General Question

everephebe's avatar

Under what circumstances is it rude to ask to split the check?

Asked by everephebe (11552 points ) February 19th, 2011

When is paying for yourself considered rude?

Tonight I was out with a friend the their family, who were very likely going to treat me to dinner but didn’t say they would. Side note: They are well off, I am not. At the end of dinner I asked the waiter to split the check and he made it kind of awkward, well it was all a little awkward. I have no problem with people paying for my dinner, conceptually it’s great, but I always feel funny. Even tonight when I paid for my dinner it still felt funny.

So I was wondering when is it rude to ask to pay for yourself for dinner or anything really? On a date or at a dinner with family or friends? Your thoughts please, what’s good manners?

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18 Answers

mcbolden's avatar

I believe if you have asked someone out on a date, it is rude to ask that person to pay as their is an assumption that the person who invites will pay for the person who has been invited.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t think you were rude in this circumstance @everephebe. Did they say they were TAKING you out for dinner? Did they clarify who was paying? I would think it was ruder to assume someone else was going to pay. I can see how it could have felt very awkward but they could have said, “no, we are getting this. We invited you for dinner” or something and therefore allowed you to graciously say, well thank you!

I have been in situations where I have organised say a family dinner with the expectation people would pay for their own meals (we are not rich and certainly weren’t at this time as we had a big mortgage and little children) but my brother at the end of the meal made no attempt to pay for his food and we ended up paying for his meal. He is single and was older than us and had a good job. It actually left me a little cranky. Everyone else put in without us saying a word. Perhaps we need to clarify these things more when we invite people. Then it wouldn’t be so awkward for either side.

global_nomad's avatar

I know what you mean. I even feel weird when I visit my relatives and they pay for my meal. I don’t know if I should offer or not, because, well, I am in college and they are family who invited me to visit them. I usually offer to pay, but it seems pointless most of the time because I know they’ll say no. I think the general rule of thumb is that if you are invited out to dinner or to eat (or even to go to the movies) but someone else then they should be expecting to pay for you. On the other hand, if you extend the invitation then you pay for them. Of course, this isn’t true with good friends or with people where you would normally pay for yourself and yourself only. When I do anything with my friends, we all pay for ourselves, but with family it depends on the circumstance. I mean, my uncle and aunt pay for me when they invite me to visit them even when I do offer. But, when my uncles came to help me move out of my dorm last year, I took them out to lunch and paid for them. Also, I agree with @mcbolden in that if you ask someone out on a date, you should pay because you invited the other person.

everephebe's avatar

@Mz_Lizzy I was invited last minute, there was no discussion of payment but when the waiter started walking off to get the check I asked him to split it. I knew that they would have paid for me but that I didn’t want to have to treat me.

@mcbolden my question is only about, when is it inappropriate to pay for yourself, if you make your date pay when you asked them out it’s just weird.

@global_nomad It’s hard to know especially with family if you’re slighting them somehow my paying for yourself, because you’re stopping them from being nice and treating you. Also it’s like how many times can you say, “no it’s ok, I’ve got this,” and they refuse to let you pay.

Bellatrix's avatar

Yes, I get it. Hope it was a good dinner anyway and not spoiled by the lack of clarity about the bill.

everephebe's avatar

@Mz_Lizzy Dinner was good, it was Lebanese food, it’s wasn’t spoiled just a little awkward at the end. I know the family pretty well, and I know they like me so… it’s okay. The dinner just got me thinking about this question.

Carol's avatar

Perhaps it’s not the circumstance but who you ask in the moment. Once the waiter’s involved, you’ve shot yourself in the foot. Wouldn’t it be better to address your dinner partner (s), who are your potential hosts? It is always appropriate to offer, by taking out your wallet and saying “please, let me…..” The other party (ies) can either accept your invitation or hopefully say “Oh oh oh, we certainly would never allow that.” Of course you should presume that relatives who are older and have a great deal more than you will pay. But that doesn’t preclude being mannerly by offering. There are customs of civility that cultures follow that may seem pointless, but nonetheless, they do exist and must be observed because not to do so causes confusion all around.

Onto a different topic everephebe, you brought up the subject of possibly insulting them by not having them pay. You are definitely onto something. It is particularly important to allow older male relatives to pay. Whatever you think (the Fluther Community may now stone me) they see it as their utility…their ability to provide. No one needs to feel uncomfortable. Your taking and their act of giving makes both you happy. Eat up!

jca's avatar

@everephebe: I think you weren’t rude but an easier way to handle it would have been when the bill came (one bill for the table) to just take out your wallet and guess-timate the amount that your food cost, including tax and tip, and hand over that amount. That way the host can offer to pay and it’s easier for all involved, and if they don’t offer, then at least you have paid your share, without any assumptions.

perspicacious's avatar

I can’t think of why it would ever be rude except on a date,

cookieman's avatar

If you’re part of a big Italian family, it’s always rude. We don’t split up checks based on who ate what (I had the chicken, but you had the steak and a beer.)

We simply divide it evenly based on how many people are there. Or my MIL yells and embarrases everyone until she gets to pay for everyone.

chyna's avatar

^^I would like your MIL.

janbb's avatar

I don’t think it’s ever rude to offer to split the check. The other person always has the option of saying, “No, I’ll get this.” What is rude is insisting on it after the other person says they want to pay. Also, I would say, “Let’s split this” when the check arrives, not when the waiter comes for payment. S/he should not be involved in your negotiations. A nice thing you can do if you like, is say, “I’ll get the tip then” if you feel you want to contribute something but it is not required.

Scooby's avatar

I have to say, I always insist on paying my way, if I’m out in company I always ask for a separate bill for my meal, I’m no free loader…… But then again If I ask someone out I will insist on paying for the entire thing! :-/
I don’t expect anyone else to pay as I invited them out, I guess I’m more comfortable giving than receiving :-/
Maybe in future you just offer to pay for your meal before you get to the restaurant, if they insist, then let them pay, they may just be being generous……

marinelife's avatar

I would have asked the waiter to split the check before anyone ordered. That way, they could have said something at that time. Not after the meal.

Coloma's avatar

I am always prepared to pay my way and if I am not I don’t accept an invitation.

One should never assume anything without getting clear ahead of time.

My friends and I always split the bill unless one of us decides to pick up the tab, in which case that offer is made at some point before or during the meal.

Sometimes one of us will offer and ask the other to pay the tip.

If you can’t afford to pay and no offer is made up front then I would decline the invitation.

josie's avatar

I really do not know the convention in that circumstance.

For the record, here is how I see it-
If I am invited to be somebody’s guest for dinner, I usually offer to split, and most people refuse, so I just let it happen. If the opportunity presents, I will buy drinks after dinner.

If they are my guest (that is, I asked them to join me, and they would not have been there if I had not invited), I take the check and refuse any offer to split the check.
If they are friends visiting from out of town, I take the check and refuse their offer to split.

If I happen to be in a group of causual aquaintances who decide spontaneously to to get together, I usually make a polite offer to pick up the check. Most folks at that point will protest and offer to split. And at that point I agree to split (showing polite reluctance, but nevertheless agreeing).

If I am out with my close friends, we all ritualistically argue about picking up the check. Usually one of us “wins” the argument and picks it up, knowing full well that over time, it all evens out anyway. And with my closest friends, it actually does even out, because over time we occasionally “lose” the check argument, we eat at each others homes, drink each others beer, wine, etc.

Unique circumstance I am still close with some guys I ran with as a kid. Once a year, one of them (who has a place on Hilton Head) has the rest of us down for a few days of golf. We stay at his place. We go out to eat every night. We pay, he eats for free.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’ve paid my share even on the few straight-up dates I’ve been on, except for one; one man insisted on paying after I’d offered, so I let him, but I felt uncomfortable about it. I have a horror of using people. I was raised to believe that it was rude to expect someone to treat you when you’re just hanging out. With my friends, we all just split the check, usually.

The only time I know for certain that I don’t have to pay is when I’m being taken out for my birthday.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

If you’ve been asked to dinner as a guest then I can’t see why it’s rude to offer to pay your way unless it disrupts conversation, inconveniences wait staff or embarasses someone else at the table who wanted to treat everyone. Sometimes refusing someone’s hospitality because you want to be independent is read as you not wanting to really be their guest.

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