Dear Crabby, Separate Checks or One?

Dear Crabby,

When I go out to lunch with my friends, the servers always ask: “Separate checks, or one?” This causes some immediate embarrassment because each person is mentally thinking whether he or she should offer to pay, or maybe it is even my turn to pay. How would you suggest handling this delicate social situation?

Sincerely, Bewildered in Macomb County

Dear Bewildered,

My policy is that it’s always the other person’s turn to buy. Of course, people start to catch on after a while. Therefore, you need to plan things out. When you’re finished with the meal and before the server comes back, excuse yourself to the restroom. This should give the other person time to pick up the check. Another way out of paying is to announce during lunch that you’re expecting an important phone call and you’ll put your phone on silent so as not to disturb everyone when it rings. When you see the bill coming (keep a lookout), pull the phone out of your pocket and say, “Oh, there’s that call now” and then wander off. If you friend doesn’t get the tab soon after that, pretend you’re still on the phone (saying important sounding stuff) and pass by and whisper to your friend, “Can you get lunch this time – I’m going to be on this phone call for a while.”

Dear Crabby with a Laptop ComputerIf you get the feeling it is your turn to pick up the tab, try a different approach. I suggest you offer to buy because what better way to celebrate your (insert birthday, anniversary, etc.)? Good friends won’t let you pay on your birthday, and ta-da, another meal is free!

However, this only works a few times. Moreover, it doesn’t answer your question about separate checks. I’m cheap… let’s say frugal; it sounds better. I order cheap meals when I know my lunch partner is on to me. Therefore, if it is separate checks, my bill is small. If the server does get to the table with that question, be ready to ask your dining partner “Can you get this one?” and then tag it with a reason – at my age it’s always an upcoming expensive medical test or procedure that insurance isn’t paying for. Your friend won’t want to say no to that in front of the waitress, right?

Anyway, sometimes you have to pay. Try to rotate your turn to a place you know has a cheap buffet, lunch special, buy-one-get-one-free offer, or something like that. Then when it is someone else’s turn to pay, suggest trying that new expensive place in the  downtown area (leave out the expensive part).

If these great tips help you, let’s do lunch sometime and you can tell me all about it… of course, you’re buying.

Sincerely, Dear Crabby

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