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The Painful Group Tab

The painful group tab
The painful group tab
Helen Zhang

The ever-irritating art of splitting group tabs at restaurants seems to be a phenomenon occurring primarily among college groups (AKA penniless) or those under the age of 30 in which the host/hostess is more than delighted to invite innumerable amounts of people but for some strange reason is incapable of fulfilling the magnanimous duties of paying for those he/she invited. Sometimes the very of act of offering to pay exceeds expectations, however, that is more elusive than a UFO sighting. Many birthday egocentrics today appear to be under the outrageous impression that since it is one’s birthday, one should have the liberty to choose a posh restaurant but abdicate the financial responsibilities to one’s guests. Even if the destination was of unanimous decision making, most of us have suffered the rage-inducing and friendship-ceasing horrors of uneven group tab-splitting-namely, we ended up paying significantly more than what we consumed due to others being mathematically declined, or, the more likely cause, unwilling to pay their share.

For a host of reasons, this social disgrace seems to be more prominent among the younger sectors of the populations. Perhaps they have yet to learn the full meaning of etiquette, not quite reached the economic means to be able to host group dinners, or simply do not give a damn.

Although painfully obvious already, the following is an overwhelmingly simple list of group tab protocol for those who are just as frustrasted:
1. If dining with friends of whom you see on a regular basis, an even split is more acceptable as subsequent meals should eventually even things out.
2. If dining with strangers, the establishment of separate-but-equal should take place well before the end of the evening.
3. Alas, if you do end up paying for those over-eaters but under-earners, under no obligation are you to ever see these losers of civilization ever again.

Ideally, as we grow older and become more economically and socially established, the annoyance of the group tab should be less and less frequent. By no means are we all to become Bill Gates however, age should have a reasonable amount of positive correlation to social grace. If you cannot afford to invite 20 people to Fancy Shmancy’s, simply do not.


  • Rachel 5 years ago

    Hm. I see what you mean. However, at ones birthday party I have always thought it appropriate for the invitees to recieve an email, call or otherwise from the person throwing the party. I have done this letting the people know the prices on the menu as well as linking the actual restaurant. However, in groups young or old there is likely going to be money left out. It is an unfortunate circumstance as you pointed out but is that a price to pay to not dine in luxury once a year?

  • Helen 5 years ago

    When one dines out, the price of the meal is made perfectly clear as well as the tipping rate. It is only a matter of one's willingness to put down the full amount. If one is eating with strangers, mathematical miscaculations may be the likely outcome. However, one should not have to experience such betrayal by friends, especially on one's birthday.

  • PJ 5 years ago

    The problem seems to be that people leave and decide that the menu says $20.46 so not having change they leave a $20 bill. They miscalculate that there is tax to be paid as well as a tip to be given. Far be it that one would leave more than enough rather than less, but hey what are friends for if not to supplement the lifestyle of others. I personally expect to pay for the meal of my friends on my Bday as a celebration of life and to remind me I still have friends. If only for one day a year.

  • Cristina Gonzalez 5 years ago

    I LOVE your illustration :D