You've had a great meal, great conversation -- and then the bill comes. You don’t want to look or feel cheap, but you also don’t want to pay way more than your share. You hope your friends remember they had the appetizer, drinks and dessert, which you declined. Regardless of who owes what, there are easy, smooth ways to deal with the reckoning.
Splitting the Bill
Most of the time, it is fine to assume you will split the bill evenly. Grab the check quickly – never leave it sitting there – use basic arithmetic and casually announce, “It looks like it should be about $35 per person, including tip. Does that sound fair?” You then can properly hand it to anyone else to check your figures and confirm your assumption of splitting the bill.
Expecting You to Treat
There are situations when your dinner companion may reasonably expect you to treat her such as it's her birthday, you're on a date, or she's a friend in from out of town. Friends also might suppose you are treating if you made the initial invitation. All of these situations should be cleared up well before the check comes, possibly before you enter the restaurant. For situations other than dating – which has its own set of rules – you must be humble and confident, mentioning the inevitable bill at some point before you order. You may want to mention it when making plans. “Is it OK with you if we just split this?” That’s far less awkward than waiting until after the meal.
Paying What You Owe
If you are on a budget and know your share will be less than others, it is fine to not split the bill evenly. The smoothest way is to have the right denominations so you can pay what you owe, including tip, and let the others split the bill. Grab the bill and say, “It looks like my share is $32.” Then pass the bill while you’re getting out your money. Unless your friends are completely clueless as to how much they ate and drank, they won’t bat an eyelash. The other alternative is to ask the waiter for separate checks, which is done at the beginning of the meal before he takes anyone’s order.
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