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Pay Up Even If You Don’t Drink Up

In my party hay day season of my life, a mere five years ago, my idea of partying was going out with my friends and dancing. I am not a big drinker at all and am the type of person that will dance for 6 hours and drink half a cocktail for the whole night.

It would annoy me when I would go out with my friends, who were much heavier drinkers than I, and they would all take turns buying rounds of drinks. It went something like this: if there were 7 people it would be assumed there would be 7 rounds of drinks consumed. Everyone was expected to pay for a round of drinks. 7 people = paying for 7 drinks. My problem with this was that, as stated above, I would drink half a drink at most for an entire evening but yet I was expected to buy 7 drinks. $8-10 vs $55-60.

I got around this by always being designated driver. It worked perfectly.

Now as I’ve settled into married life and the partying days are somewhat behind me I find myself in a similar and unexpected dilemma.

We are newlyweds and have made friends with other couples. We all get together in a big group and go out to dinner a few times per month. Sometimes there are as many as 6 or 7 couples there. It’s always a lot of fun until the bill comes.

See, my husband and I are on a pretty strict budget as we have just bought a fixer upper house. We set our budget for an evening out in advance and we are good at sticking to it. Neither of us drink but most of the couples do. Typically 6-7 bottles of wine will be ordered throughout dinner – sometimes expensive wine. That works out to about one bottle per couple, so no one is getting trashed or anything, but the wine bill adds up! When the bill comes it is assumed and expected it will be divided evenly, even though we didn’t consume one drop of wine and everyone else did.

We have gone to dinner expecting to spend $50 and end up spending $150.

As this isn’t the first time I’ve run into this type of situation and it seems to be common when socializing, I ask you if there is a polite way to get out of this? How can we make it clear that we won’t be paying for expensive wine that we aren’t consuming without being rude?

Has anyone else experienced this?
I would love advice please! 1012-15

It appears there are expectations on all sides.   You expect to spend no money on alcohol and your friends expect that everyone will chip in to pay for all the alcohol.  The answer sees simple to me.   You and your husband need to have a discussion with these friends as to what exactly are the expectations and that since neither of you consume any wine that you not be expected to pay for something you do not imbibe in.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The OP of this post October 13, 2015, 1:43 pm

    I know that a conversation needs to happen, I was hoping to get some ideas about specific dialogue and how to say it, because what I’ve come up with sounds weird or rude.

    • Margo October 14, 2015, 4:39 am

      I think that you simply speak to the server when you get o the restuarant and say “may we have a separate check for the two of us?”

      In terms of speaking to the others in the group then maybe something like “Just to give you a heads-up so the math doesn’t get confusing at the end ofthe evening – H & I don’t plan to drink tonight so we’ve asked the waiter for a separate check, so we don’t need to try to work ou the split with and without drinks at the end of the evening”

      That way, you’re letting eveyone know you won’t be splitting the bill, and you’r edoing it before anyone starts ordering, but you are also phrasing it in a way which makes the assumption that *of course* no-one would be expecting you to pay for wine you are not sharing, and that you are being considerate of everyone by relieving them of the obliation to juggle numbers at the end of a convivial meal.

      If anyone queries it you can add “H&I are on a tight budget at the moment. We love spending time with you all but $100 – $150 meals aren’t in the budget for us at present, so we prefer to pay separately so we can stick to our budget without limiting any one else’s choices” Do it with a smile.

      it’s very hard for anyone then to come out and say “but we want you to subsidise our meal” and if you have already asked for separate checks then there is no argument to be made that it’s too complicated or difficult to work out the split.

    • Rattus October 14, 2015, 7:25 am

      I don’t think anything you say would sound weird or rude, bar referring to your friends as leeches. Attitude will make or break the conversation. If you come across as belligerent or resentful, that will result in responsive resentment, but the attitude of “we wish we could join in, but…” with your quite legitimate reasons why not should, with reasonable people, result in understanding.

      • Susan lee October 14, 2015, 4:04 pm

        Actually I think it’s OK to just ask for separate checks and say nothing to the others. If the others wanted you to subsidize their food well, thats their problem, not yours. If they didn’t plan on you subsidizing their food then their response when the check comes should be nothing more than an “oh OK”. If you make an announcement then you are putting the subject up for discussion and I am not seeing an advantage to doing that.

  • Filiagape October 13, 2015, 1:54 pm

    I understand that it is hard to speak up. I’ve had this happen to me many times and struggled to speak up, but the only solution is before ordering dinner, make it clear that you cannot afford the even split and will not be drinking or paying for wine, or you have to stop going out at all. Some restaurants will allow for separate checks; some will refuse. You have to speak up for yourself.

    • Marozia October 16, 2015, 5:04 am

      I agree with that answer. May as well be up front, otherwise you’re going to be footing part of the bill for wine you’re not consuming.

  • mark October 13, 2015, 2:12 pm

    I’m going to parrot the obvious answer, when the server asks if you need separate checks make sure you answer first with a yes, in fact don’t wait, as you are sitting down make tell the server we all need separate checks. I don’t want to subsidize someone’s else’s meal and I also don’t want my meal subsidized.

    My experience is on a much smaller scale, I had coworkers who liked ask the server to split the check when the team went to lunch together. I noticed very quickly it was the team members who ordered the fancy drinks (non alcoholic) and the expensive meal that wanted to split the bill evenly. After a couple times of that, I spoke up and let the server know immediately we all needed our own check. It was only a 2-3 dollar subsidy but the reason I didn’t order the fancy drink was I didn’t want to pay for it.

    As an aside that is rather pricey wine your friends like. From what you are talking about, that is $100+ a bottle or more. Since my wife and I spend less than $100/month on booze, I would get very cranky very quickly at that rate. For a $100 I could get 2-4 bottles of good scotch. And that much scotch would last me months.

  • NostalgicGal October 13, 2015, 2:47 pm

    It is not hard at all for me to state before we even start looking at the menu that I must stick to water, so anything else ordered (such as wine, shots, etc) I do no expect to have to chip in for. (I have many medical conditions and a lot of the time now ‘going out’ means I sit with you, try to be polite company, and watching the ice melt in a glass of water IS the extent of what I will consume for the meal. I will put in for the server always, she/he still had to work the table, but the establishment probably can’t accommodate feeding me (locally, a few managers know how bad my restrictions are and I have permission to bring in my own meal so I can at least dine with my friends–they are super). Sometimes it is a catered type event (everyone pays their own meal) so I will have to pay for the meal and take it home for my better half (club events).

    I would think if it is going out with the same couples all the time, a discussion needs to be said before the next dinner engagement. It is no fair making you pay double or triple (if the restaurant won’t split for a separate check) for items you cannot and will not consume. You enjoy their company, and are willing to split costs on everything but the alcohol. If that’s not acceptable to them, then you need to start declining dining with them.

    When I was in the trenches, I would and did split checks. Yes it was more work for me, but usually landed me more tips (if someone else didn’t scavenge them, and there were a few large tables where the last one up would slide a hand along and snitch up probably enough to pay their tab…. (once in a while the floor manager caught it and it could be funny to furious when they got caught). So. You need OP to either get separate checks or make it clear the food bill and booze bill ARE done separate because you are through paying double to go eat (or triple)

    • NostalgicGal October 13, 2015, 3:13 pm

      I remember one from the archives of a bridesmaid invited to the bridal party meal out. To hen and toss a few bits of confetti and that. It was rather pricey and the gal thought she could survive with no drinks with $50 for a modest entrée. The rest of the gals went all out, appetizers and booze and all, and were going to pay for the bride. Well it came out to $500 a head, and the gal felt terrible but she slipped her $50 under edge of plate (enough for what she ordered, tax and tip) went to the bathroom and left quietly. She just didn’t have another $450, not that and have rent. The gals got ahold of her shortly after, dunned her for it, and the Bride paid ‘her share” and had to skip a spa pampering. The gal involved said she was gladly out of the bridal party soon after… more extreme but. Never assume that just because you want to, can, etc, spend like that that other can as well!

      • Maggie October 14, 2015, 12:53 am

        Could you post the original link please? I’d love to see the comments that came with that!

        • NostalgicGal October 15, 2015, 12:18 am

          If I can find it. It was a truly lovely bit of inconsideration on the part of the bride and bridal party. It’s more than a few years old but I”ll try.

      • Mary October 14, 2015, 11:52 am

        I could never afford to spend $500 on one night out! I would have put up a stink if I had not been given the cost beforehand.

        • Jazzgirl205 October 15, 2015, 12:27 pm

          Most weddings seem to be legalized highway robbery when it comes to the bridal party. Being choosen as a BM or GM is supposed to be an honor. You don’t honor someone by strong arming them into paying hundreds of dollars. When I got married, I paid for the bridesmaids dresses, did not force them to get their hair fixed in a certain way, and they were not expected to pay their way at the various luncheons which were held for me (my mother’s friends treated the bridal party to lots of luncheons).

          • kingsrings October 15, 2015, 3:22 pm

            Just reading that story is giving me a heart attack! $500 a person?? OMG. I wouldn’t be able to pay most of my bills if I had to cough that up for a night out. This bridal party apparently thinks that everyone is rich.

          • NostalgicGal October 18, 2015, 4:04 pm

            I will add, I live in a state with no tests, no waiting, and no residency clauses. If you go to the courthouse and pay your fee, and are otherwise legally able (not still married to someone else or underage for example) they will issue you the license, you must also have two witnesses of legal age with ID. I am listed that I will marry anybody legally issued a license, and have been summoned to put on robe and sash, hold The Book and say the words. The minimal ceremony is each person has to say YES and I have to say DONE. I asked the clerk. That’s the minimum, with two witnesses. I am not supposed to marry anyone that’s obviously high or drunk, they’re supposed to be in right mind and wits about them. That said; since a license, two witnesses, two willing consenting age adults, and three words, plus five signatures; consititutes the full ceremony for the law. …..
            Sure makes all the rest of the drama here, and expense, seem extreme sometimes. I keep that in mind sometimes as I read the rest of this. Yes it’s your day, but several thousand other couples get married every day of the week, you’re not the only ones for any day you choose.

  • MyWorld October 13, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Call made ahead of time…..

    Hi Susie.
    Jack and I are really looking forward to dinner tonight at the Steak Inn. I have a request and I hope you will not be insulted, but Jack and I are on a pretty tight budget and as you know, we don’t drink. Rather than splitting the check evenly, can we either all pay our own ways or can we just deduct the drinks before we split the check?

    • GeenaG October 14, 2015, 11:59 am

      I would leave out the “can we” because that is asking permission which is not what you want to do.

      “Jack and I are really looking forward to dinner tonight at the Steak Inn. I have something I need to make you be aware of and I hope you will not be insulted, but Jack and I are on a pretty tight budget and as you know, we don’t drink. Rather than splitting the check evenly, we will be paying our own way tonight. We just wanted to give you a heads up about it but we knew you would understand.”

  • ketchup October 13, 2015, 2:56 pm

    I don’t drink any alcohol, and I made sure to tell everyone I used to go out with that I would not participate in their drinking rounds. I drank A cheaper beverages and B fewer drinks. That way we all knew what we were in for, and we had a great time together. The solution is to be proactively clear.

  • Laura October 13, 2015, 3:06 pm

    We had a similar problem when on a vacation with my husband’s entire family. we had 4 children under the age of 5, who all ate off the children’s menu—usually a $4 or$5 meal, including drink. SIL had 5 children much older, who would order steak dinners and fancy (nonalcoholic) drinks. Then everyone would want to split the bill by number of family members. After a few days of this my husband had to speak up because we had used up our vacation budget in the first 3 days! I think they just did not realize the price disparity. we no longer vacation with them.

  • PrincessButtercup October 13, 2015, 3:16 pm

    When the server takes your order start with, “we will be on a separate check, please”, and motion to yourself and your husband. If someone pressures you to chip in for the wine, respond with, ” we didn’t have any wine”. If they continue, ask who is paying for your meal?

  • Emma October 13, 2015, 3:23 pm

    When I was a server, there was one group of friends who’d come in once a month. They’d order apps, dinner, dessert, cocktails, shots, the works. The bill almost always made it over $1000. They would legit stick all their credit cards in a hat and make the server (me) pick one out and that’s who’d pay the entire bill. I thought it was an insane way to pay! I couldn’t imagine sitting there and just praying the server didn’t pick my credit card out of the hat!

    • Weaver October 14, 2015, 3:23 am

      Good grief! Sounds like somebody thought they were quite the big shots. I mean, fair play to them if it worked for all, but I’m betting there was at least someone in that group who felt under pressure to continue agreeing to pay in such a ridiculous manner.

    • Lindsay October 14, 2015, 2:52 pm

      Ha! We do this. There’s more to the game though. For us, once you have paid, you are out of the hat and free to order and do as you please. It’s a way for everyone to be considerate of eachother, and everyone has to pick up the tab once. However, we don’t have anyone in the group that has an issue with the rules going in. If you want to play, you play. If you don’t, you order on your own.

    • Rebecca October 15, 2015, 10:29 am

      I saw professional athletes do this but unless you’re a high paid executive, I can’t imagine being in that situation. I’d find it fun if I were able to afford it though, haha

  • Lady Anne October 13, 2015, 3:36 pm

    I only had this happen to me once, but I spoke up quickly and another woman, who was in the same boat, agreed with me. Our rector had invited all of the Altar Guild to lunch. HE invited US, mind you!

    When the bill came, he brightly suggested we all split the bill evenly. I don’t drink when I am driving (I get sleepy taking Communion!) but some of the women had had two alcoholic drinks. When the suggestion was made, I immediately spoke up and said I hadn’t bought more than I could pay for, and didn’t have any extra money – which was the truth. Another member basically said the same thing. “I brought enough money to pay for my own lunch, and bought what I could afford.” At that point, it was apparent the bill was going to have to be paid “per person”, but I was not only surprised that we were expected to split the bill, but that we had to pay at all, as it was put out as an invitation, not a “pay as you go” thing.

  • Kat October 13, 2015, 4:20 pm

    I’d be curious if anyone has a solution for when you DO state beforehand, during the picking the restaurant/planning the evening phase, that you can only afford to pay your own way, and you can’t eat most of the menu besides; yet when the bill comes everyone is “feeling celebratory” and they pass the check around saying “we’re just splitting this evenly.”

    Given that is WAS supposed to be a celebration of mutual accomplishment, I felt the pressure not to make waves or “ruin” anyone’s night by pointing out that I had already explicitly not agreed to that. So I got stuck paying twice what I had budgeted for it. (The overpriced food wasn’t even worth it, either.) What else could I have done?

    • Margo October 14, 2015, 4:46 am

      (1) tell the server when you arrive that you will need a separate check
      (2) if that isn’t possible, or if you didn’t ask because you knew it was already agreed that you’d each pay your own way, speak up when someone suggests splitting evenly, smile, and say “We agreed when we booked that we’d each pay our own way. Mine came to $40 so here’s $50 for my share and tip”

      You might well find that if you say something, other’s will pipe up and say they are paying for themselves, too.

      If you think that the reason they are suggesting splitting evenly is that they don’t want to work out the numbers you can do the maths yourself and say “If the rest of you want to split equally, that would mean it works out at $100 each including tip (or whetever )

    • Cat October 14, 2015, 9:06 am

      I agree with Margo. You just need to restate what you already said,”Oh, I am sorry, but you must have forgotten that I said I was paying only for what I ate and drank. My share is $xx.00. Here it is, along with my share of the tip.”
      Don’t let them bully you into paying for their food and drinks. That is what this is-adult bullying.

    • A different Tracy October 14, 2015, 11:25 am

      “Sorry, but like I said, I can only pay for my own meal and my share of the tip tonight. Here’s my $30.”

    • EllenS October 14, 2015, 9:29 pm

      Acting confused is one way to smooth through this. “Oh, you wanted to split? I thought we agreed we were on our own?” And then you finish up with a smile and “Oh, that’s not going to work for me, but you all go ahead.” The desired tone would be as if they are playing a game that you reluctantly have to bow out of, but don’t want to spoil their fun.

      There’s no reason why you have to pay double on everyone else’s behalf, and it doesn’t need to be a big deal unless they are going to actively be jerks about it.

    • NostalgicGal October 15, 2015, 12:31 am

      On later comments, hand the money to the SERVER. That way the server gets to keep the tip you intended. I’ve seen too many take the $50 from the four that didn’t have booze, toss it in against the others that had $100 because they had booze, and the $600 bill leaves $5 tip because the $20 that should have come from the first four disappeared to pay the whole bill.

      I was in a restaurant a long time ago, the first bite of my steak was putrid (another friend in the trenches said I probably got an injection site) and even though the rest of the steak was good (the owner went and tried it) I said sorry, I was done. I didn’t want another one, I took the money out to pay for the meal which was refused, and I said okay fine, and handed the server her tip. Whether or not I liked the meal (and I had been looking forward to it) that first bite had hung it for me. The club I was with, took their food to go and we had the rest of the meeting in the park. The place put up ‘we have the right to refuse anyone service’ and I didn’t even try to go in there again. They didn’t make it much longer as it turned out I wasn’t the only one to get bad food and screamed at by the owner if one dared to insinuate it was less than delicious.

  • MomsAlwaysRight! October 13, 2015, 5:09 pm

    My daughter occasionally invites me to join her and a group of her friends to eat out. They never ask for separate checks, but they always split the bill according to what each person actually ate. One of the guys in the group has an app on his smart phone that does all the math. (Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the app. ) There’s never been an issue about who owes how much, and it takes just a few seconds to divide the bill fairly. It also calculates the tip for each person.

  • Tori October 13, 2015, 5:17 pm

    I had a similar issue. My group of work friends and I would go for happy hour at a nicer restaurant down the street. The number of people on this trip would be 6-15. I and another woman (Mary) don’t drink, at all. I’m underage (20) and she’s pregnant.

    Mary and I would usually split two or three appetizers and get soft drinks or tea. Meanwhile the others in the group would order four or five drinks (and not the $3 beer) each and usually an appetizer each. Given that it’s happy hour Mary and I would have ordered maybe $20 worth of food and drinks together. While everyone else would rack up $30-$40 themselves before tax or tip. So the average group size being 8 people, the total for all of us would be about $320 after tip. Divide that by 8 and it’s $40 a person, even though Mary and I should only have had to contribute $12-$15 each depending on how good the service was.

    So to put that in perspective, a college student and and expecting mother were having to fork over an extra $30 twice a week. That adds up.

    When we brought up the discrepancy some people (mainly this obnoxious guy) said “That’s how we’ve always done it” or “Tori, it’ll be better for you when you start drinking” or my personal favorite from obnoxious guy “Think of it as a tax for our company”. However, we didn’t want to give up hanging out with the group because of this, because most of them were the kind of people you actually want in your life.

    So one day I hatched a plan…it was most of the group, 12 people, so I thought it’d be the perfect time to try something out. I told Mary to just go with it. We both order one of the places fancy non alcoholic drinks(paid refills), several appetizers each, expensive entrees(think lots of shrimp or me and beef for her), and 3 desserts between the two of us. Together we racked up over $250, because entrees, the fancy drinks, and the desserts weren’t part of happy hour. Based on past group outings like this everyone is expecting their portions to be around $40-$45. It was $70 a person. Everyone was instantly wonder how it was so much, they only had a few drinks, etc. Obnoxious guy figures it out and tries to tell Mary and I that we had to pay our entire portion ourselves. Cue me saying “We’ve always split the bill guys” and Mary saying “It’ll be better for you guys when you start eating too” and me saying “Think of it as a tax for our company”.

    The nicer people in the group got the point and everyone forked over the extra that one time and from then on Mary and I were allowed pay for our portions only.

    • Weaver October 14, 2015, 3:28 am

      Ha! What a delicious story. I hope obnoxious guy learned a lesson from being hoist by his own petard!

    • ketchup October 14, 2015, 8:27 am

      I love it!

    • Cat October 14, 2015, 9:07 am

      Applauding you and Mary!

      • GeenaG October 14, 2015, 12:05 pm

        So you stuck all the others will paying extra expenses to help you make your point? I don’t see how this is remotely polite. When someone tells you something has always been done a certain way then spine up and and tell them its your personal policy to not do it that way.

        • Lady Catford October 14, 2015, 1:40 pm

          She and her friend had tried to “Spine up” and were rudely told to pay up. I think what she did was the only way the group would understand how unfair splitting the tab was.

        • Cat October 14, 2015, 2:48 pm

          If they had been willing to allow the two ladies to do that when they wanted to, this would not have been necessary. They were forced to pay extra as the “tax for the company” even after they had said they didn’t want to have to pay for their friends’ meals. When they tried, some people told them they had always done it that way and it would be better when they could both drink alcohol too.
          As Ben Franklin said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.” They just gave their friends a chance to experience what they had been experiencing at a cost of $60.00 per week. It cost their friends only a one-time offering of $30.00 to learn this important lesson.

          • Tori October 15, 2015, 11:12 pm

            Not even their meals, we’d been paying for their drinks and maybe an appetizer. I worked there for nearly 4 months before it stopped. Alcohol is a luxury, not a necessity. Especially several drinks in a row.

        • Anonymous October 14, 2015, 3:14 pm

          I don’t think that’s quite fair. Tori did speak up, only to be bulldozed by the rest of the group, especially the obnoxious guy. So, I’d see this not so much as “passive aggressive,” but more as “actions speak louder than words.”

        • Rebecca October 14, 2015, 10:05 pm

          Tori and Mary had been paying for the rest of the group multiple times before, so the rest of the group owed them anyway.

    • NostalgicGal October 15, 2015, 12:37 am

      BRAVO! [LIKE]<<<<< made my own like button!

    • Lacey October 15, 2015, 12:20 pm

      Hahaha awesome!!!

      • Anonymous October 16, 2015, 8:37 pm

        P.S., I’d totally be friends with Tori and Mary. I don’t drink alcohol either, and I also hate rude and unfair people.

    • Goldie October 15, 2015, 2:33 pm

      I came here to say that I really liked this story, turns out a whole crowd of people has already beaten me to it! As it should be! Standing applause for you and Mary!

  • angelfire October 13, 2015, 5:23 pm

    This reminds me of several years ago, when I was between jobs and struggling with my finances, when I was invited out to my friends birthday. now even though I love her, I am teetotal and could only afford to pay for myself. She was happy with this, loved my gift and the party went well. Now at the end towards the bill, I paid for myself, and started off a chain reaction where everyone paid for themselves too. It was a large table, and at the end, with people I never spoke too that evening were people from my friends firm who were ordering expensive bottles of champagne and wine, and practically threw a tantrum when they found out they had to pay for themselves. They complained to me, like it was my fault. even after I pointed out, what since I don’t drink wine, why should I pay for it. They shut up in the end and paid their tab, but whinged about it for the rest of the night. I did appreciate however that everyone was on my side

    • Lynne October 14, 2015, 10:28 pm

      I am one of those persons who assumes that a birthday party involves a host, with hospitality — unless it were spelled out in advance, I’d assume that I didn’t have to pay for food & drink at a party I was invited to.

  • Rebecca October 13, 2015, 6:02 pm

    Goodness this sounds like a bizarre tradition, I must have strange friends and family, we’ve never thought to split it like that! Unless it’s something very specific such a “let’s split a bottle of wine” or an appetizer. I never heard of the rounds of drinks in a large group either, I’ve only ever did that when out with a friend or two tops.

    If you cannot split the bill that way and they’re used to it at this rate, you need to speak up and tell them that you need to change it up due to your budget restrictions.

    State it in that “We would love to go out with you guys this week but we’re putting so much work into the house! We can only go if it’s within our budget, so we need to go somewhere cheaper and since we haven’t been drinking, we won’t be able to chip in on the wine bill either.”

    I also think it’d be great with this many couples and you have your own home, why not try to host some gatherings? That way you show you want to spend time with them, you are on a budget and so that’s what’s holding you back. That’s what I’d do to try to keep it as positive as possible without stepping on any toes since changing the flow of things like this can be a little dicey.

  • JO October 13, 2015, 6:08 pm

    Why don’t you just tell the server, when they come to take orders, that each couple will need a separate bill? Of course give the other couples a heads up that you plan to do this, so no one will be blindsighted. But it will keep everything fair. And I’m sure the waiters and waitresses will jump on me here, because yes, one table with 7 bills can be a pain. But it’s totally doable (I have been a waitress myself. It’s really not that big a deal.)

    • Willynilly October 14, 2015, 10:17 am

      I think it’s a great idea for OP and her husband to ask for a separate check if they want one (and the restaurant will do so) but it is not cool to decide that for others. Some people like splitting checks and should be welcome to do so. If appetizers are being shared, entrees are in the same range and various wines are being shared, a shared bill is actually easier – if 6 people each have 1 of the $4 mozzarella sticks and one of the $12 coconut shrimps, and everyone has a glass from the $40 bottle of wine and a glass from the $17 bottle of wine, separate bills are impossible to to work out, splitting is simply easier and more pleasurable.

      • GeenaG October 14, 2015, 12:06 pm

        To not ask for separate checks for other people!

      • JO October 14, 2015, 12:42 pm

        Yes, of course this couple cannot decide that for others. If the rest of the group wishes to continue splittimg, that is their prerogative. I was just making a point here that it *is* possible to do. But they can still get a separate check for themselves, if they wish, and if appetizers are shared it would be polite for then to ask that one of the appetizers be placed on their bill.

  • Linda October 13, 2015, 6:50 pm

    I have a friend that does not drink when we all go out for dinner. He will order the surf & turf or something along that line and is happy to split the check at the end of the meal. Everyone else is able to enjoy their cocktails or wine and he is able to enjoy a nice meal and it all evens out – no one had a problem. Not the same as the OP but something for other to think about.

  • Anonymous October 13, 2015, 7:37 pm

    For something like this, I think I’d start initiating get-togethers that don’t involve restaurants, or alcohol, or the potential for having to pay for something I didn’t order or consume. So, that could mean dinner at my house, or a picnic, or even something that does cost money, but with less potential for cost disparity, like a play or a concert or something. I wouldn’t stop socializing, but it might make sense to stop eating out with them.

  • MPW1971 October 13, 2015, 8:29 pm

    Not to accuse the OP of this, but I have had dealings with people who were less than honest about their drinking and financial habits despite being co-workers and so-called friends. These people have made claims about their strict budget (which is probably true) but not their drinking habits. This may be completely unintentional, but pushing to order a bottle of wine because they want “just half a glass”, the proceeding to order the second bottle, is a bit underhanded. It’s more underhanded when they do this when they aren’t driving, and have no reason to limit their intake for fear of a DUI.

    My advice to the OP is that whatever you say or do, be consistent in it. If you don’t drink, then don’t drink. Not just “half a glass” here and there, but drink in the privacy of your own home – it might not be as much fun but it sure is a lot cheaper. Ask for separate bills and pay only for your food, and be sure also to not be roped in to being the designated driver each time. I was the youngest of my group of friends by over a year, and in our late teens we would go out for dinner and they would drink – meaning that I had to drive.

    • EllenS October 14, 2015, 9:35 pm

      I may not be following you correctly. Are you talking about people mooching drinks they didn’t pay for, or are you saying OP should *never* drink in public because she doesn’t drink at these dinners? Mooching is never polite, but I don’t think you have to be a teetotaler to not want to pay for what you didn’t order or consume on any given occasion.

      • Sarah October 17, 2015, 12:16 pm

        I think what he’s saying is that he knows people who say they “don’t drink,” who will then encourage the group to get wine, then they’ll drink “half a glass” from the bottle of wine, maybe a few times, and then when the bill comes, they’ll remind everybody that they “don’t drink” and so shouldn’t have to pay anything towards the wine, when in reality they had four “half glasses” and so a fair amount of the wine.

        Of course, I don’t think this is a scenario like that, or that we’ve had any clues that would make us think it is. But it’s a reasonable caution to say that you shouldn’t opt out of a shared food item to get out of paying for it, then take a share anyway, even if we regard it as a negligibly small share.

        • MPW1971 October 21, 2015, 7:55 pm

          It’s how Sarah described it – lots of people style themselves as “non-drinkers” or “healthy eaters” or even “on a budget” to avoid sharing the cost of their share of something they enjoyed. That’s called “mooching” and it’s even more crass when people hide behind that label.
          The answer is not to *never* drink in public, but to be up front about it and say “we aren’t drinking tonight”, and if you do that, don not be seen with a wine glass in your hand. Being polite also means being consistent and honest, and I’ve suffered the indignity of the “proud moocher” too many times and been unable to say anything about it because they were friends of friends I did not want to offend, co-workers (including senior co-workers) and so on.

  • The OP of this post October 13, 2015, 9:31 pm

    Thanks everyone for the great advice! Appreciate it greatly!

    As I previously pointed out, most restaurants don’t allow checks to be split, particularly with large parties. If this was an option, I wouldn’t have been asking for advice.

    I like the idea of bringing cash to cover our meal and tip and then paying with that when the bill comes. If anyone questions it I can say that we didn’t partake of the wine.

    I wasn’t raised around alcohol but I get the feeling that a lot of “party folks” tend to want people to subsidize their drinking, as many posters have pointed out. We got put in this position to begin with because I never dreamed that anyone would expect us to help pay for 6 bottles of wine when we never consumed a drop. We were a bit shocked the first time it happened and just paid up because we didn’t want to spoil the evening or rain on anyone’s parade. The problem with that is that if set the precedent for all dinners going forward. Like all bad habits, it might be a painful one to break but we have to draw the line somewhere.

    Again thank you all for your advice! Our next dinner is Friday and I plan on taking $50 and leaving credit cards at home. 🙂

    • Margo October 14, 2015, 4:51 am

      I hadn’t spotted you say that the yresturants don’t do split bills.

      With that in mind, I’d say at the start of the meal “Just a heads-up, guys. H &I won’t be drinking so when the bill comes we’ll work out the cost for our food rather than splitting the full bill – we don’t want to cramp your style but we’re on a budget aso we have to wthc what we spend”

      I think the key thing s to say somethign at the eginning of the meal, not to wait until the end.

      • Mary October 14, 2015, 10:11 am

        Just had this issue two weeks ago. The restaurant could not split the bill because automatic gratuity was added due to the large number in the group. It did not help that no one in our group had enough cash to pay for their own meal because everyone expected to pay their share with credit cards. My sister ended up paying the whole bill and then we each wrote her a check or paid her cash after we could pull more.

        • mark October 14, 2015, 12:17 pm

          It usually is won’t not can’t. Most (virtually all?) restaurant POS systems support this. They really have to after all they have to support this to handle multiple tables so multiple checks at one table is in the abstract no different than supporting multiple tables in a restaurant. Occasionally I’ve had a problem when the server isn’t informed at the start of the meal and has not created multiple tickets at the start of the and the system doesn’t support splitting after the fact. Which is why I believe most servers in my experience ask the question at the beginning of the meal to avoid this issue.

          • Willynilly October 14, 2015, 9:05 pm

            A lot of non-chain restaurants do not use POS systems so what POS can or can’t do is not really relevant if eating at one of these establishments.

    • Dee October 14, 2015, 11:14 am

      Yes, I think you are hanging around with “party folks”, and that that might be (at least part of) the problem. I have rarely encountered the problem of having to pay for others’ drinking even though I have often gone out with drinkers. The difference, I think, is the focus of the evening and it seems, for your friends, the focus is alcohol. If for some reason they could not have their drinks when they go out would they even want to go out? I hope these are really great people otherwise because I think hanging around with others who are oblivious to your needs (because of alcohol?) does not make for a great future with these people.

    • A different Tracy October 14, 2015, 11:30 am

      I guess I don’t go to classy places, because I’ve never had an issue with separate checks. Ever.

      I don’t think most drinkers are deliberately trying to get you to subsidize your wine. I think most of these people are just kind of thoughtless.

      I would definitely say at the beginning of the meal “Hey guys, we’re not drinking, so we’re only going to pay for our food.” If any of your friends are uncouth enough to complain about that, you can say “We decided we’d rather have a nice showerhead than a bottle of wine.”

      • B October 29, 2015, 2:22 pm

        I think this may be a regional thing too. When I visit my family across the country EVERY meal we ate out the server asked at the beginning if we needed separate checks, but where I live that is never the case unless you ask for it separately.
        So it may not be the type of restaurant you go to, but more about where it is.

    • Daphne October 14, 2015, 8:03 pm

      If everyone in this group likes to drink wine OP, perhaps your plan should be to find some teetotaler friends with which to dine.

      • Ulla October 15, 2015, 6:09 am

        I don’t see why this should be necessary. Wine drinking habits generally don’t have anything to do with other friendship qualities. It would be boring world if one should only dine with people who share the exactly same dietary and dining habits.

        It’s also possible that in a group of 6-7 couples (12-14 peoples) nobody is paying attention what others have in their glasses. If they haven’t stated beforehands that they are not drinking, in group of adults nobody probably pays any attention.

        • Daphne October 21, 2015, 11:23 am

          Of course it’s not “necessary” Ulla. It’s just a suggestion.

          • Charlie November 3, 2015, 1:34 am

            One that’s on the rude side. Since I take medication that interferes with alcohol, am I not good enough to spend time out with my friends who drink, either? Oh dear, must find a completely new set of friends because I’m not “cool!”

  • Lizajane October 13, 2015, 9:59 pm

    Ask that all the alcohol be placed on a separate bill. When I travel for work, all my food is paid for, but my employer’s policy is to not pay for any alcohol. They don’t care if we indulge, after hours, but they’re not paying for it.
    Never had a problem, large or small group, or dining alone, even. No server has ever flinched.
    I’m in the US and have done this in several states.
    Then contribute to the food bill only.

    • Michelle October 14, 2015, 7:59 am

      I’ve never had a server who had an issue with separate checks for large groups, either. Coworkers and I occasionally go out for lunch (it can be 20 or more people) and our servers have never had a problem with separate checks.

      • Rebecca October 14, 2015, 12:33 pm

        I’ve noticed that some won’t separate checks because it can make the auto-grat system not be utilized.

        Also splits can be restricted to “no more than 2 or 3 cards” for merchant fees and the possibility for a charge back or complications with errors if a busy server swipes wrong 🙁

        Most places don’t fuss about it though and happily split checks.

        • Lizajane October 14, 2015, 11:08 pm

          My method only requires 2 checks; 1 for food, 1 for alcohol.
          I’m not sure what all these “systems” are that won’t “let” a server issue 2 checks for the same table, but I assure you, that restriction can be overridden. It’s done every time a ticket is initiated for someone sitting at the bar. Otherwise, you’d be paying for everyone on a bar stool. Also, when you start at the bar and move to a table, your location is changed and the original ticket continues. Think about it.

    • JO October 14, 2015, 12:44 pm

      This is a good idea!

  • Wendy B October 13, 2015, 10:07 pm

    After our workplace was sold and most of us lost our jobs, my coworkers and I started meeting a few times at a local brew pub for food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). When it comes to the alcoholic drinks, everyone paid for their own. When it comes to the wine, one of us buys a bottle to share, and grabs extra glasses. We didn’t ask for compensation, although a couple dollars might be thrown our way. However, had it been a similar situation, had one of us not drank (and there are a few who don’t) all they would have to do was speak up and no one would have cared.

    I say that to say this…if they’re REALLY your friends, then they’ll be understanding. Not everyone can afford a round of drinks or expensive wine (fortunately, with this group of friends, we tend to go for the local wines, which are rarely more than $15-20 a bottle). And you are most likely not the only ones uncomfortable with the situation. I’m willing to bet that if you speak up, someone else will too.

    Good luck on the fixer-upper!

  • Kay_L October 14, 2015, 12:00 am

    Who cares what their expectations are? If you don’t drink the wine, you don’t have to pay for it.

    When the bill comes don’t pay for wine. Say, I don’t drink wine, I won’t be paying for it.

    How can someone argue with that?!

  • mark October 14, 2015, 12:34 am

    I’ve read a lot of comments about the fellow dinner guests not noticing the disparity in dining costs. I personally find that hard to believe in general. I certainly notice when I’m subsidizing someone else, I suspect they are very aware of being subsidized most of the time. It requires very minimal observation, I ordered steak and lobster, and booze, they ordered chicken and pasta and water. And minimal math skills, my meal costs a lot more therefore splitting the check means I’m getting a handout.

    I think a few may practice self delusion thinking it will even it over time since next time they will order the cheap meal (lol).

    • Margo October 14, 2015, 5:08 am

      I think this depends a LOT on your attitude to money. I personally am like you, I absolutely notice , whether the disparity is in my favour or not. But I also have friends who genuinely don’t. I have one friend who I love, but she is not good with math at all (not helped by some weird schools she attended when she was younger) She is more than happy to pay her own way but trying to keep track of a running total to work out even roughly what she, or someone else, is spending is not something she can do ‘casually’, as it were. She has admitted to me that if she is out with a group and they are planningto pay their own way, or if needs to keep to a tight budget she will make a note on a napkin or something becaue that’s the only way she can do it.

      Another frined was working out what each of us (in a group of 6) owed, recently. We had planned to each pay for ourselves as some of us had more drinks than others, but we were dining before going to the theatre and a slow server meant we were running short of time, so she paid on her credit card and agreed to mail us all afterwards to say what we owed. I knew roughly what the bill should be for each of us as I knew what the total had been, and I knew roughly what we had each ordered. I didn’t know the exact cost of the extra glasses of wine or how much the bread and olives were, but I knew to within £5 what my share should be. When my friend e-mailed me , the total was about £10 less than I was expecting. My friend had not realised that it was wrong. Had it not been flagged up, she would have been subsiding the rest of us to the tune of £50.

      Whereas I’m at the other end of the scale and will normally have remembered the cost of each thing I’ve prdered and will know before I see the bill pretty much what it is going to be

      • mark October 14, 2015, 12:39 pm

        I see what you are saying, though in this case you are not talking 25% difference, you are talking a 300% difference. I suspect your friend would notice ordering fish and chips and water versus everyone else ordering a steak and an 3 alcoholic drinks each.

        And maybe I’m focusing too much on my way of thinking. I’m a programmer and because of that I’m a very detailed oriented person.

        • Amanda H. October 14, 2015, 3:32 pm

          I can see what Margo’s saying, though. Some people grow up with a more cavalier attitude toward money, and some of these people unintentionally getting their meals subsidized may be some of those people. The same sort of people who just stick everything on their credit card, figuring it will all work out in the end, instead of watching their budgets to make sure that they’ll still be able to pay it off at the end of the month (or to make sure they don’t overdraw their bank accounts). The same sort of people who then end up surprised down the road when their card is declined in the grocery store because they’ve overspent.

          I used to be one of those people, back in my early college years. I’ve worked hard to climb out of that rut, but I can easily see how some other people think, “Oh, this is a special occasion to hang out with friends. I’ll splurge on something fun.” And then they don’t realize that while they might be splurging, others in the group aren’t, and if everyone splits evenly then things end up somewhat unfair.

    • siamesecat2965 October 14, 2015, 7:32 am

      I agree. I’m very conscious both of what I’ve ordered, and what my friends have. It would never occur to me to just split the bill, unless we’ve ordered similarly. We’ll do that, and no one cares if someone else’s meal was a dollar or two more, as we all say it evens out eventually.

      However, I like wine, and will sometimes have a glass, or two, if not driving. A lot of my friends don’t drink. And they may only order a salad, or sandwich, when I get a full meal. What’s funny is sometimes THEY’RE the ones who want to just split the check, as “its easier” but I won’t let them. I figure out what they owe, and pay the rest.

      So I agree that its not that thye don’t see it, its that they CHOOSE not to.

    • Michelle October 14, 2015, 8:04 am

      I agree, Mark. Not one of the “friends” noticed the OP and husband were not drinking? If these couples are friends, no one should have an issue with either separate checks or the OP not contributing towards the wine.

      • Ulla October 15, 2015, 6:21 am

        We are talking about rather large group. 14 people in same table will mean that really, most will be quite far away from you. Quick math. Usually it’s considered reasonable to have 60cm space per eater in table. If it’s 7 people per side in long table, it will be over 4 meters long. Bit less if people sit in the ends of the table too. If it would be round table accomodating them all, the diameter would be around 2,5meters. Now sure there are different things you can do with the table. Bit of a larger square instead of long table and so on. But, the space required is still quite large.

        Maybe the one or two next to you see what you order and eat, but most wont.

    • EllenS October 14, 2015, 9:40 pm

      Well, it’s not just about the money. There are quite a lot of people who habitually pay no attention to what their dining companions are ordering or eating, because they consider it none of their business.

      Indeed, it is very bad manners to comment on what someone else is eating or drinking (other than perhaps to say that it looks delicious). The next logical step is to just not notice it at all.

      • mark October 15, 2015, 12:54 am

        Huh? Sitting at the same table you don’t notice what your fellow dinner guests order? How does someone manage to be that inattentive? And why would food and food choices be a taboo topic at dinner? it seems a natural fit to me. It’s pretty easy to discuss without giving offense for most people. I don’t see how it is logical.

        • oregonbird October 20, 2015, 12:12 am

          It’s extremely simple, and also it’s a concept that is the basis of the Japanese culture. You do not see what is not your business. All but literally. It is possible.
          I worked as a housekeeper for years, and quickly learned to be ‘absent’ while present. Unless an employer said my name or looked directly at me, I simply wasn’t there; it didn’t matter if I in the room during fights, phone calls, admissions of adultery, gossip; it passed right by. Naked employers? (So many. So, so many…) Not a problem, because its happening in that big blank spot where things happen that are not my business.
          Its amazing how many things happen that simply aren’t your business and can be magnificently not noticed. Like the opinion of employers that domestic workers are made of wallpaper, household appliances and slavery. Magnificently not noticing, fanks awfully.

  • Weaver October 14, 2015, 3:45 am

    If you’re eating at a restaurant that has a policy of not allowing separate checks for large parties, maybe they’d at least be prepared to provide one bill for food and another for wine? Then if you and your husband are having non-alcoholic drinks other than table water, you could perhaps order and pay for them separately at the bar?

    If that won’t work for you, I quite like Willynilly’s suggestion to speak with one of the more confident members of the group beforehand, explain your situation, and see if they’d mind speaking out upfront that only those drinking wine will be splitting the wine portion of the bill. It may seem a little roundabout, but if you’re having trouble finding a way to stick up for yourselves (and trust me, I can sympathise with that) it could work, depending on the dynamics of your group.

  • Weaver October 14, 2015, 3:59 am

    Oh and just an afterthought, if you’re after specific wording, if I was in your situation I’d say pretty much exactly the following:

    “Guys, just so you know, Jack and I can’t afford to chip in for the wine tonight. We’re on a pretty strict budget at the mo, so we won’t be drinking.” (Said right at the beginning when everyone’s getting seated, in a clear but friendly tone of voice).

    Your mileage may vary of course, and you’re the only one who knows how your group dynamics work, but that’s the phrasing I’d use among my friends. I wouldn’t care to eat with anyone who’d take offense at that.

  • AJ October 14, 2015, 4:35 am

    When I was with a group of new acquaintances, one of the group asked the waitress to give out food/wines menus at the end of the meal to everyone and told us to work out what we individually owed. We each put the amount in a bread basket (always handy to carry cash!). The only issue was that we all had rounded up the amounts! The waitress received a surprise tip (this was in a country where tipping is rare).

    • EllenS October 14, 2015, 9:43 pm

      That’s a nice group. I used to have a couple of lunch groups I went out with regularly, and there were certain people where the kitty always came up high, and certain people when the kitty always came up short. The moochers do “out” themselves over time with this system.

  • t_twisted October 14, 2015, 5:20 am

    I’ve experienced so many variations of this and it only has to be awkward if you make it awkward. Seriously. I have been DD and stuck paying for booze I didn’t drink, and I’ve also been part of the group ordering alcohol and splitting the bill. I am of the opinion that it all works out eventually, however, this is only the case if you DO partake some of the time. I’m surprised you haven’t said anything before now, it isn’t rude at all even though in your head it might sound it. Chances are, the people you’re having dinner with don’t even realise and as soon as you say something it will all work out. I agree with the poster who said don’t drink ANY of the wine at all. When they are ordering wine for the table, tell them you won’t be participating, and when the bill comes reiterate that you didn’t drink any so won’t be splitting. Are all your food choices similar enough that you’re happy to split the food evenly?

    I have a few friends who in big group dinners kick up a huge fuss about splitting the bill, even if they’ve been drinking/consuming similar amounts to everyone else. THIS does wind me up a little as it’s totally unnecessary and a pain to work out who ordered what when the bill is a foot long! However, there is nothing wrong with standing up for yourself if you’re paying massively over the odds for things you aren’t eating/drinking, and the group probably aren’t expecting you to. They just don’t realise what’s happening because you haven’t brought it up.

    • mark October 14, 2015, 12:42 pm

      Why would you separate it? That’s what the restaurant’s POS system excels at. Let the computer do the work. And in my experience it doesn’t balance out as often as you might think.

  • Auntbee81 October 14, 2015, 5:31 am

    As others have suggested, it might be good to organize an event outside a restaurant, such as a picnic.

    I was in a similar situation some years back with a dinner group. We all lived on the same street, so it seems to us that dinner at our home would be a good alternative, at least every few months. Well, I was “informed” by the organizer between the entree and dessert, that “people like to go to restaurants, and if I was a at a restaurant I could have anything I want”. Now, the menu was: chilled smoked salmon with dill sauce, steak (grilled), roasted vegetables, salad, beer, wine, soda, lemonade, ice tea and dessert. So, not only did she not want to return to my home again, she made an “executive” decision that the group would also not return. Another neighbor later referred to her as a “party goer, not a party thrower”.

    Now, at the restaurants, the organizer always whipped out her calculator and informed everyone what they owed. This burned me, so found that we often had conflicting plans for these dinners. After some months, it was noted in the e-vites that it was difficult to find restaurants that would provide separate checks. Apparently, the organizer could do math, but not when it would not result in others subsidizing her and her SO’s appetizers, drinks, and desserts. Thereafter, the few times we dined together, I noticed there was a marked drop in the number of drinks, wine, appetizers, and desserts. Certainly, they knew what they were doing. But the “tax for our company” is the most innovative way to take advantage of your “friends”.

    So, you can always suggest other ways to socialize, but it can backfire. Older and wiser now.

    • Anonymous October 14, 2015, 10:48 am

      No, you can’t have “anything you want” at a restaurant, if what you want is to have a nice meal without a fight over the bill afterwards, or to know exactly what’s in your food, if you have allergies or dietary restrictions (I’m vegan, for example). In this case, the organizer seems to have some issues beyond wanting her drinks subsidized; she sounds like a controlling Mean Girl. I’d stop hanging out with her if I were you, and if I was your friend in real life, I’d make my own plans with you,without her.

      • Auntbee81 October 14, 2015, 4:03 pm

        Anonymous, this is what I have done. You are right, however, there were “other controlling issues” which were apparent when the check was presented, Organizer calculated the split, and informed everyone thusly, without even passing the receipt around so we could see it. You really don’t know how much was for “tip”, how much for drinks, because you only had her say-so.

        Subsequently, a smaller group formed and we do meet at our homes for “pot-luck” dinners, which are always calm, AND we can hear each other. Some of the larger group stetted that they could not ‘cook”, keep a messy house, or just “don’t know” how the entertain.

        I am not young, but when I was in college, and just becoming an adult, groups would get together, either at someone apartment, or even the student center. We would agree on a plan – “bring your own drinks, then we’ll oder a pizzer”. Of course I cannot speak for others in these groups, we would then put down a couple of dollars, someone would total it, and if there was not enough, more $$$ would be put down. No calculators were used, no one ever questioned the amount put down, and we would continue the tradition the next week, etc. No one had to cook, sometimes we sat on the floor, but the idea was to socialize. Perhaps the friends of my youth were more easy-going (or less discriminating) than those in this dinner group. I just have fond memories of good times, good food and good friends. Again, I never remember any mention of any math. Of course, that was in the last Millennium, and certainly times have changed.

        • Anonymous October 15, 2015, 7:42 am

          This sort of reminds me of my fourth year if university. I was living in the apartment-style residence, and I was friends with the girls who lived across the hall. Sometimes, we’d combine ingredients (pasta, sauce, vegetables, etc.), and make casseroles together for dinner. I know it seems a bit odd, but it was cheaper and healthier than take-out, we had kitchen facilities, and since it was our fourth year, by then, we’d pretty much had our fill of take-out and school food. So, we’d pool what we had, cook and eat together, usually in front of a movie or TV series on DVD.

    • Rebecca October 14, 2015, 9:40 pm

      That’s incredible. She dictated that you couldn’t invite others to your home because “people like to go to restaurants”? I know that hindsight (and “should have said”) is 20/20, but I like the idea of saying to her, “Oh, sorry you don’t like the offerings; we can leave you off the invite list next time we host.” And continue to invite the others next time, who are free to accept or decline as THEY choose.

      • Auntbee81 October 15, 2015, 7:27 am

        Oh, I had plenty to say. Again, dessert had not been served yet. When she shared her thoughts with me, all I could think was “I wish you were at a restaurant right now. There’s the door”. However, she was still a guest in my home. I could not bring myself to return her “rudeness”. We never invited this particular group of people again. Thanks for the suggestion.

        Back to the topic, I still think there are those who are happy to have others subsidize their dining experiences, and I think this is what the OP is encountering. Like other PPs, I believe the users are well aware of their actions – and quite happy with the outcome.

  • koolchicken October 14, 2015, 6:20 am

    I will admit, I’ve been annoyed when I’m treating someone and they proceed to down several drinks. I didn’t start drinking until four or five months ago, and even then it’s a glass of wine at home, once and a while. A single bottle of wine lasts my husband and I a week or more! Most of our friends don’t drink so we don’t often run into this issue. But when it happened in the past it made me not want to take those people out to dinner again. And yes, my husband and I always pay the entire bill regardless if we’re dining with just one other couple or twelve people. When others have treated me I always try to be a good guest and order modestly, no appetizer, fancy drinks, or dessert (and who can really fit all that in anyways). So I suppose I just expect others to do the same. If I were in the OP’s situation I suppose and I really wasn’t willing to split the bill, I’d opt to ask for a separate check. If that’s not possible I’d bring cash and leave the plastic at home. But before I did any of that, I’d talk with my friends. It’s possible that with that many people at the table and that much alcohol flowing, no one noticed the OP and her husband weren’t drinking. So maybe the others aren’t trying to be rude or selfish, it’s just coming off that way.

    • Cat October 14, 2015, 9:19 am

      I was shocked I invited a friend out to eat and he proceeded to order two entrees for himself. (So was the server.) I could understand if he wanted an appetizer and a dessert, but two entrees?

      • NostalgicGal October 15, 2015, 1:09 am

        Our Downs friend. That would always order a LOT of food if someone else was paying so he could take the rest home. Sit down at my table and he’d pile his plate so high he’d take the rest home. Make slap it together sandwiches, and he’d get so much in there that after a bite he needed two more pieces of bread, split the fillings and take one home. He had asked me for my leftovers sometimes. He asked my husband once for the head of lettuce I had just picked from my garden and put in the fridge, as he needed some at home. How much did he understand…. he sat at my table one day, piled the plate, ate, all was fine. Then I got up and cleared ALL the plates and stacked them to take them to the sink to wash, including all his ‘leftovers’. He protested he was going to take that home, why did I throw it out? I told him he was welcome to sit at my table and eat all he wanted. I had paid for the food and cooked it, so all the leftovers were MINE. I cleared the plates so I could wash them He never piled again He could have seconds, he could have thirds, he could make another sandwich if he was still hungry. Cat, your comment reminds me of him, if we went to pizza hut and I was buying he had to order the pizza/wing/cheesy bread special for himself…. normally $20. I was in bathroom and he said he wanted it done meatlovers, so they charged for extra toppings. It turned out to be $43. It wasn’t long after that I explained about the leftovers I bought and/or cooked were mine.

    • mark October 14, 2015, 12:46 pm

      I don’t like someone paying for my meal because I feel pressure to order cheaper than I would sometimes prefer. I let them order first if possible and take my cue from that.

      • Anonymous October 16, 2015, 8:49 pm

        I don’t like eating out, because there’s often no way to know what’s in my food (except for places like Subway, where you watch them make it). With this in mind, I especially don’t like eating out with other people, because I always feel so high-maintenance and snowflakey when I have to request no cheese/mayonnaise/sour cream, ask if the soup is made with vegetable or animal broth, et cetera. So, I avoid restaurants as much as possible; especially the sit-down kind.

  • stacey October 14, 2015, 6:56 am

    I feel for anyone who is “taxed” for the pleasure of dining out with a group- whether it’s a “surf and turf plus several appetizers” tax or a “several cocktails and bottles of wine” tax. I think that the question of separate checks or who consumes alcohol or abstains is moot. Budgetary restrictions are also irrelevant because you don’t want to have to “justify, argue, defend or explain” something as personal as your finances to all and sundry. No one can require you to pay for something that you did not agree to pay for without your consent. You just have to practice speaking up until it comes naturally and easily. It can be hard to get started and it can feel awkward and even scary. It’s absolutely imperative, though, for your fiscal and emotional health that you say what is so for you- “I’m paying just our portion”. No one can argue you into more unless you permit it. And I do agree that it’s a pernicious and predatory behavior to live at the expense of others when dining out… It hardly promotes conviviality or warmth of attachment!

  • Lisa October 14, 2015, 8:45 am

    I truly do not understand the number of people here advocating the extremely passive aggressive route of asking the server for a separate check instead of speaking directly to the group of friends. If they are friends, then that should be something that would not be a big deal.

    • Amanda October 14, 2015, 11:06 am

      I don’t understand how this is passive aggressive. It’s forthright and honest. People order separate checks all the time and I wouldn’t label them passive aggressive. Sure, talk to your friends, too, but ordering a separate check is a completely normal thing to do.

      • Lisa October 14, 2015, 2:33 pm

        No, it isn’t. Speaking to your friends is forthright and honest. Speaking to the server without addressing the issue with the friends is not.

        • Amanda October 15, 2015, 11:30 am

          I think we are going to have to disagree on this one. I think your opinion on this is being colored by your time as a server at a restaurant that didn’t split checks, and that’s fine, but to go around calling people passive aggressive because they don’t agree with you seems a bit of a stretch.

          • Leigh October 18, 2015, 9:33 am

            It’s not passive aggressive to tell the server you need extra steak sauce, or napkins, or that you’d like a refill without first consulting your dining companions. Asking for your server to split a check (where it is done) is the same thing.
            I’m with Amanda; it’s not passive aggressive at all. Only the friends would think it so because they’d wind up actually paying the full amount for what they ordered without having it subsidized by friends.

    • A different Tracy October 14, 2015, 11:33 am

      Why is it passive-aggressive to simply request what you need?

    • psammead October 14, 2015, 12:10 pm

      I think you need to review the definition of passive aggression. To qualify as passive-aggressive, a behavior needs to involve some form of actual aggression–for instance, doing a job poorly because you feel put-upon at being asked to do it, or creating an unpleasant atmosphere by visibly pouting and sulking because you didn’t get your own way (and all the while pretending that you’re not angry). Simply avoiding confrontation does not make anyone passive aggressive.

    • Willynilly October 14, 2015, 12:34 pm

      It’s not passive aggressive at all, it’s proactive. Having a separate check for themselves makes it easier on everyone by reducing the math. A separate check means OP & her husband pay and the group simply divides and pays.

      One big check but separating out food/tax/tip for 2, then food/wine/tax/tip adds two more mathematical equations to the whole process. Not a huge deal, but not nothing either since it’s all being done in the middle of socializing and after imbibing.

    • mark October 14, 2015, 12:55 pm

      why is asking for a separate check passive aggressive?

      Server (at start of meal): Will you need separate checks?
      OP: Yes please.

      I would say if this has been going on for a while it may be best to give your friends a bit of warning.

      • Lisa October 14, 2015, 2:32 pm

        Again. The OP has stated that the restaurants do not offer/allow separate checks.

        However. It is passive aggressive because you are pulling aside the server to ask for a separate check as opposed to being direct with the group of friends.

        So let’s say the OP does this. Even though she’s already said that it’s not possible and that it’s frowned upon in most restaurants. Then at the end of the meal instead of one check the server plops down a separate check in front of OP & DH. One of the other friends asks why a separate check. Now you’ve got an awkward conversation because they were not upfront with each other at the start and it’s likely to leave the other friends offended.

        I really am stunned that people are advocating not having a simple conversation about expectations on a site that talks about having a shiny spine. As well as repeated ignoring the fact that a separate check isn’t even a possibility.

    • Amanda H. October 14, 2015, 3:40 pm

      It’s only passive aggressive if they’re going behind the group’s back to get the separate check. Most if not all of the suggestions I’ve seen on here have been to ask *in front of the group* for the separate check instead, so that it’s clear to everyone else that they’re planning to pay their own way.

    • Susan lee October 14, 2015, 4:12 pm

      This isn’t remotely passive aggressive, it’s dealing with ones personal financial business in a private adult manner. If a couple wants a separate check that’s all there is to it, no explanation or rationalization needs to be given to anyone else. Making an announcement to the group opens up the subject for discussion and I don’t see the benefit of doing that when it’s not a negotiation.

  • Emily October 14, 2015, 9:56 am

    I think many of these suggested comments are too passive and appear to be asking for permission. I think you just need to state that you won’t be chipping in for the wine because you aren’t drinking it. That’s it. Don’t apologize, don’t explain about your budget.

    I’m often in the exact same boat because I don’t drink much and sometimes am out with friends who order lots of wine or cocktails. Thankfully, I don’t recall it being a problem any time recently (we are all in our 40s and older, so much more confident in what we will and won’t do, plus I’ve probably “trained” my friends for the past couple of decades just by not doing it).

    I also have noticed that the times that people do suggest that we just all split the bill it is almost always the person who ordered the most expensive food/drink who initially suggests it.

  • Anna October 14, 2015, 10:17 am

    I am always the boozer of the group. BUT as I’m aware of this I always take my drinks off the total bill before splitting. I suggest that your group of friends are actually just taking the piss with regards to the total bill? There is no way I’d expect somebody who didn’t/wasn’t drinking subsidise my wine!

  • Leigh October 14, 2015, 10:54 am

    Let me first say that I do NOT doubt the OP in any way; however, I’ve never been to a restaurant that refused to split the check. I’m confused about why they would refuse to do it for their customers? Is this a regional thing, or is it that I never go to those types of establishments (probably much nicer/higher end than I normally frequent)? Is it because they think larger parties won’t tip correctly? I know that when I’ve been to large group outings with separate bills, they usually add the gratuity onto the total. I could see it years ago before the automated systems that are in use now, but most ordering/billing systems now have no problem splitting checks.
    I’m honestly curious, because I would like to avoid the situation for myself in the future (I know some people that would totally take advantage on purpose, unlike in the OP’s case).

    • Devin October 14, 2015, 2:07 pm

      It depends on your location. Where I lived before, no separate checks on parties over 6 was typical (as was gratuity on large parties), or max number of cards per check. Where I live now, it is standard that the server asks if separate checks will be needed, but many still have different stipulations on large parties (especially if its 14-18 people like this group sounds like).

    • Lisa October 14, 2015, 2:36 pm

      I’ve worked as a server/bartender in a lot of restaurants. In New England, for context. In every single one it has been restaurant policy not to allow separate checks.

      The biggest issue that the management fears is the likelihood that the food will not all come out at the same time, which generally irritates diners.

      • NicoleK October 15, 2015, 11:38 pm

        Really? I’m grew up in Boston and often did separate checks. But most of the time it was one bill and we all put in cash based on what we ordered. Everyone would round up beacause no one wanted to be a jerk so we would end up with 40% tips

    • Amanda H. October 14, 2015, 3:44 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s largely a regional thing. Several people have mentioned that most places in NYC, for instance, won’t split the bill. It sounds also like some restaurants won’t split the bill for larger parties because the automatic gratuity system might not work then. Some places might even still be running older POS systems that can’t do it easily, and I do know there have been places I’ve been to before that need to know about the split bill at the start because their system can’t split after the fact.

      I would say that to avoid the situation the OP’s in, always bring cash to cover your portion just in case (even if you intend to use your credit card), and ask at the start of the restaurant in question can do separate bills.

    • Willynilly October 14, 2015, 9:14 pm

      I go out to eat a lot. I would say a solid 50% of places [that I go to] are using handwritten tickets, not a POS system, so this whole “let the computer do the work” idea is moot. 3 tickets means the waiter is having to tally up, and tax, and possibly calculate a tip, for 3 bills. Then they have to make change 3 times or run 3 credit cards. That takes up 3x as much time while their other tables need water refills, extra sauce, a dessert menu, etc.

    • The OP of this post October 14, 2015, 10:21 pm

      Maybe it is a regional thing. Most restaurants where I live allow separate checks only for ana parties but once you have 6 or more the checks cannot be separated and it’s usually stated on the menu or on a sign. I never thought about why but it’s a good question!

    • NostalgicGal October 15, 2015, 1:16 am

      Some restaurants automatically won’t split checks for a table over a certain size (usually 8, sometimes 6). Some restaurants won’t split the booze off the check either. Restaurants that won’t split usually add an automatic gratuity to the check. Beware of that one, they post 15% but might add up to 24% (I have caught some doing that in the past). Or they will print suggested amounts by ‘percent’ but the percentages are off and way higher than what they claim.

      • Leigh October 15, 2015, 9:51 am

        Thanks everyone for the replies. It’s so interesting to learn how things work in other regional areas. I can see how it would be more work for the server to run all those credit cards. I guess it really is just what works best for each company/region.

        NostalgicGal-you’re right about checking that gratuity amount!

        • NostalgicGal October 16, 2015, 12:47 am

          One more about large groups, not splitting bills and automatic gratuity addition. Club I was in decided we liked this one place, sat at the big side table, and about a dozen of would want separate checks (running $15-20 each) and often tip in the 25-33% range. Waitstaff their loved us. We would go up a few at a time so as not to swamp the register and pay up too as we packed up and got ready to leave (nobody ever stiffed). After several months they decided on no check split and adding 15% automatically. Made it a mess for the $15 purchase vs the $25 purchase. Club president had to sit there, query the whole table, write it down, do the math, and manually add the 15%. People wrote HER a check. Then she went up and paid the entire thing, with exactly the 15% gratuity. So it cut the tip average in half, took us forever to be able to clear out, waitstaff was ticked, and we informed them that would be the last time we booked their place. They could NOT understand why. Even after being told why. Management also heard it from the waitstaff as we had been good customers and excellent tippers.

          Side note, sometimes I pay a meal with the plastic, and I have cash to leave the tip. I will write a line through the tip, add note, paid server tip in cash, and put just the food amount down for final and have card run. And follow my card to the machine. Some servers catch it if they got zero tip so I can tell manager I paid cash. Keeps per-diem slip turned in straight, tipping is my problem, not who I’m billing.

  • MM October 14, 2015, 11:20 am

    talk to your friends directly, firmly but still polietely. if they are your friends, they will understand. if they don’t understand then stop seeing them.

    with my friends, usually we’ll split it if everyone’s meals cost around the same but we’ll make up any discrepancy with tipping. or I might buy a drink for someone later who paid more than their share. luckily my circle understands that these things even out eventually. we see each other regularly enough and everyone is honest enough that it never is a big problem.

    honesty and communication are the major points here. these people are your friends for a reason!

  • Cj October 14, 2015, 12:02 pm

    Yes, seems like the consensus is just be honest. I have gone out with friends and not been able to afford the fancy drink or dessert. I have asked to put a drink on my tab for a broke friend and the opposite as well. True friendship is honest and no matter the situation they want to hang out with you!!! Shoot I have even done just a picnic in the mountains when we are both broke. If you are honest and then are no longer invited then they like you paying their share more than your company. Users get found out quick. I will pay for a portion of a persons meal ot take them out once so we can go hang out if after that they do not offer to repay the kindness by taking me out when I am broke/tight on money (or come up with an alternate such as just come to my place for dinner) I know they are just a user and appreciate my money more than my company.

  • PrincessButtercup October 14, 2015, 12:13 pm

    I’ve never been to a restaurant that wouldn’t split the bills. In fact most servers ask if we’ll have separate bills if there is even just three adults.

    Another option is when asked out for a meal, state “I’d love to but we’re on a tight budget and can only afford to spend a little bit. If the group opts to evenly split the bill, then we cannot join. If we each pay our own way then we can keep within our spending limit and still enjoy everyone’s company.”

  • Cat2 October 14, 2015, 2:38 pm

    Given that this has been going on for some time, I would start the next meal by saying “Hey guys, before we start, I wanted to bring something up. I know that we’ve all agreed to split the bill evenly before, but B and I usually don’t drink, while you all usually do; so this has ended up meaning that this isn’t close to an equal share for us, but rather a lot more than our share. I hope you don’t mind, but because of that, we’d prefer to just pay for ourselves.”

    Reassure that everybody who is drinking can feel free to split the cost of the rest of the bill, and yes you do still want to hang out with everybody – you just want to stop paying *a lot more* than your share.

    Remember to stress that the issue for you is that what you’re paying isn’t close to what you’d pay if everybody just paid for themselves, it’s a lot more, and it’s not just now and then, it’s almost every time.

    If they can’t deal with that disparity – then paying for their alcohol is the price of admission to hanging out with them. Are you willing to continue to pay it? Do you want to hang out with people who can’t or won’t easily recognize how unfair that is to you and agree to make a simple change so that it is fairer to you?

  • Angel October 14, 2015, 6:40 pm

    Going out to extravagant dinners even 2 times a month to me is excessive. I would start bringing up the idea of rotating houses, everyone hosts like once a month, and you rotate from there. SOOO much cheaper and you guys get to hang out for longer and really enjoy each other’s company.

  • Rebecca October 14, 2015, 9:21 pm

    Easy. “Oh, we didn’t have wine, so here’s our portion for the food.” I can’t even imagine expecting someone who hadn’t had wine, to pitch in for the wine.

  • The OP of this post October 14, 2015, 10:23 pm

    Update: We are all going out Friday night and I suggested a new and trendy restaurant. We’ve checked out their menu online and already know how much cash to bring. I will update on the reaction of the group. This is partly our fault we let this go on this long and habits are difficult to change for many. Thanks again for all advice!

    • ketchup October 15, 2015, 8:38 am

      Good luck and have a good time!

  • Chicalola October 15, 2015, 10:52 am

    I don’t understand why it’s so hard for someone to just talk to their friends!

  • lnelson1218 October 15, 2015, 11:48 am

    I have also been the one on strict budgets and had a limited amount of cash on me. At the end of the day, I know that I have of $20 for drinks, etc which needs to include the tax and tip, I would order within that budget. When the bill came, threw in my $20, and if there was a complaint, I kept it simple. On a budget, made sure I stayed within that budget, that’s all I’ve got.

    Are there less than honest people who would go over their budget sure. If someone offered to buy me another drink, I would not say no.

    But it worked for me.

  • kingsrings October 15, 2015, 3:35 pm

    OP – how do you all communicate about these dinners? Where to meet, etc.? Because of its via email, then I suggest that as a way of communicating to everyone at once through a group email that you and your husband will from now on pay only your portions of the meal. Politely and explaining why, of course. And if the majority of the group takes umbrage with that, then don’t dine out with them anymore.
    I have never heard of this happening in group dining and no groups I’ve ever belonged to would ever put up with having to pay for someone else’s meal and drink. And the fact that some people use this process as an excuse to order more food and drink or more expensive food and drink is even worse!

  • The OP of this post October 17, 2015, 9:39 am

    UPDATE: we all went to dinner last night and I executed the plan based on the advice here. This restaurant didn’t allow split checks with large groups. I brought the right amount of cash to pay for dinner, tax and tip. When the bill came everyone starting to split it six ways as usual. There had been six $35 bottles of wine consumed and we hadn’t had a drop. I put in the cash and simply said, “Here is our portion for dinner”. Everyone looked confused at first. I simply said, ” Our budget right now only allows for dinner, not wine which is why we didn’t order any. ” Then they started calculating what everyone else owed and didn’t really respond much to what I said. I just needed to be assertive from the beginning!! Having a polite spine is very valuable! Now they know next time we won’t be subsidizing their wine!

    • Matt October 19, 2015, 2:15 pm

      I think you made a mistake by doing it at the end of dinner rather than at the beginning. By doing it at the end of the dinner, you’re conveying that you don’t trust your friends to react appropriately. It almost sounds like you’re admonishing them for a problem that’s only a problem because you didn’t speak up for months. If it bothered you enough to make a passive-aggressive move, you have been able to discuss it with your friends before it got to that point.

    • Daphne October 21, 2015, 11:26 am

      If there is a next time.

    • Lerah99 October 21, 2015, 11:41 am

      This sounds like it went perfectly! Well done, OP!

  • acr October 20, 2015, 9:07 am

    Good for you OP! I can see your reluctance to address the issue at the beginning of the meal – it just seems hard not to “overexplain” in that situation. I see nothing wrong with, “Bob and I had the chicken. Our meal plus tip is $45.” And put in the $45. Some of those folks probably got an unpleasant shock – their bill was probably significantly higher than usual, b/c OP and her DH had been subsidizing them.

  • NostalgicGal October 27, 2015, 1:44 pm

    I just got back from a lunch out. This is one of the places that will allow me to bring in a small container of my own food and a bottle of bottled water so I may at least join others and enjoy a meal. Some of the others were from out of town; and didn’t know about my issues. I wasan’t even handed a menu, which wasn’t poor service it was I wouldn’t be using it. Some of the others suggesting splitting the bill, food and drinks, and someone did point at me and say she doesn’t drink a drop and is on a special diet. Finefine. Appetizers, entrees, desserts flowed past. I had my bottle of water and my sealed jar of ‘puree’, even brought my own plastic spoon. We get finished and that end grabs the bill and goes well everyone owes, with a nice tip, about $35 each. I said did you split that 8 or 9 ways? Well NINE, duh, there were nine of us. I held up my closed (empty and label removed) small jar of puree and my water bottle. You mean I have to pay $35 when I didn’t order anything? Nothing? Nothing. One of the others took the bill and started splitting and I got up and handed the waitress $4 and left. I got a call halfways home from one of the others (pulled over of course) and said the one that got upset I wouldn’t pay was the one that was way over the average (don’t worry about it, just go home.) So how bad was I? Is it a tuffet inside the door or strapped to the rotisserie with a drip of BBQ sauce?