Dear Mary Pat,
I am a waitress in Baileys Harbor and sometimes I feel that my job description should include the term “referee.” You wouldn’t believe how many people fight over the check. How am I supposed to determine who to take the credit card from when there is a major tug of war going on? You can’t even let chivalry prevail either, since often there are two men fighting over who will pay. Every once in a while someone really becomes upset with me if I take their friend’s card over their card. Since my take home pay relies largely on tips, a gal can’t afford to make any enemies. Their pleas really don’t help me make a decision either. “No seriously, you have to let me treat since he picked up the golf tab today,” or “Don’t you think I should treat since I’m better looking?” Yeah, that really clears things up for me. How should I handle the next time it happens?
Baileys Harbor, WI
Dear The Ref,
People dining out are usually mindful of who will be picking up the tab when they are going out in a group, or if it’s going to be Dutch treat. Even if they haven’t discussed it, they will generally have an idea of how things will go whether it’s “Hey, Bill usually likes to treat for everybody” or “Jeez, Aunt Sally will get her calculator out and want to divide everything down to the last penny.” If the person who wants to treat makes that decision early on, it is much easier on everybody, the wait staff especially.
My advice for you is simple – you should give the check to the person who asked for it. If no one asks for the check, put the check in the middle of the table. If at that point three sets of hands go to grab the bill, it might be best for you to say “I’ll let you have a minute to look everything over,” and walk away for a little bit. If when you come back, the people at the table seem to be debating the issue, see if someone is offering you a card and take the first one. Here’s my thought on the subject – if someone really wants to treat, they will find a way to end the argument decisively. Or, better yet, they will let their waiter or waitress know at the beginning of the meal. It is not your job to settle the dispute – keep your distance and let them work it out. And if someone gets upset with you, don’t let it bother you. They should have the tact not to put you in that position in the first place.