Separate Checks, Continued

The post about separate checks really touched a nerve judging by all the comments. It seems that most servers don’t mind doing them as long as we know up front and can prepare them in advance. With the computers that most restaurants use today, it’s not that difficult to do. Where I work, our computers are so old that it’s still a pain in the ass. Our machines are one step up from taking the order with a chisel and stone tablet or writing it on a cave wall with the blood of a woolly mammoth. The last post was all about separate checks from the perspective of the server, but this post is from the customer’s point of view.

When I eat out with a large group of people, I too like separate checks. It just lets me know that I am tipping what I want to tip. If it’s just a big pile of cash and I add a 25% tip for my portion of the food, someone is always going to take that as an opportunity to only leave a 10% tip for their portion. No one likes to be the one who handles all the money at the end either because invariably it is short and you either have to add extra dollars yourself or call out some cheap ass friend in front of everybody. Either way, it’s awkward.

It reminds me of this guy in college. Whenever we would do a show, we would all go out afterwards and celebrate. I’m sure that the waitress at Racine’s loved seeing a group of ten college kids show up and order frozen drinks and french fries. God we were obnoxious. We’d leave our stage makeup on so everyone would know that we were actors and totally cool. Embarrassing to even think about that now. Well, we never got separate checks. We would all just figure it out and pay cash. All of us except for one guy. He always put it on his credit card and kept the cash so he wouldn’t have to go to the bank that week to get money. I was never sure about what kind of tip he was leaving and it was before I was a waiter so I probably didn’t care that much anyway. It happened all the time. “Oh, let me put it on my credit card and you can pay me cash.” We were all young and it was a time that most twenty-year olds didn’t have credit cards.

Months later, when I was having a conversation with Mr. Fancy Credit Card, he let slip some vital information. He mentioned that the credit card he always had with him was actually his father’s card and it was his dad who paid the bill. Wait, what? It all clicked. Every time we went out with him, we were just giving this guy our money and he knew that his dad was going to pay for everything. It was quite the nice income I imagine. Basically, he could convince a group of people to go to dinner with him and he could pocket a hundred extra bucks. What an asshole. I quit falling for it. From then on, I insisted that we all pay with checks or on our own tabs. He surely felt the cut in his income seeing that his friends were no longer giving him his spending money. Other than that, he was a nice guy. Sneaky, cheap, dishonest and he looked like a lizard, but nice.

In conclusion, separate checks are a good thing. The customers are all paying for what they got and tipping what they want. The server is not going to get screwed by someone who decided there was too much money in the pile and he pockets it himself. The only time that separate checks are absolutely pointless is when two women (yes, it’s always two women) order two Diet Cokes and two house salads and their bill is exactly the same and they still demand separate checks. And then they give you twenty dollars apiece and say keep the change. What the fuck is the point of that?

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19 thoughts on “Separate Checks, Continued

  1. Anonymous

    OK…I am a server and don't mind seperate checks as long as the whole group does not play musical chairs is different when it's single patrons but most parties at my work have 20 people or so and don't sit together makes it difficult. They use the opportunity so they can leave a freakin dollar each..NOT COOL

  2. Rachel

    I am a server. I don't mind separate checks, mainly because, as your story points out, large tables come with obnoxious group dynamics that you don't get with 3 tops. At best, it's just that Lardo with two appetizers, 2 glasses of wine, a steak, dessert, and coffee expects to pay the same amount as the guy with a soda and a pasta dish. At worst, you have con artists like your friend.What annoyed me (and Bitchy) was that the people (a) didn't tell him they needed their checks split, and then (b)seemed to think that the server should split their checks in under a minute, when he had other tables to wait on. The self-important attitude of people who are suddenly 'in a hurry' when they've thrown you a job that could have been avoided but will take forever now that you have to do it is grating. And, for the record, Bitchy was mellow. If some cunt came up to me while I was at the register and told me to get the bill off her table, then threatened to leave without paying (that's called 'theft', even in the restaurant industry),I would have told her to just give me her credit card, so I could run it. Then, she would have waited 15 minutes while I took care of people who deserved my time.

  3. itswhatiam

    If a woman orders only a house salad and a diet coke, plays with a $20 bill, and tells me to keep the change, that's got to be close to a 50% tip. If that's the case, I'd gladly separate a check for 20 of those women, even if they told me to do it after I handed them the original single check!

  4. TacoDave

    I guess my friends in high school were good people. We would go out to eat in big groups and I was good at math (nerd!), so I would add in the tip, then divide the total by X number of people and tell them what they owed.I never once had any of them complain or give me less than what I said. And we didn't have to split any checks.

  5. omcdurham

    I used to live in Michigan, and separate checks were few and far between. Now, I live in North Carolina, where a four top of a mom and dad and their two kids all want separate checks…Amazing!The best is when a church group of 15 comes in unannounced; no call-ahead or reservation, and demands to be seated immediately. When the table(s) is ready, they don't sit down, but just wander around the table socializing. This is usually about 3pm, when servers, bussers, and cooks have been cut, because it's "down time". BTW, these guests tend to represent a certain stereotype.One guy will tell me that they ALL want water, while everyone else flips the menu over and over, up and down, front and back, and then ask, "what kind of drinks do y'all have?" Someone will ask about flavored lemonade or flavored iced tea. When informed that refills on flavored drinks are not free, the seriousness begins, right after I have to bring them a case of lemon wedges and extra sugar packets!After finally getting the food order and then serving it, there is always one person who complains about his/her food…"not well done enough/wasn't what I expected/didn't like it…and then want a to go box for the leftovers, but not pay for it!But anyway, to get to the point, when they all want separate checks, it always ends up being the person(s) who had problems with the food having a problem with the added gratuity, even though most places state DIRECTLY ON THE MENU that gratuity will be added to parties of six or more.Once the checks are separated (after the manager visits the table), I will see 1)old ladies searching for coin change, 2)folks with credit cards handing them to me one at a time, 3)people putting cash that needs no change into the folder and wanting me to bring change anyway, and 4)some guy who wants me to go into the bar area to find out the score of the basketball game.After all this horseshit, I get about 9%. Why do I do this…? Because there is always that table that sees this horseshit and gives me a sympathy tip because they saw me deal with a tough table!

  6. Practical Parsimony

    If the two women are talking "business" and each have a "business," they are taking those checks to their accounts. For three years the IRS is not concerned if the business makes money. But, after that your "business" is a hobby and no deductions are allowed. Also, it is called autonomy even if they are friends. If I am with someone who insists on one check. I pointedly get the prices from the menu or server and write a check for that much or put down that much money. THEN, I tip the server. Women can be horrid to each other and the server, just like your friend with the credit card.

  7. Practical Parsimony

    Another thing about friends–I had a PhD friend who made enough money from her university job as a professor. I was a struggling grad student. She stiffed me at every turn. If we grabbed a sausage and biscuit at 2 for $2.22+ tax, I paid the extra penny every time!!! She rushed to hand me exact change for half!She borrowed 50 cents from me at the grocery store because she was saving her $20 bill. ??? Then, knowing how she was, I would not play her game when we went for Chinese. Of course, the platters are family style serving. However, I told her I did not want to share hers and would not share mine with her. The reason–knowing I do not eat shrimp, she always ordered something with shrimp, ate a bit, helped me finish off the moo goo gai pan and took home a meal for herself. I had nothing to take home. Cheap ass bitch! So, this night she finished half her shrimp laced meal and sat whining about how she really wanted something different now, she was hungry for a helping of my food, did not know how she would get over her faintness…blah, blah, blah. I calmly told her to eat the rest of the shrimp dish or order again. Yes, I am sure she told our group of friends how stingy I was…lol…and they all knew her, so I did not care.

  8. SharleneT

    Similar to your experience, a large group of us would head for the same restaurant after every show. Some would order appetizers, others just drinks. I always insisted on my own check. One night, I went in and said, "Where is everyone?" because so few folks had shown up. The main regular said he told folks that he was tired of having to cover their bills because so many would come in, eat from other's plates, just order a soda and leave w/o giving any money and he'd always end up having to come up with an additional $20 plus tip. So, the freeloaders went to find someone else to pay their bills. Grrrr.

  9. Anonymous

    When I go out to dinner with a friend, I pay the bill and my friend pays the tip. The next time we go out, we switch. That way our waiter or waitress gets a better tip and neither one of us goes broke or gets the short end of the stick for a big bill. I also try to keep my order amount close to the amount my friend orders. Like you said, no one wants to pay for someone else's appetizer, expensive entree, drinks and dessert when you only ordered a cup of soup and water.

  10. Robin

    omcdurham,Please read your post over and over again until you get it.Stereotype much? Heh, you brought it up. Your post was flooded with disparaging remarks about folks. pretending to speak with a southern accent while making fun of it at the same time. And your words concerning the church folks weren't lost on me. I will take a step back before I call you what I want to, based on what you have said here.By the way, what's wrong with the old ladies searching for money to give you? And really dude..are you going to complain about folks that give you credit cards "one at a time"? HUH? Know the score of the game too btw.If there is a tv in the bar and a game is on, it is a no brainer.Goodbye, Robin

  11. Bitchy Bartender

    As a server, I just always assume it's separate checks and keep it separate as i punch things into the computer. We have the option of "printing by seat", which will have separate totals, and then the total for the whole table at the bottom, so they have the option of paying separately or together.

  12. Anonymous

    i hate seperate checks! code;i'm starts out as a party of 10 wanting seperate checks turns into a party of 27 drunks wanting seperate checks. they keep changing seats and buying each other drinks. what a pain in the ass!! any tips recieved from this party is considered blood money

  13. Anonymous

    Hi all: I've never been a server at a restaurant, but I do understand the hassle that comes with separate checks for a large group of people, especially on a weekend night. As a person who organizes a monthly dinner that typically draws 25-30 people, even dividing checks into groups of 5 or 6 leaves me covering shortages at the end of the night. So, here's a question for you: If I asked the server(s) for separate checks at the start of the evening before anyone started ordering (I always make reservations and try to arrange ahead of time on the phone and in person about separate checks), and allowed the server(s) to automatically add 18% to every check, would servers be more willing to run a check for every person if an 18% tip were guaranteed, no matter what? I know it's a lot more to keep track of and more work to split checks, so I think it's only fair to go above the standard 15%. I'm trying to come up with a way to get separate checks so that I don't end up covering the asses of stupid people who can't do math–or are cheats. Thanks for your feedback.

    1. Rhia

      As long as you just tell the server at the very beginning of the meal when you first order drinks, it is not that big of a deal because they can separate everything as they ring it in. It becomes an issue when they wait until the end, because then we have to remember what everyone had and try to divide it up as quickly as possible (and registers at restaurants are notorious for being terrible and old – my last job, no joke, used a shitty program that ran on windows 98) while all of their other tables are waiting for them.

    2. Jess Mac

      So, I had to update my Mom as well, who was a server in the 80s, and who thought that 15% was still the standard:
      18% is the MINIMUM STANDARD in my book, 20% is what you should give all the time.
      Also: most restaurants already automatically add a gratuity of 15-18% when the party is 5 or 6+ (my restaurant does 18%).
      So- what you’re suggesting is only the minimum of what a server usually expects when it comes to dealing with a big party.

      What I, as a server, REALLY desire is patience and good will. I will be as friendly and efficient as I can be, and as long as everyone understands that they are a part of a big party and that things take a bit longer, from getting drinks to food to taking care of the bill, then everyone will have a good time. Please be understanding and amiable to working with the server when it comes to dividing up the check: let them know in the beginning, be clear about what food/drinks goes on which tab, and DEFINITELY don’t eat out with so many people when you have a “time crunch.”

      If you as a patron think that the server did a good job of doing the best that he or she could in the circumstance of tending to a large party, then please reward them with a 20%+ tip. Trust me, they deserve it.

  14. Suzanne

    I once had a party that claimed to have 20 people. Eventually there were around 60 of them. We ended up having to seat them at a bunch of different tables around the initial planned 20 top. They wanted about 30 separate checks. Nobody sat together. Nobody ordered at the same time as everyone else– they’d just yell at me every time I walked by to order because some people wanted to order the instant they sat down, some arrived late, and some took hours to decide. They’d also yell at any other server (as well as my partner) whenever they wanted anything. Plus some people were paying for people who weren’t sitting with them, but only one drink, or one food item. And they all played musical chairs. When it got to the end and I was splitting their bill, it took me about 20-30 minutes, because it was about a $600 check total (at a casual dining place). They complained it took too long, of course, and of course, nobody tipped. Oh, and they called my serving partner a whore, so there’s that.

  15. David Cowling

    In the age of Aloha, thank God for Aloha!, separate checks isn’t a big deal, PROVIDED they tell you in advance, or you ask, cringe. Also if you order by seat, which most systems make you do, it’s pretty simple. I used to tell them at the beginning that separate checks weren’t a problem, but paying out 8 checks, as opposed to one, takes 8 times longer. If they sprung the separate checks on me at the end, all those times doubled, with an admonishment that in the future that’s what you open with.


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