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Jan 26, 2014 04:42 PM

do you share a gift certificate at a restaurant?

some really good friends ( a couple) asked: do you want to go to dinner at blah-blah blah restaurant? we have a gift certificate for $50.
so we said yes.
they ordered $50 worth of food. we ordere a little less than $50. imagine our surprise when separate checks were requested and the $50 gift certificate was applied only to their dinner and we were on our own.
were we wrong to assume that the gift certificate would be applied to entire bill? we've known this couple for over 30 years and we are very good friends. this was the first time for this and we were completely caught off guard.
whenever i invite anyone to join me and i say i have a gift certificate my intentiion is to share the ceritificate and split the bill.
so what is the proper etiquette (if there is such a thing in a situation like this)? do you share? or not? especiallly if you've mentioned the gift ceritficate. would you even consider dining in a group setting then whipping out the gift certificate to pay for your own ticket?

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  1. Extremely wrong in my book. Whenever you invite someone to a restaurant giving the impression that you will at least pay part of the bill, not doing so is extremely rude.

    11 Replies
    1. re: nocharge

      < Whenever you invite someone to a restaurant giving the impression that you will at least pay part of the bill>

      That is the sticky point. Did they give the impression? They will certainly say no.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I have absolutely no problem with couples going out either splitting the bill or getting separate checks. But if a gift certificate was mentioned initially as part of the proposition of going out for dinner, I think there is an implicit assumption that the benefits of the certificate would be shared.

        1. re: nocharge

          I've encountered this before.........................

          I don't agree that "if a gift certificate was mentioned initially as part of the proposition of going out for dinner, I think there is an implicit assumption that the benefits of the certificate would be shared."

          In our experience, stating that a gifct certificate was received explains only the reason for choice of restaurant.

          Sometimes the other couple shares, sometomes they don't. BUT if we are not invited to be someone's guests I always plan on paying for everything we order.

          1. re: bagelman01

            I can't for my life imagine myself telling a friend "Let's have dinner at restaurant XYZ! I've got a gift certificate!" if I didn't intend to share it.

            1. re: nocharge

              I think some people just go absent minded. In hindsight, it may not make a lot of senses, but people often say thing that they don't really mean, like "Oh, I didn't mean that"

              While these two friends should have been more careful, this is far from the worst. I have said things which are worse than this (unintentionally).

              1. re: nocharge

                you might not do this, but it has happened to us a number if times, 2 different friends couples and my brother and SIL. Bro and SIL always request separate checks and will use the cert on their check. SIL will often call and confirm that we're eating out and ask if we have any coupons for the restaurant they've chosen.

                1. re: nocharge

                  I posted earlier on this thread, but something just occurred that causes me to post again......................

                  My 25yo daughter went out with friends to a 'dive' pub/bar in a nearby town for wings. She informed me this morning that they had the best wings (30 varieties) she had ever had.
                  I asked her if she'd be going back in the next 6 weeks before she returns to life working aboard a cruise ship and she said yes. I then asked if she'd use gift certificates if I gave them to her. When she worked as a server in a landside restaurant she always bitched when customers used these, as it required a manager to call in and get a validation and users often didn't tip on the certificate saved amount.

                  I don't buy from, but regularly receive bonus dollars to spend there as promotions.

                  Daughter said after reading the certificates I printed that she would use them BUT must tell her friends in advance that she had the cert and would be using it towards her bill. I asked why?

                  She told me the certificates ony allow one per table and she wouldn't want to pull one out of her pocketbook at the end of the meal and have a tablemate say they intended to use one. An advance announcement (not an offer to share) avoids problems at check time.

                  So, a different take on the subject from a different generation.

                  BTW>>>>>>>>>>>>she was thrilled I just printed out $200 of certificates for assorted places that will cover her weekend dining out until she leaves for the ship.

                  Daddy's a hero and didn't have to spend any cash

                2. re: bagelman01

                  "In our experience, stating that a gifct certificate was received explains only the reason for choice of restaurant."

                  thank you. i am learning that this was most likely the reason the GC was mentioned, and the confusion was on our part. :-)

            2. re: nocharge

              i wouldn't say it was a formal invitation. it was do you want to go to dinner with us kind of invitation. the restaurant is a well known chain.

              1. re: nocharge

                But in what way did the friends give the impression that they would cover part of the bill?
                Surely it is just as rude to go out with friends and assume they will pay part of the bill when they've never said so?

                1. re: Billy33

                  I don't have a problem with having separate checks. Nor do I care how the other party pays, whether it's by cash, credit card, gift certificates, personal checks, etc. However, if someone mentions having a gift certificate when instigating a restaurant visit, to me it would lend me to believe that there would be a willingness to share it. Otherwise, don't bring it up and when the separate checks arrive, we all pay them in our own ways. Mentioning a gift certificate when instigating a restaurant visit and not sharing it is strictly for the people who are the Neanderthals of social etiquette.

              2. <whenever i invite anyone to join me and i say i have a gift certificate my intentiion is to share the ceritificate>

                Hmm, there isn't a rule and it really depends on the culture of the people you are with. I would assume that the gift certificate would be equally spread into the two bills (more or less).

                <do you share?>

                I would share, and if I don't want to share, then I won't invite you.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I thought about this some more. I can only imagine that your friends did this without full consideration.

                  In many other cases, a declaration of coupon or gift certificate does not imply sharing. If I have a $50 Williams Sonoma gift card, and I said to my friend: "Hey I have a $50 gift card from Williams Sonoma. Do you want to go shop together?", most people would not assume that my gift card will be used to toward their purchase. Same thing for a $50 oil change or $50 video game certificate....etc.

                  I can only assume this is how your friends were thinking about this restaurant certificate. Yet, there is something unique about dining and eating out. Based on my experience, an open announcement of a restaurant coupon or gift certificate means that the discount will be shared by all participants..

                  What really surprised me is that the couple did this to you. This means both of them did not see anything inappropriate. All it takes is for one of them to say "Hey, honey. Let's use this certificate toward our total bill", but I guess that didn't happen.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    unless if they always have separate checks in the group...then it's simply another dinner out.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      yes, that makes sense. the GC made it a different situation for me, but apparently not for my friends.

                      1. re: ritabwh

                        A point of note on a similar situation....I'm rarely given any restaurant certificates...but I am prone to having access to many Golf Fee certificates....l generally use them with family first, then friends...I will always throw the certificate in for the could be for 1,2,3 or 4 players. If it's only for one, the foursome is reduced to 3 green fees and the total is split four ways..a foursome would be free to all...and so on. I have one friend though, that is always on the receiving end of my generosity...but when he has the same type voucher....he only uses them for himself. I've know the guy for decades and I have other friends who are the same. All I can do is laugh.

                        1. re: ritabwh

                          otoh - if they hadn't mentioned the gift card when suggesting the restaurant and then pulled it out when the separate checks came. I'd be a wee bit irritated thinking oh so That's why they wanted to come here..:-)

                          1. re: miss_belle

                            yes, dammed if they do and dammed if they don't. it was a no win situation.

                            1. re: ritabwh

                              Yes, I agree with missbelle and you. Damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

                              However, I think it is probably a bit worse that they mentioned it. Just because it gives the other person (you and your spouse) the wrong impression for a longer period of time.

                              The magnitude of the damning is different.

                              It is one thing not to give candy to a a baby. It is another thing to give the candy to a baby, and then take it away.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                They could have made it more okay if they had said something like, "we have a gift certificate that we would like to use so do you mind if we go to restaurant x?" To me, that would have upfront explained their reason for their choice. I have had friends do that before (to Olive Garden...groan...they know my dislike of chain restaurants) and by them explaining the GC up front, I understood why they selected that particular location.

                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                  Your friends are well verse in the art of conversation and communication.


                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    CK, yes they are. They are wonderful friends in just about every way except where they like to eat. Our daughters are BFF's and we all go to Portland (live near Seattle) every February for a school tournament. Portland has amazing food options and all they want to do is go to Red Robin, McDonald's, Olive Garden, etc. All I want to do is try new fun places that we don't have at home. And because my daughter wants to be with her friend, we do a lot of compromising. To be fair, they have compromised as well, and seemed to even like the Grilled Cheese Grill we dragged them to last year. :-) It was just a food truck, with an old school bus as an eating area. Totally cool, with amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. They thought it was sketchy and were waiting for someone to fall ill after eating. Sigh...

                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                      You know. I think that is true. What I am saying is that many people believe that franchise and chain restaurants like Red Robin and McDonald and Olive Garden are more safe -- food being more clean.

                                      It may or may not be true. I don't know.

                                      Anyway, it does take some level of courage to walk into "a hole in the wall" restaurant. I actually enjoy these following ones. They are good, and they are charming:

                                      Jot Em Down (One of my favorite BBQ joint in Georgia):


                                      Afghan Kabob and Grill:


                                      Dim Sum Garden:


                                      Actually, Dim Sum Garden has fully upgraded now about 6 months ago. Business was very good for years, so they finally moved two blocks down:


                                      <They thought it was sketchy and were waiting for someone to fall ill after eating>

                                      They thought they were going to die indirectly by your hands. :)

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Your point is a good one...many people think that chains are safer than local joints, especially ones that look a little divish. Or divey. And that may be true because I know from my high school days working at McD's that chains have volumes of manuals on how to do everything and passing the franchise and health inspection tests are a big deal.

                                        Mr jlhinwa is a very adventurous traveler...there is no place he won't go when we are on vacation and if it looks a little dangerous, that is more interesting to him. But he is scared of food trucks and hole in the wall restaurants because he is sure he is going to get sick. Probably he is really afraid they are going to sneak some meat into his vegetarian meal, haha. On the other hand, I value my physical safety a great deal and am very cautious about going places that might get me mugged or worse, but I am happy to take a chance on street vendors, food trucks, and hole in the walls. It is a happy adventure and so far, I haven't gotten really sick from any of it.

                                        Those look like some fun places! Here's the GCG in Portland. I am thinking I need to return next month!

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      great asnwer chemical. if didn't intend to share, i wouldn't invite me, and wouldn't mention the GC. that is how i see it too. i guess my friends just had a much more casual outlook on this.

                    3. I would have been surprised. If they were going to use the g.c. to pay for their share of the bill that's one thing, but to mention it upon making the dinner plans, to me, implies that you will all get a "discount" on the meal.

                      1. If they mentioned the gift certificate when arranging dinner, I would assume it was to be used towards the total bill.

                        You've known the couple for 30 years. When you have dined out before were separate checks requested or was it generally an equal split? If the former, I guess I would understand their use of the gc; if the latter, I'd be mildly annoyed.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: gaffk

                          dining out with my friends have always been dutch except for an occasional tug of war over the bill on special occasions. i guesss the mention of the GC made me think the it would be different this time. yes, we were slightly annoyed but more surprised than annoyed.

                          1. re: ritabwh

                            I with's just tacky to bring a gift certificate to dinner with folks you know well & usually go Dutch, and not split the certificate. The smarter thing would have been to use it when they were dining alone.

                        2. I would share....In your case, I would have been surprised, but would not make it an issue and move on. The angst is not worth $25.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: fourunder

                            agreed. it was not the money. it was just my perception of what is "proper". that is why i posted here to get everyone's take on this. and no, i do not judge or base my friendships on "proper". trust me, back in 1974, we lived in a situation that i am sure the movie, Animal House was patterned after. :-))