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Settling the bill before everyone's finished eating

One of my biggest dining pet peeves are people who start settling the bill before everyone at the table is finished eating. And then, invariably, others--including those who are still eating--will follow suit, like sheep. Of course I'm not talking about circumstances where the restaurant is about to close or any other factor that would actually necessitate settling the bill prematurely.

I hadn't experienced this in a long time, but last night, there were 7 of us dining, at a buffet, no less, and one person had decided that she just had to pay her share while a few of us were still working through that buffet. Her reason was "I just want to get it taken care of." Four of us were still eating. But four people followed suit, including two of the eaters. I and one other person refused to participate in the rudeness. At first I thought she needed to leave and so wanted to settle out first. But no, she stayed for as long as we stayed.

That is soooo incredibly rude. And then the follower sheep who can't seem to be able to think and act on their own. I'm trying not to swear, as I don't want this post deleted. But people who do this really piss me off.

In retrospect maybe I should have said something, but honestly I was so pissed off I couldn't have said anything nicely. And then while I was getting more food, the bill fold thing got taken away, and apparently the instigator and the sheep "didn't have a chance to say anything" before it was taken away. So it was taken with a couple of credit cards and some cash, with two of us not having paid, so some of the credit cards got overcharged and all that "missing" money went to food not tip, and then it just became a mess that would never have happened in the first place if people weren't so freaking rude, and just waited until everyone was finished eating.

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  1. I think it's another manifestation of the general decline in manners and social graces. How many people still wait for fellow family members to finish their meals before wandering off to do other things at home?

    Personally, I find it extremely rude. But what can I do? I can't teach these people manners. On the same note, I find it extremely rude when people bring books/magazines at the dinner table. It has always been my fantasy to get the book or magazine and smack them on the head with it.

    "ME FIRST," "I want to have it MY way," I'm done and I just want to get it taken care of" -- this whole ME first irks me, especially when it comes to food and the sharing of food.

    I don't think you could have said something to your dining companions, though. They probably do not think they've done anything that's rude. Is it still rude when they don't think it's rude?

    Settling the bill before everybody else is finished is acceptable if one has to leave or if one is footing the entire bill. He or she settles it before anybody has gotten a chance to object.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jayes

      Oh, I got a laugh from that, jayes. "It has always been my fantasy to get the book or magazine and smack them on the head with it." Yes, me too! But, then, that would be rude of us, wouldn't it? <wink>

      Slacker, unfortunately, it's not a good idea to follow rudeness by saying something rude. I have been tempted by certain family members, and fallen into this trap. It's not good, I'll just say that. I'm grateful I'm able to hold my tongue with friends or newer family.

      1. re: amyzan

        But if someone has to leave and settle their portion of the bill, they can go quietly to the host and settle with them.

        If a person is staying there until all the others leave, there was no reason for them 'settling up' at all!

        Was there something in the water?

      2. re: jayes

        Books and magazine's at the dinner table??! I have to agree there is a complete decline in manners going on. It makes me sad that the one time people tend to sit, relax and enjoy one anothers company is fast becoming just another marathon to speed through.

        1. re: jayes

          Surely you could politely enquire if they've got to leave in a hurry, and when they say no, just (politely, but firmly) say "Would you mind waiting until we've all finished eating before you pay? We can settle the bill at the end of the meal." While someone may not realise they're doing something rude, you can at least try and call them on their behaviour, and hopefully prevent it happening again!

          1. re: jayes

            "ME FIRST," "I want to have it MY way," I'm done and I just want to get it taken care of" -- this whole ME first irks me, especially when it comes to food and the sharing of food.

            Well, the "Me Generation" didn't actually collectively roll over and die and January 1, 1980.

          2. "In retrospect maybe I should have said something"

            I think you should have, especially since the control freak who decided the bill should be taken care of wasn't paying the whole tab. Very sweetly saying, "oh I didn't realize you were taking care of it, how very generous of you" would have been appropriate (or at the very least, sent the appropriate message).

            1. Question: were some of the people you were dining with ordering
              extras like soft drinks and alcohol? If so, maybe the 'instigator' wanted to pay up instead of haggling at the end of the meal about who owed what. Just a thought.

              1. Jfood is a little confused.

                There were seven people dining. One person led the charge, four followed and four continued to eat (two of which threw in their CC). And you were one of those who gleefully continue to enjoy the food. As you were up at the buffet the server took the check presenter with four payers some in cash and some in CC's. And the server presumeably took the cash against the bill, and then divided the remainder of the bill amongst the other CC's. You on the other hand, plus the 3-waiters were not charged for the meal.. So far it looks like you are a winner of a free meal.

                1 - You could always thank the lemmings for the meal
                2 - You could always thank the lemmings for the meal and offer to leave the tip, that would be a nice conclusion and they would never do that again
                3 - You could offer cash to the people who were overcharged

                Poetically jfood likes number 2 as a lesson taught with the minimal damage, but he would probably opt for numer 3 in the end if they were friends or colleagues and ask them to please wait the next time to avoid this embarassing conclusion.

                And as others have said, not the end of the world, just a minor speed bump.

                1. I agree that it's rude but it's not something to get bent out of shape over.

                  1. Dh and I do this frequently, whether we are splitting a tab or not. We often go out with friends and we tend to start the party early in an effort to get home earlier (and we have a farther drive than our friends) and they order desserts and more wine, etc. after we are finished, so we are often leaving before them. Yesterday, we had brunch with my stepdaughter and her BF. This is a hot spot and very packed, over an hour wait on Sundays, etc. We got the check after we received the last of our order in an effort to get out the door ASAP after we were done so someone else could have our table in a more timely fashion.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                      And I'm sure you did it sotto voce.

                      I see no problem with taking the host aside. From the sound of it, the people at the OP's table brayed to the other diners that they wanted to settle up.

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        I would quietly tell the over-anxious one that I would prefer to finish my meal in a leisurely fashion, then settle up the bill! Very rude indeed when you have to interrupt a pleasant interlude with wallets, credit cards & calculators. Not that most people use calculators, but I have seen them used. To my mind, settling the bill signals the end of the meal and time to leave the table!

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          I'm confused--you start settling up early to get home early, or you want to let the restaurant turn the table more quickly? I think they are two different issues. I understand that you leave earlier than others, but are they still eating? If so, should their meal and the table conversation be interrupted to accomodate you? Do they stay at the restaurant that much longer than you do? Is your drive that much further than that of the others in your party?

                          1. re: Shayna Madel

                            It depends in the situation. Sometimes it is because we want to let the restaurant turn the table over more quickly, other times it's because we are ready to leave. We aren't interrupting their meal..they are generally having dessert, after dinner drinks, etc. and are just chatting away. Most places in town we have a 30-40 minute drive home. One couple has a similar drive, two of the other regular couples have a 5 minute drive.

                            Also these aren't prearranged dinners. This group knows it's likely to find some or all of us at a particular spot on a Friday night. Hubby and I are usually there 1-2 hours before dinner, whereas the other couples are there 15-20 minutes average before we are seated for dinner.

                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                              If you have to leave before the others are finished, then you should make an effort to keep track of your share of the bill, and leave it on the table towards the total, with a little cushion in case you underestimated. If you cannot do that, then ask for the bill, and again, just leave your share without insisting that everyone tally up.

                              Insisting that the bill is paid, like in the OP's post, is rude. However, in the OP's example, I think there was some passive-aggressive rudeness by the OP by refusing to participate in the bill paying. If 5/7 of your companions are getting involved, then it is also rude to make a bad situation worse by not participating. It is better to be gracious in the face of rudeness. And next time, just say to the person who asks for the bill, "I'm sorry, some of us are not finished eating. Please don't ask for the bill until we are done."

                              1. re: Val55

                                Believe me, when we split the check amount "by couples" we get the short end of the stick. One couple eats very high dollar stuff (the lobster, the $150/bottle of wine, etc.) and another couple purposely orders more expensive stuff because they know the tab is going to be split evenly. I'm not concerned about short changing our friends and certainly not the staff who knows us well and how we tip.

                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                  those couples who "feed" on others (!) are greedy. i stopped doing "group" dinners for this reason. also, when they "pitch in", it is always skimpy. i hate this, esp. since i always would end up having to make up the deficient tip.

                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    I wasn't at all implying that you would shortchange anyone. I am sorry if that was the way it sounded. I was just stating as a general rule, if one is leaving early, there is no need to pay the bill, you can just leave your share. If everyone turns into a diamond jim because they anticipate the bill is going to be split, leaving early is one way of avoiding that situation. Better to overpay by 10% by leaving some money on the table than by 50% by waiting until the bill arrives. I added the cushion part, because it is possible to underestimate. I have noticed that in the bill splitting threads some posters will say that their share was not more than $20 and, while it is possible, it makes me think that those posters might be underestimating what beverages, even nonalcoholic, tax and tip come to. Which is not to say they are not being shortchanged, just not by as much as they think. Personally, I like to contribute a little more than what I actually incurred, because I do not want anyone subsidizing me, but certainly not a $150 bottle of wine's worth!!

                          2. I do this if I'm paying for the entire table. It avoids the arguing at the end.

                            Hint: I'm not really using the restroom when I get up towards the end of the meal.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tom porc

                              Tom, that "using the restroom" ploy has become a family joke between my husband and my father. They quite often race to see who can intercept the server and pay the bill first.

                            2. While it does seem a bit rude, you can't control the behavior of others. Too bad you let others make you so upset.