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Handing the credit card receipt to the man at the table

I'm curious about the persistence of this phenomenon in this day and age. Nine times out of ten when my wife and I dine out, the server hands the credit card receipt to me regardless of whether it is my wife's card or mine that was charged (and we each still have our own names on our cards--no joint cards). Although irritating, we've basically come to expect this. You'd think servers wishing to make a good impression right before the tip is determined would take the the extra second to look at the name on the card before handing over the receipt. Heck, we're even grateful when servers place the receipt between the two of us, since at least they are not assuming anything. While we live in the South, we've observed this phenomenon all over, and a couple who lives in NYC confirms they receive the same treatment there.

Maybe someone who works in the restaurant industry can give me an inside view here? Are servers trained to hand the receipt to the man rather than try to ascertain who actually provided the charge card? Admittedly, servers would have no way of knowing who was paying if one paid with cash or a joint card or if the name on the card was gender-ambiguous or if the couple was a same-sex couple. It just seems like placing the receipt between the two people would be the way to go in all those situations. Instead, when faced with a man and a woman, servers seem to almost always present the receipt to the man, and for that matter, they usually present the initial check to the man as well. I can at least somewhat understand presenting the check to the man as a matter of tradition, though a very paternalistic one, but when the server can actually look at the card and determine who is paying, why not do it?

Any thoughts on this? Anyone live someplace where this does not seem to be the rule of thumb?

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  1. When I took table service class during culinary school, it was explained that the traditional "order of service" is to present the check/receipt to the host at the table, regardless of who pays. This is determined by who orders the wine, or is perceived as "taking charge" during ordering. A professionally trained waiter will generally follow that guideline, especially in an ultra-fine dining establishment; however in my experiences dining out with my girlfriend, 75% of the time if she pays, the receipt is presented to her, with a "thank you (her name)"

    2 Replies
    1. re: brandon_w

      Interesting bit of information I'd never heard before. I was recently remarking to my husband that no matter which one of us pays, the receipt ends up in front of him. I'd never considered why, nor was I annoyed by it. In fact, my husband (always the joker) likes to remark to the server that he's NOT paying when the receipt ends up in front of him.

      Then last week, we were at Bouchon in LV and the exact opposite happened. It was obvious that I was the one in charge of the dinner (ordering wine, engaging more with the waiter about the specials, etc...). While the bill was put in a neutral place (by a runner, not our waiter) on the table, the waiter did present the receipt to me. It was so out-of-the-ordinary, that my husband and I both remarked about it. Follows the logic about more high-end establishments you mentioned.

      1. re: brandon_w

        I'd think it would be awkward for a server to say "thank you, (insert name here)" - if you say "Mrs Lewis" I feel old, if you say "Lauren" and it's a fancy place maybe that's not seen as appropriate, if you mispronounce an odd name it's a foot-in-mouth situation, etc.
        That being said, it's kind of nice when they thank you by name. I definitely notice and at a nice place with a good server, the bill is usually presented to the person taking charge and the cc receipt is usually returned to the right person.

      2. I was at a Korean restaurant with my female boss (I'm male) and our waitress was this very kind old Korean grandma type, who not only served me first and with heaping portions, proceeded to give my boss instructions on how to heat it up for me at home. My boss was so pissed until I got the bill. It was such an anachronism I felt obligated to pay the whole thing (which was rather small). She was not happy when I asked her to heat me up a plate later. I must say it was probably the most fun I've had sober and with my clothes on in a while.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sailormouth

          HAHA that's pretty good. I hope your boss wasn't really offended though, it's just tradition.

        2. I was never trained to hand the check to the male and served for many years. I always put it back exactly where I had picked up from on the table, unless one of the customers held their hand out when I returned with it.

          Sexism is alive and thriving, still, unfortunately.

          1. When I was a server I was never taught to put the check in front of the man. I always placed the check inbetween the man and the woman because that is how I would want to be treated. I know we live in the same place, but I find that even when we travel the receipt is usually handed to my bf and not me. As a woman, I have to say that sometimes I find it annoying.

            1. i put the card back where i get it from- if it was next to the man when i pick it up i put it back next to the man, if the woman hands it to me, i hand it back to her, etc. sometimes i do look at the name, sometimes not. maybe i look at the name when it's in the middle- i'll have to keep this in mind my next shift.

              it's part of the "old fasioned" service to assume the man is paying. if it's the type of place where "ladies first" then yeah- expect the man might get the bill. usually it is the man who asks for the cheque, also. i don't have set rules for what i do. if the woman is the one to ask- and it is a couple- i sometimes put it in the middle and sometimes give it to her.

              one thing- in financial district restaurants- when the diners are businesspeople- servers are generally taught NOT to serve the old "ladies first" way. obviously because wmen in business have tried very hard to maintain an equal status in a "man's" industry. but even in these places if it's obviously a couple they might slip back a bit into the old ways.

              it would be an interesting experiment. see what happens when the billfold is next to your wife- or if she directly hands the card to the server. and then see what happens when she hands it with your card. and dress up as businesspeople and see what happens.