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May 21, 2012 11:09 AM

How would you handle someone who doesn't make an effort to pay?


I went to dinner with my cousin's adult daughter. She is in her late 20's. My husband and I are about ten years older. The get together was her idea (a: "hey, I'd like to see you, let's get together for dinner"). Great, plans were made. She came out our way, she told us about her eating restrictions (she's doing a low-carb diet), we decided on a place, and the three of us headed out.

When it came time to order, things began to get a bit bizarre. She said: 'what should we do"? and was acting like she couldn't make up her mind on what to order. We (all) finally decided to share a bunch of items and that was that.

When the bill came, she didn't make any effort to pay. The bill sat on the table and my husband finally put his credit card on the check and it was whisked away.

In retrospect (now that I have had time to think/stew about it), I should have looked it over, figured out what she owed, and told her "why don't you put in 'x' for your portion". At the time, I was more blown away by her apparent expectation that we would pick up the tab and her lack of offering to cover her portion.

We are, by no means, well off - so, I know there wasn't an expectation from that side of things. The only thing I can think of is there was an expectation since we are the 'older' relatives - but, even that seems like nonsense to me! I have no doubt her parents cover her tab when they go out (she still lives at home), but I don't consider us to be the same as her parents. I consider her to be a peer vs. a responsibility! Now I just feel like a free meal ticket!

I feel my lesson is learned and, unfortunately, would not do this again (unless I was prepared to pick up the tab). Thankfully, the bill wasn't outrageous, but I'm still finding myself miffed at the entitled expectation and my lack of saying something at the time.

  1. This is one of those things that happens to us very often by all sorts of dinner companions...siblings, adult children, friends, etc.

    My guess is she thought of you the same as she would her parents.

    Typically we end up paying and often don't mind, but like you said the effort should be made.

    1. If she was younger I would assume she thought you were "older family" and thus would pay. But seriously, in late 20s, I find that pretty bad.

      1. The next time she asks, you can say: "I assume this will be your treat, in reciprocation for our treating you the last time."

        Has she written to thank you, btw? She should have thanked you, and now she has the obligation of reciprocity within a year according to her means (thank yous and hostess gifts do not relieve one of the obligation of reciprocity). But, in this case of family where there's obviously a missed beat in terms of etiquette lessons, I think you can be a bit more direct communication the reasonable expectation of reciprocity.

        1. She did a bad thing. Next time you visit these cousins, steal something of hers that's worth approximately what her meal cost. If you're caught, offer to sell it back to her.

          3 Replies
          1. re: small h

            Best answer yet! hahahahahahaha!!!

              1. Why did your husband assume to pay for everyone? Next time, if there is a next time, when the check comes take it after it has sat there for a minute or two and say, "OK, let's divide this thing up." Then proceed to divvy it up and let each person know what they owe. Simple as that.

                35 Replies
                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Over the years my friends and I have laid down rules which apply to any dining experience we have. Of course it does not always go smooth.

                  After the confirmation of any restaurant reservations, we discuss if we are going dutch or is this someone's treat (if they suggested it). Some folks are just cheap and never want to pay so we have to put the cards on the table. Of course some are bathing in 'Entitlement" so why should they pay??

                  If one wants to dine out but do not have the money we try and come up with a game plan so that they can be accommodated. NO surprises at the table.

                  If we are dining with non-drinkers we get a separate check. I don't think it's fair for non-drinkers to contribute to the liquor bill.

                  Some of my friends and I go 50/50 no matter what. Even if I have a Peanut Butter Sandwich and they have Tenderloin. We know that it will eventually even out.

                  1. re: Ottojr

                    We are the non drinkers and that is very sweet Of you. At most we will have one d rink or split a bottle of wine. Generally no more than 40 in alcohol at most. Our friends can easily drink triple what we drink and I hate to do anythIng but split evenly or treat/be treated. It is nice when te drinkers realize this and make the effort so we aren't in an awkward situation. Sometimes we don't drink at all!

                    1. re: melpy

                      When I am with non-drinkers, I will usually ask for ALL drinks to be on a separate tab, and pay that.

                      When I am choosing the wines, the same is often the case, as I would never want others to pick up part of my wine tab, unless they really enjoy the wines, but I usually know that, going into the evening.

                      Even when the bill is being split, or perhaps being charged to some "corporate card," the wines are usually 100% on one of mine.


                  2. re: ttoommyy

                    yea ttoommyy, but then you walk out >not speaking< lost friends or family and all are annoyed.

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      "but then you walk out >not speaking< lost friends or family and all are annoyed."

                      Because one suggests to divide the check? Really? I just don't see it. Maybe I grew up in a different era or have different friends and family. But we speak our minds and respect one another. Sure we argue at times, but I have never had a falling out over money with any of them.

                      On a side note...I am 51 years old and grew up reading Ann Landers in the newspaper. People would always write in asking these types of questions. Her response was always along the lines of "don't be a wet noodle and next time speak up and lay the ground rules." I guess I really took this to heart because I am not afraid to do so.

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        oh I'm not knocking you, but been in the situation many a time.
                        even mentioned on CH a few times.
                        gone into detail about 5 of us co workers out to dinner after Mr. Braggadocious talked all day about how he always picks up the dinner tabs whenever wherever whoever. I mean we heard it all day. we go out he orders off the cuff, bill comes and he says lets just split it 5 ways. I did speak up as no one else did cause we were all stunned. he had a temper tantrum, I held my ground.

                        all I'm saying is it usually doesn't bode well for anyone there.

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          Maybe that is just a personality fault in that one person?


                        2. re: ttoommyy

                          <<"but then you walk out >not speaking< lost friends or family and all are annoyed.">>

                          Thank you. This is the second disturbing issue of this thread: holding onto resentment.

                          The lingering resentment felt by both Oracle and Querencia leads me to believe each situation ultimately isn't about money at all: it's about not letting go.

                          Oracle is re-playing in her mind her young cousin not paying. Querencia still resents paying for lunch while her husband was DYING.

                          This is petty. These are relatives -- extended family members. The amount of money was small. Neither Oracle or Querencia spoke up about payment, yet it appeared they were in charge of the meal, so it could easily be said that both were the primary architects of their own dissatisfaction. If any transgression occurred, it was minor. Even so, blame is assigned and self-justification is found, with little or no looking into the mirror.

                          What a waste. It's so sad these relationships have been tainted over such a minor thing.

                          And none of this would have happened had a short conversation preceded the meal.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            This is going to be a bit off topic: Personally, regardless of whether I share DNA with you or not, that doesn't automatically give you a free pass to what I perceive to be bad form. Obviously the debate upon this particular subject is going to range far and wide, but if somebody expects me to overlook their boorish, inconsiderate or selfish behavior "because they're family", they're barking up the wrong tree. I actually expect family members to put more effort toward harmony than any random stranger off the street.

                            1. re: Mutch2Do

                              While I have no reasons to doubt anything the OP has detailed.....let's not forget it's only one side of the story. The young cuz may have indeed thanked the OP, but she may not have heard her because she was upset.....or getting there.

                              I would find it very hard to believe someone who makes an effort to meet family, would not say thank you at some point before ending the evening...

                              1. re: fourunder

                                Um, just happened to me at a wedding in CA a weekend ago. Sure it happens. Some blokes are just clueless, 4. I'm more than willing to state that much.

                                Thankfully it's not the majority of the time!

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  Maybe the offender just didn't like you...

                                  : 0)

                                  btw....Nieces and nephews from one brother never say hello to me when they walk into my home. So I agree some are clueless, lack manners and show no respect.....

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    Duh! How clueless of me to assume it was the other bloke! Ha!

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      You were correct to assume if you are his/her elder......the world would be a better place if many would just learn some courtesy and respect....

                                    2. re: fourunder

                                      four: I think I would have an earnest chat with my brother about it ....

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Hill: I fully agree. That is why I would be having a frank discussion.

                                        2. re: hawkeyeui93

                                          I have disowned my brother and his wife.......not the kids.....btw..they are all adults....22-38.

                                          I also agree with HillJ....disrespect was taught. in this case.

                                          When my youngest niece was about 12 years old......In my brother's home, at the dinner table......We were telling stories and teasing all the kids with their prior antics when younger . My niece got upset, and although I was not actively participating in anything pertaining specifically to her, she got up from her chair, walked over to me on the other opposite side and spit in my face, picked up my glass of Diet Coke and spat in that.......her older siblings all broke out laughing. My wonderful Sister-In-Law immediately yelled....NOW GET THIS......*No One Laugh At Your Sister*. No reprimand to the she devil and no apologies to me from either my brother or his wife..

                                          I got up from the table....pointed at my brother and told him to meet me outside. I explained to him that if my son had done that to him, he would have been sent to the room without any lights turned on and no electronics, i.e., television, computer or games. I would have told him not to even think of coming out of his room anytime soon and expect to be grounded for a very long time without privileges. .....and i would have made him write an apology letter.

                                          I called him a not so nice female/feline associated word and left.

                                          No respect from the respect from the kids.

                                          I am glad to say though that the kids overall character have improved as adults, but the rest of the family considers them the Black Sheep

                                          1. re: fourunder

                                            four: Sorry if I brought up bad memories ....

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              Ugh, 4. Sadly, I've heard and experienced sim-but-diff stories from the time I could figure out the humans (myself included--imagine!) are FLAWED. Some choices sting harder and last longer than others.

                                              Nuff said...I'd rather open a bottle of red and enjoy dinner. Cheers all!

                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                What did you say, if anything, to your 12 year old niece?

                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                  Talk about a perfect opportunity for an aunt to teach a niece an object lesson....especially when the parents have no clue.

                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                    Not a word. My SIL does not believe in disciplining her kids and my brother was not allowed to do so either. Something about not wanting to treat her kids the way her mother raised her (single child)...instead, she tried to be their friend, not a parent.

                                                    My last meal out with them was about 12 years ago at the Homestead in NYC...unfortunately, .my oldest niece in their family is Bi-Polar and has been hospitalized in the past. At the table, she starts ranting and swearing like she had Tourettes......casting dispersions and name calling about everyone seated in the room in words you cannot repeat without being looked upon as a leper. Totally shocking and no effort from the brother or SIL to intervene......I take it upon myself to stop my niece from continuing and tell her she is out of line and being disrespectful to everyone in the dining room. She thanks me for stopping her and apologizes.....I do not blame her, and my heart bleeds for her condition.....I know at the time she did not realize her actions and behavior.

                                                    Now Get This.....

                                                    My wonderful SIL gets up from the other side of the round table of six, walks over to me and whispers in my ear.....

                                                    *Please do not reprimand my daughter ever again, She could have a relapse*

                                                    I got up from the table and took Mass Transit home to NJ.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Shame shame on your SIL and brother....from every single angle.

                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                        They live in a world of's never their fault, always others

                                                        I really blame my SIL for not preparing her children for how to deal with real life issues. I blame my brother for being a spineless idiot.....

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          What's so sad about your story is that it was really a defining moment for your niece...
                                                          She could have benefited from consequences, without her mother interfering, and she could have learned some very valuable lessons on what boundaries mean. Instead she learned about enabling.
                                                          What a shame. Like you say, your SIL is really very self - centered and irresponsible.

                                                  2. re: fourunder

                                                    ....speechless.... I give you credit for handling it in such a civil manner. I've disowned a sister and (so far) 3 of her 5 offspring for some truly vile actions but getting spit on?? Uffda.....

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Oh, that is harsh, and one, who does something like that, would be considered "ill-bred" back in Mississippi.

                                                      Sorry that anyone had to endure such behavior. I think that I would have taken away all Internet access, the iPod, iPad and the TV for maybe 9 mos., but that is just me.


                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        that is one fucked up family. spitting in my drink? that would get her a slap in the face.

                                                        spit in my face? whoa. not sure if a slap in the face would suffice. fucked. up. to the max.

                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                          While I may not agree with you always.....on this one, I can in its entirety.

                                                          : 0 )

                                                          btw....spanking can lead to abuse charges......slapping a child in the face in frontt of her deranged mother, I'm sure would have landed me in the clink

                                              2. re: Mutch2Do

                                                <<Personally, regardless of whether I share DNA with you or not, that doesn't automatically give you a free pass to what I perceive to be bad form. Obviously the debate upon this particular subject is going to range far and wide, but if somebody expects me to overlook their boorish, inconsiderate or selfish behavior "because they're family", they're barking up the wrong tree. >>

                                                I don't see boorish. Or selfish. I see clueless. I think Young Cuz simply did not know what to do.

                                                Certainly it would have been proactive of Young Cuz to explain her budgetary limits at the outset, and for Oracle to be clear about splitting the bill at the outset, but that didn't happen.

                                                When the bill arrived, perhaps Oracle was thrown, but it would have been an easy thing to cheerfully ask Young Cuz "Would you mind getting the tip?" Or, "How much would you like to chip in? A third would be $XX."

                                                Those questions will unearth if the person was "assuming" another would pay, or whether or not they're a freeloader.

                                                When someone doesn't offer, cheerfully ask. *Handle* the situation. Nicely.

                                                There were so many opportunities to guide and teach someone clueless.
                                                I see bad communication all around.

                                                Oracle is trying to understand her contribution to things not going well. Posting here took guts. I hope she's able to put aside this situation and enjoy her cousin again.

                                                1. re: bcarter3

                                                  Another CH weighing in on this thread, bcarter3 :)
                                                  scroll down.

                                          2. re: ttoommyy

                                            I can understand why they ended up paying. Sometimes you're just flabbergasted in the moment that someone would presume to do that. If it happens to you all the time, you probably have a prepared response for it.

                                            But I would have been caught off guard if it was the first time someone did that to me, likely would have paid as well, and just decided that I no longer want to deal with that person in this kind of situation again.

                                            And I wouldn't have addressed the behavior, either. An almost 30 year old woman should know better, and it's not my job to fix her social ineptitude.