Cheques and mates

KATHER­INE GILLE­SPIE HAS SOME THOUGHTS ON SPLIT­TING THE BILL.

Frankie - - RANT -

Go­ing out for a meal with a big group of friends is, in the­ory, one of life’s sim­plest plea­sures. Hoe­ing into chef-pre­pared food is good, ob­vi­ously, and gos­sip­ing about mu­tual ac­quain­tances is even bet­ter. Sadly, all this glut­tony does come at a price – specif­i­cally, the one listed on the menu. As plates are cleared away and some­one at the ta­ble qui­etly re­grets hav­ing taken a risk on the break­fast spe­cial, a sin­gle slip of pa­per ap­pears along­side a frown­ing, over­worked wait­ress. No, you can’t pay sep­a­rately on week­ends. They can’t make an ex­cep­tion. Sorry.

It’s the mo­ment ev­ery­one knew was com­ing, yet no one thought to pre­pare for with a strate­gic ATM trip. Some­one’s five dol­lars short; vague and un­con­vinc­ing prom­ises are made about in­ter­net bank­ing; and an im­pa­tient line of peo­ple stare on as they wait for the ta­ble. Ev­ery­one has ex­pe­ri­enced this dilemma, but no­body talks about it. It’s time for us, as a cul­ture, to start tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for our bill-split­ting habits.

Let’s be­gin by re­sist­ing the urge to open the cal­cu­la­tor app. Noth­ing ru­ins the pleas­ant feel­ing of hav­ing in­gested your body weight in scram­bled eggs faster than sit­ting around awk­wardly while some­one painstak­ingly cal­cu­lates how much every­body owes for their meal, down to the last cent. My hum­ble sug­ges­tion: split the damn thing evenly. Oh, you didn’t or­der a sec­ond cof­fee like every­body else? Well, take a deep breath and let that $3.50 go. This is nei­ther the time nor place for long di­vi­sion. Of course, even if ev­ery­one is keen to split the bill, it’s in­evitable that some­one won’t have the cor­rect amount of cash on them. Here, we en­ter the phase of “send me your de­tails” am­bi­gu­ity, which will likely re­sult in lit­tle more than a se­ries of awk­ward fol­low-up mes­sages. The truth is, I’ve fre­quently been the friend who didn’t think ahead to get money out, but in my de­fence, I’m a brave and for­ward-think­ing fu­tur­ist and truly be­lieve pa­per money should have be­come ob­so­lete by now. Still, I’ve come to un­der­stand that my love of tap­ping my card is a mas­sive in­con­ve­nience to oth­ers. Let it be known, I’m try­ing to change – by, quite lit­er­ally, hav­ing spare coins on me at all times.

(On that note: blessed be the friends who, with full knowl­edge that they’re about to lose at least 10 dol­lars, sigh and put the whole thing on their card as ev­ery­one mut­ters half-heart­edly about send­ing money through later. Let us be grate­ful for their sac­ri­fice, and try to pay them back quicker and more faith­fully in fu­ture.) Per­haps the most ir­ri­tat­ing in­evitabil­ity of the group meal is that one diner who ducks out early for some other “very im­por­tant so­cial en­gage­ment”, and ei­ther “for­gets” to leave money on the ta­ble or “mis­cal­cu­lates” the cor­rect amount. Con­versely, they’ll stay for the en­tire meal, but con­ve­niently dis­ap­pear to the bath­room just as it’s time to pay up. Strate­gi­cally leav­ing ev­ery­one else to sort out the bill is so dang rude that it al­most de­mands be­grudg­ing re­spect, but I reckon you can get away with it once per year at most. Twice, maybe, if you’re in­cred­i­bly broke. Con­sider your­selves warned, Hou­di­nis of the brunch world.

Maybe I’m over­analysing things, but how we split the bill re­flects who we are as peo­ple. No mat­ter how many let­ters I write to the gov­ern­ment, it seems Aus­tralia is stick­ing with cap­i­tal­ism for the time be­ing, which means some of us will have more fi­nan­cial free­dom than oth­ers. So, if you find your­self feel­ing flush post­pay­check, why not shout a mate their break­fast? You’ll feel great, and they’ll be chuffed, too. Bonus points if you sneak­ily pay for the whole ta­ble while no one’s look­ing. Noth­ing tastes sweeter – not even those turmeric lat­tes ev­ery­one’s mak­ing now.

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