For some reason, this piece from The Awl about splitting restaurant bills has been making the rounds in the internet circles I run in.
(This isn't actually about writing how-to posts, but I found The Awl post and some of the responses I've seen very obnoxious. I guess I'm really just adding my own reply, which is probably equally obnoxious, but seriously, people. Cut it out.)
It says, basically, if you are under 25 you can pay for what you ate but once you pass the quarter-century mark you should suck it up and split evenly, even if you don't drink or your food was cheap.
I know, I'm not far past the 25 mark (I'm 27). But I generally think the paying-for-what-you-ordered route is the fairest one. From what I've read by people who work in restaurants, it's really not that big a deal for a server to split up checks or to put different amounts on different cards. Toss on an extra dollar in tip each if you're worried about being a pain. Or bring cash, which means you can pay what you owe and not give the server any extra work.
Because here's the thing. Though Jill at Feministe may think I'm an "ass" for this, I'm not going to pay extra for someone else's choices when they are significantly more expensive than mine. I'm a vegetarian, which means my food is often at least a little bit cheaper. Especially if I'm being nice/a doormat and I agreed to go somewhere where all I can get is a side salad and some tiny appetizer. I'm not paying for someone's pricey meat entree when all I had was a vegetable quesadilla. I'm already being nice by agreeing to eat somewhere that doesn't cater to my dietary needs to make my friends happy, so I'm not going to pitch in extra dinero on top of that.
And likewise, if I drink at dinner and someone else didn't for whatever reason, I wouldn't expect them to pitch in for a $10 cocktail when they had iced tea. Sure you could argue that it evens out in the long run, but why take that chance when it's not difficult to divide a tab fairly?
So here's what you do: get the bill. Look at it. Find what you ordered and add up the cost. Then add between 25 and 30 percent for tax and tip. Then put that amount on the table. Once each person has done this, someone count the money and compare it to the total-plus-tip (if you're a really big group they may add in tip, so figure that out beforehand). Is there enough? Good. If not, start hitting people up for singles until you get there.
Is it perfect? No. There will always be someone who only wants to tip 10% and someone else who throws in an extra buck to cover for them, but it's a lot closer to being fair than just splitting evenly. Plus it involves math, and math is hard. Oh wait, we all have cell phones with calculators. So it's actually NOT hard.
Also, to respond to The Awl: if you have to start a sentence with "I really hate to generalize/be sexist here," then you are about to generalize and be sexist, so just stop talking. And as a less-cute girl, I have never seen any of my hotter friends do what you claim they do. Being pretty does not make people manipulative and cheap. Really, everyone comes up a dollar short here and there, and decent friends don't mind covering once in awhile (no matter what you look like, shockingly).
Honestly, though, I've never been at a group dinner where anyone wanted to just split evenly. Everyone I eat with (except my parents, who just pay for my food, hooray) throws in for what they had plus tax and tip. Or we ask for separate checks.