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when in rome do as the romans do.

May 18, 2010

At a restaurant the designation “large party” is like those “oversize load” signs they put on flatbed trucks that are carrying mobile homes down the freeway.  The person who said, “Let’s cut this house in half and drive it down the interstate.” Is probably the same ambitious person who said “Let’s go out to dinner with 16 of our closest friends.  That sounds fun.”

Is there a quicker mood change than the one between the dessert everyone pretended they didn’t want but practically took off your finger trying to get to and the moment the check is delivered to the table?

At this point you have three options, the most painless of course being suicide.  The  second is that everyone pay what they think they owe: The operative word here of course being “think” and the words coming after it being “not very hard.”

At this point it seems that your friends have completely forgotten how to do arithmetic.  It would seem that this is the thought process that is going through their heads: Well mine was $11.95, and if we round that’s $10 so I’ll put in $13, because I had a beer.  That should be good.

It’s not just that they don’t know how much they owe, it’s that they don’t want to know.  It’s like how people put their hands over the balance screen at the ATM, and start pressing enter like if they had wanted to see that number they would have gotten a better job.

Of course you are invariably $7-$15 short, and everyone’s suddenly really busy with their iPhones.  They’re saying in things like,  “I can make it look like a fish tank when I want to,” and you’re like, “Yeah, well when is that?  How about you make it look like a calculator. ” Finally, someone says okay everyone put in 50 more cents, we are not doing this to the waitress, and so everyone’s like “I already put in my $16.75.  Does anyone have change for a dollar.” There is always one person at dinner who ends up paying like 3 times as much as they actually owe, “Oh yeah we went out to pizza.  It was great. It cost $25.00, a slice.”

If you want to avoid this you can just go the 50/50 split route.  Every group has a 50/50 splitter, we’ll call her Chloe because honestly that’s probably her name.  50/50s operate by a very specific code of manners that seems to have everything to do with splitting a bill evenly no matter who had 12 glasses of wine.  It’s not that she’s so much richer than you just that she’s so much better.  These are also typically the kind of people who don’t eat all day if they know they are going out to dinner.  At breakfast they’ll say something like, “I’d better not ruin my appetite.  I know I’ll be eating again in 13 hours.”  For 50/50s going out to dinner is an EVENT!, the rest of us aren’t really sure if we want to throw all our chips in for this particular meal.  Mark is gonna be there.  And Mark is honestly kind of a dick.  Am I really gonna get an appetizer so I can sit here and share it with Mark? The 50/50s are the ones who glare at you when you say something like, “I’m just coming for a drink.” Or “I’m not really that hungry, I’ll just have the Wasabi mashed potatoes as my entrée.” And quite frankly they should glare at you, because you’re acting like an asshole.  But you guys aren’t really so different: You’re thinking you shouldn’t be here, and they’re thinking the same thing.

You will not find ever find a 50/50 playing the Who Owes What to Whom game.  So Jenny’s putting the dinner on her card, and everyone else is giving her cash, but turns out that So and So’s cousin is $5 short, and he’s like, “I’ll get ya next time,” and you’re like, “You live in Phoenix.”

And let’s just get this out of the way, the waitress hates you.  She hates you the minute you walk in.  The only thing keeping her even vaguely interested in your table, which being a large-party is probably just a blanket on the floor of a broom closet, is the mandatory 18% gratuity.  So you’re not going to get good service because A. your server hates you and B. her tip is already secured.  Who came up with that?  That is a great system.

Then there’s all the different strategies that people have for getting out of this whole debacle.  There are the early exiters who bring like $50 in ones and a calculator and jump up 5 minutes before everyone else and mete out their exact owage to a designated person, probably chosen before hand probably in on it too for a cut of the doggie bag, and scamper out the door.  There’s the person who wants to partner up and then just split between two people, which is always a kind of weird thing, especially if you don’t know the person and then all of a sudden you’re on this date within a date.  Then there’s the I ate before I came and brought my own wine in a SmartWater bottle person.  This person is not fooling anyone, not even in tenderloin does drinking water that closely resemble blood.  This person has dropped all pretense of having a job, and is just generally embarrassing, but their goal is accomplished because they won’t ever be invited again.  Then there’s the person who wants to play credit card roulette, and you’re like dude you’re way too much fun for this group, get some better friends.  There’s the person, probably a former waitress, who wants to put all six credit cards in and then write the initials and  expiration date of each card next to the amount it owes, and then organize them into alphabetical order and wants a fucking gold medal for thinking of this.

There’s the person who comes late just for drinks and let me tell you that the 50/50 splitter will want them included in the split anyway, and this person is like, “But I only had a drink and I paid for it at the bar,” and the 50/50 splitter is like, “Really?  You’re going to do this now?”

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2010 7:39 pm

    This made me giggle. I am very fortunate to be friends with some of the most generous people. We always seem to have more money than necessary in hand, which ultimately goes to the waiter/waitress because we all agree the service was great not to mention that we are regulars and we like to get in good with the staff. Although I have dined with not so generous people, like my roommates friends, on her birthday. What a catastrophe! First, she wants sushi, which is expensive, plus she orders saki at $20 a pop and then comes the ridiculously overpriced bill (can u tell i hate sushi?) and her friends have already seemed to have left, mumbling something about having an early morning. So now I feel obligated to put in $10 more, even though I have already paid for myself, plus tax and tip…. later on she was like “man, my friends are assholes”
    Yes, my friends are awesome. At my birthday dinners the check is already paid in full before I can say “check please” and I am then shuffled off to a bar and fed adult beverages well into the night. Which is why for this coming birthday I am going to have my dinner at a taco joint, just so that no ones budget gets broken, these are tough economic times for the 50/50 person 😉

  2. May 18, 2010 8:06 pm

    I am willing to pay extra for the privilege of not having to do math at the table. My regular group of dining out companions and I are equal splitters typically. We drink on the same constant. We’ve done the research.

  3. friscolex permalink
    May 18, 2010 8:07 pm

    Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. This is a great post. Spot on.

    [Btw, I prefer the German method where the waitress comes round the table with either a credit card machine or a big old change fanny pack thing (so many people pay in cash, it rules) and you tell her what you individually had and then she adds it up for you. You can decide how much (or if) to tip and then you are done. This is the most stress-free method of payment. Sorry, the most stress-free is the rich uncle paying for everyone, but whatever. ]

  4. daveH permalink
    May 18, 2010 11:41 pm

    Hey! I recently went to a birthday dinner with a group of 16 people at Dosa on Fillmore. They have a pretty good system set up where there’s a pre-established, per-person flat rate before you even show up to the restaurant. They email you a menu with a special “group” menu from which you and your friends decide what you want to order so when you show up at the restaurant, you just sit down and eat. it’s family style so everything gets passed around. Then, at the end of the meal, everyone pays the same price since it was already pre-established. The only variable is if people order drinks, in which case, everyone pays for the drinks they order separate from the food bill. I thought they did a good job of keeping everyone’s tabs straight. Jeez I sound like I’m writing a Yelp review. Just thought I would share a good “hassle free” big group experience.

  5. gumby permalink
    May 19, 2010 12:05 am

    My favorite are the people who wait until the very end and then go “oh, you owe me for for that thing the other night, you can just pay for me now, that’s cool right?”

    Leaving you to suddenly and without warning pay for an extra person when that money was actually supposed to go for a six pack to take home so you could actually get a buzz since the wine at the restaurant was 4x retail and you didn’t feel like spending $6/oz on shitty wine.

  6. William permalink
    May 19, 2010 12:20 am

    Wow, does this really happen to people? You make me feel a lot better about my choice of friends. And my choice of restaurants. Give the server respect during the meal and tip over the minimum after; they’ll give you plenty of love.

  7. May 19, 2010 12:51 am

    You know. . . there’s an app for that.

  8. Knuck Funkle permalink
    May 19, 2010 3:01 am

    Why would anyone go to an event with sixteen people that wasn’t catered? Aren’t you just asking for this? Did you have a good time talking to sixteen people? Was there deep, in-depth conversation that did not involve an app? If you invite sixteen people to a restaurant, are all of the invitees the sort that have 399 Facebook friends, most of whom he/she met once at a rave in the nineties?

  9. May 19, 2010 3:37 pm

    I thought all cool people just played credit card roulette, the greatest game ever invented for people who like to gamble which is the only people I hang out with. WIth 16 people, you can have two people get picked, my favorite is have the waitress take all the credit cards and shuffle, then start picking cards and saying names. The first people are “out” and off scott free, and you can celebrate and start squaking right away, and then the tension comes toward the end as the last two (or one card for smaller meals) cards are almost remaining. What is a better feeling than being pulled last, dodging the bullet, and having a free meal? Roulette is the only way to go…..

  10. Thomas permalink
    May 20, 2010 5:32 am

    They didn’t know it at the time but Panera had you in mind. This restaurant is kind of their, “I wrote this song about you before I even met you” line. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/18/nonprofit-panera-restaura_n_580316.html

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