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Pay v. Not Pay: Based on Generation a/o Region?

Stemming from: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/815604

Do you pay for your guests?
Country/Part of the country if USA

USA, Boston area

Thanks. Just curious.

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  1. I have often gone out with a group of people for someone's birthday and the check was split among all of us--except for the birthday boy or girl who we all treated. And that's been true on both coasts for my whole adult life of 40 years. (This does not say someone couldn't plan a special party at home or restaurant where they paid for everyone--either as the birthday person or good friend, I'm just saying what is typical.)

    1. I think it is mostly a combination of age and socio-economics. When I was in grad school, and poor, there was no question; it was assumed that everyone was going to pay their own way. I don't fault anyone who is young and/or struggling financially from being unwilling to pick up a huge check for an outing. Those who are better off can assume that "things will even out" (and it's even ok if they don't). My crowd tends to be more of a potluck type group than a "let's go out to a restaurant" type, so I don't even have a definite answer on what is assumed. Even though we're comfortable now, I wouldn't expect to be treated. Demographics: 50ish and northeast suburban.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DGresh

        Things are pretty much the same in my circle - meals at restaurants are split, with everyone chipping in a little to pay for the person of the hour if it is a birthday or other celebration. Dinner parties are almost always potlucks, or cooking together is part of the party.

        Late 20's, Southeastern college town.

      2. No
        USA, Utah

        I look forward to reading replies. I too found that thread very interesting!

        1. Yes.
          USA, Richmond, VA area

          1. That's hard to say because if they're "guests" then I think you'd pay or they wouldn't be guests. That said, if we invite people to dinner ("We'd like to take you out for dinner...", we pay. If we suggest going out ("Do you all want to get together for dinner..."), we split. The latter happens 95% of the time.

            But, for a birthday celebration, if gifts are brought, birthday person pays (maybe this is an asian thing) but if there are no gifts, the others usually cover the birthday person. But, there are no hard and fast rules.

            Post baby boom but not gen x
            DC area but have lived everywhere on the coasts--LA, Bay area, Boston, south,...

            2 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              The gift issue is a good litmus test. If a gift is expected or appropriate, that stays 'guest' rather than a group taking someone out for a birthday dinner.

              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                I didn't know if that was more an Asian thing that you HAVE to treat if you're ever given a gift or a general American thing. My BIL, not Asian, threw a party for my SIL, had everyone chip in (which ended up more than the cost of the dinner) and everyone brought a gift. We joked that it was his fundraiser but, we chalked it up to his upbringing.

            2. If they are guests, I pay of course. if we 'meet' for a meal or whatever we share the bill. if there is a 'guest of honor' they don't share in the co-pay. so...


              1. 99% of the time no, we split with the bill - maybe the "host" will get the bottle of wine/appetizers or some such small gesture


                USA - currently Ohio but raised in NJ, lived on both coasts

                1. I think it all depends on what you mean by guests. If you mean it in the actual sense of, 'please be my guest for dinner,' then yes, I would pay.

                  However, I'm rarely in that situation and it is more of a 'what are you doing thursday night? want to go get something eat?' type of thing. In that case we generally split based upon what one eats (as opposed to equally splitting the entire check). There are exceptions of course, including taking someone out for a birthday, other celebratory meal, or thanking/returning a favor of some type. With my very closest friends there is usually a fight over who gets to pay, but it seems to all equal out with time and doesn't have anything to do with whose idea it was to go out to eat. If someone puts together a larger group gathering, I've never expected/anticipated them paying for me.

                  USA, various places in the midwest

                  1. generally, casual get togethers
                    Canada, west coast

                    but if I was having a "party" at a restaurant that I would otherwise have had catered in my own home? Yes, definitely pay for everyone.

                    1. My boss recently invited all of her employees out to a going-away party/dinner for one of our co-workers who was leaving. She picked up the entire check, booze included. I would do the same. Unless it was my sister. She can go screw.

                      24/female/Rhode Island

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: invinotheresasister

                        This is a good point. If there is a higher up, then there might be an expectation for that person to pay. It depends on the organization, I guess.

                        "Unless it was my sister. She can go screw."

                        What, because that might bankrupt you in booze alone?;-)

                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            I would have loved hanging out w/ you when I was younger.;-)

                      2. I've worked at a few bars/restaurants (note: not restos) and on many occasions, people would rent out our back room and bar for a party. They would either pay for any/all of the following: appetizer platters for the group, sit down dinners, open bar for a certain amount of time, or just the room rental fee. Usually though, the person hosting the party would pay for the food, and it was up to the individual people to start tabs at the smaller bar in that room.
                        But for me, however:
                        SE Connecticut

                        1. No. Not unless they are my adult children (then I pay ALL the time:) -or it's a special occasion of some kind (B-day, returning a favor, etc.).
                          I buy business lunches all the time though. We typically "take turns" in some random, haphazard, uncounted way.

                          But regular friendship dinners- No. No one in my circle of friends (mostly older professional couples) has ever brought this up as an issue. It is not discussed at all, just separate checks for the couples or a "throw in" on a combined check. There is never some "awkward moment" about who pays for what. We routinely give each other little gifts, but it would be completely out of place to offer to pay for another couples "complete dinner" for no special reason.

                          Sometimes we have potlucks, but mostly if you are invited over for dinner, it means bring 2 bottles of wine (one for the table or "pre-dinner" and one for the host) and a..... "is there anything else we can bring or help with?"

                          Pacific Northwest

                          1. Yes! Sometimes my husband pays, but it's usually a combined effort.
                            30-ish, female, life-long New Yorker.

                            1. Grandpa (89, male, lifelong NYer and WWII vet) pays if he is part of the group. Otherwise he would be insulted beyond words. (Well he has words for this, but none I would write on Chowhound)
                            2. my Dad (63, male, lifelong NYer) pays when he is part of the group, especially with me or any of my siblings. 'Cause he's the parent.

                            Please don't ask what happens when my Grandpa and Dad are out together....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: iluvcookies

                              Hahaha... reminds me so much of my family.

                              When we're out with my Dad and my Grandmother are together at a meal, it's a struggle from the moment we arrive (Grandfather passed away 20 years ago, so it's not like he just ignores it or something.)

                              When the server walks up to greet us, before they can speak, Grandma will often interrupt and say "I'll be taking care of the check, please." (Yeah, it's rude, but she's 98 years old, about 5 feet tall, probably weighs 80 pounds, and is prim and polite. No one minds.) My stepmother and I will just look at each other and grin, then put our heads down into our menus.

                              Next, my father says "No, mother, it's MY treat." She'll glare at him, but not say anything else.

                              Sometime throught the meal, one of them will "go to the restroom," which means go tell someone away from the table that they want to cover the bill.

                              When the server comes to pick up plates, one or the other will try and slip a credit card or cash in their hand, as payment.

                              It's sort of entertaining, watching them fight it out.

                            2. It totally depends on the individual situation. I'm almost 40, female, US mid-Atlantic small town.


                              2 yrs. ago my husband took me to NYC for my birthday. I have lots of friends from college that live in NY suburbs, and one roommate that lives in Manhattan. We sent out some emails asking if any of them would like to get together at a restaurant while we were there. We ended up with 9 of us, chose a not inexpensive place to dine, and we split the check.

                              When I was in my 20's, I threw my brother a surprise 30th birthday party at one of his favorite bars. My new husband and I paid for a selection of hors d'oeuvres and a cake, but everyone bought their own drinks (except the birthday boy). If we were to host a similar event now, our financial situation would allow us to also pay for at least limited drinks depending on the size of the crowd. But invitations were sent, and significant planning went into it. This is very different from the first scenario where a couple of emails were exchanged and a reservation was made.

                              1. If they are my GUESTS:
                                late 50's/male
                                Indianapolis area.

                                I note that most responses dwell on the situation when the folks you are eating with are NOT your guests, whereupon folks split the bill, etc. Yes, for myself too when I am in a get-together where there was no host who INVITED the others then I pay my share, everyone else pays their own share, etc. As has been discussed on the other thread referenced in the OP, how the get-together was arranged – the words/phrases used – are material.

                                In this regard I think a corollary question here is how people treat language and how strictly or laxly they treat the meanings of words – i.e. their usage of the language.

                                1. I just saw a Chase ad that showed one person at the table telling everyone their share of the bill, and others using their smartphone-bill-pay option to send money to the that person, rather than fork over cash. Reminded me of this thread! They were all late 20s, early 30s, by the way.

                                  My friends and I always split the bill for a regular dinner. Now that we're in our 30s, birthday dinners go both ways (they used to always be split), but as long as I know what to expect in terms of cost, and it's within my usual dining-out budget, I'm more than happy to do that.
                                  Early 30s

                                  1. Invino, you mentioned age and geography as possible indicators, but I think there is one more--income. For some people, going out is no big deal and spending money is no problem. For others, they simply can't afford to host a restaurant meal and have to be careful what they order for themselves. For example. Decades ago my boyfriend and I often went out to eat with his sister and her husband (we were living with them at the time so unavoidable). We'd order the cheapest things on the menu and have one glass of wine while they all had the best--and they had the money to pay for it. But at the end of the meal, we had to split the bill and basically ate tuna noodle for two weeks. So now we're always clear on what's planned so we can plan accordingly--of course now we're retired so money is once again a concern.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      Escondido - valid point. This thread started because of another thread on a similar topic where income didn't seem to be the primary factor. So this was started as a "survey" of CHers to see if Age/Location maybe played a more influential role. Doesn't seem like that is the main factor either. It is definitely a one or the other type of opinion. Very interesting.

                                    2. 26, Boston area. There ONLY time I will assume I am not paying for something is if someone explicitly says "I want to treat you". Other than that--be it birthday parties, informal gatherings, ordering in at someone's house--I assume I'll be chipping in. That's how my friend group has always done it, and there is a very wide array of socio-economic backgrounds (both from their parents and current situations).

                                      1. Yes
                                        mid 50's
                                        USa, Providence area

                                        I also think it depends on who's there and where you went. When my daughters are in town, I buy. Simple as that. Friends we usually take turns picking up the tab. My brothers - split down the middle. Just the way we do it.

                                        1. Guests are guests. Of course, I pay.

                                          Where I used to work, it was the usual practice that when someone retired there would be a lunchtime "event". It was usual practice that folk would pay for their own food (and, of course, contribute to the leaving gift). When I retired, I took the view that folk were already contributing to the gift and that I was, effectively, inviting them for lunch. They were my guests. As such, I paid the caterers. Lunch for around a hundred people did not come cheap but, IMO, it was the right thing to do.

                                          61/Male/United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

                                          1. Great thread. I am throwing a 40th birthday party for myself in a couple of weeks (I'm single - figured I'd embrace, rather than wallow). I was talking with some friends (in their early thirties) about ideas, e.g., what venue, should it be a sit-down dinner, or just hors d'ouevres, open bar, etc. My friends suggested I ask a small group to join me for dinner, include a copy of the menu I've agreed upon with the restaurant, including prices and then host an open bar after the dinner for a larger group, with the expectation that the group pay their share for dinner, and then host an open bar after the dinner, inviting a larger group, with the expectation that I would pick up that tab.

                                            I'm glad I decided not to follow this advice. First of all, it seemed to complicated to manage, and I wasn't sure how I felt about having 2 different "classes" of invitees. Second of all, while these friends thought it was perfectly acceptable to ask the dinner guests to pay (they just thought I needed to make this clear in the invitation - and thought by asking the folks to "join me" and providing the menu/costs with the invite and making it clear that I didn't want gifts) I didn't feel right to me. I ultimately decided to invite everyone to a gastropub, which has a private room, and paying for heavy hors d'oeuvres and open bar.

                                            I hope the event goes well . . . It's in 2 weeks!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: JenEsq

                                              I hope that your birthday party is great! Your final decision of a private room with hors d'oeuvres and open bar is just what I would do, myself.

                                              1. re: kubasd23

                                                Thanks! I've got to narrow down the menu in the next couple of days. I also realized I forgot to include the vital info re: my region. I'm in Philadelphia. As for my generation, of course, I'm 39 (for a couple more weeks;)).