Some Thoughts On Dining Out In Groups
January 27, 2016 12:07 PM   Subscribe

 
My circle of friends is carefully curated to include only those whose eating and drinking preferences match my own in order to insure that all dining experiences are perfectly equitable.

Greg, you're out of the circle.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on January 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


1. Pay for what you ordered.
2. Cash is king.

Quick shout out to the person who throws down some cash and leaves early. GFY!

[QUEENS] Oh, fuck me? No, no, no, no, no. Fuck you. [/QUEENS]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:12 PM on January 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


hey, our friend is a vegan but they've agreed to eat at a regular restaurant with us and pretend that this crappy mixed greens side salad is definitely the only thing they wanted to eat today. and now we're gonna make them pay $50 for that salad, because of reasons.

N O
posted by poffin boffin at 12:14 PM on January 27, 2016 [97 favorites]


In short: everyone should just split the bill evenly.
Yes, even if you didn't drink. Yes, even if you are allergic to avocado and the table ordered pricey bowls of $26 guacamole. It's the easiest thing to do and the right thing to do.


Man no fuck that. As someone who doesn't drink and has been poor and lives in Chicago where everybody else is eating their food with three buckets of alcohol (notthatthere'sanythingwrongwiththat), fuck that.

It's real simple. You remember what you order, find it on the receipt, and add 30%. If you can't remember what you ordered a mere hour later, perhaps consider only getting one bucket of alcohol with your meal next time.

I'm not here to sponsor your questionable budgeting decisions.

/grump
posted by phunniemee at 12:14 PM on January 27, 2016 [86 favorites]


Or you can just ask for split bills from the server to begin with, which is ultimately the polite thing to do if you're going to run up an unbalanced tab, and it's a lot easier for the server and everyone involved.

Or simply pick up the whole tab if you're going to be the biggest portion of the bill. People can pitch in as they wish or ordered, or add more to the tip.
posted by loquacious at 12:15 PM on January 27, 2016 [16 favorites]


this is why I will never in my life organize a dinner outing w/anyone ever (except that one guy who always pays the whole bill)

disaster time
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:17 PM on January 27, 2016


lol plebs
posted by ND¢ at 12:18 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I once paid $20 for a grilled cheese sandwich - an ordinary diner grilled cheese sandwich - because I was the lone vegetarian in a group that insisted on splitting equally.

My preference is to calculate what I actually owe, then throw down a generous extra for tax and tip - it always feels stingy to count out the right amount to the penny.
posted by Jeanne at 12:19 PM on January 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


now we're gonna make them pay $50 for that salad, because of reasons.

"All I'm saying is, when we split the cheque three ways the steak-eater picks the pocket of the salad-man."
posted by jedicus at 12:19 PM on January 27, 2016 [19 favorites]


One person puts the entire bill on their card. Everyone else gives that person cash, or uses their smartphone (right then and there) to pay them via PayPal / Venmo / whatever, or promises to do so at the next opportunity. Done.

(Tablet payments should be a thing. Just let the server hand an iPad or whatever to the table, then let them pass it around. Each person pays for whichever items, or whatever amount, they want to. If they want a receipt, they can enter their email address, or maybe tap a button to automatically print out a dead-tree version which the server will bring to them. Once everything is paid for, they're done. Staff can see from their screens which tables have settled their bills and which still have an outstanding balance.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2016 [20 favorites]


You need to bring a lot more cash than you think you will need, because someone is going to bring not enough.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


But you can't annotate cash transactions with emoji.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Large group dinners suck even before the question of the bill comes up. Avoid.
posted by invitapriore at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


You know, I have never had this happen to me. I mean, admittedly, I rarely eat out in large groups, but when I have, it's just assumed that everyone will pay for their own meals, not try to split the bill "evenly." I think maybe I've had the good fortune to eat with folks that understand everyone is responsible for what they order? And if you are ordering a starter to share, then maybe agree beforehand who's going to foot the bill for it in full before trying to do the Wonder Math on how to tally 1/8th of a plate of nachos.
posted by Kitteh at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


No. There is no solution. The situation is fucked. There are a few people in your life you can eat out with, have fun and then someone picks up the bill or you split it or whatever. Everyone else I will meet for drinks.
posted by howfar at 12:22 PM on January 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


1) Make a quick estimate of what you think you owe, being liberal with the amount.
2) Round up to the next highest $10.
3) Throw down another 20% or so for the tip and to cover the guy who maybe is short of cash this week.
4) Hang out with people who aren't assholes about tipping.
5) Hang out with people who have a basic understanding of restaurant etiquette.
6) If you notice someone put down way too little or no tip, call 'em on that bullshit. They're not twelve*.
5) Enjoy your evening.
6) Make sure the total tip is at least 20% and don't worry if it's over. You had fun, let the waiter have a good night for a change.

*Unless they're actually twelve.
posted by bondcliff at 12:22 PM on January 27, 2016 [27 favorites]


Quick shout out to the person who throws down some cash and leaves early. GFY!

I can't figure out if that stands for "good for you" or "go fuck yourself."
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:24 PM on January 27, 2016 [74 favorites]


The birthday person, or whoever arranged the big group dinner for a special occasion, should pick up the bill. THERE I SAID IT. Don't invite us all out in the first place only to cause inevitable bill drama!

This is less of a problem nowadays with young people, since we all just send our money around electronically, but we recently had a big family dinner with aunts and uncles and no one could figure out how to get the bill paid since half of us ordered cocktails or apps and the other half didn't bring cash (the restaurant refused to split it for us).
posted by muddgirl at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2016


The birthday person, or whoever arranged the big group dinner for a special occasion, should pick up the bill.

The birthday person shouldn't even contribute to the bill.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2016 [56 favorites]


A large group of my friends use a thing called Splitwise.

It works very well because the group originally came together from two university friendship groups who had different views on this sort of thing.
One group was a "Pay everyone down to the penny" kind of group, the other was "It'll even out in the end" kind of group. There was tension.

Splitwise let's you divide any which way, so now we've mostly come round to the principle of just splitting, if there is a major unfairness we get the receipt and itemise it.

We actually use splitwise for all expenses now, and never pay the balance. Just whoever has the lowest balance pays. Or if anyone gets too far up / down they give cash to someone else in the group to even it up.
It's like our own little shadow economy.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Or you can just ask for split bills from the server to begin with,

Common in Montreal, in my experience, but an enormous faux pas in NYC.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can't figure out if that stands for "good for you" or "go fuck yourself."

around here there's no difference between the two

(here being nyc)
posted by poffin boffin at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2016 [19 favorites]


GFY just became my favorite always-appropriate acronym.
posted by Flexagon at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2016 [27 favorites]


Seriously, though, I honestly don't know what large group dinners are trying to achieve. Is it part of the goal that you get a big group of people together and then force each of them to only be able to talk to a subset of maybe 2-4 of them for an hour? Why.
posted by invitapriore at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


I can't figure out if that stands for "good for you" or "go fuck yourself."

¿Porque no los dos?
posted by bgal81 at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


"All I'm saying is, when we split the cheque three ways the steak-eater picks the pocket of the salad-man."

I love that movie, I love that line, and I was going to quote it in this thread if you hadn't beaten me to it.

Anyway, I can see why it would be a serious pain in the server's ass to split up the bill ex post facto, but is there anything wrong with establishing separate checks at the time of ordering? "The two of us are on one check; those three are on another" sort of thing.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Or you can just ask for split bills from the server to begin with, which is ultimately the polite thing to do if you're going to run up an unbalanced tab, and it's a lot easier for the server and everyone involved.

It's Gothamist, so the correct response to this is "move to a city that will let you split your bill correctly, because Jesus Christ, it isn't 1980 and it won't fucking kill them to run five or six cards".
posted by protocoach at 12:28 PM on January 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


The birthday person shouldn't even contribute to the bill.

Even if they're the one that arranged the whole dinner, to honor their own birthday? If I call up a dozen of my friends and invite them out to dinner to celebrate my own birthday, I'm picking up the tab. That just seems polite to me. And if I can't afford that, then lets just get drinks.
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 PM on January 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yeah, you cannot order separate bills in New York without knowing that someone is going to spit in your food.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:29 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


When there's more than 10 people, ask the server to split the food and drinks into two totals. Many places do this automatically. Drinkers split the drink tab. Everyone split the food tab. Pay a tip on what you paid. What's so hard?

If you're a light eater of only grilled cheese, I'm sorry ... I got nothing for ya. The vegetarians in my circle usually buy the $26 guacamole.
posted by a complicated history at 12:30 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


The birthday person shouldn't even contribute to the bill.

Anyone who organizes their own birthday celebration should be paying for the whole thing. If someone else organizes it for them, as it should be for any adult*, that person should decide ahead of time how it's going to be paid for and let people know before anyone orders.

*the exception being if you're celebrating with three other people who also share your birthday.
posted by bondcliff at 12:30 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


This really depends on the people you're sharing the table with. With some folks we split it evenly, cause it all works out eventually with them. With others I like to cover it on my card and just let everyone figure out what they owe and they can give me the cash (or paypal or whatever). Usually this means I wind up paying more because tax and tip, but fuck it. I'm dining with people because I like them and a few bucks here and there doesn't matter much.
posted by notyou at 12:30 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


1) Everyone downloads venmo
2) Someone volunteers their card when the bill comes
3) Everyone passes around the bill, venmos the cardholder

The end, technology solves everything once again.
posted by windbox at 12:32 PM on January 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Having very recently gone out to eat in a setting where everybody had a $20 entree, an appetizer and dessert each, but the other two participants also shared multiple $70 bottles of wine, I say fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssss.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:33 PM on January 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


literally every single time i go out with friends we all pay what we think we owe and then end up with a 35% tip and a pile of leftover money that no one wants to claim
posted by poffin boffin at 12:33 PM on January 27, 2016 [60 favorites]


Greg since you finished everyone else's food technically I think you should just pay for everyone.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:34 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


NEVER split evenly. I have a great picture of my husband (when he was my boyfriend) practically vibrating with rage because one of our dinner companions was insisting on an equal split to the bill when she'd had 5 drinks, appetizers (yes plural) and dessert and didn't believe in tipping - and our group had 2 people who could not drink, a vegan, and two people keeping kosher.

This was after her extended drunken lecture to same husband (who was a waiter for a very long time) about Proper Silverware Signals to the Servers and why anyone who didn't know about them was an uncouth low class loser.

Thankfully we also had a door troll and door yeti who were refusing to let anyone leave until the check was fully paid and fair to the group.

Splitting evenly means assholes win and people with food needs or who are just -nice- lose. Every time.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:35 PM on January 27, 2016 [48 favorites]


Unless it's pretty clear that everyone basically got the same $ quantity of stuff, just pay for what you ordered.

Otherwise: put all the CCs in a pile, write a list of the cardholder names and appropriate net totals (minus tip &tax) on the receipt, and let the server sort it out as they are trained and have computerized machines to help them do.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:35 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would also like to take this opportunity to say that I've been to several Metafilter meetups that involved food and/or alcohol and there has never been any kind of issue when the bill came.
posted by bondcliff at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2016 [28 favorites]


^This.^
posted by Kitteh at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2016


Every server I know hates split bills.

I, too, hate some end users and their requirements, but that doesn't mean I get to tell them to fuck themselves when they ask for an extra button on the page, or that I am somehow justified in whatever the dev equivalent of spitting in your food would be. (Leaving an obvious security hole? I dunno.)
posted by protocoach at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2016 [20 favorites]


NEVER split evenly... one of our dinner companions was insisting on an equal split to the bill when she'd had 5 drinks, appetizers (yes plural) and dessert and didn't believe in tipping

No, see, splitting evenly isn't the problem here.
posted by bondcliff at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Obvs Greg Nog wasn't invited.
posted by notyou at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2016


In short: everyone should just split the bill evenly.

This here is some EVIL PURE AND SIMPLE FROM THE EIGHTH DIMENSION horseshit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


I would also like to take this opportunity to say that I've been to several Metafilter meetups that involved food and/or alcohol and there has never been any kind of issue when the bill came.

Seriously. IF a confusion ever arises it's a situation like poffin boffin's where we're all trying to decide where the too much money pile came from.

3 cheers for mefites!
posted by phunniemee at 12:39 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


The piece is generally correct, for the general case, but obviously there are all sorts of situations where it won't work. These are exceptions, though, not the rule. And the larger rule is really just Wheaton's Law: Don't be a dick.

Two teetotalers at a table with six oenophiles? Yeah, that's gonna get egregiously unfair, and no real human would insist the sober folks pay a share of a $150 wine bill the drunkards ran up.

You're the lone veggie at Morton's, and you don't drink? Man, I hope your pals are gonna recognize that you're a rounding error in tonight's festivities, give you a pass, and split evenly among themselves, because that's the only thing that makes sense.

By the same token, if you KNOW it's going to be an even split situation, and everyone else is ordering $20 entrees, don't be the guy who pops for the $38 plate. Don't be the only guy to order a dessert, or a $20 after-dinner whisky.

But most of the time? When it's a manageable number of people with reasonably similar orders? Just split evenly. Change your order to make that reasonable, even. Shit, my wife and I have both turned in cards at the end of the night to make it easier for the server when dining with singles. "Two thirds on this, one third on the other" is some bullshit vs. "evenly across all three cards."
posted by uberchet at 12:39 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


Every time I've been at dinner with someone who suggests splitting evenly, they they go on to order more than everyone else, or drink more than everyone else. Every. Single. Time.

It's my dog whistle for a mooch. If someone suggests it out the gate, they want to get free food out of me and mine.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:41 PM on January 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


Obvs Greg Nog wasn't invited.

I've been to meetups with Greg at least three times now. It was fun until the egg farts started. Also in lieu of payment he offered to perform a puppet show with the silverware.
posted by bondcliff at 12:41 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not only do you need to bring more cash than you need to deal with the person who didn't bring any, you need to bring it in small bills, because the waiter will roll their eyes or just refuse when you ask to break three twenties, and no one will have anything smaller than that.

This, and the guy who always "forgets" to include tax and tip in his contribution, and who argues that tips are for superb service only and the waiter wasn't that great, is why I hate dining in large groups.

I think, since this was written by a "longtime waitress", her sympathy is reserved for the restaurant staff instead of the vegan teetotaller (at whom she probably already rolled her eyes when he asked for his salad without the bacon bits and egg).
posted by gingerest at 12:42 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's obvious you folks have never been to a Meetup (non-Mefi, to be specific). I've seen people who pay only only food+tax, who don't split appetizers, and once someone who only paid food and NO tax.

The worst trick is when people are passing around the bill and paying and one person calculates in their head that we'll end up with more money than necessary for food+tax+tip and as a response they put in just enough money to clear the hurdle.

And that's not even getting into when people forget what they ordered or feel for whatever reason they shouldn't tip 20% (because of perceived bad service or just because they don't tip that much).

The solution is to either eat a buffet or a fast casual place where you pay first. Anything else is not a solution, because everyone is playing by different rules.
posted by FJT at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2016


Because I consume seven times as much as a mortal man

one time we were at katz's, home of the sandwiches the size of a human child, and my corned beef was too fatty and within milliseconds of the words "does anyone want my sammich?" leaving my mouth the entire 73lb monstrosity was gone and from what i can recall of the carnage greg did not even break a sweat.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2016 [22 favorites]


The piece is generally correct, for the general case, but obviously there are all sorts of situations where it won't work. These are exceptions, though, not the rule. And the larger rule is really just Wheaton's Law: Don't be a dick.

I agree that the general case when you all order comparable things is to just split the check evenly, but seeing as the article specifically says it should also apply to the vegan-at-a-steakhouse situation I feel justified calling bullshit.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:44 PM on January 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


I have no sympathy for waitstaff who eye-roll at reasonable requests like "I don't eat bacon, please don't put it on my salad." - if the salad comes pre-made, tell me that and suggest the vegan options on the menu. Don't just eye-roll.

(Not actually vegan, love bacon on salad but you see my meaning here I hope)
posted by FritoKAL at 12:44 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Jesus God! What is with the birthday equivalents of Ebenezer Scrooge?!

It's YOUR birthday! Your loved ones/friends take YOU out.

It's like I don't even know you any more!
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:45 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


I try to contact restaurants ahead of time to ask about vegan options on the menu because I want to be sure I can join my friends. I always feel weird and bad if I just spring it on the server when it comes take to take my order.
posted by Kitteh at 12:48 PM on January 27, 2016


Every time I've been at dinner with someone who suggests splitting evenly, they they go on to order more than everyone else, or drink more than everyone else. Every. Single. Time.

Despite all the people here claiming they contribute way over, every time I've been at dinner with people who insist on paying Their Share, their share turns out to be the menu price of the things they remembered ordering, without tip,service charge, tax, the sides and drink they ordered and forgot about.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:48 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


hey, our friend is a vegan but they've agreed to eat at a regular restaurant with us and pretend that this crappy mixed greens side salad is definitely the only thing they wanted to eat today. and now we're gonna make them pay $50 for that salad, because of reasons.

---

In short: everyone should just split the bill evenly.

---

I once paid $20 for a grilled cheese sandwich - an ordinary diner grilled cheese sandwich - because I was the lone vegetarian in a group that insisted on splitting equally.


Once when I was between jobs and, I think, still vegetarian I had supper at a chi-chi restaurant with three friends who were properly employed. I had a salad and a ginger ale (which I reckoned I could just about afford) and they... ordered from much deeper in the menu. No one ever even suggested whether we should do anything besides split the bill evenly. Turns out advertising execs, airline pilots and professors have deeper pockets than I did.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:49 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is weird to me. I can't recall a time in recent memory when out with anyone that server hasn't asked whether it's all one or separate bills right when taking the order. It's just normal default around here to have separate bills unless someone says otherwise.
posted by Jalliah at 12:49 PM on January 27, 2016 [17 favorites]


This is why all restaurants should be prix fixe.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:49 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


That is not Their Share then. This is why you split checks, or have a Designated Math Person.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:50 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


poffin boffin: hey, our friend is a vegan but they've agreed to eat at a regular restaurant with us and pretend that this crappy mixed greens side salad is definitely the only thing they wanted to eat today. and now we're gonna make them pay $50 for that salad, because of reasons.

N O


<3

all i want to do is show up and eat like french fries or drink a beer or whatever and pretend that's a meal because i value social interaction and don't wish to die alone but i really don't want to subsidize everyone's Bucket O' Giblets and Cheese especially when french fries and a drink is like six dollars
posted by Gymnopedist at 12:50 PM on January 27, 2016 [16 favorites]


I am right there with you, FritoKAL, and I am now old and tired and moneyed enough that when I have Forget the Tip Guy and Impoverished Vegan in the group, I grab the check and insist everyone can buy my next dinner with them. And Forget the Tip Guy will buy me a coffee and ask if we're even, and I will say "sure" because he has many sterling qualities, he's just a tightwad and it can't be helped.
But splitting the bill evenly is reserved for groups where you also basically split the food and drink evenly.
posted by gingerest at 12:51 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


Anyone who organizes their own birthday celebration should be paying for the whole thing. If someone else organizes it for them, as it should be for any adult*, that person should decide ahead of time how it's going to be paid for and let people know before anyone orders.

*the exception being if you're celebrating with three other people who also share your birthday.
posted by bondcliff at 3:30 PM on January 27 [1 favorite +] [!]


One time I went to a meetup and found myself sitting between two mefites born the same day in the same hospital and sharing a first and middle name. It was a hell of a thing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jalliah:
"This is weird to me. I can't recall a time in recent memory when out with anyone that server hasn't asked whether it's all one or separate bills right when taking the order. It's just normal default around here to have separate bills unless someone says otherwise."
Same here. Maybe we just live in uncivilized backwaters?
posted by charred husk at 12:53 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is weird to me. I can't recall a time in recent memory when out with anyone that server hasn't asked whether it's all one or separate bills right when taking the order. It's just normal default around here to have separate bills unless someone says otherwise.

This is highly regionally dependent. I certainly know that where I live now (NYC) and to a large degree, though not as much, where I used to live (Boston and Chicago) I am almost never asked whether I want separate bills, and in fact it's my normal assumption that the bill cannot be split or it can be split only a few ways (e.g. no way a party of 8 is going to get 8 separate checks).
posted by andrewesque at 12:53 PM on January 27, 2016


I know both those people in my life!

Forget the Tip Guy doesn't get to go out to meals with me because my husband's a former waiter and prefers to Convert The Masses as to why you always tip. Persistence in Not Tipping is like Persistence in Being Anti-Choice - I frienddump that person.

Impoverished Vegan does not pay for meals, I pay for those, and Impoverished Vegan can make it up to me in other ways like removing all the excess commas from my writing b/c she's a fine editor.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:54 PM on January 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


And also sharing an entree and a water?
posted by notyou at 12:54 PM on January 27, 2016


Splitting the check evenly introduces a wonderful element of Game Theory into your dining experience, to wit: how extravagantly can I order to maximize my meal ROI without enraging my fellow diners into anger or (even worse) inducing them into also ordering extravagantly and driving up the bill? Every meal is an opportunity to discover the perfect dining Nash Equilibrium! How fun!
posted by turaho at 12:54 PM on January 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


a VERY SMALL human child

it was like that scene in dune where paul and leto are in the 'thopter with kynes and they see a sandworm for the first time while it is swallowing a spice factory
posted by poffin boffin at 12:55 PM on January 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


Every time I've been at dinner with someone who suggests splitting evenly, they they go on to order more than everyone else, or drink more than everyone else. Every. Single. Time.

Despite all the people here claiming they contribute way over, every time I've been at dinner with people who insist on paying Their Share, their share turns out to be the menu price of the things they remembered ordering, without tip,service charge, tax, the sides and drink they ordered and forgot about.


In short, no restaurant tab has ever been paid to satisfaction, ever, in the history of dining, and there are a LOT of waiters who are really getting fed up
posted by shakespeherian at 12:55 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


One time I went to a meetup and found myself sitting between two mefites born the same day in the same hospital and sharing a first and middle name. It was a hell of a thing.

Take that crap to Reddit. We have no room for your lies here.
posted by bondcliff at 12:57 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


You put everyone's credit card in a pile, you shuffle the pile, then you draw one at random and pay the bill with that card. Easy.
posted by ODiV at 12:58 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


The best thing about Ann Arbor is that servers split the bill like it's nothing. <3 you, Ann Arbor servers.

That said, I think that generally, it works perfectly fine for everyone to split the bill, and then for the person who drank an extra drink or whatever to say, "Here, let me throw in a little extra," and then for someone to look at the person who just got a soda and say, "Whatever, that was two bucks, I'll get it for you," and for anyone who feels like they can't really afford dinner to come hang out and eat dessert or whatever and that's all they pay for. And also everyone has Venmo, and in the end, you've left a 40% tip by accident but you don't even worry about it.

In other words, only go out to dinner with people you actually like and can communicate with, and be a little bit generous if you can, and open about it if you can't, and everything should work out fine.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:58 PM on January 27, 2016 [18 favorites]


I will say -- in part to skirt around this issue but also because I have a general culinary preference on this front -- that when I eat out it's often "family-style" cuisines, AKA cuisines in which the norm, or at least a common norm, is to order plates for the table instead of separate entrees. (Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc.) In these cases splitting evenly only makes sense.
posted by andrewesque at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I learned this lesson the hard way after going out with a giant group of my ex-husband's co-workers and getting stuck with a massive tab on my credit card because a bunch of people thought it was still happy hour well into the evening and someone suggested Jager shots and things went downhill from there (as they do). And so, dear readers, even though I drank two beers and ate one veggie burger, I ended up paying over a hundred dollars because people "left cash and split" and there were only a few of us left to mop up the damage—and only one of us had a credit card (plus I was the only one who had once been a restaurant server and I knew the agony of getting stiffed.)

Here endeth the lesson: only go out with people you like and trust (who tip well) and who agree in advance to a) split it evenly or b) pay as you consume. It has served me well over these many years of group eating and boozing.
posted by WordCannon at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


I know it's a sin to bring your child with you to a restaurant and lo I shall burn mightily in those fires but dang does he make it easy to ask for separate checks at the start of the meal. "This guy might explode with boredom and possibly hunger because there does not seem to be any chicken fingers on this menu. Can we get a separate check in case we need to flee out the door and dunk him in a vat of mac and cheese next door? I'm really sorry. We should have just gone to the place that serves mac vats, but we were out voted."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:00 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


Hi, I'm FritoKAL's Former Waiter Husband. My experience with split checks is that, if your place has a computerized ordering system, split checks are pretty easy, especially if the table tells you at the greet what the split will be.

I waited tables 15 or so years ago, and the system we had then was very good at being able to assign food and drinks to positions at the table, and then when you print the check it's just "okay, positions 1 and 2 are together, 3 is by themselves, etc."

Alternately, just explicitly telling them how much goes on each card at the end usually isn't that much of a hassle either.

I guess if you're still relying a lot more on paper and a cash register it would definitely be a headache, and obviously there might be a regional cultural standards thing in play as people mention about NYC, but given the ubiquity of ordering systems at most places...

In general, putting a little effort in to smooth your server's experience (either telling them at the outset how to split the check, or writing down exactly how much goes on each card) is a big help.

(addendum to Frito's story about the big dinner out that produced the picture of me trying to kill someone with my brain - this was a majority American group in Canada, so bludgeoning people about 15% tax, 15% tip was also a Thrillingly Good Time after some of them had gotten rather sloshed.)
posted by Tknophobia at 1:01 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


There's also a thing you can do where you say everyone splits the bill evenly but then you tell everyone you had an extra beer, and Brian only had a salad, so I'll toss an extra $5.00 in that Brian can take and that should cover it and now Brian is happy and I don't feel like I cheated my friends.

I dunno, maybe I just have decent friends but usually it all evens out somehow.

Or maybe it's just that I have no friends and never go to dinner with anyone.

Now I'm sad.
posted by bondcliff at 1:01 PM on January 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


can I get the address of that mac n cheese vat, please? asking for a friend...
posted by supermedusa at 1:02 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


If you want to spice things up you can also tack a game of Don't Be a Dick During Meals with Friends onto whatever agreement you've made about splitting the bill.

Rules:

1) The game starts after everyone has ordered.

2) Everybody places their phone on the table face down.

3) The first person to flip over their phone loses the game.

4) Loser of the game pays for the bill.

5) If the bill comes before anyone has flipped over their phone everybody is declared a winner and pays for their own meal.

posted by Gymnopedist at 1:02 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


80+ comments, and not one mention of Bistromathics? We're slipping, folks.
posted by Zonker at 1:02 PM on January 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


Everybody chips in generously. The extra goes to the server for having to put up with a larger group of people for more than an hour. Don't be an asshole. If you're inviting people out to a place for your birthday, choose a place with price in mind, unless you're treating. But if you're going to someone's birthday, buy them a drink at least, and you probably should help foot their part of the bill.

Oh yeah, as someone who has been recently single right before his birthday more than once:
Anyone who organizes their own birthday celebration should be paying for the whole thing. If someone else organizes it for them, as it should be for any adult*, that person should decide ahead of time how it's going to be paid for and let people know before anyone orders.
GFY.

For some reason, this thread is reminding me of the scene in American Psycho when they hear the amount of the bill ($400 I think) and remark "not bad" and all throw gold Amexes (back when having a Gold Amex meant something) on the platter. I think it's after the discussion of women having personalities.
posted by Hactar at 1:04 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is why all restaurants should be prix fixe.

Doesn't work because beverages and appetizers.

PEOPLE, there is a solution: Just go to a fast casual or perhaps a buffet. Anywhere where you pay first. That's why they were invented! Yes I know, the food isn't as good as a restaurant, but you also won't have that feeling of dread that grows at an exponential rate as you reach the end of a meal.
posted by FJT at 1:05 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Same here. Maybe we just live in uncivilized backwaters?

Well I do live in Canada.
posted by Jalliah at 1:05 PM on January 27, 2016


GFY.

Good for me is RIGHT!

Wait...
posted by bondcliff at 1:07 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ugh, these discussions fill me with anxiety, because being the broke friend just sucks so much. Like, you don't want to say "I'm not really 'not hungry,' I'm actually ordering this grilled cheese sandwich because I didn't want to miss your birthday but I'm seriously not sure how I'm going to afford to eat until pay day." And you also seriously are not sure how you're going to feed yourself for the next week. And the people you're with can't even wrap their heads around the idea that you may, in fact, not have the $20, or you may but that may be the last $20 you have. Urgh. I think the moral may be that you should only be friends with fellow broke people when you're broke.

I try to be hyper, hyper sensitive to it now that I am a person for whom $20 is genuinely not the end of the world.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:08 PM on January 27, 2016 [46 favorites]


Yeah, you cannot order separate bills in New York without knowing that someone is going to spit in your food.

This is stupid. Figure it out, NYC.

By the same token, if you KNOW it's going to be an even split situation, and everyone else is ordering $20 entrees, don't be the guy who pops for the $38 plate. Don't be the only guy to order a dessert, or a $20 after-dinner whisky.

Or order it and, as you are doing it, say "I'll throw in an extra 25 to cover this" and do it, then you will be fine.
posted by jeather at 1:09 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know it's a sin to bring your child with you to a restaurant and lo I shall burn mightily in those fires but dang does he make it easy to ask for separate checks at the start of the meal.
You make your kid pay for his own meal? Harsh, man.
posted by dfan at 1:10 PM on January 27, 2016 [27 favorites]


I do different things with different groups.

There's a group of foodies I used to go out with, and we shared a lot of things and ordered similarly, and other than the occasional 'oh, I had two beers, so let me throw in an extra $10' type of thing, we split bills evenly. Because with that group, things did pretty much even out over time.

I have groups of friends where we roughly split things out to who ordered what, and everyone approximates what they owe and we make sure we cover a good tip and we're good, because no one needs to worry about $1 here or there, but the vegetarians shouldn't have to cover the steak-eaters.

And I have had groups of co-workers where there was a person or two who always took advantage of any lack of precision in bill splitting for whom we would split things down to the last penny and still have to make sure they didn't stiff the goddamned waitress.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:12 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


You make your kid pay for his own meal? Harsh, man.

you have to show those tiny freeloaders what's what
posted by poffin boffin at 1:12 PM on January 27, 2016 [33 favorites]


Seriously. If he can't afford to eat out, he should stay at home in the dark and wait for the bunyip to crawl out of the basement and carve its names into his soft, pale flesh.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:13 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Actually I'm not sure what to do with a friend. We used to either split food down the middle or alternate bills (typically at dim sum or dumpling places where everything is shared) and this worked great, and then she had a kid, and now this child is eating nearly as much as I do (friend typically eats more), and I feel weird about it. Not that my budget depends on paying a little less for lunch now and then.
posted by jeather at 1:16 PM on January 27, 2016


Wait, how often do you have dinner with King Solomon, anyway?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:21 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


IIRC, i think the etiquette for kids is that you offer to split the kid down the middle, and then whichever adult says "no" ends up getting to keep the kid

Yeah, but then you end up arguing about who bought him the salad last night or the steak the night before and how much that added to his bodyweight and then everyone leaves mad and messy.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:22 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


No no that's fine, I'm happy to split the bill, but I can only pay with these exquisite cursèd rubies. Ma'am do you have change for a haunted gem?
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 1:25 PM on January 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


So, yeah, I think this does all come down to regional variations. In Austin the waitstaff will often wait until the entrees are cleared to ask whether it's all together or separate, leading me to believe that they entered it into their system seat-by-seat when we ordered.

It's been ages since we had to broach the subject of separate checks ourselves, and even longer since we had to write amounts on the back of a receipt. But even back then, the multiple-credit-cards-on-one-check solution was sometimes even suggested by waitstaff. If any of this was/is a hassle for waitstaff and they're spitting in my food, then the feedback loop is broken and I'd like them to give me an opportunity to correct my behavior.

It doesn't bother me when a restaurant is cash-only, as long as there's an ATM in a corner somewhere. (This, again, never happens in Austin but seemed somewhat common in NYC.) That way the eatery gets to sidestep the entire issue.

One last wrinkle: the few times when I've had separate-check group dining experiences in Europe, it's always worked like this: (a) server asks a person what they had, (b) person points it out on the big receipt, (c) server does some math and announces a total, (d) person pays either in cash or with a card (server has both coin purse and handheld card terminal). This seems quite pleasant for all involved. But it's only feasible when item prices on receipts are tax-inclusive and when the tipping culture is a more casual round-to-the-nearest-euro-or-two kind of thing.
posted by savetheclocktower at 1:25 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


For six months of 2015 I. did. not. eat. anything. (Why? Because after spending a month as the guest of the academic medical center, I was reliably informed that if I wished to leave - and not be rushed back for emergency surgery or die - then I couldn't eat a damn thing.)

You ever not eat food for six months? I experimented with a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages. Shrubs. Mixers. Juices. Italian sodas. Imported "artisanal" waters. Anything for some goddamn flavor. Sometimes I even did so in public. With other people. At restaurants. Anyone who would have suggested I subsidize their steak would have been promptly told to go fuck themselves. Luckily, I don't tend to spend social time with assholes, so that didn't happen.
posted by mattbcoset at 1:25 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


credit card roulette: everyone puts in their credit card, ask the waiter to choose one.
posted by ghostbikes at 1:30 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


The "one person pays and the other people Venmo them" works well except in two situations:

1) When multiple people are credit card points fanatics and want their 1% back.
2) When someone is cash-poor but credit-card-rich.
posted by smackfu at 1:31 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


HOW IS IT MORE RELAXING TO HAVE TO GAUGE WHETHER I'M FORCING MY FRIENDS TO PAY AN UNFAIR AMOUNT BECAUSE I WANT TO EAT FIVE DOZEN EGGS
posted by Greg Nog at 3:09 PM


Eponsyterical.
posted by msbrauer at 1:32 PM on January 27, 2016


> When multiple people are credit card points fanatics and want their 1% back.

Look, I like my airline miles as much as the next dork, but anyone trying to prioritize credit card rewards in a situation that could actually ruin friendships needs to rearrange their hierarchy of needs.
posted by savetheclocktower at 1:34 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's no excuse for modern point of sale systems not to support easily splitting the check by seat if requested at the beginning of the evening. The restaurant looses a little money and time running cards separately but gains the ability to flip to table faster without having people sitting there arguing over money and gratitude from customers for making it easy.

I eat out at conferences often enough with people that have to bring back their actual receipt to get their per diem that I can't imagine restaurants not wanting to handle their customer's needs, but I suppose NYC is it's own special location. But I've not had a problem getting separate checks at "this is where senators dine" level places in DC.
posted by Candleman at 1:38 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


You ever not eat food for six months?

I went nine months, once.
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 1:39 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


Will gladly pay you Tuesday.
posted by clavdivs at 1:40 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


one day i'll go for thousands and thousands of years
posted by poffin boffin at 1:40 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


Vote poffin boffin #1 Dune Messiah!!!
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 1:41 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


I love buying my friends dinner on my birthday. I have no friends. 🎂😕
posted by bendy at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm on team even split even though I'm usually on the "losing" end of it because I don't drink. My reasoning is that I'm paying for the experience of going out with friends. Just like I pay five bucks for someone to bring me a can of coke and a glass at a restaurant or bar when the same thing would be a tenth the price at home. I guess this works because the people I go out with usually don't try to take advantage of the situation and if there are imbalances the people who ordered something extra will chip in something extra on top of that.

I met up with some friends from high school for bubble tea over the winter break. One of us didn't have cash so put it on his card and then the rest of us gave him cash. Way more cash then needed, even after a generous tip, but short of all of us getting change there was no good way of dividing it. One of my friends solved the problem by asking the guy with the card to just take it all and give the extra to someone who needed it. I thought that was a great solution.

Although, my wife and I once went out with a family where the wife was a waitress and husband a cook and ended up giving them cash for our share of the bill so that they could pay for the whole thing on their credit card. They totally stiffed the waiter on the tip. We ended up going back in to the restaurant after saying our good-byes to top up the tip.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2016


We used to either split food down the middle or alternate bills (typically at dim sum or dumpling places where everything is shared) and this worked great, and then she had a kid, and now this child is eating nearly as much as I do (friend typically eats more), and I feel weird about it.

This reminds me of that askme a few years back where someone was like "should i throw in some money so relatives can come to this destination wedding" or something and then as the responses got more detailed it turned out that they weren't even the OP's relatives but relatives of the maid of honor or something? and it was like, these people are not your people, you do not have to support their entertainment budget, and this is how i feel about buying food for your friend's ravenous child. and i feel like if you said "hey this is weird" it would have the same response, namely "why don't you want to pay for the pleasure of being in the presence of my child!" which is like, i will pay 10x more for the ABSENCE.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:45 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


You misspelled Absinthe
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 1:46 PM on January 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


wait maybe i am conflating this with that "should i pay for a stranger's toddler to accompany me and my friend to comic con" askme which was also a "lol fuck no" one
posted by poffin boffin at 1:47 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Whenever my friends and I go out the server always prompts "separate cheques?", or, more often, just brings them over separate unless we ask otherwise. Is this an exclusively American phenomenon or what?
posted by one of these days at 1:52 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you cannot order separate bills in New York without knowing that someone is going to spit in your food.

Those fuckers get to split the bill after I am done eating.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:53 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why you people insist on having friends, I have no idea.

No friends, no bill to split, NO PROBLEM. GFY.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:54 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


wait maybe i am conflating this with that "should i pay for a stranger's toddler to accompany me and my friend to comic con" askme which was also a "lol fuck no" one

If anybody needs to see this, it's here and I remember it VIVIDLY because I spent several hours trying to work out various combinations of "nopenopenope" and "ask if the toddler can be kept caged outdoors" that wouldn't get me a scoldy note from a mod.

posted by phunniemee at 1:58 PM on January 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


IM READING IT RIGHT NOW AND IM SCREAMING ALL OVER AGAIN
posted by poffin boffin at 1:59 PM on January 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


And the people you're with can't even wrap their heads around the idea that you may, in fact, not have the $20, or you may but that may be the last $20 you have. Urgh. I think the moral may be that you should only be friends with fellow broke people when you're broke.

No, the moral is that you should avoid socializing with morons who are devoid of even the slightest shred of empathy and/or human decency. When I have been broke and unemployed, my more affluent friends did not act like insensitive douchebags toward me. In fact, they often offered to pay for me at group outings like those under discussion. Get better friends.
posted by dersins at 2:02 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


Yeah, you cannot order separate bills in New York without knowing that someone is going to spit in your food.

Ha ha, joke's on them. I'm a baby bird, and where I'm from, you have to pay extra for that spit!
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 2:03 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is why the current laws against (US) lobbyists paying for (sit-down) meals for congressional staff/federal employees are awesome for those of us in DC. Friendly/business meals still gotta happen, everyone is legally obligated to pick up their own tab, and I have never, ever had a problem with a place around here when we ask to split the check.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 2:06 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I usually this find this is more of an issue if you go out with a group of more than 5 people. 5 people or less and it makes it very easy to have the discussion of either who owes what (just use an app), or you just share family style and split evenly because 5 or less is a great number for that.

I used to do a lot of huge group dinners in my 20s but now in my 30s have generally stopped accepting invitations to them because in that setting you really only get to talk to the 4 or so other people in your "quadrant" unless you rotate throughout the evening. And the check splitting somehow becomes extremely complex quantum math with such a large number of people.

As an adult it's nice to just have close friends that you go out to dinner either 1:1 or 1:2, and you all just rotate being who the one to pick up the check is.
posted by raw sugar at 2:19 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Considering this a Gothamist link, I assume they have to do this because apparently NYC servers will "spit in your food" for asking for split checks. Because Reasons! Guess they don't have them thar fancy computerized registers like they gots here in Texas, hyuk!

Time to get to the 21st century, where the rest of us are happily paying our split checks to the waiter, including tip, and enjoying the shit out of never dealing with this problem again.
posted by emjaybee at 2:19 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is unintentionally a great new example to help teach the difference between equality and equity.
posted by threeants at 2:20 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh and don't make jokes with the server about water. I once made a quip that "Quabin water" would be fine when the waiter was pushing bottled (the well known name of the reservoir that supplies Boston's water) and that pushed the bill right up there.
posted by sammyo at 2:26 PM on January 27, 2016


I can't remember the last time I was handed one big bill rather than separate cheques. I'd assumed this was by virtue of progress, but maybe it's regional variation.

In Vancouver in the 90s and early 2000s, waitstaff would look like you were asking for a kidney if you asked for separate cheques. Often I was told that it wasn't POSSIBLE to split the cheques. I was also told more than once that if the cheques were split there would be no way for the kitchen to know which meals belonged together as a table and so people wouldn't get their food at the same time--and then they'd make every effort to ensure that you got your appetizer while your pal was finishing their entree.

In Ottawa, where I've been for the past 9 years, it's just assumed it's separate cheques. I've assumed it's an expense account thing--everybody needs their own itemized receipt to get compensated. If a table shares a couple of appetizers, they'll even charge you for 0.25 of the price of that appetizer (which is a bit silly, but whatever). Sometimes, if it's an ambiguous group--when I take my parents out for dinner when they visit, for example--the server will ask if it's separate or all together, and then deliver the cheque to the person who answers the question.

I've never been a server, so it's entirely possible there is a big thing I'm missing, but I really don't see what the big deal is. No one is figuring out the math on a pad of paper, the computer does it all and can signal to the kitchen whose meal goes with whose. And, big plus I would think, the tips work out the way they're supposed to (especially now that the card machine will do the math for that, too).
posted by looli at 2:26 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Separate bills has been the norm for a few years now anywhere I've gone in Canada, to the point that they sometimes don't even ask, at least with larger (+5) groups of people under 40yrs old. I was quite impressed last night with a group of 9 for a friend's birthday. The waitress brought out 3 bills for the 3 couples, and 3 more for the singles. I guess she was subtly gauging who was with who throughout the evening.

I'm surprised that servers are so hostile to splitting. In my experience they seem to do vastly better on tips with everyone rounding up by $5-10 on their credit/debit cards. Our server last night probably got ~$75 on a total bill of ~$300.

I'm kind of curious if it's a cultural thing, or something related to the POS technology being used..?
posted by mannequito at 2:29 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'll be coming two hours late to the meetup, and will get my drinks directly from the bar.

/cue audience applause, cheering, roses flying through the air
posted by Existential Dread at 2:41 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I recall eating out with a group in Japan a long time ago—in the mid-90s—and the waitress used a sort of proto-PDA to take our orders. When the check came, it had a little map of the seats around the table printed on it, with the amount for each seat.

I wonder why that hasn't become more popular.
posted by adamrice at 2:48 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you cannot order separate bills in New York without knowing that someone is going to spit in your food.

I've worked in lots of food and drink service jobs. You'd be amazed at how often this doesn't happen. Your servers and chefs are not spitting in the food. They have no incentive to. Why risk losing their job for some weird sense of moral power? They're just normal people.
posted by howfar at 2:51 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


The person who does the inviting pays. Especially if it's the inviter's birthday. What the heck kind of invitation is "Please come join me at a restaurant to celebrate ME, you'll have to pay for your own dinner and buy mine too!" If the inviter can't afford to be the host, then they should think of some other way to celebrate.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:59 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


The person who does the inviting pays. Especially if it's the inviter's birthday. What the heck kind of invitation is "Please come join me at a restaurant to celebrate ME, you'll have to pay for your own dinner and buy mine too!" If the inviter can't afford to be the host, then they should think of some other way to celebrate.

I feel like this may be an age/life phase thing. For example, in college, when everyone was broke and eating out was kind of a big deal, it was always "everyone else pays their own way and helps cover the birthday person's share." If one person had to pay for everyone else's meal, then we just never would have gone out to eat.

And now that I'm in my late 20s... well, I really have no idea how these things are done because I'm basically a shut in.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


So no one gets to invite their friends out for their birthday unless they have hundreds and hundreds of dollars to spend on it? That's insane!
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:11 PM on January 27, 2016 [22 favorites]


"everyone else pays their own way and helps cover the birthday person's share."

Which is why the birthday person has a choice to either not organize their own birthday events, or invite their friends to a celebration where their friends are not obligated to pay for anything.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't have any money, but as it happens I don't have any friends either, so that's got the birthday problem sorted.
posted by pemberkins at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


the last time i went to a birthday party at a restaurant the restaurant was chuck e cheese and all attendees including the birthday haver were in grammar school.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:14 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree with howfar. No one is going to spit in your food over split checks. It's important to realize that twenty years ago, when a lot of restaurant math was done either by hand or on a difficult-to-use cash register, it was a huge pain to split checks - time-consuming, mistake-prone, and complex. Since the advent of touchscreen POS systems, it's fairly trivial to do, and it's a normal part of the job. In this day and age, nobody should be getting huffy about it.
posted by Miko at 3:14 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


The person who does the inviting pays. Especially if it's the inviter's birthday. What the heck kind of invitation is "Please come join me at a restaurant to celebrate ME, you'll have to pay for your own dinner and buy mine too!" If the inviter can't afford to be the host, then they should think of some other way to celebrate.


If you're in the situation where you have to organize your own birthday dinner, I'm not surprised by the notion that your "friends" might be a little bitter about the notion of having to chip in for your meal..

Personally, I'd feel horrible of one of my ACTUAL friends had to organize their own birthday dinner party, and I offer to pay for their meal to assuage my guilt at being a bad friend.. but that's just me.
posted by some loser at 3:15 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Any"friend" of mine who had to organize their own birthday party would owe me the price of dinner just for showing up to pretend that I was their "friend".
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 3:19 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Any"friend" of mine who had to organize their own birthday party would owe me the price of dinner just for showing up to pretend that I was their "friend".

Pretty much what I was trying to say, albeit more precisely.
posted by some loser at 3:24 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, if the person who invites has to pay, then you might have a hard time finding anyone who would organize a birthday dinner for anyone.

Maybe the solution is just not to have social lives unless you're basically Donald Trump.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:25 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Man, so if someone doesn't have a local friend who is thoughtful enough to organize a party for them, that person should invite no one out and sit alone on their birthday because how dare they invite a person to a restaurant on their own behalf like an adult? This is honestly boggling my mind.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:26 PM on January 27, 2016 [31 favorites]


what

I can't tell if everyone's being sarcastic or not. If I wanted to go to the pub with a few friends on my birthday why wouldn't I organize it? Am I just supposed to drop hints and hope everyone shows up without being explicitly capital I invited? Or is this the difference between a "party" and just a few friends getting together for a bite?
posted by ODiV at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


yes, later you die alone.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


I can't tell if everyone's being sarcastic or not.

Don't know about everyone, but I was.
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


...in which we learn Metafilter does not want to come to your birthday dinner if none of your friends cared enough to do it for you.
posted by Kitteh at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think Daily Alice was being sincere, but now I'm not so sure..

The rest of us were being sarcastic and or facetious to varying degrees though.
posted by some loser at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2016


The interesting (and unsurprising) thing is that this article's premise takes it as given that social gatherings generally contain people who are all roughly of the same economic status. The fact of which is pretty well supported by what we know about how people socialize, but seems like a shitty thing to actively codify.
posted by threeants at 3:31 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Where things get weird with the "organize your own birthday dinner" thing is when half of a financially-committed couple does the organizing for the other half and looks expectantly at the guests because the honoree shouldn't have to pay for their own dinner. It's a little self-serving, you know? But it's not as self-serving as this one time in grad school when a big group of us took a girl out to dinner for her birthday and we all chipped in a little too much to the check, and nobody wanted to ask for their six bucks back, but it meant we had a 50% tip or something, and she cheerfully suggested we could pay for her boyfriend's dinner, too! And we were all so slack-jawed at the notion that nobody actually said, "What the fuck is wrong with you, no, he pays for himself and the extra goes to the waitstaff" and we ended up paying for the freeloader's dinner and I have never forgiven either of them.
posted by gingerest at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Not to mention tipping servers in cash is always preferable to credit, where they're subject to taxes . . ."

I have no interest in getting self-righteous about it, since it's not like waiters are making bank, but it's kind of funny to see someone come right out and admit this.
posted by ostro at 3:35 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


This all sounds like too much hassle. I think I'll just have my wife organize my birthday pub outings from now on.
posted by ODiV at 3:35 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Man, so if someone doesn't have a local friend who is thoughtful enough to organize a party for them, that person should invite no one out and sit alone on their birthday because how dare they invite a person to a restaurant on their own behalf like an adult? This is honestly boggling my mind.

No. But you can't invite people out for *your* birthday and expect them to cover your tab. At the very least, you need to be ready to pay for your own damn meal (though, chances are someone will step up an offer to cover you). At best, you should be treating the people that you are asking to partake in your "special" day.

The sig-oth birthday organizer thing is totally shady as hell though. If you invite me to your husband's birthday party, it's reasonable to expect that you are going to cover him.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:42 PM on January 27, 2016


also here is the destination wedding askme in case anyone else would like to be nostalgically angry
posted by poffin boffin at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have never, ever experienced the "even split" phenomenon.

It boggles me that this is at all considered acceptable.

Pay for what you get.

Birthdays: one or more people pay for the Birthday person's meal.

Though rare, I've occasionally paid for a whole table. A couple of times it was because I was in a good mood and feeling flush. Typically my strategy would be to talk to the server away from the table, while going to the restroom or something. That way, it is a pleasant surprise to my friends.

One time, I paid for the table because otherwise I would not have been able to enjoy the dinner. One person ordered bottles of wine "for the table." I have anxiety anyway, and I worried about how those bottles were going to be equitably paid for, and worried if I was going to drink more than my share. I couldn't handle that stress, so I informed the server that I would pay for all 11 of us.

I tend to like wine or other alcohol during my dinners. I would never enjoy my drinks or my meal if I thought someone else was burdened with paying for my indulgences. A couple of times, I have told servers (again, on the side), that if someone at the table wants to pick up the tab for everyone, that my drinks are still on me.
posted by yesster at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2016


What I don't get in the OP is the blithe assumption that everything will balance out over multiple dining occasions. If I'm a teetotaler, I'm a teetotaler every time we go out -- I'm not going to suddenly order a single malt and even up the scoreboard. Similarly, vegetarians are unlikely to start ordering steak.

In my experience, cheap dates tend to stay cheap dates, and the folks who order apps and zerts (Tom Haverford, you know who you are) tend to stay in the same price range as well. So if you've got a Tom Haverford and a couple cheap dates in the same friend group, things tend not to balance out over time. They actually get more unbalanced.
posted by pie ninja at 3:53 PM on January 27, 2016 [21 favorites]


Count me in on the "Wha . . . ? People would organize someone else's birthday celebration?" side. Unless it's a significant other doing the organizing, I feel like most people I know would see this as officious at best.

Paying for the whole table is totally best in theory, but even if you know it'll all work out equally in the long term, it requires a cushion in your bank account. If you and all your friends are twentysomethings with about $800 to your name at any given time (who probably make up a good chunk of the readership of this article) then of course you're not going to do that.
posted by ostro at 3:55 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, cash is antiquated and maybe we won't even be using it a decade from now but it's still the easiest, most efficient way to split a dinner among a group.

Modern point-of-sale systems can divide the group's bill into as many checks as there are people. There is no need to split evenly or bring cash, and there is no reason to think cash is antiquated when it usually carries the most credibility as a payment form in small bills.
posted by Brian B. at 4:00 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Fuck this article sideways.

Yeah, I have been the person where it didn't really matter how much we were spending and we'd throw down equal 20s because whatever, we didn't have real bills. I've also been the person who is broke as fuck and nursing a water the entire night ball hunger pangs rolled. The idea that you are financially obligated in order to celebrate a friends birthday is some bullshit. The idea that if you have friends who all have super hectic lives and they don't remember throwing a birthday party you just sit alone and eat worms and die is also some bullshit.
posted by corb at 4:01 PM on January 27, 2016


What I don't get in the OP is the blithe assumption that everything will balance out over multiple dining occasions.
See, I don't think that the assumption is actually that it will necessarily balance out. I think it's that the differences are trivial in the grand scheme of things, so it will all balance out in the big balance sheet of your friendship. Maybe you'll always pay for things you don't consume when you all go out to dinner, and maybe they'll consistently do some other small, nice thing for you. I think that the assumption is that the actual money here is more symbolic than real, because "we," the readers of Gothamist, are not people for whom such amounts of money are important. And if you are a person for whom those amounts of money matter, then it's a reminder to you of where you stand in Gothamist's world.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:05 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


I suspect this business about who pays for the birthday dinner to be a cultural thing, at least in part. I have been to many dinners in restaurants, including birthday dinners, and the only times I ever remember one person picking up the tab for a whole table involved company events or family events where the appropriate elder statesperson is expected to pay.

If a birthday-having person tried to buy everyone dinner, we'd all be thinking they'd come into some money we were unaware of, and then feeling faintly embarrassed at the conspicuous display of wealth or something.

Whereas, on the other hand, if I invite people to my house for dinner for any reason it's unusual and bordering on bad taste to have a pot luck instead of catering it entirely myself. There was an askme once about what to bring to some British people's sunday dinner... OMG don't bring food to somebody else's sunday dinner! Whatever next!
posted by emilyw at 4:06 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


The idea that if you have friends who all have super hectic lives and they don't remember throwing a birthday party you just sit alone and eat worms and die is also some bullshit.

I'm Canadian, so I actually do this out of a patriotic sense of politeness. Obviously this behaviour varies regionally as well. Or maybe it's just because I throw a party for my mom on my birthday, since technically it's HER achievement and not mine.

Hamburger.
posted by some loser at 4:07 PM on January 27, 2016


Eating worms probably won't kill you, either, whether you are alone or not, assuming we're talking about earth worms. Very high in protein.
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everyone paying for their own meal is the way. And honestly most of the time I don't actually see it be a problem. The major problem that I see is disputes over tip, because some people tip before tax and some tip after-tax, some tip 15% and some tip 25%. And really the only thing to do is let everyone tip for their own meal, otherwise you're all having a fight or passive aggressive snark about how to tip instead of being there for each other. Like, I've definitely got those friends who are super cheap tippers. But do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?

Also the real answer people who are too broke to eat is for their wealthiest friend to lean over and be like "hey man, I got this."
posted by corb at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


The idea that if you have friends who all have super hectic lives and they don't remember throwing a birthday party you just sit alone and eat worms and die is also some bullshit.

True for me, but not in the way you think. I realized a few years back that I didn't like the idea of holding birthday parties or dinners because it's kind of a burden for friends to have to think about who pays throughout my birthday dinner. So if nobody organizes anything (which does happen), I do sit alone. But since it's a day about me, I treat myself to a really nice meal. And post the food on Instagram, cause I'm a millennial.
posted by FJT at 4:15 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


It boggles me that this is at all considered acceptable.

Pay for what you get.


Well, that makes sense for like a steak restaurant. But for restaurants where you're more likely to share dishes its a little harder. If everyone shares everything its easy, but if you're sharing and there's like 3 veg dishes and 4 meat dishes and 2 vegetarians and 1 picky eater and....

In practice I only go to those kind of restaurants with people I'm treating (so I just pay for everything) or with my similarly-high-income friends where we just split it evenly to avoid hassle, but when I was a vegan college student that was less OK (like we would go for sushi, and everyone _else_ would share/split and I would be like "nope, here's $5 for my kappamaki, you guys split the rest").
posted by thefoxgod at 4:16 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Count me among those who live in a region where the server always asks whether the checks will be separate or together (Greenville, SC), sometimes before the order, sometimes at the end of the meal. In 2016 it's a technologically trivial matter. I feel bad for those who live in what is apparently the decades-behind podunk backwater town of NYC.
posted by Roommate at 4:18 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


*waves to Roommate* I grew up in Greenville!
posted by Kitteh at 4:20 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I always defer to whatever the person/people I'm with wants to do with the bill. I've been really poor, where literally every penny mattered and I'm in a position now where I don't have to worry like that anymore so I want to do what they feel comfortable with*. I also try to be cognizant of what's been ordered vs. what everyone is paying, i.e. if the table has decided to split an appetizer, I'll just pay for it (rather than make the server split one dish multiple ways). Or if someone clearly has ordered less than me and is offering to split evenly, I'll just offer to pay my whole part and I always round up in the interest of easy math (if the bill without tip is $30 and I legit owe around $18, I'll just offer to pay $20, then add my tip and call it a day). I do this because I had tons of friends who were generous and gracious to me when I was poor and the least I can do is pay it forward, now that I am able.

*if I'm with people that I know are in a similar or better financial situation than me, I'll just be like - whatever we can split, it all evens out in the end - because I know they feel the same way and I know everyone is fine with it.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:29 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've only used this app once but I already fucking love it. (Not associated in any way.) You take a picture of the itemized bill, it OCRs in the cloud, you assign people to items (including multiple people for splits), specify tip percentage, and it tells you what everyone owes to the penny. You can even have other people at your table "join" the bill from their phones to claim items.

2 out of 4 other programmers in my office are really bad tippers (the 3rd is ok and the 4th used to be a server and gets really angry about it). I went to lunch with them at a family-style Szechuan place and had no drama whatsoever. Took picture of receipt, assigned, paid on my CC, and sent them all Venmo requests. (It helped that the two bad tippers are relatively young/new and weren't going to give me any guff about it.) It was glorious and almost as easy as a straight split.
posted by supercres at 4:31 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh hell. I prefer an even split, if we can't get separate checks, because it is far less of a pain in the ass for everyone, and the person left holding the check is not forced to drag the extra couple of bucks out of people who couldn't be bothered to add their tax and tip into their total. In the case where someone ordered substantially less than everyone else, we decide what they are going to pay, subtract it from the bill, then divide that evenly.

Since I am currently doing OK, when I am out with friends who are broke, I generally pick up the tab because that's what friends do when they can.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:32 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow. People living in some so-called democracies have to put up with a lot of shit for no good reason.

Eating out casually with friends: the Australian way.
1. Pick a date and venue.
2. Ensure the venue is a pub with a great kitchen, some cool music, and comfortable dining areas near the fireplace or outside in the beer garden.
3. Cluster around the large chalk board on the wall near the kitchen and till. Discuss your choices amongst your crew while eyeing the plates leaving the kitchen.
4. Choose your food, walk to the till, and pay just for the food you are ordering (or covering a friend) right there! If you are the first one to order, collect a spiked number to put on your table. The remainder of your crew's order should be listed under this number. Head to the bar to purchases drinks that are paid for on the spot.
5. Return to table with the drinks and the number on a spike. As your friends return with their own paid-for drinks, converse and enjoy each other's company while waiting for the waiter to bring your meals.
6. Thank waiter, eat and drink and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy then get up and leave whenever you are ready.
7. Don't worry about tipping because the waiter, cook, order-taker etc are all paid $20ph or more.
posted by Thella at 4:35 PM on January 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


8. Every animal within 1000 miles tries to kill your entire party all at the same time.
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 4:43 PM on January 27, 2016 [43 favorites]


I- I kinda enjoy working out the exact split. It's like a little maths puzzle.

Luckily though, the vast majority of the time it's only theoretical, as my friends are as a bunch pretty studiously fair and generous. The wine gets carefully portioned out, the bill gets divided and rounded up to tip, then change gets passed around to balance up the drinkers and that. This thread makes me really appreciate how nice that is.
posted by lucidium at 4:59 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Last year a friend said she wanted steak for her birthday, and a bunch of us met her at the appointed place. There was one person there I didn't know, who came off as really humorless from basically the moment we sat down, who turned out to be a vegetarian, who had a salad, and who also didn't drink any of the wine (and many bottles of wine were ordered).

The humorless vegetarian insisted on an even split. We finally talked her out of paying for any wine, but she would not be budged on the even split for food even though it made everybody else at the table uncomfortable. Like, come on. We're all trying to be reasonable here (and, unsaid: you haven't seemed to be enjoying yourself at all), why are you doing this? Oh well, her loss. The steaks were great.

Usually we solve this problem by only going out in large groups when those large groups are industry people or known regulars, and everybody shares everything and drinks a lot and the even split is agreed upon both implicitly and explicitly.
posted by fedward at 5:09 PM on January 27, 2016


Yeah, I throw my own birthday. I invite all of my friends to breakfast on my birthday. I let them know that it's an invitation, not a command, no feelings hurt for no shows. However many people show we have a lovely time. So far I've never been allowed to pay.
As for dinners with groups, I believe in splitting the checks and making it easy on the server. If there's someone who's poor someone usually covers. In the rare event that I'm the big eater in a group of small eaters, I pick up the tab.
The fact of modern world, easy to separate checks, I'll have to start considering it.
posted by evilDoug at 5:10 PM on January 27, 2016


I'm just saying that servers hate splitting checks for customers. Ask for split checks if you want, but don't do it thinking that you're doing the server a favor by asking for separate checks.

We get offered, without asking, separate checks about 50% of the time in my town. Mostly dining out with groups of other couples at this phase in my life, so it's assumed we'll want 1 check per couple.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:33 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


There are just so many assumptions being made here.

First assumption, that all diners in the group are equal. They never are.
Some have more money, some have much more money, some have spent their entire quarterly trust distribution on trivialities before the first weekend of the month. Some have never handled money or paid for a meal and don't understand why it isn't being paid for by someone else. Some believe that their charm and wit constitute a form of paid entertainment and by virtue of same ought not have to pay for food and wine.

Second assumption, that all people in the dining group are not utter arseholes.
posted by Plutocratte at 5:46 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


This article and thread make me sad.

I'm on teams:
  • "The inviter pays for everyone."
  • "It's up to you to plan your own birthday celebration if you want one, expecting your friends to do it for you is selfish and ridiculous."
  • "It's 2016 and you can pay for 'exactly what you ordered + generous tip' without causing undue hardship to anyone involved - and if the waiter/establishment doesn't like it, tough shit. Expecting your friends to subsidize your food/drink choices is selfish and ridiculous."
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:52 PM on January 27, 2016


In short: everyone should just split the bill evenly.

Wow, that's not even in the same county as the right answer.

If you hear this spoken at a shared meal, hold onto your wallet: anybody who suggests this is attempting to steal from you.

My college gang, a dozen or (some weeks...) a score of us, spent a couple of years doing a weekly Stammtisch at the local pizza place/Italian restaurant. Everybody paid for what the they ordered, no muss, no fuss, no aggro. Because we weren't trying to mooch off our friends.

1) If you cannot remember what you ordered and what it cost five minutes after you ate it, you need to see a doctor for your terrifying neurological impairment.

2) If you can't remember how much your meal cost and add a percentage to it to cover the tax and tip, you need to repeat the fourth grade and learn arithmetic.

3) If you are actually incapable of steps #1 and #2, then you are not an adult, and you have no business attempting to mooch meals from your social circle. You are, rather, actually in need of a competent caretaker.

MY circle of friends understood this by the age of 20; it's too bad about the author's.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:52 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think this thread is illuminating some really fascinating cultural differences: like, I want to get an anthropologist in here. If people don't mind, I'm super curious about demographics here. If you're going to chime in with your 'teams', do you mind saying where you're from, how old you are, and anything about your financial status you're comfortable sharing?

So I'm on the opposite of namewithoutwords' team on all counts:

-I've never, ever been out with a group of friends and had one person pick up the whole check (whether they'd organized the get-together or not).

-I think it's totally normal to set up a birthday dinner for your friend ("Hey, everybody, Jen is turning 30 today, let's all meet at Grendel's at 8 to celebrate!) but also totally kosher to do it yourself (Hey, everybody, as you may know, I'm turning 30 this week, and I'd love to have you all with me to celebrate.)

-I think that splitting the meal is generally the more polite and more...socially cohesive?...thing to do - it feels right to me, even when I'm paying slightly more than my share. (I totally understand the objections behind it, though - I'm just trying to identify my own cultural position).

I'm 34, grew up in New England, went to college in NY, and then came back to Boston for college. Most of my friends during my twenties were my fellow grad students, so we all made about the same (~$25,000/year).

Maybe different group norms evolve depending on whether your social circle tends to be economically homogenous or not?

I also agree that reading other people's strongly held opinions that disagree with my own gives me a really visceral negative reaction (How can you be so SELFISH?!) but I totally recognize that as a weird artifact of being brought up hard against a previously unrecognized aspect of your culture.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:04 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


As someone who's lived my entire life with cheques being split by default without asking, the "one bill per table" thing is so bizarre. It's just so... wrong that you can go out, order a meal and get charged for anything except what you ordered. And forcing everyone to carry cash to throw at the bill is ridiculous too. It's 2016, I'm sure the restaurant accepts cards, and most places I've eaten at have a nice computerized order system to make it really simple. Waiter brings the machine to the table, everyone pays their bill. I've also eaten at places where the receipt was handwritten and bills calculated painstakingly with a calculator... again done for each person by default, taking maybe 15 seconds longer per person. It's so, so weird to me to do anything else...I would never eat out if I knew I'd be forced to subsidize a mystery amount of other people's meals. It makes me angry just imagining it. Maybe it's different if you're used to it.
posted by randomnity at 6:04 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Re birthday dinner, correct form is to pay for guests you have invited to something formal or that requires a budget stretch for invitees either in cost or costume.

For example, for my birthday, I wanted to try a restaurant that is out of the price zone I normally consider rational. My husband is not a foodie, and had no real interest, although he would have gone if I'd made him, but my two best friends of 30 years would love the experience. One of them couldn't possibly have afforded to go, thus I invited them and said that taking them with me to share the experience was my birthday present to myself, and it's one I really wanted.

We had a magnificent time, and so now my memories are of the amazing food, and service and decor, and not the bill.

As a rule though, one bestie and I take turns with bills, and with two of my other friends, I invite and cover the bill because it's the right thing for our situation. With anyone outside the sisterhood though, separate checks.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:08 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Offer to pay the entire bill. Someone will strongly object and insist that they will pay the entire bill. Stare them down and protest vociferously. Attempt a reasoned argument (they paid last time, this restaurant was your idea, you invited them etc.) but volume and intensity are what matters. Neither of you should use profanity or physical violence, but you should convey the sense that you're on the verge of flipping over the table if they dare pay the bill. Whoever loses the argument and doesn't get to pay should nurse a grudge, for years if necessary, so that they will have a better chance of winning next time.

Cantonese restaurant rules may be a recipie for a heart attack, but they're not boring.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:12 PM on January 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


So no one gets to invite their friends out for their birthday unless they have hundreds and hundreds of dollars to spend on it? That's insane!

No, really. If you're going to invite people to a celebration, then be prepared to host them. If you can't afford to take them out to dinner, invite them to your place for cake and ice cream (or pizza and beer, etc.) or to a picnic in the park, or whatever. Perhaps my opinion is colored by not having had a birthday party since I was twelve.

If it's not a situation where one person is inviting a group, but rather a group meeting where there is no host, I'm firmly in the "pay for what you order" camp. (Most restaurants I've been to lately that have POS systems print out the bill with the orders separated, "seat 1", "seat 2", etc.)
posted by Daily Alice at 6:14 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Y'all are heathens. When the appetizer comes, you weigh the plate plus food. Then when a piece of appetizer is taken, before it is eaten, it is weighed. You then weigh the plate after everyone agrees the appetizer has been finished, and you put it in the spreadsheet.

Any sharing of entrée must be agreed to before proceeding to start eating. If sharing is agreed to, then the entrée is weighed, then split, and resulting portions also weighed out and entered into the spreadsheet.

Drinks, particularly high-end alcohol are measured by volume. Garnish, if any, is still divided by weight.

The final bill however, is rebalanced by gross income, as specified on a W-2, or 1099 for all parties present. Copies are acceptable as proof, but the original is preferred.

This is the only equitable system and anything short of this is to ignore any income disparity within the participants. I have done this many times, though a dinner involving more than one person using this method has yet to occur.

I can share my Google doc spreadsheet if you want. The formulas are a bit tricky so I may have to walk you though it. It'll only take a couple hours, and then we can go to dinner. Sound good? Hello?
posted by fragmede at 6:16 PM on January 27, 2016 [18 favorites]


I really don't get this "if you invite you must pay for everything" mentality. Like

If it's not a situation where one person is inviting a group, but rather a group meeting where there is no host

How does this group meeting form? Does everyone in the room, simultaneously, throw out "hey you guys want to have dinner" and then everyone says "jinx!" and laughs and pays for themselves, but otherwise whoever brings it up first has to pay?

Or is it the magic words of celebration, like "Hey, anyone want to meet up for dinner later?" is understood that everyone pays separately, but "Hey, do you guys want to go out for dinner Saturday? It's Xs birthday!" forces on whoever said these words the obligation to pay for everyone, even if that person is X?
posted by Roommate at 6:28 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


As someone who's lived my entire life with cheques being split by default without asking, the "one bill per table" thing is so bizarre.

I've seen several variations on this here and still don't get it: do you never go to restaurants where the default is to share everything? Probably 50% of the restaurants I go to are the "order N dishes for M people" kind of places, where this just wouldn't make sense to me. Especially since I'm used to everyone discussing what we're going to order and one or two people handling the actual ordering, and number of dishes can be less or more than number of people, etc.

Obvious examples of this kind of thing are Indian or Chinese restaurants. While I suppose everyone could just order one thing, it's not the pattern among most groups I know.

How would the waiter even know how to split a bill?

That said, I live in Los Angeles and have NEVER seen a split check without explicitly asking for it ahead of time, even at a traditional "each person orders a single entree without sharing" restaurant. I have never even been asked if I want to split the check, although on a few occasions I have requested it.
posted by thefoxgod at 6:37 PM on January 27, 2016


I guess by "group meeting" I meant "the book group that goes to O'Malley's Pub every Thursday" or some kind of standing arrangement like that, where the "rules" are known ahead of time about splitting evenly or paying for your order. Or if you're with a group of people who know each other pretty well and have a routine. To me, that's different from inviting people to a party and expecting them to pay their own way, which is capital-T Tacky. (I am deeply embedded in Guess Culture, can you tell?)
posted by Daily Alice at 6:38 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also this thread reminds me a bit of the "stand or sit to wipe" thread in that its one of those basic things where people are suddenly shocked to realize that a lot of people do a very basic everyday sort of thing in a different way and both sides assume theirs was the natural/obvious way...
posted by thefoxgod at 6:39 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]



No, really. If you're going to invite people to a celebration, then be prepared to host them. If you can't afford to take them out to dinner, invite them to your place for cake and ice cream (or pizza and beer, etc.) or to a picnic in the park, or whatever. Perhaps my opinion is colored by not having had a birthday party since I was twelve.


No, really. I have never been to a birthday celebration, mine or anyone else's, where the birthday person was expected to pay even for themselves, let alone everyone. What a depressing thought.
posted by sweetkid at 6:39 PM on January 27, 2016 [25 favorites]


It's worth noting that most people in NYC live in basically closets, and if you want to have 12 people over for cake and ice cream, folks are standing in hallways and sitting on counters.
posted by corb at 6:47 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hosting a "party" is a different beast than going out to a bar or restaurant with friends, even if the dinner is to celebrate a birthday. I agree if you are throwing a party and inviting people, you should pay for the snacks.
posted by Roommate at 6:47 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, birthdays are either split as normal or the birthday person gets paid for in a group where the pattern is established. A single person picking up the tab is limited to immediate family hierarchy and work outing, company credit card situations to me.

It would be insanely condescending for me to invite my friends to a restaurant and insist on paying for them unless I was explicitly thanking them for something.
posted by lucidium at 6:48 PM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Based on his dietary habits, I have a sneaking suspicion that Greg Nog might be my brother-in-law.
posted by wintermind at 6:53 PM on January 27, 2016


It would be insanely condescending for me to invite my friends to a restaurant and insist on paying for them unless I was explicitly thanking them for something.

When I throw myself a birthday party, aren't I thanking all my friends for being in my life for the past year?

This is probably why I don't have a dozen friends. I have, like, 3 and we treat each other to dinner all the time and rarely split the bill.
posted by muddgirl at 6:53 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Mid-40's. married no children, both professionals (college, graduate school) and by most calculators online we are still middle income. Both military brats (me, stateside entirely after grade school; Mr. stateside and Europe about evenly). Currently living in the Midwest, with friends ranging from their 30's to their 50's. with a broad range of incomes.

My experiences:

-I have been in situations were one person picked up the whole check. It's been rare when it's been more than two couples at dinner and one person treats but I have been there. Note: I have long-time friends who are wealthy, however, in many of these instances, the person picking up the check has a household income less than 2x my household income and in some instances has the same household income. It has usually been on a celebratory or otherwise special occasion.

-When someone says "Hey, who wants to grab dinner at restaurant?" whether it's their birthday or a Tuesday, I never assume the invitor is paying. I always assume I will be paying for my own dinner--unless it's my Dad who's inviting me out. I cannot imagine the expectation that a person saying "Hey, I'm celebrating my birthday at Restaurant and would love for you to join" means "I am buying dinner on my birthday for everyone who wants to come." nor that it means "I am inviting you to buy me dinner." I think the words "I am celebrating Thing at Place and I'd love you to come along." always means "pay your own way" unless there is some sort of printed invitation (like a wedding) or an explanation that "it's a cash bar and free appetizers" or whatever.

-If we are out to dinner with one or two couples, we will usually split the tab (usually it comes out even, even though Spouse is vegetarian because we drink and I like dessert). If I am out to dinner with more than two couples or a bunch of non coupled people, I would never split a check evenly. My social circle is too diverse in terms of income, eating habits, drinking habits and spending money priority. I have only once seen my friends not have the tab totally covered, with a good tip, without relying on one of the better-heeled amongst us picking up the slack (this was not true when I was in college, but I have a much better class of friends now).
posted by crush-onastick at 7:00 PM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


aren't I thanking all my friends for being in my life for the past year?

I think the point of difference may be that with my friends, a birthday is a politic excuse to get sideways, and we're thanking the birthday haver for providing it.
posted by lucidium at 7:07 PM on January 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


Upon sitting down and placing your first order with the server: "Hey, can I be on my own tab?" This always prompts the rest of the group to alert the server to their own tab-splitting preferences. The solution to the group check problem is to simply not allow the group check to materialize in the first place.
posted by jason and the garlic knots at 7:19 PM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


Generally in groups I've been in, everyone calculates their share of the food/drink and add what they think is an appropriate tip. I was a waitstaff for exactly one weekend and I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who have the patience and fortitude to do this job so I'll usually side-eye the pile of cash and throw in a few extra dollars to make up a larger tip if it seems necessary.
posted by bendy at 7:20 PM on January 27, 2016


yeah tbh if anyone in my circle of friends or acquaintances was like "hey let's all meet up for dinner/brunch/movies/crazy golf" and then after it happened someone else was like "well YOU invited us all so now you automatically pay" that second person would be laughed out of town, and the next time we all met up they would be subject to endless ribbing about "lol don't make plans in front of Friend X unless you want to be guilted into paying for them!"
posted by poffin boffin at 7:33 PM on January 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


do you mind saying where you're from, how old you are, and anything about your financial status you're comfortable sharing?

Sure, why not. Suburban Maryland. 38. $68K.

I'm on team Common Sense. There is no One True Way to pay a restaurant tab. Consider the context: the type of restaurant, the occasion, who you're with, etc. Then do what makes sense for that situation.

But, since you're interested in cultural differences:

I have never organized my own birthday celebration. I'm aware that it happens ("hey, you're invited to Such-and-Such Bar & Grill to celebrate my birthday with me on Friday!"), and that's perfectly fine—but the notion that the birthday-haver would be expected to pay for everyone is baffling to me. (Besides, if I have to bribe you to spend time with me on my birthday, I don't want you at my birthday celebration.)

If the birthday-haver is invited out, or if the occasion arises organically (without any clear instigator), then it is universally understood that the birthday-haver will not pay for their meal (or, at least, it will be heavily subsidized).

It all depends on the company and the restaurant, though. Work friends are very different than known-em-since-high-school, have-seen-me-at-my-worst-and-still-love-me friends; a $12 lunch place is very different than a special-occasion sort of place; friends who rarely need to worry about cash are different than friends who live more modest lifestyles. Again: common sense.

Birthdays aside:

If you plan to pay separately, that's fine, but give the server a heads-up before you order—and try to keep the number of checks to a minimum. (E.g., couples share a single check.) If the place is slammed or short-staffed, consider limiting it to one or two checks, and figure out amongst yourselves how to even everything out.

If you're with friends of roughly similar income, and no one really dined more extravagantly than anyone else, and/or the restaurant is busy, and/or no one thought to ask for separate checks at the beginning—sometimes splitting the tab evenly is easiest. (Take cues from the server here. If they invite you to split it evenly, that's probably because they want you to split it evenly. You needn't necessarily oblige them—but absent a compelling reason not to, it is courteous to do so.)

I have, on occasion, had one too many glasses of wine, and paid for the table. But in retrospect, it's a bit awkward, and I've made a mental note to avoid it unless I've just won the lottery or something.

Since the politics of it all boils down to common sense, it's the logistics that get you. Cash is annoying because (assuming that you even carry cash these days) you never seem to have the right denominations of bills. Cards are annoying because the server has to itemize a bunch of stuff and run a bunch of cards. Venmo and the like are annoying because not everyone has them—and you have to spend twenty minutes of "what's your email address again? ...wait, how do you spell 'Venmo'? ...I can't get a signal in here. ...can I send it to you with PayPal instead? ...shit, my battery's dead...".

Again, I say: restaurants should just pass around an iPad with an easy-to-use app on it. Drag the items you want to pay for onto your tab. Pinch and drag to split an item. Each payer picks their own tip amount. It accepts any (reasonable) form of payment you throw at it.

I suspect that a lot of the differences in opinion in this thread arise because people have different things in mind when they hear the words "friend" or "restaurant" or "birthday celebration". There's a whollle lot of territory there.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:39 PM on January 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


God please split. Every time I've been out and someone had to fine tooth comb the check I end up having to cover part of their tab cause they're cheap and don't factor in tip or stiff the server by only tipping 10% before tax. I usually end up paying more than I would just paid what I ordered but that's worth it to stop people trying to play Solomon. Experience wise someone's gonna cheap out generally is that they don't want to split.
posted by Carillon at 7:39 PM on January 27, 2016


I've seen several variations on this here and still don't get it: do you never go to restaurants where the default is to share everything? Probably 50% of the restaurants I go to are the "order N dishes for M people" kind of places, where this just wouldn't make sense to me.

No.

I'm extremely socially awkward. Anxiety levels pretty high. I am on medication for anxiety.

Share a little? Yes. Share everything? Rarely.

Plus, we're back to my drink tab.

If I knew the tab was going to be split evenly, I would eat less and drink less than what I would otherwise find enjoyable for me.

If I'm out to eat, I'm definitely going to enjoy things.

I don't want or expect you to indulge to my level, and if I think you're going to subsidize my indulgence, then I am not going to enjoy the experience, at all.
posted by yesster at 7:47 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is another one of those things that Canadians have figured out with those neat wireless card scanners. We can't have this nice thing because of the Constitution or something.

In the US, gentlemen pick up the entire tab. Gentlemen remember who picked up the recent tabs and act accordingly.

NOTE: DOES NOT APPLY TO UPCOMING SEATTLE MEETUP

Because everyone knows there are no gentlemen on Metafilter.

The term "gentlemen" includes female gentlemen.

posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:53 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I sometimes just split evenly, sometimes not, depends on who I'm with, how much we spent, how much we usually go out together (ie evening things out etc).

The one place where such a thing is unbearably gauche to me is early dating - either one person pays or you split down the middle. Someone counting pennies for their portion on a first date is pretty tacky to me.
posted by sweetkid at 8:14 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]



The final bill however, is rebalanced by gross income, as specified on a W-2, or 1099 for all parties present. Copies are acceptable as proof, but the original is preferred.


Fuck that. If you're going to weigh income disparity, it should be by adjusted gross income. Why should I be penalized just because I have business expenses and a third of my income goes to student loans? My beer fund is just the same as someone who makes less and doesn't spend a thousand a month on medical expenses. You should probably bring your entire tax return to the restaurant, and if you really want to be sure, your accountant.

All of this is ignoring important medical questions however. If I'm lactose intolerant, then I'm not technically ingesting any of the dairy in shared plates. Always ask for an ingredient list, and factor in not just how much each person ate, but by how much each person is able to make use of the nutritional content. If I split a slice of cake with you, I'm not paying for the cream frosting that is just going to pass all the way through my GI tract. One could also factor in whether one has a fast or slow metabolism as well, but I feel that gets to be a lot of extra work for what was supposed to be a fun outing.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:18 PM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


In my life I have concluded that splitting evenly versus per item is less about local etiquette and more about household income. I was shocked when I heard my dad go on a rant about people who insisted on itemizing bills. I broke it to him that *I* was that person, on account of not being able to pay for someone else's steak.

My friend group is divided on this as well, though not with the strong feelings. The friends who are having careers and salaries are definitely more *laissez-faire* about bill-splitting. Meanwhile, the Grad School Folk like myself are still staring out in space as we attempt to estimate tax and tip in our heads.
posted by Anonymous at 8:23 PM on January 27, 2016


JOEY WITH HIS TEENY PIZZA
posted by sweetkid at 8:29 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can pretty much guarantee that in most group restaurant experiences in the past several years, on an individual cost basis, I am almost always the one with the highest bill.

I am comfortable with this, insofar as my food and beverage interests are concerned.

"Splitting evenly" just feels so uncomfortable. Regardless of how it is intended, it would feel like a constraint upon my choices.
posted by yesster at 8:48 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thefoxgod: i rarely share food at indian or Chinese places,everyone just orders a combo dish or something (... those exist in the us, right?) , but when we do share, usually each person picks a similarly priced entree they want the most and everyone eats a good chunk of their own and shares the rest. Occasionally, especially for stuff like pizza, you would order it all together and split evenly, but everyone decides on that in advance. The waiter knows which is happening because everyone either orders their entree (so separate bills) or one person reads off the whole order, so its one bill. If we do Chinese takeout or something, everyone chips in cash for their portion, very rarely an even split. That'd screw over the vegetarians and subsidize the huge appetites (I often literally eat triple the amount of some people). But maybe if we were all making like 100k we wouldn't care and would just all throw 20s at the waiter until they went away, I dunno.
posted by randomnity at 8:57 PM on January 27, 2016


This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: "8. Every animal within 1000 miles tries to kill your entire party all at the same time."

This is also why Australians are known for our sobriety and impeccable etiquette at the dinner table. We're too preoccupied with fending off waves of emu incursions to give a fuck who pays for what. As my mother always used to say - before she was eaten by a wombat, that is - a good dinner party is one in which everyone escapes alive.
posted by langtonsant at 9:16 PM on January 27, 2016 [18 favorites]


but when we do share, usually each person picks a similarly priced entree they want the most and everyone eats a good chunk of their own and shares the rest.

I've done this once or twice before, and it's fair but it definitely leads to a more conservative approach to what is being ordered. Since each person is expected to eat a larger portion of your own dish, they will order something more safe and balanced, like a stir fried meat and veggie dish. Nobody gets a huge order of fried squid or fatty pork belly.

One question I wanted to pose to everyone: How do you determine the bill for restaurants that have multiple small dishes like dim sum or tapas?

I know for dim sum sometimes there can be two dozen dishes on the table, and each dish can be shared with as little as two and as many as ten people at once.
posted by FJT at 9:18 PM on January 27, 2016


Dim Sum is easy as it's by definition Cantonese and justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow covered that above. (That's also absolutely how it works.)
posted by fragmede at 9:31 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm Chinese (from Taiwan), so I'm aware of Cantonese rules. What eventually happens, at least in my family, is preemptive payment. Where someone will excuse themselves to go the restroom and end up ambushing the check before it reaches the table and pays ahead of time. And this continues on until we get to some kind of "Minority Report" situation where future meals are being paid for with red envelopes.
posted by FJT at 9:37 PM on January 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


Where someone will excuse themselves to go the restroom and end up ambushing the check before it reaches the table and pays ahead of time.

I have tried this, but it's only passive-aggressively escalating the situation. Next thing you know washroom visits are being surveilled.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:24 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was a server/bartender for years in Chicago, and yes, we absolutely detest check splitting in large groups, especially when drunk people are involved (and they always are). Not only do the cash and run people sometimes not calculate things correctly, leaving their friends in the lurch, but seat position stops being helpful when people are drunk in a large group. They mingle from seat to seat; sometimes they just walk off to the bar and grab drinks from there. Then, when the tab comes, they ask to add other's drinks to their tabs, split appetizers, claim that drinks that have consumed by somebody are a mystery to all (maybe it was a cash the cash and run guy). So seat 7 is at 12 now and wants to buy two drinks for the guy that's at 5 (formerly 2?). Computer's don't make this magic much easier, and a lot of places still use paper guest checks.

The drunks usually tip well. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes servers end up owing the restaurant money due to unclaimed items. The amount of time it takes to sort through check splitting grinds service to a halt for the drunks and for other parties as well.

Please just pay cash, or hand over a stack of cards with a written list of charges.
posted by macrowave at 10:25 PM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Hunh, yeah, I've split even, split the bill (both in advance - the way it's done these days, where I am, servers usually just assume it - and after the fact [have made & witnessed tears this way]), at different times and places. It's all fine, it all makes sense when and wherever it does. But splitting the bill in advance is best.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:29 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's always too much food. Just don't order anything, don't pay anything, and pick over everybody else's leftovers. It's the easiest thing to do and the right thing to do. It'll make the meal more relaxing, too, as everyone can order as they'd like and not worry too much about being deemed too greedy.
posted by flabdablet at 10:40 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is not an issue at the parlors I frequent, where everything is free and everyone is welcome.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:10 PM on January 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


The current fashion of writing articles in the tone of supercilious instruction is really not doing this subject any favors. Just stop it with the declarative voice. (yes that was intentional)

If there are wild disparities on how much people are ordering, or how long people are staying, or peoples' economic circumstances, everybody should just pay their own share. Or if you've got a bunch of drinkers and one vegetarian teetotaler, just adjust and give them a lower contribution amount. If everyone's pretty much on the same page with how much they're ordering, split evenly.

It's nice when you can go out with people where splitting evenly makes sense. Waiting for and watching everyone do their math takes forever, and doing it is painful for those of us who are arithmetic-challenged. Someone always fucks up their math and shortchanges. Someone quietly picks up the slack and it's often the same person and they eventually resent it. Someone gets petty over a small amount of money that they feel someone else owes to the bill. Someone remembers that they ordered fries for the whole table but then who actually ate them, remember to chip in! Unghgh. But in the end, just be fair about it. Sheesh.
posted by desuetude at 11:12 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Having dinner together" has never felt so fraught with problems as it does for me right now after reading this, and participating earlier.

Is there a way to talk this out with people before you go? Do I have to guess?

I'm inclined to just stay home forever.
posted by yesster at 11:38 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Possibly my bestworst tipping story: There is a couple within my friendship group, the dude of whom had some, er, money and sharing issues in his mid twenties. The first time he met another two of our friends was when his girlfriend brought him out for lunch. When everyone paid, he watched everyone put in for their food plus tip, then happily chucked in the remaining few quid to bring the pile up to the tipless total and wandered out.

He is much, much better now.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:41 PM on January 27, 2016


A very efficient way that I've found is to put the last four digits of my credit card next to my items on the receipt, and then to give the tip in cash. Learned this method from my local Boiling Crab.

It's nice because the staff get to have tips when not deducted by the credit card transaction, and there's a record, plus it works if there's a stack of cards on the original receipt.

Also, have friends who aren't assholes.
posted by yueliang at 12:33 AM on January 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


My friends and I usually split the bill evenly. I admit that I'm extremely fortunate that it's because we are pretty equitable when it comes to income, food preferences and appetites. What I always find a bit funny is at the beginning when we are trying to decide what to order, seeing who breaks first and decides to order a starter/appetiser. Since we all know already the bill is probably going to split evenly, as soon as someone asks "Is anyone else getting a starter...?" you can feel the slight tension in the air waiting for a second person to crack and as soon as that happens you know everyone's getting a calamari.
posted by like_neon at 1:28 AM on January 28, 2016


Another reason I hate splitting: because I have been so desperately poor in the past, it feels like Christmas and July 4 all in one to be like "why yes I will have drinks! And STARTERS FOR ALL! And steak and a side and a dessert and TAKE THAT, corb-poverty years!

And if there's even a good chance we may be splitting, I have to do the date thing where you wait for them to order and then pick something lower so you're not an asshole.
posted by corb at 5:22 AM on January 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


As the token poor person at every night out at a restaurant, I take enough cash to cover my foods and alkeehols and give it to the person who has a credit card most likely to not be rejected at the end of the night. That's usually the person who's adult enough to be paying at the end of the night and it's worked out well so far.

I ALWAYS make sure I never order more than my cash will cover. That's about as adult on a night out as I get.
posted by h00py at 6:07 AM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was in New Orleans last May with a group of volunteers from all over the U.S. We were all around the same age (give or take 15 years) and financially solvent enough to gad about on volunteer trips, but from different income levels, backgrounds, and regions, and we had all met for the first time that week. One night eight of us went out to dinner and it was a freaking orgy of overconsumption and unbalanced ordering - three dozen oysters for the table, sodas for some, cocktails for most, I got a Bloody Mary that came with a raw oyster, another gal liked the oysters so much she ordered an additional half dozen for herself, a couple of folks split a sampler plate, someone got a side of gumbo, etc, etc, etc.

And when the bill came, everyone put down exactly their share, plus 20% tip and a little extra, and we walked out. No fuss. I was nearly moved to tears by the beauty of it, and I am now convinced that volunteers are better people.

In my normal life I'm always, always, always the one throwing down a few extra bucks so we can just leave, and it bothers me. I can always afford it, but it only seems to happen with people who make a lot more money than I do, which kind of chaps my ass. It feels like the people who never have to worry about money are the ones who go "eh, it'll work itself out". (I see this point has been made above, so I guess I'm throwing in my agreement.) Completely independent of who pays what, I also manage to be consistently gobsmacked by who cannot mentally calculate 20 percent. I mean, there are the ones who are faking to get out of paying the tip, but then there are the ones who pull out a calculator.

Also, don't fucking get me started on trying to split a bill for karaoke.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:33 AM on January 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's worth noting that not everyone thinks tip should start at 20%. It's not always bad math.
posted by corb at 6:37 AM on January 28, 2016


We realize that, it's just that assuming that they might be bad at math is the charitable assumption
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:57 AM on January 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Ugh birthday dinners were ruined forever for me and a big friend group back in the 90s. Still not over it. A friend in the group who only one of us liked turned 30 first and invited all of us out to a kind of expensive restaurant, ordered a ton of wine and had us all split it evenly and pay for her. Her boyfriend stopped by just to say hi because he couldn't afford the restaurant because he was a *sneer* teacher. (She later dumped him because "he's never going to make as much money as me teaching.") After I'd put in about three times what I owed, I ran out of cash and gave up. No one else felt like going out for dinner for their own 30th birthdays after that night.

She also killed any possible acceptableness of "come over and help me paint my house and I'll buy you pizza".

Once I told a story about how we'd found a GIANT spider in my bathroom and she shrieked, "I'm never going to your house again!!" A friend at the other end of the table said, into an imaginary Special Agent Dale Cooper style tape recorder, "Note to self: get more spiders." Luckily she and the friend who could tolerate her both eventually moved away.

Ah, I remember the day she announced that since I had become a stay at home mother, I'd gotten really boring. And also fat. Good times.
posted by artychoke at 7:41 AM on January 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh, are we sharing terrible stories now? At a friend's wedding like 15 years ago there were a whole bunch of us who knew and liked each other, and one guy the bride liked and the rest of us … tolerated. Guess who invited himself along when the rest of us went for dinner? Guess who would not be dissuaded from coming based on predicted expense? Guess whose debit card was declined, twice, on account of overdraft, and who had no cash?

Guess who was being the adult and staying with him while all this washed out, with everybody else who'd already paid waiting awkwardly outside!

He promised me he'd send me a check when he got home (uh huh), and I wrote off his $35 dinner (with app and drink) as a courtesy to the bride.
posted by fedward at 8:12 AM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


For my husband's bachelor party, everyone except one person wanted to take public transportation to the ferry, and then a cab from there. One person insisted they should take a cab from Staten Island to Manhattan on a Friday night, insisting they would split the cost. After the cab ride was over, they offered 10 bucks for what turned out to be $130 car ride.
posted by corb at 8:21 AM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having spent many miserable required professional dinners with senior profs who would do this exact thing (order everything expensive and gallons of wine, then split the bill evenly so the - ahem - broke teetotalling vegetarian grad students would be subsidizing them), this thread warms the cockles of my cold cold heart.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:32 AM on January 28, 2016 [4 favorites]




I've seen several variations on this here and still don't get it: do you never go to restaurants where the default is to share everything?

Not so much since I was in my 20s? And also, as someone who was vegetarian for many years, "order a bunch of stuff and share" can really screw over the lone vegetarian in a group. Oh, sure, let me pay an equal share of the 5 meat dishes I didn't eat! Lucky me!
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:50 AM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've seen several variations on this here and still don't get it: do you never go to restaurants where the default is to share everything?

I can remember one time when I visited a restaurant where family-style dining was the default rather than a thing you can do for big parties or a special order, and that was more than 20 years ago.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:57 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Context: grew up in eastern Mass, have lived in NYC since 1999.

One thing that I think may be non-obvious to people who don't live in a big, dense, expensive city is that a HUGE amount of socializing happens at restaurants in places like NYC. It's not just that we tend to eat out more than average -- it's that most of us have apartments that're too small to host more than a few people, or have roommates which makes hosting awkward, or live so far apart from each other that it's much more convenient to meet in the middle, or some combination of the three. So eating out with friends isn't a special occasion for a lot of people in NYC -- it's just how you hang out with your friends, particularly those who don't live close to you or who have busy schedules.

So when I read things like, "Whoever invites everyone out should pay the whole tab" or "If you want to host your birthday at a restaurant of course you should pay for it," that seems completely crazy to me. Totally incomprehensibly nuts! But maybe because for me, "Going out to a restaurant with friends" is my equivalent of what "Have some folks over to your house to hang out" would be for people who live in a place with houses and also cars to drive to those houses.

Going out to a restaurant happens so frequently here, and so casually. And often, one person tends to be the motivated friend who usually gets those plans rolling. Punishing that motivated, thoughtful friend by saying "IT WAS YOUR IDEA SO YOU'RE PAYING" just seems ghastly to me.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:59 AM on January 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


And yeah, the only people who ever pick up the entire tab when I eat with them are my mom, who is my mom, and my agent and editors, who are expensing it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:01 AM on January 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think that in practice, people do what makes sense. For instance, my group of friends usually defaults to each paying for our own thing, but sometimes we realize that everyone's bill is pretty much the same, so we'll split equally. Sometimes we split equally but the person who ordered a second beer throws in some extra to cover it. If we were eating in a family-style place, we would probably split equally, or we would come up with some other arrangement that seemed equitable. What we don't do is say "here is the way it should be done always and at all times, and if you don't do it this way you are a stupid jerk." Because that's dumb.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:03 AM on January 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's also a thing you can do where you say everyone splits the bill evenly but then you tell everyone you had an extra beer, and Brian only had a salad, so I'll toss an extra $5.00 in that Brian can take and that should cover it and now Brian is happy and I don't feel like I cheated my friends.

This is the perfect middle ground. You eyeball the check, notice "okay, a bunch of similarly priced entrees, plus I was the only one to order a beer." Rather than everyone sitting there trying to calculate their entree times 30%, with varying degrees of success, you divide evenly, and then as the beer drinker, throw in an extra $X while everyone else pays a buck less. Or you say "I ordered the appetizer and beer, so let's divide this evenly and then I'll pay the tip."
posted by salvia at 10:18 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a longtime waitress, I can confirm that receiving an annotated bill with names, amounts and a stack of credit cards is about the worst thing you can do (double that if you're a shitty tipper).

Uhhhh, what?? When I waited tables, I LOVED getting a stack of credit cards from a big table, as long as the receipt had a list of last names on cards, and amounts to charge to each. It meant that the actual bill always got completely covered, and everyone could tip their own amounts with relative ease, and I DIDN'T HAVE TO MAKE CHANGE FOR 13 PEOPLE.

Making change for cash is SO much worse than running a bunch of cards. I didn't even care about the tax aspect, because no matter how many small bills and coins I carried in my bank, it was NEVER enough to make change for an infinity of twenty dollar bills.

Stacks of cards were bliss. The hardest part was finding enough pens for the table to pass around.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:36 AM on January 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh for crissakes. The fact that there has to be articles, let alone bad ones, written to explain this shit is a sad statement on humanity.

What to agree on:
1. How to pay.

When to agree on it:
1. Ahead of time.

How to pay:
1. Split it evenly.
2. Pay for what you ate.

What to pay with:
1. One person puts it on the card and everybody settles up later.
2. Everybody brings cash.

How to act:
1. Don't be a dick. Don't order abalone, lobster, and beluga caviar when everybody is getting salads and splitting the bill evenly.
2. Just bring enough cash. Don't get into the situation of you and one other person having to ask the server to split the bill evenly across two credit cards and then having to do long division to figure out who owes what to everybody else.

If you can't figure these things out, eat at home.

Reading through the comments here restores some of that faith in that the fine readers of metafilter have both the common sense to avoid social pitfalls while eating out and the brilliant intellects to identify the flaws with this article.
posted by prepmonkey at 12:17 PM on January 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, ... just dropping a quarter into a water glass isn't cool anymore?
posted by Chitownfats at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Applicable Onion link is applicable
posted by raw sugar at 5:03 PM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]




8. Every animal within 1000 miles tries to kill your entire party all at the same time.

And yet we survive and thrive. Without guns or DDT. Which proves something something admiration something indefatigable something something. And that's why we should run the world.
posted by Thella at 11:01 PM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think people eat out a lot more in urban America for the reasons stated above. It is also quite reasonable compared to home preparation a lot of the time. I could choose to get a burrito the size of my arm for $10 from a truck or buy the ingredients for two burritos to make at home for $20. YMMV.

Restaurants start at a slightly more expensive level, plus tips, which is still pretty affordable.

Compared to the UK, where restaurant food is generally more expensive in comparison to buying the ingredients. A burrito the size of a baby's arm will cost £8, for £16 I could buy the ingredients to make at least 10 burritos the size of my arm. Yes, the arm is the IS unit for burrito measurement.

I would expect everyone to pay equally if there were no big discrepancy between people's bill amounts. When I ate out in the US (mostly with Mefites) that is the way it went, and that is the way it usually goes when I (infrequently) eat with a group of people in the UK or elsewhere. I know one person who consistently only puts in for his share and doesn't tip, but he is not a rich person, although he is not so poor that he needs to do that. He is just a tightwad.

When attending a birthday meal, whether organised by the subject or someone else, I would expect the bill to be split equally and the birthday person would not pay anything. That is unless I was attending a large dinner where people were meeting for the first time, in which case I would expect everyone to pay for their own meal to avoid conflict. I have once attended a landmark birthday meal where the father of the birthday person paid for everyone (at least 30 people). Usually I would be embarrassed to accept this kind of largess, but in this case I didn't have a problem with it for reasons that are beyond the scope of this discussion.

Having enough disposable income to not care about the prices on the menu is not a world I live in, but I can understand that people who live in that world would not want to spend the time working out bill contributions, other than splitting it equally. They should hopefully be aware that not everyone lives in that world.
posted by asok at 3:43 AM on January 29, 2016


Update: we seem to have decided on splitting down the middle, friend pays the tip, which feels fair to me.
posted by jeather at 12:56 PM on January 29, 2016


I live in NYC, a huge part of my social life is at restaurants and bars, and I don't like the custom of how birthday celebrations are held here. My experience is that the birthday person sends out a mass email announcing one or more gatherings of drinks/restaurant, etc, at places of her choosing. Everyone is expected to pay their own way and there is definitely an implicit expectation that you will pay for the celebrant, or at least pitch in for a drink.

I think there are real differences between that and a group of friends choosing to meet together, where each one pays their own way.

In a birthday celebration, the celebrant chooses the times/dates/venues. It would be rude and/or pointless to say, 'can we do it at X cheaper place instead, where I like the food better?' or 'how about the next evening' or 'could we meet earlier?' In a group, these things are all up for negotiation on equal terms. In a birthday celebration, there is an expectation that joining is an expression of friendship for the celebrant. It would be jarring to say, "happy birthday but I'm not coming because the food is pretty mediocre and I don't feel like spending my restaurant budget on it." In a group, you can opt out without calling into question the warmth of your feelings for someone. I think it's actually pretty easy to spot the difference between that and the frequent scenario of one particular friend getting the social ball gathering for a non-birthday get together.

I think it's more polite to, if you want to have a gathering of friends on your birthday, arrange it as though it were a normal gathering and don't tell people it's a birthday celebration until after the bills are paid (so that they all feel free to say yes or no based on time/money questions and not pressured), and to be flexible on the time and venue. Or to invite people out to the place you choose at the time you choose and pay for them. That is a thing I have done. I'm not rich so I choose a place I can afford and I only invite the number of people I can afford and am happy to pay for. That means that my birthday dinners out have been much smaller (3-6 people including me) but with people I really care about. They also don't happen every year. When they do happen, they're lovely.

Almost *because* so much of socializing in NYC is out at restaurants where each person pays for themselves, it makes it more special to have an evening out that *is* hosted, as opposed to just another normal night out (to some place you might purposely have not chosen) with a toast to a particular person's birthday and built in extra costs towards their food/drinks, instead of general sharing and merriment. Also usually with so many people that you barely get to spend time with your friend the birthday celebrant, and instead spend time with their friends who may turn out to be great but who may also not be people you'd have chosen to spend a precious evening out (both cost and free-time-wise) with otherwise.

For general dining out mostly my friends keep mental track of our own orders and make sure it plays out fairly, whether it's putting different amounts on different credit cards, splitting the bill evenly but one person leaves the whole tip, or sharing out cash/paypal payments. It's been a long time since I've had a bad experience, and nowadays, on a more limited budget, I think I would be prepared to be assertive about it ("my tab was about x so I'm putting in x+tip/tax" period) while being flexible about a dollar or two here or there if it helps with tip/hassle.
posted by Salamandrous at 12:17 PM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are bills in restaurants not itemised? You take the bill and use your fucking phone to calculate the cost of what you had and then pass the bill to the next person and they do the same thing. This process repeats for as many individuals are present at the table. Then you put all the money in a big dish and give it to the waitperson. This problem was solved in the year of our lord 1066. Holy christ.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:40 PM on January 31, 2016


Many people cannot total up their part of a bill even with a calculator.
posted by smackfu at 5:51 PM on January 31, 2016


It also ends up being a bit gauche and endless in practice when there are a lot of people, and someone ends up being the accountant, and organizing the money, etc. Not a simple practice.
posted by sweetkid at 5:59 PM on January 31, 2016


Well I only had the complimentary bread and I brought my own water so I'm not paying anything. I don't even know you people.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:44 PM on January 31, 2016


Can somebody break a $50?
posted by salvia at 9:29 PM on January 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


then pass the bill to the next person and they do the same thing

*Being one of the last people to receive the bill, notices everyone else is engaged elsewhere or going towards the exit, and basically not paying attention to the bill. Quickly counts the money and notices it exceeds the bill and also has a generous tip. Throws down a few ones that barely covers his drink let alone his meal, mixes it in, and even plucks a ten from the top pretending to get "change". Casually slides the bill over to the next person, who's head was turned away at the time.*
posted by FJT at 10:14 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


[starts hyperventilating about the dinner I had last night where I ordered the only appetizer and had a more expensive dessert than my companions, who are surely talking now about what an asshole I am for blithely agreeing to an evenly-split check]
posted by psoas at 12:13 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


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