This seemingly small issue can spoil the best of friendships

Buying a round and splitting the bill isn't the custom in all countries
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Some people who don't drink alcohol hate splitting the bill.

Splitting the bill and other, more extreme signs of stinginess when it comes to dining together can be hugely divisive.

A user called Katek posted on gransnet.com to ask other users what she should do about a pal who pores over every bill when they dine in a group so she can add up the cost of what each person has eaten.

“Meanwhile the poor waitress or cashier is waiting for us to pay and go as there is a queue building up behind us,” Katek continues.

“My friend also brings her own decaffeinated tea bag and asks for hot water. She then complains that she’s still charged for a pot of tea. I have tried to explain that it still costs to produce the hot water, milk etc but it falls on deaf ears.”

The question set off a torrent of responses, with gransnet.com users divulging stories of friends and relatives who behave in a similar fashion.

“Our youngest daughter’s in-laws are a nightmare,” writes a user called NanaandGrampy. “They won’t pay for a mouthful more than they ate, they pore over the bill with a calculator, they usually leave off something they HAVE eaten and they NEVER put a penny towards a tip. “

Others had tales of friends who collected the table’s cash, then paid only the bill on their credit card, thus pocketing the tip meant for the waiter or waitress, while others recalled friends who conveniently never had cash on them at all.

But some commenters say they also prefer to pay only for their own food and drink, usually because they drink soft drink or choose an inexpensive meal while the rest of the party has champagne and lobster.

“I had no problems dividing the cost of the food equally but I had a major problem with the alcohol,” recalls Charleygirl. “Each drank an entire bottle of wine, I had a Diet Coke or similar. I did not see why I should be subsidising their meal.”

But still others hit back at that notion.

“Often soft drinks can be as expensive as a shared bottle of wine,” says Carol58.

And others pointed out that buying a round or splitting a bill equally are not customs in their countries, where buying your own drink and meal is the norm.

In short, there’s no agreement on what’s right, and online etiquette experts are remarkably silent on this matter.

But the Opentable blog has a few tips on what not to do.

“Never pay the tip in coins, never under tip because you assume someone else in your party will over tip, and never try to convince the server to accept more credit cards than the stated policy,” it says. “In varying ways, these actions will do a great disservice to the hospitality of the restaurant you just enjoyed.”

Do you mind splitting the bill or would you rather pay separately? How would you deal with a friend that was excessively stingy when it came to shared outings?

  1. Cheryl  

    Are you calling someone who wants to pay for what they order and consume, stingy? You may choose something on the menu to suit your budget, then if you have to split the bill you find you are paying more than you wished to because someone else orders up big and doesn’t have to pay the whole price of their meal. You can pay for your own without holding up a line of paying customers by simply make a note of the prices of what you choose at the time of ordering, then when it comes time to pay, put your share onto the table! Easy.

    • Valerie Kirby  

      We go to restaurants where we order individually and pay individually so everyone can have what they want without someone on a limited income having to pay more than they can afford which will stop them joining the group in the future.

  2. Got a suggestion. Don’t eat out with these people ever again. Simple, as the meerkat says.

  3. Pamela  

    Make sure everyone invited knows you are on a budget and will pay for your own meals, not share, before you order.

    When the order is taken, ask the waiter/waitress for separate bill for you and let the others sort themselves out.

  4. Irene  

    Celebration party of 20. Husband and I arrived early with one other. He ordered an expensive bottle of red and was duly thanked by others. He left early and paid for his meal. At the end of the evening everyone paid their share but of course the red was left unpaid. To save the hostess embarrassment, we paid for it. (Family!)
    What a creep the lone guest was!

  5. Vikki_Wensley  

    I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t drink alcohol. Why should I pay for everyone else’s steaks & alcohol?
    Splitting the bill is old fashioned & unnecessary. My friends & I work out what we each had before we go to the register so it’s easy for the wait-staff. Split the bill? NO WAY!! Oh & I’m not stingy either. In other groups I’m usually the only sober person so in my opinion groups of people who want to split the bill are usually too drunk to work out what they had.

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