Posted by: Admin | January 21, 2010

Who Had The Salad?

Here’s my pet peeve of the week.  Splitting the check. 

Ok, it’s out there and I’m sure it has the potential to stir people up. But, I’m curious to know how you feel. 

I know there are significant arguments from each side of the fence when it comes to how to divide up the bill at a restaurant. 

  • Sally only had a side salad
  • Jim ordered appetizers & dessert & lobster!
  • Bob drank 6 martinis 

I have lived my life as a person who counts up the # of people at the table and divides that # by the amount of the check PLUS a 20% tip (I’ve held many jobs in the service industry and I’m a firm believer that unless you’ve provided horrific service you deserve a 20% tip).   I’m very fortunate that I’ve surrounded myself with a group of friends who have a similar philosophy and who truly believe that it all balances out in the end.  Meaning that if I’m only drinking soda today, there will indeed be a day where I’ve ordered 4 glasses of wine. 

And I will say, that we may at times, make a concession if we see something that’s completely out of whack.   If I ordered a $40 bottle of wine that I fully consumed myself, I would undoubtedly expect to toss in more money.  And, if we noticed that one person really only ate an appetizer when the rest of us all had full dinners, we may suggest that person contributes slightly less.  I like to think that we are fair and reasonable with our check dividing and in all honesty, if you don’t like it, then don’t come to dinner with us.  

Even as I’m unemployed, I still believe in this philosophy and, if I choose to go out to eat with friends I still fully expect to pull my weight when the check comes.  If I wasn’t prepared to split the check I should stay home.  Now, many of my friends are understanding of my situation and would probably give me some slack but I’m not going to ask them to change the way we normally do things just because I don’t have a job.   It’s my responsibility to prepare my wallet for an outing… otherwise I could choose to not go. 

If your entire group decides to employ a different philosophy that includes passing around the check so each person can count up their total cost, that’s obviously your option.  However, in my experience this method almost always leaves the person organizing the check in a crappy predicament when all the money is finally passed to them.  It’s often too little to cover the bill plus the tip… and then what?  

  • There’s the person who doesn’t want to put in any more money, who conveniently needs to run to the bathroom
  • There’s the couple down the end that argues their point explaining how they determined their contribution
  • There’s the girl who sits there, sucking on that last ice cube from her empty drink, pretending she can’t hear what’s going on 

So ultimately, there’s someone who becomes frustrated with the process, who inevitably digs into their own pocket to make up the difference so the waitress doesn’t get screwed.  So, in my opinion, that’s why this method often doesn’t work.  And yes, I do realize that sometimes you will wind up with the correct amount and even on occasion with a bit more, but I’ve found that more times than not, somebody in the group is getting screwed and making up the difference. 

For this reason, the only method I can support is splitting the check equally… and, if you don’t like it, I suppose we won’t be dining out together (assuming, I get a job and can resume my eating out schedule!)

That’s it, my rant for Thursday is over, thanks for listening.. and please feel free to share your thoughts!



  1. Interesting! In my neck of the woods, (Lyon France) we just split the bill by the number of people, and if somebody’s having a good day they sometimes pay for the wine … But we are on the edge of the Beaujolais and have lots of good “pichets” (or carafes) that cost more like $4 than $40! Tips are included in the bill, so no worries on that count! So far I’ve never had a problem.

  2. I had a reunion with some former co-workers a few years back (another job I was laid off from, but had found another job at this time. There were about eight of us) and I decided to put the whole bill on my credit card (I didn’t have cash and I really don’t have any cash now being unemployed and wanting to keep every dollar in the bank for bills). Big mistake, there were some people who had ordered drinks and I got short changed. I never did that again. And I had shared a salad with one of the gals and had water.

    • Stevie ~ This happens to us FAR too often and, as you can possibly guess from my post, it happened AGAIN just last week! So, my irritation was fresh in my mind!

  3. I feel when you go out as group separate tabs and yes 20%.
    As a four some you can do the same or if the couple you are sharing dinner with thinks like you and the dinners are close in cost than just split the bill..

    A tip is for good service and if it warrants it than 20% or nothing so they know they need give better service.

  4. Your post adds nuance to unemployment. I wouldn’t have thought $40 bottles of wine would figure.
    But your approach–adding 20% and dividing by the number of diners–is what we do. As for the people you describe, the sudden-disappearance-in-the-bathroom people, the debating-team people, the ice-sucking people–lose them like a bad habit. But if you have to go out with such people, set the policy BEFORE anyone opens a menu.
    You might enjoy visiting my blog,
    or the collaborative blog written with my wife,
    Barry Knister

    • bknister ~ The $40 bottle of wine was a wistful remembrance of yesteryear… or more pointedly my pre-unemployment, fine dining, evenings. Now an evening out is much closer to a 2 for 1 burger night, and FAR less frequent!

      • Ah, yes, yesteryear. As a retiree whose nest egg relied heavily on GE stock, I am very familiar with yesteryear, with two-for-one specials, and the like. But there are strategies: melt blue cheese on your burger, and buy yourself a bottle of Phebus malbec (09) from Argentina. At $6, it’s not up there with a $40 Pauillac, but it blows away most $20 or $30 California cabs.

  5. I hate the scenario where one person gets screwed into paying the remaining amount of the check, but I’m also a person who, especially since becoming unemployed, will order a water and an appetizer to reduce my costs and still allow me to go out. When a table of six or more employed friends orders three drinks each and $25 entrees, appetizers, and desserts, I think it’s unreasonable to give me dirty looks when I say I just want to pay my share. I resent paying for someone else’s indulgence when I’m trying to save money, and I especially resent the social pressure and scoffing that come from certain people. We all have cellphones with calculators, so it’s not a huge hardship to calculate your share, or to ask upfront if we’re interested in splitting the check, so I can decide what to order accordingly and not be surprised that my appetizer is going to cost $40. Usually my husband and I will just ask to pay our exact amount with a credit card to avoid awkward wads of cash getting passed around. The worst though is going out with a huge group of 15 people and getting stuck at the end after others leave early, failing to pay. That said, we have no problem splitting the check with small groups of four to six, as long as they’re people we actually trust, and who typically order the same as us. Frankly, I’d rather not join a group of people for dinner if they’re going to be nasty about money matters. The people that I won’t split the check with tend not to be my friends, and I rant just as much as you do on the way home after outings where things go wrong. People always say not to discuss religion and politics with not-so-close friends… I would add money to the list as well. People feel as strongly about money, tipping, check splitting etc as they do about some religious beliefs. Funny that we’re forced to deal with it at the end of every meal out!

    • TW ~ You make a such a good point about people feeling so strongly about money matters! And yes, all too often hubby & I find ourselves the ones left holding a wad of cash that insufficient for the bill. Oftentimes we choose to use our credit card for the entire bill, since we don’t always have cash with us, but we’ve learned the hard way that as the money gets passed around the table, there are far too many times when there’s not enough.. it’s become an incredibly large pet peeve of mine!

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