|Posted on July 27, 2016 at 5:55 PM|
Whose Check Is It…When Girlfriends Dine
By Tracy Darity
Many, many years ago I agreed to meet some co-workers for happy hour. We worked different schedules, therefore, most arrived as early as 5:00 pm and others, including me, did not arrive until after 7. Due to the lateness of our arrival, we only ordered a drink and one item from the tapas menu. One coworker who arrived with me was a commuter from a nearby city and needed to get on the road. She asked the waiter for her check because she had to get going. He gave her the bill, which was only $11.00; she paid her tab and said her goodbyes. Afterwards the waiter checked to see if anyone in our group of remaining guests wanted to order anything else. We all agreed we were set. A few minutes later he returned with our individual checks. Now keep in mind, I had a margarita and a piece of Mahi Mahi. I was expecting my bill, including the gratuity to be no more than $20.00. Imagine my horror when I looked at my bill and it was over $40.00.
“Excuse me Mr. Waiter-man, but you gave me the wrong check.” I went on to explain I only ordered two items that were $7.95 each. Well he educated me that day, “We do not split checks, we take the total of the bill and divide it equally among the number in your party.” Oh, this was some bull. First I thought about my coworker who had departed to get home. Did she know what was about to go down? Next I thought back to when we walked in and there were empty pitchers from already disposed of Sangria, and the dishes from meals devoured. I looked to my coworkers who had been there from the beginning and waited for them to say, “Oh no, we got this since the bulk of the $300+ bill is ours.” No one said a word, simply pulled out their credit cards and happily paid the amount of the check. I was livid. The only black person at the table I couldn’t help but wonder if this was some ish common with people of other persuasions. What I did know for a fact is, I would never dine with these people again, nor would I patronize this establishment in the future if this rule was still in effect.
Fast forward to current times and I realize that black folks are now doing similar things and defending it as having integrity. Let me share a few things about me and dining before I continue. There are four things I don’t share—my books, my shoes, my food (unless it is so good you have to try it, or you ask for a taste and I really like you), and the check. Unless I invite you to dinner to celebrate your recent accomplishment or I am feeling generous and tell the waiter “one check” you can rest assured that you are responsible for your own check.
Now that we have that out of the way, about a year ago I joined a networking group for black women, and their theme was to gather once a month for Sunday Brunch. The organization had groups all over the country. At our local level, members paid $10 to reserve their spot and if you attended the money was refunded back to you at the gathering. On average we had about twenty women attend, although not always the same people every time. Each month we went to a different restaurant in different cities that make up the Tampa Bay area. Since I am a food lover and had never attended some of the restaurants before, I wanted the real deal…appetizer, main dish, dessert and drink. In a nutshell, I wanted to enjoy my experience.
What I came to observe about the women in the group is that some of them would only order an appetizer and then wait for others to offer a sampling of their fare. Others would attend and then talk about their strict diets, but then anxiously hold out their plates when offered to try something. One outing, the hostess of the group ordered some Thai shrimp, now there were only 6 shrimp on the plate, be it jumbo shrimp, but still only six. She asked if anyone wanted to try some, and you guessed it, she was ordering a replacement minutes later. No honey, if that was all I was ordering that offer never would have left my lips. At first, I didn’t understand why people would bother to attend the brunches and then only order an appetizer. They were purely social gatherings with no program, speaker, etc, just a group of women dining together. As I am writing this blog, I wonder if the “divide the check rule” was in effect would those same women would order a full meal, or not bothered to come at all.
Over the past six months the question of dining with friends and splitting the check has been the topic of various conversations. Two viewpoints stood out to me. Among a circle of professional women, one person stated that if she is at dinner with friends and someone refuses to tip the server due to bad service, she would never dine with that person again. She went on to explain that she doesn’t associate with petty or cheap people. I can’t recall a time when I have not tipped a server, but yes, I will reduce your tip based on your inability to perform your job at the level I expect as a paying customer. The whole, they only make $2 an hour argument is wasted on me. If I took a job for $2 an hour and needed $15 an hour to pay my bills, I’m going to be the best server ever. I’m going to be so good that every time you come to that restaurant you ask to be seated in my section. But I digress.
The next conversation, someone said when she dines with friends they always divide the check. When people objected to that notion, she explained that it doesn’t matter if one person only ordered appetizers and another filet mignon. If you are truly friends things like food bills shouldn’t matter. This week it may be you ordering the filet mignon, but next week you may only want an appetizer. In the end it all balances itself out. Like the person in the first conversation, she concluded that if a friend asked for separate checks she would not dine with that person again and would question their commitment to the friendship.
In both scenarios the women making these bold statements indicated that situations like these are about integrity and maturity. Perhaps in business, where you are trying to make a sale or gain favor, but in friendship, I have to disagree. For starters, when the women in the brunch club only ordered appetizers, my first thought was they were just cheap. However, as I got to know them I learned sometimes they didn’t have the money for a full meal, but wanted to get out and mingle anyway. Yes, there were some who were just being cheap and would take a shrimp knowing that was all the person was ordering…now their integrity should be questioned. At the end of the day, when you invite someone to dine with you the only expectation should be that you are spending quality time with someone you care about. A friend should not have to weigh whether or not she has enough money to cover items she didn’t order. What if she doesn’t drink and everyone is downing shots, should that be her responsibility? And who are you to say someone has to tip a server based on your expectations of what is due that person. Maybe having to wait forty-five minutes for your food, only for it to be cold doesn’t bother you, but it does your friend who’s had a stressful time at work and hasn’t eaten all day. Most important, when a person goes out to dinner shouldn’t she be allowed the common courtesy of enjoying every crumb of what she ordered. Heck, maybe she wants to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
A lot of people don’t like to dine alone, but if we are going to add peer pressure to the menu, maybe it will be a better alternative. Yesterday I was craving some Cali Fries from one of my favorite Mexican themed restaurants. At the last minute I decided to dine-in, instead of doing take-out. I opened up Youtube on my phone and got caught-up on my 4ItsRox and Mike B TV reviews, as I enjoyed my meal. Truth be told, it was quite relaxing.
So what say you? What are your thoughts on dining with friends? Do you want to split or divide…the check that is? Has your invites dried up and you’re wondering why? Is this a conversation that needs to be had among friends before you dine out?
If you agree with this article—please like, if you have an opinion—please comment, and if you with me—please share. I would love to know your point of view. Also, check-out my other blogs here on A View From Tracy’s Point.
Peace and Blessings,
Tracy L. Darity is the author of three novels, He Loves Me He Loves Me Not!, Love...Like Snow in Florida on a Hot Summer Day, and The Red Bear Society. Available in print and e-book. To learn more, visit www.TracyLDarity.com
Categories: Life's Musings