Split even: The perfect way to go dutch
A NOTHER LOVELY dinner out with friends. Conversation and laughter flow, as does the wine. Lots of expensive wine that you?re not ordering and certainly not consuming. You?re going light ? a salad and cold drink ? but your friends keep the filets and had drinks coming all night long. When the bill hits the table, it?s decided that the easiest thing to do is split it evenly among the 12 people. A thousand bucks per person! For a salad, you ask? Yes, we?re afraid. Just as the tight-knit Friends debated over splitting the bill, so do the rest of us.
Another lovely dinner out with friends. Conversation and laughter flow, as does the wine. Lots of expensive wine that you’re not ordering and certainly not consuming. You’re going light — a salad and cold drink — but your friends keep the filets and had drinks coming all night long. When the bill hits the table, it’s decided that the easiest thing to do is split it evenly among the 12 people. A thousand bucks per person!
For a salad, you ask? Yes, we’re afraid. Just as the tight-knit Friends debated over splitting the bill, so do the rest of us. Is it fair to split evenly if you didn’t stuff your gullet as much as the others? Is it rude to point that out? What exactly is the etiquette?
When dining with other couples, Nidhi Sharma and her husband Mohit plunk down a credit card and ask no questions. There have been times, Sharma says, when she’s had a bowl of soup and one glass of wine and someone else had an appetizer, entree and three glasses of wine.
“I just figure it will work out in the end,” says Sharma, a lecturer. “The social relationship is far more important than a few hundred rupees on the credit card.” But those few hundred rupees can add up. And in some urban areas, they can be precious.
At a recent bachelor party dinner, Sanjay Verma, a financial banker, got stuck covering for a few of the less-than-generous gentlemen. Verma’s philosophy since then: Talk about it early, like the minute the menus hit the table.
“It’s easy enough to just say, ‘So, should we do separate checks?’” says Geetika Bhasin, a BPO agent. “Suggest that everyone plan to pay what they owe.” US-based advice columnist Carolyn Hax gets particularly perturbed when the table’s resident foodie orders for the table and then suggests an equal split.
“If you’re taking the reins on the menu and surrendering them when the bill comes, you’re sending a message that you’re taking control,” Hax says. “Certainly that implies that the check comes with it.” Girish Makkar, an MBA student, has his own strategy. At the end of a meal with friends, they typically pass around the bill and put in their amounts. When it gets to Girish, he doesn’t even look at it.
“I’ll just tell the waiter to put the rest on my card,” says Samir Singh a Chartered Accountant. His thoughts on an even split?
“The only time that works is when you’re doing something like pizza and pitchers of beer,” he says, explaining that beer and pizza divide up easily. Even then, Singh says, if someone at the table eats one slice and drinks no beer, he won’t even put her in a position to have to explain herself. “I’ll just tell her to leave the tip or something,” Samir says.
Etiquette-wise, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.
“Let’s put it this way,” says Peter Post of US-based institution dedicated to manners. “The person who has the filet mignon should say something so the person who has the salad doesn’t have to.” Fair enough. Now here’s where it gets stickier, even controversial. As much as we’d like to believe that a doctor and a teacher can dine together as equals, well, they sort of can’t, according to the etiquette experts. When it comes to splitting even, folks who make more money should chip in more, Hax says, simply because it affects them less.
“My general philosophy is if you’re holding, if you’re flush, why not treat the table?” she says. “That’s the way of thinking that ends up stepping on the fewest toes.”
If your portion of the bill is more than an even split, offer to pay more.
If the high-end orderer says nothing, the low-end one should.
Always carry cash so you are equipped to chip in exactly what you owe.
If the rest of the people on table wants to undertip and you don’t, casually drop a few extra rupees on the table.
If you can’t afford the high-end restaurants your friends enjoy, suggest going someplace that is more affordable.