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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.

              1. Once again I am the oddball. I would prefer to be handed the check and receipt because I am usu the one paying. When I am out with others I dont want to fight for or reach across the table for the check so I get up near the end of the meal and find our server to pay. A confession: I am lying when I say I am going to the restroom.

                1. I must concur with the other servers who have responded... I usually drop the check in between the two people and return the credit card receipt to the person who handed me the card. If the card is sitting between them, then I put it back exactly where I got it from. Business lunches where there may be up to 14 people... well? I usually drop the bill off right in the middle of the table.

                  1. Does this practice also explain menus with and without prices? I'll never forget how "different" I felt when my husband rec'd a menu w/prices and mine was free of prices. I still don't care for it.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: HillJ

                      I actually kind of like that option. When I'm treating someone I want it to be clear that they're supposed to enjoy the meal and not worry about the price. Whether I'm taking out a date, my sister or a friend, it's helpful to have a "Ladies Menu," though I'd prefer different nomenclature.

                      1. re: sailormouth

                        sailormouth, that is a very thoughtful gesture. otoh, I felt reluctant to order from 'my' menu because I did not want to take advantage of my dates generosity.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Oh honey, get the lobster in the foie sauce with the truffles and and oysters. It's on me.

                          1. re: sailormouth

                            Mom always said I dated the wrong guys!
                            I wouldn't have dreamed of such menu items 30 plus years ago!
                            Thanks for the giggle, sailormouth!

                    2. ok so let's not be PC but let's be realistic. what do people feel is the percentage of men versus women who pay the resto bill in a 1-1 male-female dinner. jfood would guess the answer has a 9-handle. so what's the biggie if the server hands the bill to the male. when M&M jfood go out sometimes jfood orders the fish and mrs jfood really wants a steak. 9 out of 10 times the runner puts the steak in front of jfood. We merely switch plates and move on.

                      with all the issues one faces in life, to worry about a server giving me the check or the fish is just not that important.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        actually, I would take that bet if limit it to long time couples: in which case I'd bet the odds are much closer to even than your guess, jfood...and while I agree that it isn't the biggest deal in the world, the OP mentioned that it happened regardless of whose card was taken, which would certainly annoy me.

                        The steak/fish thing happens to hubby and me a fair amount also. However, I tell them they have it wrong before they put down the plates. They should ask if they don't know (of course in a really good restaurant, they know, at least in theory), and I see nothing wrong with reminding them gently (by telling them who gets what) that it isn't a good thing to make assumptions...

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          if sf in your handle is san francisco jfood would agree that the number is waaaay lower in your town. in suburban CT the number is probably closer to 100% (carving out business lunches in NYC).

                        2. re: jfood

                          That's a bit of a chicken - egg comparison though. I've just stopped bringing my credit card to dinner and letting my husband handle it since the check is given to him all the time anyway. It's all joint accounts so who actually signs the slip doesn't make a difference since it's coming out of the same account. It's, as you say, not worth getting fussed about.

                          When I am dining out for work though, I resent having to work hard to ensure I get the check and then STILL having it returned to a male at the table. That's just irritating.

                          1. re: orangewasabi

                            Irritating yes, but lunch is supposed to be a little interlude between meetings. even business lunches have a little more lightness than a sit-down meeting. Hey look at the great story you get for dinner with hubby..."oh they did it again!!"

                        3. I remember when I was a teenage boy my mother would take me out to restaurants all of the time. On several occasions the server would drop the bill off in front of me. It seems very demeaning.

                          1. Quote, "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."

                            Okay, as a same-sex couple, here's what usually happens when my 'take your pick' (partner, bf, so, other half, manwich, lol) and I go out...

                            First off, I'm 45 and my partner is 43, so basically we are in the same age group. Now, the interesting part, he's a Polish Jew, and I'm 50% Polish and 50% Mexican (very Chicago! lol). Anyway, I have my dad's Polish, multisyllabic last name, but my mom's Mexican looks.

                            Servers always put the bill in the middle, but if I pay for it, nine times out of ten, when they return to give the slip back for a signature, they give it to my partner. I assume, he looks more like he would match my last name than I do.

                            Honestly, it doesn't bother either of us, life's too short to be hung up about such a minor issue. I guess, one of the good things about eating in local, neighborhood places, is that they get to know you and such things tend not to happen...

                            1. Ultimately, no it's not a huge deal. I can be annoyed at times, however, for example when I have taken my more junior male colleagues to lunch (awkward for them to then hand it over to me) or when I have determined by the end of a first date that I most decidedly do not want to allow my date to pay for my dinner (awkward expectations afterwards).

                              As for assumptions about what "the lady" has ordered, it's not a big deal perhaps to switch plates, but recently, a male colleague and I went to lunch. He ordered an entree in a half portion, and I ordered an entree in a whole. When they came out, his entree was a whole portion and mine was a half. We had to then wait again for the kitchen to make another half entree for my lunch, which was not quite as negligible when we had to make it back to the office on time.

                              1. Dh provides the credit card with his name. I sign it so he doesn't have to fish for his glasses yet again. We accept this is confusing to places where we are not regulars. At our regular places, they give me the slip to sign after getting the card from Dh.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Janet from Richmond


                                  That is priceless. The undertone is beautiful as well in that the two of you are both comfortable in yourselves and with each other. What Mrs jfood orders is the subject of discussion with jfood so the relationship at the table is a wonderful thing.

                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    I must say I'm a bit perplexed by this thread. As a former waiter and someone that frequents restaurants on a regular basis, I do not understand how a server can accept a bill with a card from a specific person at a table and return the receipt to another person. This just makes no sense and I think it has more to do with stupidity/lack of memory/don't care attitude than anything sexist. Also, any server worth their weight in salt, will determine who should receive the bill during the course of the meal. In cases where it was a coin toss, I always made it a point to deliver the bill in a very deliberate manner as to give the person wishing to pay the bill a chance to secure it. As I have said before, the state of service performance seems to be getting lower, not higher. Maybe it is the fast food culture we live in but I for one enjoy proper, friendly, well informed service no matter if it as a casual chain or an upscale bistro. This whole thread points to a much larger issue which is poor service and the disappearance of professional waitstaffs, especially outside of teh big cities of America.

                                    1. re: TonyO

                                      perplexing, no? it's the weirdest thing when there are just two one you -- One is 6'4", white and male, the other is 5'4", asian and female. If the card says Jane Chan on it, who would you give the bill to? That doesn't seem like a trick question.

                                      I can tell you that when I am hosting a work dinner/lunch and the server works with me to ensure they get the cc from me and return the bill to me, it shows up in the tip (I usually give my cc to the waiter before the bill is brought, just to be sure). It's really lovely when the waitstaff are in sync with the dynamics of the table.