Monday, October 09, 2006

Check Please!

Going out to eat with friends or a date is one of my favorite things to do, but it seems that no matter how well the night is going, things often fall apart around the time that the waiter brings the check to the table. Every single time I go out with a large group of friends, at least two or three people don't have cash on them and offer to pay with their credit card. One person wins and gets to use their card, while I usually end up having to pay for one of my cash-less friends. The only thing I hate more than unpreparedness is loaning money, because it only leads to problems when someone keeps forgetting to pay you back. It's an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved.

Dates are even trickier because people have varying (and often strong) beliefs on who should pay for what on a date. Because I enjoy the benefits of gender equality, I don't feel comfortable allowing a date to pay for me, as it introduces a financial imbalance to the relationship. If he absolutely insists, that's fine, but I expect to treat him to dinner another time. I understand that most women (and many men) reading this will want to send me an angry e-mail about how chivalry is alive and well and should stay that way, but I think that if women want to be respected as equals, they can't depend on men financially, at any stage of a relationship. And you never know how your date feels about this issue, so ladies, don't forget your wallet at home.

Some people are very funny about paying at a restaurant. I once went on a double date where the other couple insisted on putting the check on two different credit cards and having us pay the rest in cash. They had cash on them, they just wanted to charge it. This created a big scene as the couple had to write down their list on instructions to our waiter as well as explain just what they wanted on which card and what was to be paid in cash. Not only was it embarrassing, it was extremely rude to the waiter, who had done a great job serving us that night.

The same thing goes for seperate checks, either you tell the waiter when you order that you'd like seperate checks for everyone at the table (and understand if he says this isn't possible) or you work with one check. Working at a restaurant is an extremely demanding job, and if someone has provided you with good service, it's not fair to make their life harder by making all kinds of silly requests.

So, in conclusion, some do's and don'ts when paying at a restaurant:
DO always have cash on you (more than enough to pay for a meal, drink and tip at the restaurant you're visiting)
DON'T expect your date to pay for you if you're a woman
DON'T feel compelled to pay for your date if you're a man
DON'T be rude to your waiter by making the payment process difficult, get all your money together and pay either entirely in cash or on one credit card

Happy eating!


Neil said...

On the subject of paying on multiple credit cards, a few times my friends and I have done the following to split the bill. We'll just get one check, and on the back of it, write out who pays for how much. For example, "Neil: $9.24, Meg: $8.15," and so on. We'll then give all the cards onto which we're charging, preferably in the same order as the names.

The friend of mine who showed me this method told me that almost every time he used it, the waiter thanked him for making it so simple. At first I didn't believe him, but it really does work. The waiter is always very appreciative; apparently punching in pre-calculated amounts and swiping a bunch of cards is a lot easier for them than reprinting several split checks and handling different payment methods.

Granted, this might not be the best way to handle dinner at a really classy joint, where it often comes off as unseemly to worry about who pays how many dollars, but nine times out of ten in my experience it works just fine.

The other problem, of course, is figuring out who pays how much. I'm often lucky enough to enjoy the company of a lot of math-savvy people who aren't afraid of or bothered by crunching numbers. If you're with friends, though, just rounding everything up to the nearest fifty cents makes life easy, and can count towards the tip. Or just use the calculator feature that nearly every cell phone has these days.

Rebekah said...

My rule for Gender Equality on the Dating Scene is this: Whoever suggests the date should pay for it. If a man invites me to see a movie with him, I expect that he's planning to fund the operation. Likewise, if I ask a man out to dinner, I'd feel obnoxious making him pay.

Of course, not everyone thinks this way, and it always makes me uncomfortable when I'm invited to do something and then have to pay for myself. I think, "Sheesh, I didn't even WANT to do this, I was just trying to be nice--- and now it's costing me time AND money." This is the price I pay for being a pushover, eh?