#749 The quiet satisfaction of settling the group bill after dinner

The root cause of the problemGut busting with chicken chow mein, nursing a fried rice hangover, your frenzied hour of pillaging the steam trays quickly dissolves into a table full of sticky-smeared plates, bloated bellies, and quiet groaning.

Folks, if you’re like me this scene is called The End of The Buffet, a dimly-lit freeze-frame featuring you and your friends lazily sliding in chairs with slack jaws and heavy eyelids.

And it gets worse, too.

The chipper waitress drops off the bill and everybody just eyes each other suspiciously. Who owes who money? Who ordered drinks and who didn’t? Is anyone riding a fat paycheck high and feeling generous? Since I am an extremely cheap person, I generally choose this exact moment to skedaddle to the bathroom in the hopes that everyone else will overpay and allow me to just drop a fiver on the stack before heading out.

Of course, it never works out that way.

You know what you need to do, Math GuyInstead, I return to an untouched bill and generally get pegged as Math Guy, also known as The Job Nobody Wants After Dinner. See, my friends start chatting about what movie to see and I’m suddenly stuck with my head down, brows furrowed, figuring out tips, collecting cash, and trying to follow the paper trails of who paid what.

If you’re hanging out with me and my friends then Math Guy is a doubly terrible job because we’re always forty bucks short. People shrug, eye contact is avoided, and there are some phantom wallet reaches, until we figure out that two people didn’t add tax and tip and one guy still needs to get cash from the bank machine.

Holla if you been there.

Math Guys and Math Girls of the world, we feel each other’s pain. It’s tough asking people to put more money in and sometimes we just reach into our own wallets to get the job done. Twenties are broken, coins are counted, and there is constant checking and rechecking that it all adds up right.

Yes, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down, then you know that moment of quiet satisfaction when you finally close that sticky, vinyl, duck-sauce smeared billfold over a stack of crumpled bills and sliding coins.

Because at that exact moment the shackles of Math Guy are finally busted.

And you’re free.


Now go see a movie

Photos from: here, here, and here

27 thoughts on “#749 The quiet satisfaction of settling the group bill after dinner

  1. What I absolutely love is when you get lucky and the system the restaurant is using automatically breaks down the charges per seat even when you don’t ask. Then you look over at your buddy who always seems to stiff you and your friends and say, that will be $24.78 plus tip! So sweet!

  2. I never seem to go out with a large enough group of friends for this sort of thing to matter. Unless I’m with family, in which case my dad and grandfather insist on paying. Anyway this is one of those jobs I’d actually like to have since I’m good at it. It’s still pretty awesome when you hand back the check with everyone accounted for and you can go on your way to your next mini adventure.

  3. Yeah there is always that little seed of stress that hangs around until the bill is settled. I try to err on the side of too much, and just toss it in there, so that my part is done and I can sit back and let everyone else scratch their heads over percentages and denominations. Usually someone takes charge and returns any overpayment I’ve made.

  4. This is a great article, and I was constantly nodding at everything you said because it’s all dead on.

    But I fail to see how any of it is “awesome.”

  5. We usually just divide the total between the amount of people at the table, no? Maybe some people had wine and others water, but so what? This isn’t the war, it’s a night out with friends.

    1. Ya, we do the same. But some people insist on breaking the bill up by what you ordered, like it’s a McDonald’s.

      1. Haven’t you seen that “Friends” episode where Joey, Rachel and Phoebe don’t have any money and so just order a little bit of food, because they want to partake in the celebration but don’t want to whine about being poor, and then the rest want to split the check evenly? It’s awful to do that. If I had a light salad and a bud light, I’m sure as hell not helping pay for my friend’s evil boyfriend’s steak and $10 microbrew!

    2. I would agree if it’s like a matter of someones entree was 15.99 and someones was 18.99. In cases like that you’re splitting hairs. I am on a tight tight budget because I’m going back to school. If my friends want to go out, and I want to join, I will go and have a soda and maybe an appetizer, so I can still have fun! if someone else had 5 margaritas, I really don’t think thats fair.

  6. I love it when people each work out what they owe, put their money in, and the total magically adds up to exactly what is owed, including tax and tip!

    Maybe I know too many ‘math guys’.

    1. That’s always good when everyone has the same tip standards, otherwise your good tip and someone’s bad tip make the service look average.

  7. Right on.

    The Math Girl / Guy phenomenon has only been part of my life for about two and a half years now, so the feelings are still fresh. Where I grew up, ALL restaurants automatically split everyone’s bill unless there was an obvious reason not to do so. I was terrifically shocked the first time I ate out with a group in my new city! It’s definitely a pain. =)

  8. As a college student I come across this very situation all too often, except add a couple extra people who underpaid and don’t care. My favorite thing is when you’ve had a great meal and a great time, everyone pitches in what they owe, and then some. Then you’re over so the waiter/tress gets a really nice tip, and maybe the math guy/girl even gets to pocket a buck or two for their troubles. It hardly ever happens, but when it does, it’s a great day for everybody.

  9. From a servers point of view, we dont usually mind splitting checks if you tell us AT THE BEGINNING. We understand you have cheap friends, and its not fair for some people to overpay or overtip to make up for others. We would love to get the tip our hard work deserves, so ask if you need to. Letting us know ahead of time means we can separate it all as we write it down, making it way easier to split at the end. Otherwise, keeping track of everyones food and drink can prove difficult, especially if we are busy.

  10. I am ALWAYS the Math Girl.
    On one memorable occasion, I was (lovingly?) mocked by my friends for figuring the math out in pen on the top of my styrofoam takeout box.
    They took photos.

  11. You need someone who is awesome at being math guy/girl or the end result is not so awesome. Do not want to pay for someone’s huge drinks-appetizer-main course-dessert and coffee bill when I get a salad. Also, do not want to be making up for someone’s cheapness-in-tipping.

  12. Could you please repeat the problem again, at least 3x, (staring at you with spinning crossed eye balls), and then solve the problem? Thank you!

  13. We just all put in our credit cards and let the restaurant divide by how many people. If you all go out together multiple times it all eventually evens out.

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