"It's the guy two chairs…

"It's the guy two chairs down who ordered the foie gras appetizer, Dover sole entree, side of truffled mashed potatoes and three martinis made with designer gin" that pisses people off when going out to a birthday dinner and splitting the check amongst a big party. Even if you make modest choices, you end of paying a lot at these gatherings because someone else takes advantage. Early in our relationship, my husband didn't drink. So we'd end up at these dinners where everyone would enjoy several bottles of wine and he'd have a Coke. It stunk when it came time to pay. I like to think the best way to handle this is that each person looks at the bill, calculates his/her share, and puts in. But that never seems to work out right. Are there any other options aside from skipping the group dinner or sucking it up?

70 thoughts on “"It's the guy two chairs…”

  1. Split tax and tip evenly. Add that number to the price of whatever you ordered and thats what you owe.
    It’s really not that hard. Yes if you ordered less you’re paying slightly more, but thats the compromise everyone in a big group must make. Surely there will be times when you order more than others and will thus be saving some money. It all evens out in the end.

  2. I agree with those above who said that if you can’t afford the over/under, or even to pick up the whole tab, you shouldn’t be at the table. This issue falls squarely into the category of de minimis nonesense that costs more in worry/minutes/life to fret about than it can ever possibly be worth in dollars–no matter how often you dine out. As far as I’m concerned, people who parse out the check are much less likely to be asked to the table again, because it’s so patently ridiculous. We’re not talking about buying cars, here–it’s a freakin’ meal. The one friend/contact/colleague you to turn off in your quest for that extra $4.35 is likely worth a lot more to you than that, else you wouldn’t be eating with them in the first place. Moreover, without question, it all definitely does even out in the aggregate. Bottom line: line-itemizing the check is for cheapskates, and it’s embarrassing for everyone present.

  3. At the end of the meal, my friends and I Twitter each other with our approximate contributions . . .

  4. I’m a student and I definitely could not afford to pay the whole bill and hope it would even out in the future, when the others do the same.
    Here in Germany the waitress/waiter usually asks a bunch of people if they’d like the bill separated or not. Paying with credit card is not common and in groups I dine with, the tip given by everyone separately adds up to a higher amount than what would have been given with only one bill.
    For all other bill splitting occasions:
    http://www.billmonk.com

  5. Yeah, I’m with Jon here. I don’t really care whether or not separate checks create more work for servers. It’s their job. Plenty of things I do for clients at my job are more work than I’d like them to be, but you know what? That’s what why they pay me.
    I have a group of friends with whom I regularly go out drinking and dining, and at the places we usually go to the staff all know we like separate checks so it’s not even an issue anymore. When we go somewhere new, we just explain it when we get there. It would certainly be simpler for everyone to just divide up a check evenly, but our group consists of people at wildly varying income levels, from starving college kids to very successful lawyers. It isn’t practical or possible to assume the philosophy major can just pay for the lawyer’s wine without a problem.

  6. My sister’s a waitress and if the restaurant is “computerized” (and most are) it’s easy to generate separate checks. It’s literally a push of a couple of buttons. IMO, it’s the only way dining out with a large group can work.
    Unless everyone orders the exact same thing, of course.

  7. Hm, I can’t agree with this blanket “pay or stay home” crowd, either. For people whose social situation needs it, there should be a considerate way to split a tab fairly, not just equally.
    When we go out, there can be writers, actors, artists, assistants, students, and bankers and trustfunders, a very disparate income range. True, if you know you’re going to be expected to pony up, and Per Se is beyond your budget, you should beg off or suck it up. [then again, it’s prix fixe, so splitting the tab should be easy.]
    When we go out with business school friends, some knucklehead invariably decides to play credit card roulette, where you just let the server pick from a pile of everyone’s cards. The relative income/expectation parity makes it alright. but when they call out credit card roulette with a more diverse group, it’s basically announcing that they could afford to pick up the whole tab but aren’t willing to, AND it makes someone who can’t afford it all but announce they’re poor–or it sends them into a panic attack. I’ve seen both happen, and it’s a tool move.

  8. I ask for Sep Checks or just pay the bill myself if thats not possible. Most of the time I am the one who has the most money anyway. Last big dinner I went out. Wife’s Family, her Mom and Dad and Sisters and Husbands.
    I ened up with our costs, her Parents (ever meal we eat out for a week) and one of her Sisters. The sister would not have eaten out if she had to pay her own costs (could not afford it).
    It was not the end of the world.
    On the Airline tickets we got the parents I ended up with most of the costs. One sister paid her part right away, another it dribbled in over 6 months. Another could not pay at all.
    Dribble in was Major Pain in The Butt.
    Steve

  9. When dining in large groups, I gently remind people use the “half-and-half-again” rule for the check: add up all your individual items, then tack on 25% for tax + tip combined. Works here in Philly, where I live (7% tax + 18% tip), or in New York, where you are (8.375% tax + 16.625% tip). When in doubt, always round up, because you’re only leaving a bare-bones tip with this formula.
    People struggle with 15%, but 25% is easier. Just take your total (rounding up all those .5, .95, and .99’s that appear at less chichi establishments), and divide in half…twice.
    Sing it with me: My items on the bill round up to $57.
    I divide that in half — for easy math, I’ll take half of $60
    That gives me $30, so I take half again — which is $15.
    That’s my tax+tip, which I add to $57. My share: $72.
    Always round up, because it comes out in the wash. In this example, if my actual bill were $56.92, the exact total for 25% would have been $71.12. C’mon, you can’t part with an extra 88 cents for your server? Round up, and when in doubt toss in an extra buck or two, because it beats looking either cheap or inept.

  10. I say, take big groups only to cheaper ethnic restaurants where dishes are designed to be shared. Everyone agrees on an order, everyone shares a great combo of stuff with lots of choices, and you obviously split the bill equally. This works great with Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc and the price is actually lower, since you can order one less dish than the number of people.
    I also think the price of the restaurant should be affordable for the lowest-income people at the table, unless the richies are willing to pay.

  11. to the comment about only eating out if you can pick up the entire bill, get a life. that is the most obnoxious thing posted here. the runner up is credit card roulette – never heard that one before, but i agree with the poster, it is a tool move! i’ve got a better idea, all the gents gather round the table, drop your pants and whip it out – whoever is lacking pays. no fair rounding up. have your server measure in case of tie. tip generously. ladies, you’re on your own.

  12. I was on the board of a non-profit and we went to a celebratory dinner after having an event. The group included a professor. She invited two of her students to eat with us. The restaurant did not split checks. The students proceeded to order everything on the menu and the bill was exorbitantly high. Everyone put in what they thought was their share. except the students who paid nothing. The non-profit got stuck with the rest. Since then I have not eaten at that restaurant nor agreed to a situation where each member of the group pays an equal share.

  13. I’m a vegatarian and a light drinker when it comes to outings like these, my party of the bill is usually very small. Almost every time, I end up paying more regardless of the technique. What’s option number 3??

  14. I usually don’t care which method is used to split the check, though it needs to be consistent when you go out with that same group. I had a friend in high school that would insist on splitting it evenly when he ordered something expensive, and down to the penny when he ordered cheap. It drove the rest of us nuts.

  15. There is nothing in the world worse than people who bitch about the check after the meal. It’s no fun when a bunch of adults who had been having a good time, turn into little children when the bill is delivered. Here are a few things that work for me.
    -Bring cash – There is nothing worse than handing your server 7 cards with different charges for each.
    -If you are in one of those 7 card situations, write down all of the charges for each card. Your server probably has 12 other tables to take care of. Why not make it easy for him/her.
    -If you have the means, and everyone is bitching about some $5 discrepancy, just pick up the whole check. It’s so classy, it makes you feel goood, and makes everyone else look like petty toolbags; which they probably are.

  16. I can say, as both a server and someone who eats out in big numbers once in a while, that seperate checks is the way to go. Yes, when you are slammed it is a big pain in the butt to seperate a table of 10 people into 5 checks (one per couple) and even more of a pain into 10 people.
    But, if you are going to do seperate checks, DON’T split appetizers and bottles of wine and desserts with people not on your check, unless you are ok with having it put on one persons bill, but that brings up the whole “you own me money cause the popcorn shrimp we all ate is on my bill” thing and you might as well not split checks at all.
    DON’T bring out your calculator. If it is all on one bill, add up all your food/drink and round up to the nearest dollar if you have to. As for the tip, take the tax of the entire bill, double it, and then add another half of it.
    DON’T screw over your server because you don’t want to spend more than you expected to.A lot of times I get people who I know decided at home that they woud take the family out and it would cost roughly, say, $125. Then once sitting at my table they decide they want wine and dessert and their bill comes and it is $111 before tip, and look at that they leave $14 for tip. Next time don’t order so much or else expect to have to pay more.

  17. When my friends and I go out, we pay for our own food. Why should my friends have to pay for my good time? Everyone bucks up and pays for what they ate/drank.
    As a long-time waitress, I have no problem splitting bills. I usually ask beforehand if people want split cheques and make a note while I’m ringing in the order (it’s not that hard to put them on different seat numbers). In the end, I find it’s less of a hassle to just split cheques before: people are happy that you’ve saved them the hassle of doing the math themselves, and I don’t have to wait around for people to decide how it’s going to get paid for. And as for tips, well, you’d be surprised how generous people are when you split bills without a long hassle at the end of a meal. I don’t think I’ve ever missed out on money for making people pay separately.

  18. I am also a waitress. I frequently have large parties who each want separate checks, sometimes as many as 30 separate checks (and on the rare occasion even more). We are a smaller restaurant with no computers, so each tab is handwritten. It usually helps me to write their names at the top, and by the end I know most of their names. The only thing that would help me is if people request ahead of time to have their checks split. Many times I will ask a table if they would like separate checks, and they say no, then at the end they ask me to split it up for them! The idea of putting the food and drinks onto two separate tabs is a great one.

  19. There are multiple social and logistical problems here all wound up in a waitress wanting to accommodate or not, and customers wanting to get this behind them but do it in way that’s fair (fair fare).
    Separate checks takes care of the problem. Asking adds some social baggage to the diners (we’re not mature enough to handle this on our own, we’re tight, etc.) but if it became a standard way to go it would be useful on both ends to take care of at least some of the problems. Who’s check does a shared bottle of wine go on…
    30 people sitting at one table who want separate checks seems like less of a burden to the waitress than the same 30 sitting on their own. Not sure if there will be more or less tip one way or another but the check splitting, if known about ahead of time eliminates at least some of the social layer that’s the issue behind this entire thread.

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