Everybody loves a birthday party. It’s a chance to let loose and celebrate another year of life—good or bad. But along with the traditional bash, often comes the dreaded group dinner. No matter how many of these I’ve attended they typically all end the same.
We’ve all been there before; everyone is well fed, tipsy and having a good time. Then comes the bill. Whoever’s in charge of collecting the money crunches the numbers and throws out a figure that’ll represent the shared amount. People start digging in their wallets and purses and put their portion in the pot. Everything is tallied up and the money collector announces, “Hey, we’re short X amount.”
Shock fills the faces of all the bellyful patrons.
“How is that possible,” says one.
“All I had was XYZ,” says another.
“That’s all I got,” declares someone else.
Just like that, the celebration (or random night out) transforms into a pesky game of pin the bill on the cheapskate. If the under-tipper isn’t discovered or forced to cough up a few extra duckets, someone else winds up biting the bullet and putting down the difference.
The financial problems with group dinners usually stem from someone underestimating his or her portion of the bill. Some are low tippers, some just look at the price of their meal and forget about tax and tip, some feel it’s unfair to pay for other people’s appetizers or drinks, and some just forget to cover the cost of the birthday boy or girl’s meal. Whatever the case, it’s an annoyance most people try their best to avoid.
Despite the inevitable shortchanging, it doesn’t look like group dinners are going anywhere any time soon. In fact, a couple weeks ago my homegirl was trying to coordinate a group dinner and asked my advice.
From my experience, the best thing to do is lay out the facts from the very beginning. When my best friend put me in charge of his birthday dinner a couple years ago the first thing I did was pick a reasonably priced yet tasty place. You have to be mindful of other people’s pockets because I’ve seen people try to go all out and pick some expensive spot that not everyone can afford. That right there is the cause of many group dinner disasters.
One way to help cut down on post-meal drama is to pick a spot with a prefix menu that way everyone pays a flat rate and basically eats the same thing. The only variable is the drinks, but I hope most people are honest enough to cover their own without trying to shortchange the bill. Luckily we didn’t have that problem when I did my best friend’s birthday dinner because the spot I chose had $3 happy hour, so we were all full and tipsy for about 40 bucks a head.
The main thing when planning a group dinner, though, is to let everyone invited know right off the bat that we’re splitting the bill right down the middle. I don’t care who ate what, and who didn’t drink that much, if you sat down to share in the celebration let’s share the responsibility of the bill. I will of course make adjustments for those that arrived late and only had one drink, but aside from that I’d appreciate if you just shut up and pay up.
Have you ever had a money dispute at the end of a group dinner? How was the bill resolved? Do you think it’s fair for everyone to split the bill down the middle or to be responsible only for what they (and the birthday boy or girl) consumed? Would rather have a birthday party over a birthday dinner? Why or why not? Is there someone in your circle that constantly shortchanges the bill or never has enough cash when you go out? Have you ever gotten into a fight with a friend over money? Have you ever dated someone that was a low tipper? Do you hate group dinners?
Speak your piece…