Friday, April 23, 2010

Men, Women and Separate Checks

The Advice Goddess, Amy Alkon, author of I See Rude People has an interesting post on men, women and separate checks. She received this email from a reader:

It seems the requests for separate checks tend to separate along gender lines. A reader e-mails:

I waited tables all through my twenties, when I started getting "real jobs." Much to my chagrin and disappontment, I am now, at 43, back to waiting tables. To be good at it requires a certain set of skills, mostly having to do with organization and social grace. All of these things came back to me practically overnight.

So did the memories/stereotypes of different kinds of customers. I am writing to see if you have insight or an educated guess on one of these oh-so-true stereotypes. If a group of men comes in to have lunch and maybe a beer, odds are pretty good that one of those men will pick up the tab. But, (ask any ten servers and this will be confirmed) if a group of women comes in, they will almost always ask for separate checks. It's always cause for comment among the waitstaff if a group of women doesn't ask for separate checks.


Amy asks readers why they think this is. She gets some interesting answers in the comment section.

40 Comments:

Blogger br549 said...

Most of my friends are just cheap bastards.

4:28 PM, April 23, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I find the best time to talk about who pays for what is when we are making plans to eat out. That way everyone knows what is going to happen beforehand and there is no confusion once the check arrives, I also discuss the prices at the restaurant and how much I think a meal is going to cost this way people know how much money to bring. I don't ask for separate checks because I can easily do computations in my head. This sounds a little anal but a little preparation goes a long way.

Now, what I won't do is eat out with any group of gubmit workers and old people. Male or female they ask for separate checks, they often just order pie or a small bowl of chili but want extra lemon in their free water and take a sink shower in the bathroom. They pay with exact change including the pennies and leave a 5% tip, all the while complaining about the lack of service. Some of them conveniently leave their wallets at home or there is a problem with their bank cards. I prefer to sit in the car, eat my homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich and read the newspaper in peace.

4:41 PM, April 23, 2010  
Blogger HMT said...

If it's me an the guys and we're just out for beers, we'll take one check and split it evenly. So nobody is "picking up the tab" but it's also easier on the server.

If we're having dinner then we get separate checks because the price swings are large and we don't get together often enough to "even it out"

My wife doesn't drink so she doesn't go for the "even chop", but as an accountant by trade she'll just take the single check and quickly split it up however many ways there are (and FREQUENTLY will find errors in the bill).

4:42 PM, April 23, 2010  
Blogger fivewheels said...

I've read a few of these types of threads before, so I found the comments pretty well-trod ground. But the one that said "Men are hardwired to be providers, women are hardwired to be caretakers" might have had it right except for four letters. =^)

When the guys have drinks after work, we don't keep score of who bought exactly how many rounds this time and last time and whose turn it is next time -- we're friends and we're not jerks trying to take advantage of anyone, so we know we'll all get our share eventually.

Women keep score. Monetarily and otherwise.

7:26 PM, April 23, 2010  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

Women are simply the cheapest creatures on Earth. There's no two ways about it. All this nonsense about them being collaborators, independent, and relationship-minded and all that is just that - a bunch of nonsense. We all see just how collaborative, independent, and relationship-minded they are when the bill comes due.

8:03 PM, April 23, 2010  
Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

My favorite check-stories involve a group of us who traveled together.

At the end of EVERY meal, the one woman (of the empowered woman persuasion) would insist in separating her share out to the penny, tax and tip included.

And she would turn the most pleasant meal into a nasty experience with debates over whether she had eaten any of the appetizer and exactly how much--one bite or four, and so on.

The men in the group always proposed dividing the bill into equal parts, but nooooo she would have none of it.

Now I have some sympathy, some times, where unequal portions, drinks and so on are pronounced.
But in that particular case, one of the men was the approval authority for reimbursement for all of us. The only reason for dividing the tab at all was to avoid the auditors and tax people from squabbling of who entertained who--by dividing it, nobody was being entertained--we were just eating so we could go back to work.

A larger group--usually all men--ate lunch together on Wednesdays. As a general rule we "treated" in rotation (or if it was the rare really expensive place, divided equally). Our strongly held belief was that over time, it all worked out.

The meal and the conversation was the issue, paying for it a necessary evil to be dispensed-with as quietly as possible.

9:43 PM, April 23, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

I'd like to say some of the comments from some of the women on Amy's blog surprised me, but they didn't. A man does something nice for his comrades, and it is attributed to the nefarious motive of wanting to look like top dog to feed his male ego.

Geesh. If someone wants separate checks, I'm fine with that, no one owes no one anything. But if someone says "don't worry, I got it" and pays, just say "thank you."

10:04 AM, April 24, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

Knew a lady, a lawyer and PhD. who when on a date and with a number of people would simply and always order the most expensive dish on the menu and the most expensive drink served. But that of course was only when the check was to be divvied up. She is now 3 times divorced.

11:11 AM, April 24, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Every once in a while I run into a person who simply won't pay for anything. It doesn't matter how much money they have in their wallet, they will not use their own money. I am sure there is a psychological reason for this, maybe Helen can comment better than I can about this phenomenon. It's well beyond cheapness, there is more to it than that.

2:29 PM, April 24, 2010  
Blogger Drew said...

I don't see why it's sucha big deal just to get separate checks. It's just the fairest way to handle everything. And I'm a guy. Whenever someone else pays for me, I feel constrained about what I can order.

7:11 PM, April 24, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

@Drew said...Whenever someone else pays for me, I feel constrained about what I can order.
____________

That means your a good person.

When I pick up a tab, I don't tell anyone its on me until the bill comes. That way people get what they want (they don't order less because they are being considerate) and they don't take advantage (order stuff they wouldn't pay for themselves).

7:20 PM, April 24, 2010  
Blogger Tscottme said...

I delivered pizza for years during college and I can confirm the "women are cheap" theory of sharing meal expense. The 2 worst deliveries in our store were a parent that sent a kid to the door, no tip, ever. The kid gave just enough folding money to cover the bill and closed the door after receiving his change. I think this is why adults have kids pay at the door.

The other bad customer were women at work. 9 women might split a pizza at the office. They always waited until the pizza arrived to start putting their money together to pay, taking forever. And they would almost always calculate the cost per slice and only pay for what they anticipated they would eat. The tip, if it existed, would be the coins from the nearest dollar or it would be a 15 minute calculation of how to give a 45 cent tip split among 7 and a half people, one of which just wanted one bite of one slice of pizza.

Pizza delivered to guys at work always went much quicker. The money would either be pre-collected or one guy would pay and then settle with the others after I left.

8:56 PM, April 24, 2010  
Blogger MarkyMark said...

Women keep score. Monetarily and otherwise.

You got THAT shit right!

6:13 PM, April 25, 2010  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Yeah, well, two years ago a group of friends of mine from all over met in Dallas for a Cowboys football game. We all went to Ruth's Criss for dinner.

When we got there I discretely handed the waiter a $20 and told him to bring the check to me. The total tab came to over $1000, which I paid without question. But I made sure that everyone left enough cash on the table so that the tip was 20%.

Now, why would I do something like that? Because I'm a "provider"? Because I'm macho? Actually, it was because that was the simplest and easiest way to go about it. Everyone had a nice meal, there was no arguing over who ate what or haggling over the bill. And the waiter was well paid.

By the way, there were no women at the table. Just goes to show.

7:04 PM, April 25, 2010  
Blogger Tether said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:56 PM, April 25, 2010  
Blogger Sloan said...

Larry Sheldon said: The meal and the conversation was the issue, paying for it a necessary evil to be dispensed-with as quietly as possible.

A-freakin'-MEN, brother. I would rather toss in more than I need to than sit around haggling over the bill. Talk about a perfect way to ruin a good meal...

It was argued by several women in the other comments that women are usually watching the budget more closely. Unless you're eating out very frequently, I don't think this is valid. Men have budgets too, but if settling my $17 share of the lunch bill is more easily handled by just tossing in a $20, I'm going to do it. Life is too short, and friendships too valuable, to be dickering over small change.

11:20 PM, April 25, 2010  
Blogger Slow Joe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:56 AM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

On the question of why not just get separate checks....

Because it is a burden on the server[1], because it makes it more difficult for the kitchen to plan things so all the meals for a table come up at the same and right time, and because it doesn't solve the problem[2].

[1] Yes some restaurants are now installing expensive automation that presents the order for the table to the kitchen, and prints out the tabs for each person. I don't like "expensive" if I can't eat it or drink it.[3]

[2] If appetizers, a pitcher of beer, or a pizza is involved.

[3] I say again, if you want my conversation and company, plan on working with me to get the bill paid as unobtrusively as possible.

If you can't afford the outing (and the least-hassle check-settling) say something to me early on, like when you started to think you should refuse the invitation.

I don't worry about freeloaders--the first time is on me. There won't be a second time, I don't care how much cleavage you show or weight you think you swing.

6:54 AM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger L said...

I waited tables all through my twenties and the stereotypes mentioned held pretty much true. We always dreaded parties of more than two women, because more often than not they would run your ass OFF with special orders, ridiculous imaginary diet conditions, and everything on the side, and would conclude the torture fest by squabbling with each other and the server over the bill and tipping shittily. In those days, a lot of the checks were tallied by hand or with a not-very-sophisticated POS computer that made splitting checks time-consuming. Dudes were mostly easier and you could flirt with them to jolly out a better tip.

Fast-forwarding 10 years, in the fall of '08 I took a waitress job while I looked for a better one. I enjoyed it more than I did in my 20s, surprisingly; with a grown-up work ethic I was conscientious about providing good service. This was a neighborhood place that had a regular lunch office crowd. There, the men, even construction workers, wanted their checks split--many looked aggrieved and offended that I even asked, as though I should have known by looking that they couldn't do math. They wanted their salad dressing on the side; a substantial percentage thought that they needed to be "gluten-free," or had some dread food allergy, or wanted to know if the food was "local." Fortunately, modern POS systems make check-splitting easy and fast. I don't know what to make of the dramatic increase in male fussiness ... you know, maybe it was just that place. And I will swear to you that it seemed like the women were less of a high-maintenance nightmare than they used to be. It was all very strange, and not what I expected. I got a job in my field after a couple of months and I was glad to take it.

11:34 AM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

L: Oy, have you brought up some painful memories of restaurant dinners. Don't even get me started talking about the dietary-restriction crowd. When I am with one of them I want to crawl under the table.

12:23 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Bruce said...

This conversation reminds me of splitting the check by "Judas Rules". Please forgive me if I screw this up, but it goes something like this. Judas was a little hungry and stopped by a cafe for a bowl of soup. Jesus and the rest of the disciples are walking by and spot him at the cafe. They all come cruising in and join him and proceed to order tons of food and wine. At the end of the evening Jesus tells the waiter they'll all just split the check evenly. Judas, of course, just had the soup and became resentful. And the rest, as they say, is history. I'm sure there's someone out there who can tell it better.

6:20 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger ted_nolan said...

I have noticed the "separate checks thing", but the one described in this "Bizarro" cartoon is the one that gets me. I suppose it's an extension of "the 'on the side'" meme from "When Harry Met Sally", but it's *always* a female who does this:

the cartoon (SFW).

6:27 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Amos said...

I think this also has to do with why men prefer to work with men when they're actually trying to work. It's not a "we hate women" thing. For all that women notice the macho-dick blustering, men resolve most conflicts with one another pretty quickly and efficiently.

The cost of accelerating confrontations can get very high, so while you want to be prepared if you do hit that point, you want to avoid it at almost all costs. Some physicality, even, will do, so long as the setting ritualizes conflict.

The smartass who annoys most guys is the one who dances right up to that line all the time. He's the guy who always stops right before he gets pummeled and says, "oh, hey, I was just kidding." He's the guy who will count checks like a woman. At work, the other guys will sometimes step on each others toes, but it's usually forgotten because the cost of hanging on to it is high. That we've been in offices for 100 years doesn't erase what we were doing for thousands. The set of things that are small enough to let go is very large for guys. To be harassed by people who aren't like that is problematic.

The other issue isn't that guys want to prove how Billy Badass they are, which is, judging by Alcon's comments, the theory among a lot of women. What they want is to not be the guy who didn't pull his weight. The surest way of doing that is by overcompensating.

6:29 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Becky said...

Here's another one in the same vein: who splits meals more, men or women? I'm betting women. "It's such a large portion, how about we order one and get two plates?".

I wonder how waitstaff feels about that?

6:41 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Cato Renasci said...

In my experience, men will either split a check evenly (only asking the server to do it if they're all using credit cards) or one will pick up the tab and others will give him cash.

Women usually want separate checks.

In a summer band I play in, I usually have dinner with a group that's mostly women. It took me a couple of years, but I was able to persuade them that it was easier on everyone to just do a very roughly equal split - with a dollar or so variant if someone didn't get a drink - and to tip well. Hardest part was to get them to tip 20+% but I insisted, having been a waiter in grad school and knowing how our group required quick service. Works - when we walk at the beginning of the season, our table is ready no matter how busy they are, the waitress makes sure she gets to us right away, and our food comes out just as we order it and quickly.

6:46 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger kmg said...

Women tend to be moochers and freeloaders.

My sister is only of just 1% of women who insists on splitting the bill on a first date, even if the man was willing to pay. She, of course, is now engaged to a wonderful man.

But most women NEVER offer to pay for the first date.

The good news is that pick-up artists have adapted around this, and have a well-tested method to have sex with a woman within a few hours of meeting her, at no expense.

The mooching of women has caused pick-up artists to emerge in response, which is what women deserve.

6:48 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger kmg said...

The truth is, men are the only humans that ever become adults.

Women go out of their way to insist how great they are. This is due to the fact that they know that the opposite is true.

6:49 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Bruce Wayne said...

KMG said, "Women go out of their way to insist how great they are. This is due to the fact that they know that the opposite is true."

Women and Democrats, or do I repeat myself?

7:26 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Shawn said...

This isn't a complicated process, unless you bring the girls into paying the bills.

I'm with the "split it evenly among all involved" types, and even better, one guy puts it on his card, the others give him cash, and eventually it all evens out, because you're all friends and somebody else is gonna pick it up next time. We also generally tip pretty well, so nobody's really hung up on getting exact change because good tips are good karma. Of course there were always those people - (and they were always girls, whether they were dating one of the fellas or not), who insisted on paying their own way. We're in a party of 12, the guys are putting cash on the table and calling it good, but there's 3 or 4 women who literally pull out their cell phone calculators, determine that they owe "x" for their meal/drinks and "x" times .05 to .15 for tip - (depending on how much attention they felt they got from the server) and holding up the whole process while inconveniencing an already harried server just to save $2 or $3 dollars. Usually amounts to an extra 20 minutes spent sorting out the bill, and a miffed girl who inevitably complains that she had to pay $1 more than what she owed.

Ridiculous.

8:13 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Are we trained into what we do?

8:17 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Stan said...

Over 20 years ago, I used to play church softball with a group of guys who always went to Pizza Hut after the game. Some of the guys would come by for a beer or two or three, even if they hadn't been able to get off work in time for the game. Some of the married guys would be there only a short time. Some of the rest of us might be there for 3 hours. Whenever anyone left, he'd throw a ten or twenty on the table to cover whatever he'd had. There was always far more on the table at night's end than what was needed to cover the tab and a 20% tip. Sometimes as much as $100 extra.

Having waited tables in law school I can tell you that there was no way that would happen with a group of women. They are too hard-wired at keeping score. [In HS or Jr High, two guys can get in a fight yet become friends a year later. But a girl can catch another girl looking with too much interest at a guy she likes and they'll still be hating each other at the 25th class reunion. They keep score for keeps.]

9:50 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Miriam said...

I dunno, whenever I (and any of my female friends) were really picky about money/expenses, etc, it was because we were living below poverty level (with kids as single moms). Poverty and paranoia makes you very money conscious.

11:39 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger Janette Kok said...

Men and women do things differently. Wow, there's a revelation. I don't think it means one group is wonderful while the other group is despicable. It just means they are different from each other, and probably both do what is habitual in their own groups. I don't think it's all that deep or that revelatory of our inner natures.

11:52 PM, April 26, 2010  
Blogger David Baker said...

I don't see why it's sucha big deal just to get separate checks.

The "big deal" is that it turns the waitstaff into bookkeepers. It takes time (service) away from the other tables. Six, eight, or a dozen checks (one table, separate orders) also creates an unnecessary burden on the kitchen staff, particularly regarding timing.

When I worked as roving consultant/general manager, among other necessary changes I immediately outlawed separate checks. And when the lovely ladies complained, I suggested they try Denny's.

Great employees are hard to find. Cheapskate customers are a dime a dozen; show them the door if your goal is a great restaurant.

2:38 AM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger Frank Warner said...

Is there a connection between demanding separate checks in restaurants and stopping a supermarket check-out line with a stack of coupons?

I'm not saying this is the wisest policy, but even if I were broke I would never use coupons. (OK, maybe one or two a year.)

Maybe this explains it: I want buying stuff to go fast. Splitting checks and stacking coupons doesn't do it.

3:07 AM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I was in a fast food joint on Sunday. The old lady in front of me in line was ordering a $4 sandwich but was using a $2 coupon. It took her 15 minutes to explain exactly how she wanted it prepared. Then she stepped aside and I began placing my order. Then the lady decided she need a few more adjustments to her order and interrupt my discussion with the counter person to add her additional instructions. So I said firmly looking at her pointing to the counter person, "He might not mind you having it your way but I certainly do." Then I gave the woman my death vision. She stopped.

7:23 AM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger Suburbanbanshee said...

I just don't have a lot of cash money with me at any one time, so I usually have to have a separate check to pay it with my credit card. I admit that it would be nice if I were less forgetful about bringing folding money and change, but I am just that forgetful 3 times out of 4. (Especially since it's dangerous to carry much cash. I guess men don't feel that way, but I sure do.)

So without a separate check, I'd have to beg my friends to take a check (if I had my checkbook with me) or to take an IOU (which would make me feel like crud, not to mention the wrestling next week to make the person take my money). Or let them pay for it, which this thread tells me is mooching; and yet, not letting men pay for food is an insult to their pride. Sigh.

I like separate checks. I never realized they were a pain for servers, but we do try to warn them ahead of time. But mostly, separate checks save _my_ pride, given my constant forgetfulness.

9:49 AM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

Separate checks for whenever some of the people with you are on an expense account. And for me, separate checks when I am with a group of other women, because the others are horrible tippers, and I tip generously.

I have a degree in Math, but I will still NEVER be the one to split up the check for a bunch of women. They all think that whoever did the split did it wrong and somehow ripped them off (and yes, they would hold it against me forever).

Ladies -- how difficult is it really, to learn a little math, to plan ahead and carry cash, to decide in advance whether the restaurant menu has anything you will like without having to special order every damn dish?

I work with (thus, eat in groups with) men far more often than with women. Women are a pain in the butt. And I am one.

The ONLY time I fussed about splitting the tab was when I was on an expense account, all I wanted was a salad and water, and one other guy at the table ordered drinks before dinner, 8-course dinner, dessert, drinks after dinner...his tab was easily 10X mine... and he wanted all eight of us at the table to split it evenly. He was an ass. Luckily, everyone knew it. So even though I was the only woman at the table, I didn't have to be the one to suggest that we ask for separate checks. Some of the guys were on per-diem travel, and they didn't want to blow their entire per diem buying this one ass his drinks.

Different situations warrant different responses. But overall, I think most folks have pegged it. Women in general are awful tippers (and I don't get this! they bitch about poor wages for women, then they stiff the woman who knocked herself out serving them food).

My hubby and I are getting older now, and often split a meal since the portions are so huge. I STILL insist on tipping as though two meals were served. I also routinely drink water, rather than soda, coffee, or tea. I still tip as though a purchased beverage were served.

But I have been around enough to know for sure that as a woman, I am more the exception than the rule.

11:10 AM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger Dewave said...

Maybe this explains it: I want buying stuff to go fast. Splitting checks and stacking coupons doesn't do it.

I don't bother splitting checks. I do use coupons. (I'm a guy).

Splitting checks and arguing over who paid for what and who ate what is time consuming.

Using coupons at the grocery checkout lane is trivial: you just swipe them over the scanner. You can do a stack of 10 coupons in like 3 seconds.

What *does* take time at checkout is writing checks. I never mind waiting the few seconds it takes soemone to use a couple coupons but I do get irked when the shopper waits until the cashier announces the bill and then you can see the dawning realization spreading across their face that they need to pay for all this. So they start rooting around in their purse, finally find the check, ask what the date is, etc etc.

I have my credit card out and ready to go before the cashier has even gotten to my stuff.

11:49 AM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger Physics Geek said...

Well, I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see the number of women over at Amy's place who claimed that the reason men will pick up the tip involves us whipping out our junk to prove who is the most masculine. That aside, the times when I go out with buddies, we either pull out cash so that it's "close enough", or one of us will grab the bill and say "I've got this one, you got the last one". Everything gets paid, the staff gets tipped well and everyone is happy.

I worked in food service for 18 years and I have many stories that illustrate the observed differences between men and women. This issue is, on average, pretty much what I observed. But I don't thing it means anything negative about men or women. Instead, it's merely another indication that we're wired differently, to which I say "Thank God."

1:01 PM, April 27, 2010  

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