Monday, September 03, 2007

Let's go Dutch!!

Last Saturday evening, I had dinner with some members of my club after our AGM. There were 4 young couples, my own family (3) and a family 0f 4. I've known them for quite some time but that was the first time we were dining together.

When the bill finally came, the family guy who ordered drinks, appetizers, high-end entrees and desserts wanted to split the check equally among the 6 families. Maybe he thought the rest of us would be too embarrassed to itemize even though some of us ordered things like Caesar salads and pastas. And he expected us to pay for the ice-creams and kids' meals his children had.

I could see the displeasure on the faces of the other couples but they kept quiet. People who could afford expensive club subscriptions shouldn't be too petty. Well, not for me! I don't argue over a few bucks, but I would not pay for other people's indulgences.

I took over the bill, calculated my share with tax and placed the money on the table. The other couples gleefully followed suit. I invited the other 4 couples for a drink at the lounge and we left. The family guy and his wife couldn't believe their eyes. They probably pulled this trick quite often.

There was this girlfriend who would always leave early and leave the money for her food minus the tax on the table. The person who paid the bill would always end up paying the tax for her.

It irritates me to subsidize someone who could afford to join us for an evening out but simply didn't want to pay her share. You have to wonder if these people are just cheap or think you are too stupid to recognize what is happening.

I entertain fairly often and because most of my dining partners are business associates, clients and staff, I will gladly foot the bills. With close friends and business partners, we always argue about who gets to pay. Usually it takes 30 seconds or so of bickering back and forth before one of us wins the argument and gets to pay.

For all my foreign guests, I would pick up the tab. It is my pleasure to recomend our local cuisines to them. And in our traditional Asian society, it is an honour and considered our great fortune to pay for a meal! er.... I'm not available for meals the next few months. hahaha......

Many people have the perception that because I'm a Businesswoman, I have to give them a treat or pay a bigger share of the bill. Usually it happens with the young people I meet or help. I don't drink coffee, beer or any alcoholic drinks, I prefer plain water because it's healthier. I always resent paying for their chilled beer, cocktails or Starbucks Frapps. They feel that because I'm older and better-off, they could leave the bill to me. And I noticed they tend to order more expensive items because I was present. I can do it once or twice but I don't do freeloaders very well.

I would speak up for what's fair. It's the fear of being called "cheap" that makes people not want to -- and it allows others to get away with this kind of freeloading. However, if someone is really taking advantage, he or she needs to be called on it. It's rude to expect other people to pay for your meals and/or drinks, unless you were invited as a guest.

If I was out with someone who I knew was nowhere near as well off, I would be willing to shoulder a larger share as well, and in those cases I usually say up front that I will treat.

I am amazed at some people who drag out a calculator at the table. That's just petty. From my experience, if someone drags out a credit card, I have discovered that person is the one who gets shorted when the bill is divided.

The really simple answer is to ask for separate bills. This way each person pays for his or her meal and would then leave the appropriate tip, if any. Often a KISS is the best way to handle any situation, KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!!!

What are your experiences with this sort of thing? How do you handle it?


  1. reading your blog on "going dutch " brings memoirs of the experiences i have had with similar folks...Over time you develop options dealing with such folks..
    1/ everyone puts $xxxx dollars in a glass. so end of the session, pay using the $ collected...if not enough divide it n everyone tops up.If above, u can return the access to everyone equally, or tip the service staff or buy 4-d ..( winning shared by all )

  2. What you are saying is true... to be calculative (because we ate that much) or to be not calculative (because other people ate that much) is actually not easy... but when you are, let's say, having a meal celebrating someone's birthday, how do you 'split' fairly when some people have 2-3 drinks and some people just have plain water? O.o Myself, I don't really mind but then again, there are other people who do mind, hor?

    Looks like we gotta get a kick-a$$ calculator like the one cocka got for sengkor liao... hehe...

    Happy Monday!

  3. My angel,
    It's not about being calculative, it's about being fair and mind our manners so as not to leech on others.

    When it comes to birthday celebrations or any happy occasions, I usually celebrate with people whom I know well. I usually recomend buffets so everyone can eat and drink whatever they want. At such happy functions, I normally don't set restrictions.

    Every one is there for a good time and sometimes people tend to get carried away, so we should excuse these. If people are calculative over such trivialities, then they should just stay away. :)

    I'm just annoyed at certain types of people who like to take advantage of others.

  4. Unfortunately not many establishments in spore will give you separate checks. It is quite the norm in aust where they will give everyone their own bill if you let them know at the time of ordering, so this problem doesnt arise. Yes, I hate freeloaders too!

  5. My experience in gatherings:

    Always pay individual shares, as stated.

    It always ended ugly, if you made someone paid for something they didn't order

  6. We meet monthly for makan with friends. We dont have such problems. We usually just split up by the people we order those shared stuff.

    But if we go places that price ranges differ, we just email the bill out to everyone, and people will internet bank to the person's who paid account. :-)

  7. stay-at-home mum,
    Yup, there are only a few places in Singapore where they will oblige with separate checks.

    Singapore is still very much the Asian society where people are not so petty about treating others to a meal. One is seen as 'losing face' (embarrassment) if we can't afford to belanja.

  8. yenjai,
    Yes, say in advance, everyone goes Dutch. And there will be less headaches later.

    People like Bernard is always welcome!!! hahaha.....

  9. Oh yes keropok man,
    You eat out in groups so often, you would have more experience in such situations.

    Your group is closely-knitted to not be calculative over such trivialities. I don't think any one in your group would think of taking advantage. That's a wonderful group of people to have meals with!

  10. It's so irritating when one is taken advantage when 'going dutch', and I like your approach to the situation.

  11. east meets west kitchen,
    Yes. Some people really make me see red at times.

  12. it's true its so hard to dutch when the bill comes when you dine in a group, cause each person ordered differently, if one ordered the most expensive and get to divided when in terms other top up for the person, isn't it great!

    i hope you can understand what am i typing here.

  13. It's a stigma to actually sound out regarding these issues I must say. For a while, the instant flash reminded me of what's going on in the dance-clubs with heaps of free-loaders. For example, people who complained having no money to replace their lost phone but spend 3 days a week in clubs boozing on others' jugs & bottles.

    In business world, our first instinct is to "fight to pick up the tab" like you described. Some of my ex-clients are so generous... generous to the point I feel really bad. I'm earning their money and still accepting a treat from them. Doesn't quite work out to give & take for me at least.

    Friendship is completely the opposite sometimes. But it's cool to have a few of my friends whom struck a plan among ourselves. Treat, but the cycle will rotate among each of us, man & woman alike. No such things as "being a gentleman" and pay like there's no tomorrow. Sounds like a game of monopoly... haha!

  14. i understand what you're saying. i normally take care of the bill because i am fast with my card and cueing the waiter. also, i feel uncomfortable if the waiter has to wait for 2 seconds wondering who will pay. *wink*

  15. some ppl just like to advantage on others, even it is only a few bucks. I dislike this kinda behaviour, it's not the money but the principle. I don't like being setup to pay for others when I don't intend to.

    We normally go dutch. If it was a treat from a friend, I would always give her/him a shout next time round to break it even.

  16. Leonard,
    People usually don't mind if one in the group occasionally orders an expensive item, but not every time. Also not on the first dinner.

    There has to be certain etiquette one abides to.

    I came across people who would order expensive items only because others are subsidizing his/her share. That's kiasuism. And treating others like fools.

  17. Ed,
    Oh yes... talking about clubs, discos, pubs, you can see the worst behaviour here.

    Young girls are vulnerable at such places. They are at a disadvantage if they expect guys to buy all their drinks.

    For the businessmen, entertaining is a part of their business. Each businessman sets aside entertainment funds for such occasions, so they wouldn't mind all the wastage and freeloaders as long as they get the business.

    With my close friends, we have such an arrangement too. We would take turns to pay for meals. The ones who are better-off would usually buy better meals. We don't overdo it, the meals are always within our means. We even have potlucks. It's the friendship that we value, isn't it? :)

  18. misti,
    Wah! I could feel the gush of cool air flying pass.... kekeke.... Misti throwing her card like a dart!

  19. Doreen,
    Yup, there are people who would do that for cups of coffee too!

    That's what I taught my son too. There's no free lunches in this world. When you receive, you have to give back. We have to be fair to others who are good to us.

  20. if they split it equally or itemise the bill, I have no problems with both. but yeah, there are those who knowingly take advantage of those times when the bill will be split equal, and they order to their benefit! grrr...

  21. i dont really mind
    but sometimes i do mind too esp when i only order a drinks and surely i dowan to foot the total bill lor! but bdays are exempted coz ...for ppls bday we are 'supposed'to buy them dinner.
    if its not bday, and they ordered so much drinks that i dindt even have a sip, then its not ok.must give me a sip. hahaha!

    what about going dutch wit siblings? when it's only me and my sis, we'd go dutch. but when my elder bro's around he would fight for the bill. gals very guai, we dont fight. haha....
    my fren told me both she n her sis wld share the bill for every meal they had with the presence of their parents. i think thats a good idea. but a bit hard for me. coz i dont think my sis thinks it's a good idea. she wld let me pay all. haha.-_-...

  22. Some people are so thick skinned and will take advantage whenever the opportunities arise. Going Dutch is the best. Pay what u eat, fair deal :)

  23. thanks for sharing your weekend.

    if you don’t mind may i invite you to participate in my new photo meme every monday. thanks and have a good day!

    weekend snapshot

  24. Oh my, our dear nice Miss May is certainly a big target for those who like to take advantage.

    May, don't we just resent that!

  25. winn,
    We would gladly buy dinner for the birthday boy or girl. We have our family and personal expenses to take care too. It's not as if they cannot afford, it's just that they don't want to pay.

    For family members or relatives, I don't think twice when it comes to paying for meals or groceries. As the eldest, I would foot the bills. My younger brothers are fair, they would take turns to pay or chip in. :)

  26. chen,
    Oh yes. The thick-skinned people. They don't feel embarrassed. Some even would ta pao (take away) after eating! tsk tsk tsk....

  27. We had a friend who always wait for us to pay the bill. He is eaning the smae amount of money as us and he always let ppl(not just us, with his own friends too) foot for the bill. So irritating.

    I don't mind treating him once in a while for some special occasions or so.

    Now, we have no contact with him anymore. ;)

  28. malaika's mummy,
    Yippeee! You must have leapt for joy when he vanish from your life. er... you didn't cook him for curry, did you? kakaka......

  29. I often gauge the type of people around me. If it is an expensive outing with a mix of senior and junior people (like secretaries), I usually suggest all the senior people will split the bills amongst ourselves. For those who opt out, I will just foot the rest.

    If everyone somewhat orders the same thing, I would ask if it is okay to just split equally. If I sense a tiny bit of hesistant, I will go for the following approach ...

    ... I do a quick sum of all the items that belong to me. Round it up add the tax and what not and offer my share.

    Then again, I often dine with close friends :) So there you are ...

  30. wilfrid,
    Every one just have to be considerate, others have living expenses and families to take care of too.

    My Directors and I usually pay for lunches or drinks whenever we eat with the staff. My staff are understanding and would often buy us breakfast or popular snacks. We are like a big family.

    With close friends, we know one another too well and will not cross the line. :)

  31. Hi, where is the "holy water" post? I was sharing this with my colleague this morning... lol ... of course they enjoyed it!

    Go on dutch! I like this post... and I got a lot to share too. Many times, I got too tired to pay first and at times I also learnt to pretend to act "blurr...". Actually it is so bad because I am behaving like them... kekeke

    I always felt that I am blessed to be able to give treats to my friends and colleagues, :) so you are around Novena area, let me know, I will bring to my favourite chicken rice... yum yum... :)

  32. pinkhippo,
    I have to take the Holy Water post down first. kekeke.....

    You're at Novena!? Yeah, the famous Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice! I love it! yum yum yum....

    Yeah, I find it a blessing too that I can give treats to others. ^-^

  33. eastcoastlife,
    Normally when I go out with my friends, I'll end up paying for them. Not that they don't wanna pay but then, I'll just foot the bill automatically. Maybe I was working that time and they were not. Therefore, I decided to treat. My friends normally would give me a treat back in return, so, offset.

    In Perth here, although my friends and I went out to eat, we normally split our bill. Sometimes, it's not fair also, for instance, they order drink and I don't but the bill was split equally. But what to do? I think I have to learn some skill from you. If not, rugi lah!

  34. Alternate! Sometimes i'd be the one to pull the card out, sometimes i'd pull cash instead and put it on the table.

  35. About two years ago, a colleague left our team and as is our custom, the gang met after work for drinks and snacks. I left early, but a bruhahha developed later when a colleague refused to help pay extra for the departing person's tab (another custom). One person would only pay for his/her own tab, nothing more. Interesting.

  36. I agree with everything you write here...110%

    Give me 5 sexy lady! :)

    In our family, we are always fighting to pay the bill. Those who lost out on paying will later suggest to go another restaurant to feast on their expense. That's family.

  37. In the past maybe I would agree that young girls are vulnerable, but not anymore in these days.

    In the past maybe they would just wait until a guy offers to pick up their tabs. Nowadays, the young girls are the one fishing the guys into buying drinks for them. In their context, that's a gentleman even though I defined that as goondu-man.

  38. Normally my friends and I will estimate how much our own meal costs, and then foot out just enough, or a little bit more (round-up). All of us will just contribute to the pool and the last person will hand it over to the waiter/ress. Most of the time, the last person gets to keep some tip but we're not really particular about that.

  39. agreed! i still think paying ourselves' the best! lol. we need more shops like over here in australia. you have to order and pay at the cashier, so u pay ur own stuff. :D

  40. OMG..!! ECL..!! i always lah.. kenna pay for the bigger share.. or even have to foot the bill because i make more money..! but it has only happened to me in asia. In Canada.. the ppl i go out and eat with.. never make us foot the bill .. nor take advantage of us. Even when PB's cousin came down from Ontario.. we didn't have to foot the bill, some other relative did.. or we go dutch. I fear it is only the asian mentality because even my ex.. he thinks i should foot the bill.. when we go to a restaurant.. otherwise.. we eat in food courts. Can die or not..??

  41. I hate to say this but I'm the sort of person who won't pay extra for what other people had.

    If they had extra drinks or food, I'm definitely not going to pay for it.

    Stingy, I know but it just makes sense.

    At least I'm lucky that most of my friends feel the same way.

  42. AMEN SISTER! I think it is rude when people try to freeload. Do it once and I may not say anything, but we won't be eating out together again. It makes everyone uncomfortable.

    My brother doesn't "believe in tipping." I think he's insane. I won't go with him to dinner EVER.

  43. Every other weekends, we meet up with our friends for dinner. We usually take turns to pay or we spilt the bill. Sometimes we want to pay more (coz we have 2 kids) instead of dividing among how many families are there, but my friends said no (they say children don't eat much). It is very sweet of them :) We feel paisay so I usually bake/buy goodies for them or give them a gd treat the next time round... If we go to expensive place for meal, then we pay for what we eat. Somehow there is an understsanding between us on this :)

    Being the yougest among the siblings (DH has 7 siblings), we never have a chance to pay coz they still treat us like small kids! :)

  44. Hope you don't mind that I have linked you to my blog :)

  45. Kok,
    You are such a nice guy lah! Among friends we tend to give treats to one another. It's good if they reciprocate.

    As friends, I don't think they would mind if we let them know what we think about subsidizing the bills of others, and together you can come up with an arrangement on the payment.

    I don't like to take advantage of others and prefer to be fair to everyone. I'm very vocal, I always speak out. Most people don't like it but I'm just protecting and helping the meek and less fortunate. hehehe....

  46. sauerkraut,
    Yes, that's a good idea.

    I try not to use my cards too much because I always forget to make payments at the end of the month, and was charged interests on the outstanding amount. :P

  47. Bunny Beth,
    Oooo... bad sport.

    It's the norm here too, that we buy a farewell dinner for the person who's leaving.

  48. Judy,
    Hi 5!

    Yeah, that's family for us! And some awesome friends too. When there's yummy food or great stuff, we are very happy to share them with the people we love.

  49. Ed,
    Oops. Yeah. The young girls these days are so bold and open. I shan't use other adjectives. hehe...

    They acquire a fine taste for good food, wine and branded goods at a young age. Gentlemen would have to work extra hard (meaning : earn more money, they don't mind old dicks!) to please these girls.

  50. narrowband,
    It's good to have an agreement on the paying of dining bills. I do that with my friends and staff too. It lessens the unhappiness which could destroy friendship or good relationships.

  51. ehon,
    I think in the West, they have such a service for customers who wish to go Dutch. Not very common in our part of the world.

    My parents wouldn't approve of letting each one pay for his own bill. They would definitely pay so as not to 'lose face'. hehe....

  52. aiyooo mamabok,
    Yalah, in Asia only! Those who make more money - pay, older ones - pay, married ones - pay, drive bigger cars - pay....

    We always rugi wan lah!

  53. From my experience, I will try to order the same kind of food the rest are ordering or at least abt the same price, that goes for the drink. In that case, when it comes to the bill. Everyone will be paying around the same price & no arguments...haha :D

    Janice Ng

  54. Oh I so agree with you...And my hubby who doesn't drink, resents having to pay for other people's beer or bottles of wine when the bill is divided 'equally', and I agree with him.

    I have some dear friends who expect me to pay more just because I belong to a club or that I make more than you wrote, twice or thrice, after that, forget it!!

    Does this only happen to us Singaporeans I wonder??

  55. dieselfire,
    This is not stingy. It is only fair that we pay for what we eat or use.

    We decide how we want to spend our money.

    I don't see why I have to subsidize someone's family meal. And that someone is only an aquaintance. In addition to that, I have to pay for his kids' desserts!

  56. Hi Laura!
    Hi 5! Don't we just resent freeloaders. About the tipping, if service is not up to par, I don't tip too.

  57. lzmummy,
    You have some great friends there! Most children don't eat much, but I have seen some children who eat like they have never been fed before!! And they can really eat!haha.....

    It's a blessing to be the youngest in the family, I'm the eldest. :(

    Thnaks for the link.

  58. Janice,
    I do the same thing as you, sometimes.

    I'm not much of a eater. I'm constantly watching my weight, so most times I would order a salad and have a glass of plain water.

    So I'm a good target for people looking for subsidized meals! kakaka....

  59. la bellina mammina,
    My hubby and I don't drink beer nor alcoholic drinks too, but we have been billed for that, many times at dinner.

    But I usually don't keep quiet. And those people are not embarrassed to start an arguement with me over it. Even though they know my hubby and I are teetotallers.

    I would gladly buy them the drinks if they had asked me, in the first place, "Can you sponsor a few bottles of drink?"

    Several of my Singaporean friends have such experiences. hmmmm..... I really wonder if Singapore has more 'cheapskates' than else where.

  60. yah... i'm really reluctant to use my cards when i dine wif ppl i'm not familiar wif... sure kana shortchanged one :(

  61. Hello cloudywind!
    Me too! I seldom use my credit card unless the bill is a huge one. Collecting the taxes is the tricky part. People tend to have amnesia during such a situation.

  62. This is something that's always been a 'bone' with me, and one of the reasons I don't dine out much.

    I've just very recently learned about 'face' from someone who's been working and stationed in China. It's a very homorable custom, but one I'm completely foriegn to.

    I have no qualms with admitting I'm on a very tight budget, but that seems to be a 'woman' thing here in Canada, and a 'man' thing to never confess and they portray they're much better off than they are.

    Because we have a business, people think we're rolling in dough. But it's been a very difficult struggle as all of our money has gone into the business, as we've never received financing for it. We only take out what we need to pay our personal bills with little guilty pleasures.

    When we first arrive at a restaurant I always ask for a separate cheque. If they don't oblige, then I know at that point that I'm not going to be a happy camper.

    I've seen people leave without paying who were friends to those that invited us whom we met for the first time. Others have ordered bottles of expensive wines and chanpagnes, and the most expensive plates and desserts. We're then unspokenly expected to pay the bill evenly.

    Then there are those that don't chip in their fair share of tax and tip, stating they'd paid (no one counts what others lay down on the table) The rest of us are left to pay the balance owing evenly.

    It is customary to chip in to pay for a person that's leaving, and for that I'm happy to do it, or for someone's birthday. But paying for 'freeloaders' I don't even know irks me to no end, especially when I don't even spare the $$ for myself.

    In fact, we paid for a very expensive dinner for someone the last time we went out who couldn't afford the meal but wanted to go, so we said we'd pay her share and she would help with some painting we needed to do. That never materliazed, we did the painting without help. To boot, her friend didn't as much as open his wallet to pay his share. I barely know these people, but my husband does, so I kept my silence.

    I'd much sooner pay for the works at a grocery store myself and invite everyone over as guests than dine out, to be truthful. Then at least I'm dining with those whose company I enjoy, and I find it a lot more fun.

  63. I guess just go easy... no point killing neurons for such trivial stuff...IMHO

  64. You handled it the same way I would. I have no problem paying for someone who is my guest or does not the means that I do. But if that individual goes out of there way not to pay then I will call their attention to the situation and have everyone pay what they owe and not more. Fair is Fair

  65. Deborah,
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    The 'face' thingy is very much an Asian one. We want to portray or keep up a good image of ourselves.
    It's actually pride. People sometimes overdo it.

    For me, I have lots of entertaining, but mainly its for my business, so I have no qualms about the spending.

    And I can't entertain them at home because most of my clients are Chinese who are used to dine and wine in restaurants. The more classy restaurants the better, it boils down to 'face'. :)

  66. Oh Teacher Dave,
    Good to see you every time. :)

    And I'm glad you agree with me on my views.

  67. Usually if it's not announced that it's a treat from somebody, we usually go dutch too, esp it's an old friends' gathering or something. A treat is usually for someone's promo, or something worth celebrating and of course, the person being promoted should treat! hahahha!
    And if it's dutch, most of us will usually just split the bill equally among the no. of people. It's easier! and forget about the cens lah! Just round up !

  68. I'm very intrigued about your Asian custom of 'face'. I can see how some may overdo it, but it is very admirable. In fact, I'm going to be writing a story that my friend has relayed to me that's stationed in China. It's very moving.

    BTW, I've given you a little award. Come have a boo when you have a chance :-)

  69. well with my own personal experience letting others pay or me paying others bills are common but with only very close friends.. for rest the party must be fair...

  70. tigerfish,
    Yes, we give treats for something worth celebrating. And I don't mind the few bucks but when I have to pay $20 extra because someone wants to have desserts and a glass of wine, that's where my 'face change'. hehehe....

  71. very nice post!!
    i think if the age difference is like 10 years, we must pay in my country.
    some jobless people expect it to working women. thats really sick :)
    can u get separate bills? thats a brilliant idea. haha~

  72. I always get shorted on the credit card. Pisses me off. And when I mention it they look at me like I'm crazy. One reason I am not very sociable. Family is best. I don't mind paying for them.

  73. Deborah,
    Thanks for the award. :)

    I can't wait to read what your friend has experienced in China. I want to know how others think of our Asian customs.

  74. Hi ankit shukla,
    Thanks for stopping by. We share the same views. :)

  75. niki-chan,
    Japanese have their own customs when it comes to settling the food and drinks bills. I think it is similar to us Chinese too.

    I met several generous Japanese in Singapore and they paid for the meals when we dined together. They were all older than me. :)

  76. simple american,
    kakaka.... I shouldn't be too sociable too.

    Yes, family is the best!!!

  77. Hate such people too. Here, we call them hangers - short for hanger-ons, my friend.

  78. ECL, I am so happy that he is out of our life. :) So bad of me.

  79. The Anitokid,
    Hangers - what a suitable name for such people.

  80. malaika's mummy,
    Don't feel bad. I'm happy for you that he's out of your life! Yippee!!!

  81. Well said... I automatically go dutch unless I say upfront first I'm treating. I like to give friends treats every now and then but yet I don't like it when "friends" treat me like a Mrs Roberto.