Paying for Food – An Unpleasant Reality for SomePosted: January 22, 2011 | |
I love food, but I don’t always have money to eat whatever I want. And I don’t always have someone paying for me.
Growing up in an Asian household, I was trained at a young age to intercept the bill from the waiter when my parents dined with friends. Kind of like how some animals are trained to retrieve fruit, but more theatrical. Service at Chinese restaurants (where we often ate with company) is spontaneous and unpredictable. Toward the end of the meal, my mother would continue to make pleasant conversation while surreptitiously scanning the restaurant for approaching waiters. She was very good at this.
When the bill finally reached the table, every person above the age of 30 would start their case for why they should pay. This was actually the climax of the meal. Eventually, someone would pay and everything would die down.
Things are a little different now that I’m a student. Settling the bill still a precarious situation, but in a much more understated fashion.
When dining in groups, look for me to curse under my breath when it turns out that more than two people “only have a card.” I’m not going to go on a rant about this, but to all the people who do this regularly (more than once a month): you knew this was going to happen. You knew you were going to go out and eat and at the end, the bill would come and you would have to pay for yourself. Don’t look surprised and helpless as you pull out your VISA/Mastercard. What did you think was going to happen?
The moral to this: if you are eating in a group and your food costs less than $20, you should pay with cash.
If you are in a group of more than eight people at a restaurant and the totals for each person are fairly comparable (+/- 15% from the average) it might make sense for each person to pay one eighth of the bill to expedite the payment process. Do not suggest this if you ordered the most expensive item on the menu and four glasses of wine.
If you are in a situation with the potential for one person to cover the bill (like a date) it can be uncomfortable settling the check. Generally, whoever chooses the restaurant pays unless an alternative plan is expressly communicated otherwise. It’s okay for the woman to defer to the man, and follow his lead. If she likes him, she should allow him to pay for dinner and demonstrate her gratitude accordingly (interpret this however you like). Otherwise, she should make a move to go Dutch and pay for herself, but not insist on this. Offering once is enough. Insisting can be rude. (A disclaimer: I’m a traditionalist.) Beyond this, the man should not pay every time. Whether or not he is wealthy, it’s silly to pay for five dates in a row. Doing this will not make your date like you more. In fact, if you do this she will probably not take you very seriously.
There’s no rule of thumb, but as always, use taste and judgment. And if you do end up paying don’t quibble over a few dollars. Eating out should provide comfort and convenience, not concerns over dwindling funds.