I don’t know if it’s because I never had much growing up or because I try to save as much as possible now, but I’m careful with my money. You can call it stingy or cheap, but it’s not, really. It’s just always being aware of how much I’m spending, unlike the many people in this city who can go out and buy food and drinks all night without paying attention to how much money they’re parting with.
So when I’m with a group, I hate the split–you know, the time at the end of the meal when someone proposes to split the check evenly, and everyone goes along with it because it’s too awkward to say anything. I don’t care that it makes me look stingy or cheap; I protest, especially since I’m usually the one who’s spent $10-20 less than the others. I speak up and say, “Actually, I didn’t have any drinks, so I’d rather not split it evenly.” Then I sit through the awkward looks while the rest of the group tries to figure out what this means for them–which is usually just more math–and I’m proud of my victory. Not only did I stick up for myself and my frugality, but I can assume at least one other person in the group is probably glad I said something.
But when it was just me and one other person last night, I couldn’t do it. I gave in.
When my dining companion asked if we should just split the check, I paused, giving him a second to realize that wouldn’t make any sense because he had ordered dessert and salad and a more expensive entree (plus, I never would have split the appetizer if he hadn’t suggested it, but I’ll let that one slide because I did go along with it). He had a $25 coupon he’d paid $6 for, so let’s go ahead and wipe out the difference in our entree prices. We’re still left with a $16 difference between our two meals. Maybe you’re rich and think that’s nothing, but that’s something.
So I gave him the time to realize his error. He didn’t. I wanted to say, “No, that’s unfair and I refuse to do it.” I said, “Okay.”
Then we got our credit cards back and I thought maybe he’d offer to pay the tip to help make up for the fact that I was over-paying. Nope.
Then he said, “Is it okay that I ordered this dessert?”–almost giving me an out but not quite, because he didn’t make any reference to the money, so I still wasn’t able to say, “No, it’s not okay that I’m paying for your dessert and you’re not.” I just said, “Yeah.”
It looked like he was really going to let me pay almost $30 for $20 of food and not even get a discount on my part when the whole reason we’d come was because of the discount. This was just unacceptable, so I decided to give him one last chance (read in the voice at the 3:45 mark in this clip).
I pointed out that we needed to pay tip on the entire meal’s cost and not just the price after the $25 discount. This was his opportunity to say, “Oh, you know what, since so far you’re not even benefiting from the discount, plus I’m making you pay for food you didn’t order or eat, why don’t I just pay the extra tip so it at least reassures you that I recognize you’re getting a bad deal here.”
Instead he said, “Oh, thanks for catching that!”
And I left the meal seething. Okay, not seething. Even I’m not that petty. But I was frustrated that I didn’t fight the split, and even more frustrated that the split had even been considered.
I’m not saying I never do the split. If it’s a 1st date and we’re drinking beers that are a dollar or 2 away in price, I don’t mind alternating rounds. If it’s a 21st date and we always split things and it will eventually work itself out or if not, who cares because I love you and it doesn’t matter, okay.
Otherwise, don’t offer to split something evenly that isn’t even–you’re defying the laws of math here, and no one wants that.