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Author Topic: Who picks up the check?  (Read 1553 times)

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Who picks up the check?
« on: January 13, 2018, 09:13:32 AM »
SIL, her husband, and their two kids pass through our town regularly on their way to their vacation house. Four months ago my MIL was with them, and they asked if we'd all like to meet for dinner (myself, DH, and baby).  We went somewhere relatively inexpensive. SIL's husband went up to pay. I noticed and suggested my husband go up too, but we were too late and BIL had already paid for us.

They called yesterday about meeting for dinner. We met up again. This restaurant was in the same price range as before, but a bit more expensive. The waitress set the check down in front of one of the kids (huh?), so I moved it near myself. I whispered to my husband asking if we should pay since they paid the last time. He doesn't really follow/care about etiquette rules, but likes treating for dinner, so he said sure. And since I'd already unthinkingly grabbed the check, I felt weird *not* paying.

When I went to hand it to the waitress, SIL tried to give me her card. I said we got it, since they'd gotten the last one. She said she'd forgotten, but that since they had invited us, this ended up being a lovely surprise. She then offered to treat us to ice cream on their way back through (at the place we'd recommended) to make up for it. 

Was I right that we were supposed to pay? Could I have gotten away with just splitting the check in half?

Both families have good incomes (though they make a lot more than us), but with their 2 kids they're getting the better deal if we do take turns treating.

And if they do treat us for ice cream (which I don't want to do; I can only handle this group in small doses), who gets th. check the next time? Are we even and no longer treat?

This SIL has been known to get her nose bent out of shape when she thinks she's being slighted, so there's also family dynamics at play here. But I don't want to pick up the check half the time when half the cost isn't ours (although the ice cream is supposed to balance that I guess).

velly j

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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2018, 09:20:49 AM »

I don't know what it is, but something about your post rubs me a bit the wrong way. I could be being unreasonable, so others may have more insight. But it seems a little petty (?) to worry about this in as much detail as you seem to be doing. It could well be, though, that this people rub you up the wrong way, so it is 'last straw' territory, which is more than understandable. As to what to do, I think you are in the clear etiquette wise to suggest just splitting the bill the next time, and suggest that you do that from here on in.

gramma dishes

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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2018, 09:28:59 AM »

...  I think you are in the clear etiquette wise to suggest just splitting the bill the next time, and suggest that you do that from here on in.

I agree that next time they invite you to dine with them just be up front about not wanting anyone to 'treat' the others. "Sure, we'd love to join you!  Let's do separate checks (or split the bill) this time.  See you at 6:00 at Goodfoodinn!"


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 09:50:50 AM »
Let them treat for the ice cream, then in the future, discuss it with them first and tell the wait person in their hearing that you'd like separate checks. Don't overthink this. It doesn't take too long to have ice cream and you could have something planned after it so you'll still get them in a small dose.

rose red

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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2018, 10:11:13 AM »
It doesn't sound like you are too fond of them much if you're thinking in terms of who gets the better deal and how ice cream making it equal and "getting away" with splitting the bill. When it gets to this point, it's time to request separate checks while you order.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2018, 10:13:47 AM by rose red »

Easter Hat

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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2018, 10:33:13 AM »
I also vote to solve this by requesting separate checks. 

We have friends from all sorts of backgrounds.  For instance, a generous brother always treats - even if the table is large and lots of drinks were had.  He refused any reimbursement or reciprocation.  A friends husband is sort of a big shot and likes to flash his wealth by picking up the tab.  Others are much more frugal and would be the type to say, "well, we shared the appetizer but you ate more than us, so . . ."  I also dislike "keeping track".  Since we do not drink and most of our friends do I'd feel resentful always having to spot large bar tabs on "our turn".

So when it's my turn to order, regardless of how others have ordered I will say to the waiter, "hi, by the way, DH and I are on the same bill.  I'll have the delicious whatever I want."

Then when the bill comes if someone grabs my ticket and insists on paying, I will protest once and then let it go.  If DH's brother MUST treat then I will accept it graciously and try to "pay him back" with another sort of kindness.  If the big shot wants to pay - fine.  I might try to pick up the tab if his wife and I do lunch alone but I won't stress over it.  Since I have requested my own bill (and protested) I absolve myself of any feelings of "having" to pick up the tab the next time.


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2018, 01:01:33 PM »
I'll definitely have to work up the nerve to casually suggest separate checks in advance.

People noted that I don't seem to like SIL too much. I think that's par for the course here, isn't it? I do a lot of lurking (this is the first thread I've started), and there's a lot of questions about how to interact politely with people we don't really like but must interact with, particularly situations where they do things we don't like.

The ice cream is still tough. SIL is chronically late. The first dinner it messed with Baby's naptime, which is a big no no for me. This time she didn't update us, so when DH arrived and said (five minutes early, he came straight from work), I'm here, she responded (thinking it was to me, she later said) and updated us that they'd be there in 25 minutes. I saw these texts come in as I was walking out the door...because I was assuming she'd have told is if they were running late.  So DH could have come home to help me instead of going straight there, which would have been nice.

Clearly after doing it 2 of 2 times we've made plans I know better than to think they'll be on time. But I suspect we'll make plans for ice cream and they'll be so late that it will be time to put the baby to bed.  So I suppose we'll just have to back out at the last minute then.

There's a large gap between people who are toxic and people we'd like to be friends with. She's in that gap. But my husband doesn't like me to criticize her, so I stew. I asked my questions so I can hopefully proceed in the future with less stewing.

(Also, no one answered whether I had to pay yesterday. Do you suppose I could have politely let her pay again or split it?)


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2018, 01:57:13 PM »
I don't know that you had to pay yesterday, but I think it was good to offer since they treated last time. 

I think you might want to quit trying to analyze who comes out ahead.  From your description, it just doesn't sound like that big of a deal.  It doesn't sound like there's a huge disparity between the two families' orders - just a couple of kids' meals, and it will only be 1 kid's meal as your baby grows up.  Since you didn't mention some giant wine or alcohol order that's skewing the bill, I'm assuming there isn't one.  It sounded like you can afford to treat them occasionally, although if that's problematic I'd try suggesting less expensive restaurants.  If these dinners only happen about every 4 months, it's just 3 dinners per year - if taking turns paying doesn't even out perfectly, it's still just not that big of a difference.  The focus is supposed to be on spending time together rather than on perfectly balancing everyone's financial contributions, so unless there is some really large disparity, I'd work on letting it go. 

If you can find a way to shift to splitting the bill, go for it, because that will help eliminate the temptation to overthink it (I'm an overthinker myself, so I totally get this!).  But if you can't find a way make splitting the bill the norm, then I think I'd just work on chalking it up to one of the costs of having in-laws.  And hey, at least they're wanting to pay instead of expecting you to pick up the check every single time! 


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2018, 03:30:24 PM »
I agree you're overthinking this.  I'm sure you're correct family dynamics are in play, but that's because they always are. 

It's obvious splitting the bill (or getting 2 separate ones) is the best option, because in your 2nd post, you're still concerned about the disparity between your family size and theirs.  This is fine, of course, but then it means you'd remove from the equation any expectation that you take turns treating.  When you start down that road, and you think there's an inherent unfairness in it, you end up focusing on who pays for ice cream, and this is where it gets  a bit nutty. 


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2018, 03:35:34 PM »
I believe if they invite you, you are not required to pay. But I would have done so.

Then next time I would casually, quietly mention to the server that you want separate checks by pointing out your husband and child, ďwe are on a check togetherĒ. Then tell SIL if she mentions, ďoh letís just split, we are happy you invited us, no need for you to pay.Ē  Or ďthis is what we do with our friends, it makes things simpler.Ē  Because  when other people are paying for me I donít always get exactly what I really want, so I do find it simpler.


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2018, 06:03:53 PM »
I'd request separate checks the next time you dine with them.  If they protest and say they want to pay because they invited you, let them pay so that when you invite them, you can add, "And since you graciously invited us and paid last time, dinner is on us tonight."  If they always want to pay, and you don't like that, you can point out that you enjoy treating them when you invite them.  My dad would always pay for everyone when he was the host, but he was gracious about letting us pay when we issued the invitation.

As for baby's bedtime being a problem, you can accept an invitation by saying something like, "We'd love to have ice cream with you as long as we get there by 6:45 so that we can leave by 7:15pm in order to put baby to bed.  If that doesn't work for you, let's schedule another time." 
"No matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Banzai


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2018, 06:33:20 PM »
Iím kind of in the position of the OPís sister-in-law.  My husbandís sister has always kind of angled to make sure that she never pays more than we do, and preferably less. (We are both similarly situated financially and money isnít tight for either of us.) My husband and I donít care at all; we would almost rather treat for everyone all the time, and we do make sure we pay more than half, to avoid this nonsense. I mean, given that everyone can afford it, over a lifetime, and itís been more than 35 years already, who really cares if someone ó a sibling, no less ópays a few more dollars this time or a few less dollars the next time?

Itís exhausting, and frankly, a little bit insulting, as if she is implying we might chisel her somehow.  I think this is just how she is with everyone; itís not personal.  But it is still distancing.

Itís not that big of a deal, and I do agree that your best course of action is just to split the checks if you are uncomfortable taking turns when it might not work out evenly. Iím just giving you the view from the other side; they may feel the same way we do.


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2018, 07:20:02 PM »
I think it was the right thing to do to pick up the check this time. They paid last time, you paid this time, even steven. Bean counting about a kid's meal is unproductive, especially since this is not ongoing (yet). But it doesn't have to be ongoing!

If you don't want to take turns paying, for whatever reason, then just state upfront to the waiter when you order that you'll be splitting the bill. It may be that, because these in-laws are technically "inviting you" they believe they should pay. However, it sounds like this is an "at their convenience" type of thing, when they're rolling through town. So, if they offer to pay next time, just say, "oh that's ok, let's just split it!" No one can really take offense at separate bills in this situation.

One question: what does your husband think about it? I just mean, what is typical in his family and does he have any insight to what would keep family harmony?


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2018, 09:05:33 AM »
Bada, separate the who picks up the cheque question from the I donít really like my sister in law issue.

Just take turns and donít think about it. Not caring is the best revenge.  Easier said than done, I know, but it can be worked on and you said there are no present financial issues, so there you are.

It sounds like these dinners happen a few times a year.  You are fine to not be able to make it once or twice because you already have plans.  Or send your husband with your son and have some alone time.

And you appreciate the offer of ice cream but little bit needs to be put to bed.

Why is she needing to do the ice cream thing to ďmake up for itĒ anyway?  Let it be her problem, not yours. 


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Re: Who picks up the check?
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2018, 09:31:52 AM »
I did bring this up with DH yesterday.  I admitted I'd posted here looking for some insight/feedback, lol.

He says SIL genuinely wouldn't have minded paying or splitting the check this time. I'm a little gun shy, given her (over)reaction to something I said a few months back, and I'm a little afraid to take her at her word lest she go home secretly angry again. He told me that's her problem not mine.

He agrees we should split the check going forward (and casually, by talking to the waiter right when he gets to the table the first time). As someone pointed out, they're basically always going to be doing the inviting, since they call us up when they're coming through town unexpectedly. So letting them pay because they invited us doesn't make sense for this situation (unless we always let them pay, but neither of us think SIL wants to always pay).

We'll see if the ice cream invite materializes. If it does I'll make sure they know when the latest we could meet is and if they're running late they'll know ahead if time it won't work. 

Zhaleh asked why SIL feels the need to "make up for" us treating. I guess that's telling in a way. She spontaneously offered to do it and specifically said it was to repay us for dinner. So I'm not the only one bean counting here (and I swear mine was done in secret, it's not like I was muttering about paying extra and she overheard!).  So maybe she'll be more comfortable splitting the check too.

I know it's only been a couple of times so far, but the circumstances that led to this are rather new and now that it has become a pattern, I want to "Begin as I intend to proceed", in the words of eHell.  If this goes on for a decade, I'll be happy I'm not brooding that whole time secretly because I worked out something I'm comfortable with early.

Thanks for your thoughts everyone!