treat for her. In this case, no one should even consider talking about this. I would never in a million years ask people to a restaurant to celebrate my birthday and expect them to pay for me. I would probably not even say it's my birthday, unless I was wanting presents, in which case I would pay their way. Oh, and while I'm on a rant, anyone who orders a 10-dollar martini, shouldn't even be discussing the money issue, it doesn't matter whether or not everyone splits the bill - then it becomes one of these - "well, if so-and-so is going to get an expensive drink, then so can I" thing and the whole reason for getting together gets lost in the silliness. If you know that it's going to be one of those let's all split the bill and pay for the birthday girl kind of things, go for it, have your expensive drink, enjoy yourself, don't bitch about it and eat beans and rice for a week to recover your fiscal balance.

                                                                                            1. re: suse

                                                                                              I agree about the mother but I would never think to let the birthday person pay for themselves, neither would any of my friends. And in regard to my above post about our birthday dinners, sometimes presents were warranted (a 25th or 30th or the like) but always I brought a bouquet of flowers. It is just a nice thing to do, not expected.

                                                                                              Why wouldn't you mention your birthday? Sorry, not to offend but I do not get it. It is a nice thing to spend your day with friends and family.

                                                                                              I also agree, "go or don't go", but if you go - enjoy yourself!

                                                                                              1. re: Michele4466

                                                                                                Yes, I agree, it's a very nice thing to spend the day with friends and family - I guess I just don't like asking someone to pay my way. I have to confess, my attitude about paying is partly informed by my German background - as I mentioned above, in Germany you tend to throw your own party. Hey, it's my birthday - come on over - I'm cooking. (subtext: bring me a gifty in addition to a bottle of wine). If it weren't my birthday, I'd only expect people to bring a bottle of wine. In my family, when it's someone's birthday and they don't want to throw a party, they invite some friends and family members out for dinner. Presents expected. This is usually for a big birthday: 30, 40, etc. Birthday girl/boy pays. It's just the tradition. This may seem wierd to Americans, it's just different. You don't have to throw a major party, you can just have a small invite for coffee and cake in the afternoon.

                                                                                                1. re: suse

                                                                                                  I get what you are saying. I have seen and heard that before, especially on these boards. Different cultures, as you say. I wish I could afford to treat everyone at my favorite restaurant. :-)

                                                                                                  As a new mom and new homeowner, our birthday celebrations will be bbq's from now on. What is more fun than a bbq with the people you love!

                                                                                              2. re: suse

                                                                                                "anyone who orders a 10-dollar martini, shouldn't even be discussing the money issue" - totally agree!

                                                                                                1. re: suse

                                                                                                  RE: "Then it becomes one of these - "well, if so-and-so is going to get an expensive drink, then so can I" thing and the whole reason for getting together gets lost in the silliness."

                                                                                                  Right on. When people have no idea how the bill gets calculated at the end, or when people are unsure whether everybody will pay their fair share, absent a system, there's the inevitable jockeying and/or strategizing and/or general confusion as to what to order.

                                                                                                  Split the bill (total bill divided by number of people) or calculate per person. Some groups would go for the first, some the second. Maybe the OP was caught between two worlds.

                                                                                                  In any case, agree with all the posts here that if a person can't afford to go, then JUST DON'T GO. To go and then refuse -- for whatever reason -- to chip in, and then indulge in a somewhat self-righteous rant about people not being mature enough, is, like the mother who ordered a whole bottle of wine that she did not share with the table, or the birthday girl who may or may not be trying to hose her friends, also in very poor taste.

                                                                                              3. I am curious about the age of the birthday girl and guests? unless you are signficantly different that the rest of the group, I bet they all found the cost of things a stretch.

                                                                                                as you get older, you'll find that there is no shame in not being able to afford something. or just not wanting to spend your money the same way as others. Like Sam said, we've all been there. Ironically, you usually get that self confidence right around the time you CAN afford a little more leeway. In that regard, the mother of the bday girl was terribly rude imho.

                                                                                                anyhow, all of you can just stuff it because $22 for a bottle of wine for us Canadians is just beyond inexpensive :-)

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: orangewasabi

                                                                                                  Yeah I wish we could buy $22 wine at a restaurant! But, it's expensive for a bottle of wine they didn't get too drink but paid for! I think that's the most galling thing about this story to my sensibilities, the mother and the unshared bottle of wine. Order a glass if you must, lady.