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Dec 22, 2011 09:09 AM

How to "split" a check equitably?

I often dine out with friends. I am a small person with a small appetite for both food and drink (e.g., I often order two apps, single glass of wine or only one glass from a shared bottle(s), no dessert) and most of my friends are hearty eaters/drinkers whose meals end up totaling significantly more than mine. So while I understand that the simplest, most gracious thing to do is to split the tab evenly, I often end up spending twice the actual cost of my consumed portion of the meal.

I'd appreciate suggestions for a gentle, inoffensive way to request a more equitable sharing of the tab (I'd wince at the gaucherie of requesting separate checks).

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  1. I don't think theres anything gauche about separate checks.

    1. most of my friends and I pay our shares if we order more than the others. It's just a nice and a right thing to do.
      I don't understand people who think it's ok to split the bill in half even though they ordered more items from the menu. I've dealt with people like that in the past.....interestingly, most of these people were big complainers in general.

      1. Difficult one, in my experience. When I used to dine with work colleagues, I would always favour an equal split, even though I would usually be the only one not drinking alcohol. It never used to happen though, as there'd always be someone saying they didnt want to split evenly as they hadnt had a dessert, or whatever. So, it would end up that the non dessert eaters would throw in whatever they felt was right and the remainder was then equally split. Frankly, I found that a complete pisser.

        3 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            3 year-old topic I know (and Harters didn't reply), but my guess would be that when people toss in what they think they owe the people who end up splitting the balance can easily wind up stuck with MORE than their rightful share. It may not be intentional but I've seen it happen often.

            1. re: Midlife

              IIRC didnt reply because I wasnt sure if I was being asked why I thought it a difficult matter (first sentence), or why I favoured an equal split (second sentence), or why I found it a complete pisser (final sentence) and couldnt be arsed asking.

              Assuming the "pisser", it was because it would be an otherwise pleasant occasion spoilt by some whining git, who usually earned money than I did, wanting to save a couple of pounds or so, moaning on about how it "wasnt fair" they should have to pay more. I really have little time for tightfisted fuckers such as those I worked with.

          2. you need to be proactive about it. before someone else steps into the accounting role and tells everyone what they "owe" by calculating equal amounts, just lay out your share and say "this should cover mine."

            5 Replies
            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Either this, or ask the server for separate checks when he/she comes to take the order.

              1. re: Cachetes

                +1 on this.

                When the waiter comes to take the order, tell him it will be different checks. This way, you make it easy for the waiter and there is no misunderstanding.

                This is, of course, a matter of culture. In Quebec, the waiters often assume that the checks are split, or asks. It's the norm here. If there is a large group and one person is paying, then they actually mention to merge the bills before hand.

              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                That would work, and no one should object, but make sure you've added enough to cover tax and tip.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  ALWAYS. i assumed that was implied, but you'd think i would know by now not to make assumptions around here. thanks for the reminder ;)

                2. It's proper etiquette to split the check equally but it's not always equitable. If you find that your friends are taking advantage of how little you eat, or taking it for granted, your friends are inconsiderate. The gentlest most inoffensive way to deal with this is just to order two entrees in addition to your two apps. Have the entrees packed to go and eat them during the week. Maybe it will dawn on them that they usually order much more than you and it's unfair to split the bill equally.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: Pookipichu

                    Actually, proper etiquette for going Dutch is that the default is every-tub-on-its-own-bottom (everyone pays for what he or she ordered only) and there needs to be express agreement to split evenly - everyone has to opt in to that - and even so there is a tacit understanding that this means no one is going to take advantage of that by getting an extra course when none else have done so or running up the bar tab, in which even the responsible diner should tally his or her significant excess and put that in the pot before the rest of the bill is split evenly. And everyone should feel empowered to prompt him or her to do so if the gesture is not done unprompted.

                    A presumption of splitting evenly is a chief cause of division within social dining groups, so by definition it's rude.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      We can agree to disagree. If a presumption of splitting the check is rude, you should inform the millions of people who do exactly that. There wouldn't be this thread if you were correct.

                      While I personally think that people should pay for what they've eaten, unless they wish to be generous and pay for or subsidize the meals for others, I know that splitting the check is the generally accepted practice in America.

                      The best solution, according to Miss Manners is to get separate checks. Otherwise, if you are adults, split the bill.

                    2. re: Pookipichu

                      You honestly think that ordering two entrees to take home for a later meal is the "gentlest most inoffensive way to deal with this"? That's about the most passive-aggressive way of going about this I could possibly think of.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        But a WONDERFUL way to get the attention of those clods. In any case, if those clods are likely to keep "splitting equally" any future bills one might reconsider if one wanted to eat out with them anyway or if one cared to keep them as social companions, let alone dining companions.

                        1. re: huiray

                          Righty, because why actually speak up and assert yourself? Better to play victim?

                      2. re: Pookipichu

                        I've never heard of splitting the check evenly regardless of the order as being proper etiquette before.
                        I personally would ask the waiter discretely to hand the combined bill to you, you look at it, do the math, pull out the cash (make sure you have cash, makes it simpler this way) and say "this will cover my part and the tip." Then hand the check over to another, with your money, to sort out the rest.
                        Honestly, most of the restaurants I go to proactively say "will this be separate bills or on one" right of the bat. That's the best time to say "I'd like a separate bill, please". If questioned as to why you're doing things differently, just say you are trying to keep better track of your dining out expenses, New Years Resolution and all.

                        1. re: freia

                          Amongst good friends, at least in my personal circle, we always split the bill and consider this proper etiquette. Now, if one of us orders something extraordinarily expensive (way above what others are ordering...say caviar, truffles, etc.), the person ordering such should, of course, on paying more. With smaller differences in cost, we don't worry about it and assume that it will average out in the long run. The only exception is if one party never drinks alcohol, we put the alcohol on a separate check to be split by the drinkers.

                        2. re: Pookipichu

                          That is absolutely, positively not the "gentlest, most inoffensive way" to deal with the situation. It's a passive-aggressive pity grab. Only a very small person would make this kind've a play. That being said this is a tough situation because to bring it up makes you seem a bit petty and to continue on saying nothing means you're consistently more than your fair share. I'd say if the group is small enough go for separate checks and if not try the "this should cover my share" approach and see how that goes over.

                          1. re: virtualguthrie

                            "I often end up spending twice the actual cost of my consumed portion of the meal."

                            "(I'd wince at the gaucherie of requesting separate checks)"

                            Did you read the op? I disagree with you and your suggestion. Saying "this should cover my share" is confrontational and maybe you think that's the best course, but if the op is already wincing at the idea of requesting separate checks, your idea is no better than that.

                            She's spending twice what she consumes, that's crazy. She's being taken advantage of, and my suggestion is the least confrontational, and I don't see you offering a better one.

                            You are confusing what you would do, with what is appropriate for the op's situation, not always the same thing.

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              You're suggesting a response that while isn't confrontational but is aggressive and indirect. It's a response that plays the victim role and is sure to be noticed by friends and will likely cause a pretty undesirable response due in no small part to the tactics deployed. It therefore sets up a confrontation to be had once the group discovers what's happening (that's your whole point right). Worse yet, the group could instead just start talking behind the person's back about how the passive aggressive behavior.

                              I'm suggesting reading social signals and deploying some tact in responding. Reading the bill and putting in your share (and stating that you're doing so) doesn't have to be confrontational, it can merely be matter of fact and can be a subtle way of reminding the group that you consume much less and would like to pay accordingly.

                              1. re: virtualguthrie

                                She is not "playing a victim role", she's being taken advantage of, and if her friends do notice she is ordering more food, maybe, they will then realize they have been paying less than their fair share.

                                I disagree with your tactic, I think it's directly aggressive as opposed to "passively aggressive". You seem to be under some misconception that direct "aggression" is always better than passive. The op clearly wants to avoid a confrontation, "Here's my share" and not a penny more. I'm baffled by how you think that's tactful course for her to suddenly engage in...

                                Like I said, if you're comfortable with being so direct, that's your prerogative, but I don't think that's the gentlest way and immediately draws attention to her.

                            2. re: virtualguthrie

                              I agree. It's neither "gentle" nor "inoffensive." It's actually really hostile. It would be better to be direct.

                              Instead at the start of the meal the OP could say "Folks, I really love these group meals but I have a problem with the way the checks are being split. You all know I'm a really light eater but I'm paying a full share and this is starting to add up. Does anyone have any idea how we could do this more fairly?"

                              Yes, it's a bit awkward but it would be far more civilized than pulling a passive aggressive stunt like ordering 2 entrees.

                              ETA - If you say something direct at the start of the meal you run the risk of people thinking that you're cheap. OTOH if you order 2 entrees people will think you're a cheap jerk.

                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                I'm with you on the direct route. The PA bullshit is just that-bullshit! The OP states she dines with them "often" so I am ASSuming this means they are all friends. If you can't be direct with your friends, what kind of friends are they really?

                                If doing it at the start of the meal feels too direct why not reach out whoever your are the closest to and ask for their support? Or is there a "leader" in the group, one who organizes these dinners etc? You could reach out to them next time they organize the meal.

                                Honestly, if your friends think you are cheap for wanting to only pay your share, so be it. It not like this is a once in a blue moon occasion. You might be surprised that the rest of your group feel the same way, especially if there is someone the opposite of you-maybe always ordering the $$ cocktails, the $$ entrees, etc.

                                In the majority of my circle of friends it usually comes out in the wash so we split it evenly. And during the odd times when one of us isn't drinking or is dieting, etc we all notice and adjust the amounts accordingly.

                                1. re: foodieX2

                                  I think your idea about sounding out one or two people in the group ahead of time is a good one. If these people are truly friends (and I think they are) they'll be glad to work something out.

                                  What you *don't* want to do is order 2 entrees and then sit there with a smug smile thinking "now you know how I feel!"

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                    Pooki-Obviously you have an issue with Mr Martinez but I don't see how that impacts the question at hand.

                                    I stand by my opinion that being a PA bitch is no way to make friends and influence people. I would hope that the OP would deal with the issue head on in a kind and polite matter instead of plotting revenge and stewing in resentment. I don't see how ordering 2 apps and entrees at every one of these get togethers with friends solves anything. All the OP gets is leftovers.

                                    I have no time in my life for that kind of bullshit. Thankfully there is no one in my life that acts like what was suggested. I feel sorry for those who do, who clearly don't have the maturity and aplomb to deal with it.

                                2. re: Bob Martinez

                                  Some people don't have a gut to say that to a group of friends. Maybe OP should just order her food and when the check comes, just round off to the dollar and put it on the table and say, here is my share.