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Awkward situation - when is the correct time to put the money/credit card in the bill holder?

Last night I ate out solo for dinner. When the waiter brought the dessert he also placed the bill holder on the table, then left again to get my coffee.

When he came back several minutes later with the coffee he lifted up the cover of the bill holder, presumably to see if I had put money or a credit card inside (I had done neither--I was going to do that when I was all done and ready to go). When he saw that I hadn't put anything in the bill holder he slowly lowered the cover again and left.

The checking of the bill holder felt a bit awkward. Maybe I should have put the money in as soon as he left it on the table and went away to get the coffee? Is that what people usually do? Or was HE the weird one in this case? (LOL).

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  1. I vote he is the weird one. If you are still eating and he brings the bill, he's rushing you out the door. Pay when you finish the meal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Janet

      I agree. Let them not intimidate you.

    2. When the check is brought sooner than I'm ready for it, sometimes I just move it to the other side of the table, or away from where the server is, until I'm ready to pay. Then I place it close to the edge of the table, much as I would do with a menu, to indicate it's ready to be taken. This applies whether I'm solo or not.

      I wouldn't necessarily take it as a sign that I'm being rushed. I would think the server was just trying to be conscious of your time - oftentimes a solo diner just wants to eat and leave. (For those who are inevitably going to protest, note that I didn't say ALWAYS.) I don't think either of you was right or wrong; it was just awkward, but I would bet that servers deal with that situation all the time and think nothing of it (unless you've been lingering and there are people waiting).

      2 Replies
      1. re: lisavf

        Agreed. I wouldn't think twice about it.

        1. re: BobB

          +2. Doesn't bother me.

          I also do what lisavf does, move the check aside until I'm ready to pay, then move the check/check folder with my card or money to the edge of he table. I may also wait to catch the server's eye and quietly tap the check folder.

          In some cases (with less stellar service there) I may hold out the check folder a little in my hand when the server next comes by.

          One exception would be if I were eating in a more diner-type or non-fine dining type place around 2-3 pm or thereabouts, when it would be logical to think there is an impending staff shift change. I may ask the waiter/waitress when they present the check if their shift is up - if the answer is yes, I try to pay immediately (so the specific server gets the tip).

      2. I don't know what "people" usually do. But I pay when i am good and ready, regardless of what my waiter does. If I am in a hurry and the room is busy and I am paying with credit card, I'd pay up before I am finished. Otherwise no.

        1. I do one of two things if I get a bill and am not yet ready to pay it:

          Either I'm very careful not to move the folder at all, so it's fairly clear to an attentive waiter that I haven't touched it, or if I have to, I move it so that it's closer to me, somewhere towards the inside of the table and generally out of the waiter's reach. That's my signal that it's not for him yet.

          Once I actually do pay the bill, I move it away from me, and towards the edge of the table I'm being served from, and try to leave the credit card or the edges of the money protruding slightly from the folder, so they can be seen.

          I'm not sure if waiters actually leave these clues as clearly as I mean them to, but I've never run into much awkwardness in doing it this way, so either it works or I'm lucky.

          1. Usually what I do is open up the bill holder and take a quick look to make sure that the bill indeed is on the correct table, and then I leave the bill holder open until I am ready to pay. This way the server can see at a quick glance that I have not yet dealt with it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: souvenir

              That's a good idea, souvenir. Just leave the bill holder open so the server can easily see you haven't paid yet. I'll do that next time.

              1. re: john333

                Problematic with me if I do that, unless the check is in a check folder with those half-pockets to stick the check into - because I would often be reading my newspaper and turning the pages with an unsecured check equals a check fluttering away to the floor.