One of the great pleasures and perils of adult life: group dining. Pleasurable for obvious reasons—you gather friends, food, drink, and sup away the pain of yet another work day. Perilous, well, because not everybody dines “fair.”
You’ve probably been there before, on one side or other of the equation. A nice big meal is had among friends, the check comes, and suddenly it’s a battle for who can pay the least. Former friends stare at each other from across the table, wiping away flop sweat and trying to look as intimidating as possible as we politely remind each other, “But it was you, Harold, who ordered the crab bisque…”
Before any fine restaurant cutlery is taken up in an all-out war, just read over these 8—egregious—group dining fails. Don’t you, or your friends, be that guy, and all future dining experiences should be what they were always meant to be—a fun, civilized way to avoid eating a block of cheese alone while Facebooking.
You’re a mensch! You order bottle after bottle for the table. “Hey, can we get some more of that kick-ass Sake over here?” Great. That’s, like, super generous of you. And we all bask in the glow of your magnanimousness until the check comes and you pass it around like it’s a peace pipe and we’ve all gotta take an equal suck on that thing. Except you ordered bottles on bottles—so you suck the most (Get it?). Basically, don’t act swag if you can’t pay for it.
“The Order Forgetter”
Wow. It’s been a great meal. Three hours of apps, drinks, mains, and just so much QT and LOL-ing with BFFs. Now the check comes, and you suddenly forget what you ordered. “It’s all so confusing here….did I get the Teriyaki Strips or, Jim, we split that right? And I think I only had like two? Also did I get the Papardelle or was that you, Alex?” After scratching your brow like you’re trying to remember if you turned off the coffee machine, you start some lazy finger pointing and mutter off bill items. But stop—we know your game. And we will get the waitress if you press us—because she sure as sh*t remembers what you got. You took 15 minutes to decide.
“Who Gets Math Anyway, Right?”
Dude, you’re so caught. The check comes and everyone gets out their wallets, ready to employ some junior high school level math to divide the bill. Except—in another form of fake confusion (see above)—you pretend like you’re facing a Good Will Hunting-level equation. And you hide it with a super specific dollar amount: “You know what guys, I think I owe $32.58.” Sorry, but it’s the age of the Smartphone. Smartphones get math. You owe $45.67.
“The Human Calculator”
As much as “fudging” the bill to your advantage is in poor form, paying your part to the penny is a bit, well, annoying as hell. If you’re on a budget, that’s one thing, and everyone else will understand. Even if they don’t, you need to pay rent. But if you’re just being a bit parsimonious, maybe relax a bit. People often casually overpay, by a few bucks here and there, and small generosities like that keep the world going around. Seriously, times are grim, chuck a buck or two over into the pot.
“The Duck Duck Gooser”
This one’s a bit more of a risk, but we’ve seen it done. Imagine you’re well enough into your night that people have changed seats, you’ve moved over to talk to your friend Carlos, and you notice your friend Becca hopping from seat to seat—never really staying in one place, maybe a bit too eager to see everyone? Girlfriend’s not socializing. She’s a Check Dodger. If she moves around strategically enough, she’ll just miss the bill every time it nears her. By the time it’s made a “full” circle, Becca’s distracting you with compliments about your new tattoo.
“The Early Departure Guy”
“Oh, crap, you guys, I totally forgot I’ve been double parked this whole time,” or “Shoot, this has been so fun, but I have an underground bareknuckle boxing match I have to get to!” Meaning you get to leave well before the check arrives, so the paltry $40 bucks you pull out of your wallet and lay on the table seems reasonable? Nobody’s quite ready to calculate, and unless you’re a paranoid diner (there are more and more of us), your friends probably haven’t been keeping tabs. So they don’t know that $40 doesn’t include either of those Gin Martinis or the automatic 18% gratuity comin’ at them.
“The Sneaky Bar Drinker”
OK, so this one’s on behalf of the service industry. And we admit, we’ve all done it. Maybe you got a drink at the bar before you were seated. Fine. Close out, go to your table, where all future business shall be conducted and—theoretically—the appropriate waitstaff will be tipped. But either out of impatience or, more likely, some fiscal calculations, you’re sneaking off to the bar to grab your drink, paying only a dollar per tip instead of 20% on that drink, the way you might if you (appropriately) ordered it at the table. Give your server a break and order where you’re supposed to. Unless you want to contribute to the downfall of civilization, of course.
You knew what you were getting yourself into. You saw the menu, saw the prices, but when the bill arrives, you act like you’ve just received a subpoena. Don’t try to get your friends riled up at the “outrageousness of charging $3 per oyster off-season” (OK, that is a bit insane), just accept the choices you made, and ingested, and put your money where your mouth is. Was. Whatever.
“Big Shots vs. Have Nots”
This is a fundamental, and tricky, issue in group dining: the income divide. You’re an Investment Banker. Your friends are aspiring poets and mimes, respectively. Maybe let the wine selection be a group activity. Incomes don’t always match up among friends, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go out drinking and dining and find a happy medium between your Chateaux Margaux and my Gato Negro. Unless, of course, you’re treating—and you make that known in advance. In that case, order whatever bottle of bliss you like. We’ll try not to gulp. Or be too obvious about it.