Let me set the scene for you. You’re at an achingly happenin’ restaurant, one you’d never go to without a really loaded Evite: “Come celebrate Christine’s 29th Birthday before she runs off to be a war correspondent in Africa” or some such imperative. Basically, you have to go.
The fabulous maitre de hands you a menu and an even more fabulous drink list. You are mentally tabulating cab faire, the $12 cocktails, and the appetizer salad which will have to be your dinner since you’re broke. Not broke enough to keep you at home on your friend’s birthday, but broke enough to feel guilty that you just paid $12 for 2.5 oz. of liquid and an olive. Broke enough that any more of these birthday parties may force you to cannibalize your closet for subway money.
But you’re a good friend. You made the effort, but your empty stomach will have to pay the price.
Gazing up at the giant Buddha, you think to yourself: this is one swanky establishment. I could grow to like this. And for less than $50, you can be part of the fun. That is, until the check comes.
“So it looks like about $140 each, plus tip” says some girl holding the table’s check, at the other end of the table – a friend of a friend. You can’t quite remember her name, but you did notice her fancy for mussels, steak, chocolate ganache and multiple $12 cocktails. You had time to notice because there was nothing left on your plate to distract you.
What do you do?? Do you put up a protest?
I tried this once – at a cross-country NYC bachelorette party (at that very buddhalicious restaurant pictured above). The trip cost me in total over $1500. I got the big slam down for being cheap by chocolate ganache girl at the other end of the table, and am pissed off to this day that I had to pay (clearly). But what were my options?
Do you refuse to pay? That could end really awkwardly, and get the birthday girl/blushing bride involved, which is the last thing you want to do. Or do you just zip your lips and fork over $90 more than you had planned (and budgeted)?
This has happened to me more than once over the years. At the bachelorette party years ago, I was working as a receptionist, making less than $30K. $90 was huge. More recently when this has happened to me, I’ve been less chaffed, as my budget is less tight. Yet I don’t particularly want to pay for Miss Greedy-Bones’ 7-course feast when I’m only having a salad or paying for everyone else’s rounds of champagne when I’m choosing not to drink. I think it’s presumptuous that someone just assumes we all split our tabs! And I’m not talking about nickeling and diming here. I’m talking about being unemployed or barely making ends meet, and purposefully forgoing the MEAL part of the meal, just so you can celebrate with your girlfriend on her birthday.
What about you – has this ever happened to you? Do you feel my pain, or am I the only cheapskate out there? Is there a classy way of handling this? Any Ms. Manners out there have any suggestions??