Monday, February 8, 2010

Rant: Cheap Dining Companions

It is such a great pleasure to dine out with friends, to share good food, wine and conversation. For example, I recently had a fantastic evening at Myers + Chang, after the Boston Wine Expo, with friends, some old and some new. We devoured plenty of delicious food, drank some interesting Saké, talked about a variety of topics, laughed, and just had fun. The entire experience was perfect.

But other times your evening, which had been proceeding so well, can fall apart at the end when the check comes, when it is time for everyone to contribute some money. I think we all have been to dinner with very cheap, if not miserly, dinner companions. They might grab their calculator and try to break down their share of check to the very penny. Or they might try to offer less money that what they actually ate and drank. Or they fail to add in taxes and gratuity into their contribution, shortchanging everyone. In the end, the other dining companions often end up paying more than their fair share, making up for the difference due to the cheap ones. That just ruins the night.

I am not sure those cheap people will ever change. It seems ingrained in their personalities. One solution is just not to go out to dinner with those people again. And that does happen. You could also make a division on how to split the bill prior to going to dinner, maybe agreeing to an equal split. You can also just live with it, as part and parcel of the cost of being friends with such people.

When I dine out with friends, I prefer to just split the check equally, especially if they are friends with which I go out frequently. Any individual inequalities for a particular dinner usually get worked out over time. It is certainly the easiest way to handle the check. It is also more equitable if everyone is sharing dishes and drinks.

It can be fine as well if the check is roughly split based on what people ate and drank, though you need people willing to consider all relevant factors, including tax and tip. And they can't be worrying over pennies. You know you have a group of good people when the amount of money you gather is actually more than what is owed. It indicates people are overestimating, which is better than underestimating. You can always give people back some cash.

How do you handle the check when you go out with friends? How do you handle cheap dining companions?


Erika said...

I am so with you Richard! One of my major pet peeves is those large group dinners when one person refuses to split the bill evenly, forcing a difficult check situation on everybody. People should begin these meals with an understanding that it's easiest on everyone to split evenly rather than ordering a side salad and whining later about ordering less food than everybody.

The Wine Whore said...

Personally, I like to just split the check too! However when I know I'm with people who fall into the cheap category, I just ask for separate checks... that way everyone can do their own thing.

The only other thing that really pisses me off is when I go to dinner with people... order and share a bottle of nice wine, and they don't do the same for me. Kinda ruins the fun.

Ryan said...

Yea, this really irritates me. I'm not sure that I'd call them "cheap" either - I can be cheap. But sometimes that is such a huge thing. I've actually gone to dinner with a group of friends to celebrate one person's birthday. We'd agreed that we were all treating this person, and then when the check came the offending couple noted "Well - we didn't eat any of those appetizers..." We just stopped inviting them to group dinners, and when they came we made sure they got their own check. Those are the people you just have to your house and make pasta and marinara. No wine. :-)

Rose Perry-Cohen said...

My parents always taught me: If you don't have enough money to NOT worry about how much a meal costs then you DO NOT have enough to go out to eat! From craddle to grave I use this advice, I suggest others do too! J'déteste such dining companions in which you speek!

Ryan said...

In Spain we always split the check. But that then brings up the other person who doesn't respect the group. A thrifty group out for a few drinks and tapas, takes advantage of the split check by ordering the Dom Perignon Mimosa, or the Beluga cavier, and then refuses to share....maybe not to that extreme, but it does happen, and you find that a bill that was previously a fair deal for all becomes 3 times what you hoped to pay for. That too chaps my hide! :)

Sunday Cook said...

I split the check as well. I've learned that when I'm dealing with cheapies just not to go out to dinner with them any more. I stick to drinks at the bar - easier that way.

Melanie Ofenloch said...

I couldn't agree with you more. A group meal is about fellowship and fun. However, there are situations where you know that someone at the table is having financial problems, but you want them to participate. My friends and I usually give that person one amount and we fund the rest because having them there is more important.

Otherwise, I am all for splitting the check evenly.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks everyone for your comments, and glad to see I am not the only one bothered by these people.

I agree with your Erika, it is the easiest way, especially when everyone knows about it up front.

Randy, separate checks is a good way to handle the situation. Good friends share their wine.

Ryan, there are different levels of cheap I would say. You might be considered more "frugal" than cheap. And it is also a good idea to invite them to dinner at your house rather than go out.

Thanks Rose, yes, generally people should not go to where they really can't afford it, if they know they must contribute to the bill.

Ryan, that is another peeve and can be just as bad.