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Subject: Splitting the bill at a restaurant rss

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¡dn ʇǝƃ ʇ,uɐɔ ı puɐ uǝllɐɟ ǝʌ,ı
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Have you ever gone out with a large group of people for a dinner, and when the bill came and the money was all added up, the collective total was short?

Of course you have. Dining with large groups sucks.
Someone always forgets to add their extra drink(s), or half the cost of the appetizer that they "shared", or their upcharge to get a salad instead of french fries.
Plus, people are notoriously poor at calculating percentages (taxes and tips).

So unless there is one person assigned to tabulate everyone else's expenses, checking the items against the bill — which is a major pain in the ass — someone (or two) is going to get some "free" food, subsidized by another person(s) who will have to overpay in order to make things right.

Which brings up the question:
Do people order more-expensive food when they know they’re going to be splitting the check equally?

There was a small article written on this, online, last year. I like the analogies in this quote, to explain the term "externality".

Mona Chalabi wrote:
Why do we all behave like greedy morons?
Economists have a name for this concept: externalities. Any time you make a decision that affects someone else without considering how it might affect that person, whether positively or negatively, you create an externality — it’s basically a fancy way of saying “indirect effect.”
There are positive externalities (e.g. when you decide to get a flu shot, other people benefit) and negative externalities (e.g. when you decide to fart, other people suffer).


So is bill-splitting any better?
Negative externalities — and even the mere threat of negative externalities — affect our behavior.
Participants in a bill-splitting experiment expected the others to order more, so they tried to maximize what they could get out of the situation by ordering more themselves.
This makes no sense because it increases the amount of money out of their own pocket — money they could save by ordering more frugally.
The irony: Believing that others will act selfishly makes individuals act selfishly.

It seems to be even worse when one person is getting a "free meal".
Imagine that 9 people are celebrating a 10th person's birthday, and the nine are supposed to cover the costs of everything that the 10th person has. It's been proven that a majority of people, in the position of the 10th person, will take advantage of the situation.
Most people, knowing that their meal is free, will order more than they would if they were splitting a bill, and especially more if they were going to be paying for themselves.

Has anyone come up with an easy, yet fair, way to split a large group bill that eliminates individual abuses and "unintended" omissions?
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Billy McBoatface
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MABBY wrote:
Has anyone come up with an easy, yet fair, way to split a large group bill that eliminates individual abuses and "unintended" omissions?

Never agree to split a bill unless you know and trust everybody involved. Problem solved.
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maf man
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There's always that one person doing the math, me.

Its actually rare that this happens to me as going out in a group thats too large where they don't split the check is rare as it really is up to the server. Also times where I've gone out with a group its to treat someone so everyone rounds up and covers that person(s) so paying more than your share is on purpose.
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Mark O'Reilly
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Interesting subject Mabby.

We often have meals out for large family groups, mainly birthdays.
One of our party , let's call him "guardian angel", is over generous and always wants to pay for everything ( lucky us, I know) and there is another person who will go out of his way to avoid paying for anything , let's call him "sister Agnes, as he is tighter than a Nuns crotch.

We have tackled the bill two ways:

A) we each pay for what we have eaten - this as pointed out is right Royal pain in the ass to work out - with starter, drinks, main course, side dishes and some times desserts to calculate for 10+ people.

Hindering the above method is the Angel throwing wads of notes into the centre of the table and the bloody Nun doing a Houdini to the toilet or out to make a phone call.

We have now adopted B.

B) it is agreed at start if there is to be starters and/or desserts. After looking at menu, it is agreed the maximum budget per head and at the end, the bill is split equally between adults, plus a 10% tip if the service was good.
We let the Angel pay for our children - (his grand children).
The most satisfying result of Project B is that there is nowhere the Nun can hide - his total is known in moments and he has to reluctantly cough up.

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"All I'm saying is, when we split the cheque three ways the steak-eater picks the pocket of the salad-man."

— The Blue Raja, Mystery Men (1999)
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Barry Harvey
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When asked about this, Stephen Hawking said, "I would have solved the Theory of Everything years ago if I didn't have to incorporate Restaurant Bill Sharing Theory into it."

Bistromathics doesn't help.
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Andy Andersen
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When we dine with a large group (kids, grandkids, in-laws) I pick up the check one time and the in-laws pick it up the next time.
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I will always pay for what I have ordered [excepting times when people pay for me, but that's a different thing entirely].
I will never wrap my head around sharing a bill equally.
As such, never run into this situation.
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Tony C
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The only times I've gone out with a big enough group that this has mattered it's been one of two options:
- Separate checks (friend's birthday type scenario)
- One person taking everyone else out for the meal (usually the patriarch/matriarch, sometimes the host, sometimes the guest.). Next discussion is if someone else will get the tip.
If someone offers to be generous and pay for everyone, I'll let them - then return the favor next time.

I definitely don't do the 'every one pitch in equal amount' scenario that often, especially in advance.

I know a lot of places don't allow separate checks but I've not had a problem with it.

But in the birthday gift/meal scenario - yes - makes sense that someone getting stuff for Free, will want more stuff than if they had to Pay for it.

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Boaty McBoatface
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I order the food I like, I never think about price unless there is a budget.

So not I would not order more expensive food if the bill was split, but I might order less expensive food if money was tight (split bill or not).

But I think bill splitting is a bad idea on the whole, best to pay individually, then there are no freeloaders (and I have seen it done).
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Austin Bordeaux
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I have personally never run into the situation of being a part of a big group trying to split the bill. It has always been either that one person has offered to pay for everyone or that everyone lets the wait staff know that we are doing individual bills. Doesn't sound like a fun situation. I will totally admit that thinking about it I would probably be one of the people that tries to get more than what I end up paying for, but if it backfires and I end up paying cost or more I would not complain or say anything about it and just accept my fate.
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¡dn ʇǝƃ ʇ,uɐɔ ı puɐ uǝllɐɟ ǝʌ,ı
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wmshub wrote:
MABBY wrote:
Has anyone come up with an easy, yet fair, way to split a large group bill that eliminates individual abuses and "unintended" omissions?

Never agree to split a bill unless you know and trust everybody involved. Problem solved.

So I shouldn't trust my family, then. whistle
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TonyKR
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I went out with a group once where everyone put in a little more "just in case". The total ended up being almost twice what it "should" have been. Not surprisingly, everyone started slightly underpaying after that.
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It's not any worse than trying to feed kids. Man, once they get off of the kid's menu you might as well plan on your bill quadrupling.

PS Subsidizing the eating habits of others is the (North) American way.
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Interesting. The vast majority of people I know (including myself) would go out of their way to order moderately priced food if they knew someone else was picking up the tab. I'm not saying I'd order something unusually cheap. But I almost certainly would order a standard favorite and not get something unusually expensive; that just sounds like being a dick to people who are doing you a favor.
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Everyone agrees to split the bill evenly. Someone who has had more offers to pay more. If it really is a lot more people agree. If it's only a bit more people just say don't worry about it. If someone has had less similar, except someone else mentions it.

If you're not going out with people like that either things are tight, in which case my sympathies, or you're going out with the wrong people.

Last time this came up there were only two of us. And we skipped the agree to split evenly bit, we just assumed it.
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Dennis Ku
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I just don't go out with large groups, mostly because I don't like people. The best alternative is having separate bills, but some restaurants don't like the hassle. If it's short, and no one owns up to it, I'll just pay the difference.

AND THEN COMPLAIN ABOUT IT FOREVER.
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Xander Fulton
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HiveGod wrote:
"All I'm saying is, when we split the cheque three ways the steak-eater picks the pocket of the salad-man."

— The Blue Raja, Mystery Men (1999)


Not if the salad man can drink the steak eater under the table! Check and mate, sir!

Mimedestroyer wrote:
I have personally never run into the situation of being a part of a big group trying to split the bill. It has always been either that one person has offered to pay for everyone or that everyone lets the wait staff know that we are doing individual bills.


Those are the two best ways for business lunches - highest ranking person gets it (since they are usually expensing it, anyway, might as well come from one person instead of many), or we ask the waiter to do separate bills throughout. (And any place that becomes a regular to eat at, the waiter has capably split up the appetizers across bills, too)

Otherwise, in situations where a restaurant refuses to split up the bill and we can't really do it from one person (it happens - although we don't usually go back to those places unless the food was mind-blowing), someone just grabs the itemized bill and runs through it with a pen noting down who ordered what, and totals it up themselves. Not really any longer to do that than scoring half the Euro-games out there, and the numbers come out correctly, then...

('course, you have to rely on the waiter then entering in different numbers for a half dozen or more different cards, but...hey, his fault in the first place for not splitting it up)
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If it's that big a deal, stay home. You're already being anti-social if you're squabbling over anything under $20. Don't be a sucker, but don't be a penny pincher, either.
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Oh gee, sorry guys, I left my wallet on Mars...

Never agree to split a check unless you're willing to pay the whole check yourself.

We had a men's breakfast with one of my churches and when it came time to pay, it was also time to 'bless the waitress' so everyone would throw down 10s and 20s on their $5 checks. One time I couldn't pay, but the rest of the time I'd make sure I put my couple bucks in (I'd get their $2 breakfast with water) but I just wasn't in a place where I could be dropping a lot on breakfast.

But I could easily have just skipped paying and everything would have been covered, even if I'd ordered a lot more.

One of the guys owned the restaurant.
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When in a big group, I always tell the waitress I'll pay whatever is left.

Sometimes it's a win, sometimes a loss.
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I have been stiffed several times by saying, "Everyone throw in whatever you think you owe and I'll just put it on my credit card." It has never been a HUGE difference, but I have surely paid $30 - $40 more than my fair share on more than one occasion when there were 10 - 12 people involved.
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Robert Wesley
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Re: Splitting the "scene" at a restaurant
whistle Well, generally in "dine & dash" it WERE no longer considered 'being' a "paying customer" upon "ditto"!
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We specifically state to waiter/waitress etc BEFORE we order that we will all be paying separately (or in couples), so usually we get separate bills at the end...

At a family meal my grandad pays for EVERYTHING and refuses to have it any other way
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I usually ask for a separate bill except at functions where I know one person is going to get the total bill, like a work related thing for example.

I always ask for separate, not because I'm cheap, I'm lazy and don't like the fuss about figuring out who owes what, plus I never carry cash anymore. When I get involved in that I usually end up being the guy who pays to much.
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