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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Separate Checks, Please

I am not perfect. ("No shit, Sherlock," says Anonymous and that guy from Tortilla Flats). Usually, I am calm under pressure. Challenges roll off my back like water on a duck. People don't get my goat because my goat is chill. I am cool as a cucumber. But then came table 28 who got all under my skin and on my last nerve. Seriously, I had one nerve left that night and they fucking found it and rode it like a pony. I lost my cool and I am ashamed. Allow me to explain.

If someone makes a reservation for ten people and then all show up together as a group, I am going to assume that they all know each other. Consequently, I am going to put them all on one check. Sorry, it's just the way it goes. I approached my ten-top to get drink orders and when I got to the last lady, she asked for a separate check. Okay, fine. I'd rather know now than later when ten people are throwing money at me and telling me they just want to pay for their two Bloody Mary's. When she asked for the separate check, I stopped and wondered if all the other folks would want their own checks too. "Would it be easier if everyone had a separate check?" I asked to the table who all ignored me. I asked again. One man answered on behalf of the table.

"We're all friends. We can settle it ourselves. One check is fine." Famous last words.

At the end of the night when I placed the bill at table 28, the lady who had her own check handed me cash and said "Thank you. Keep the change." Another lady flashed a twenty dollar bill at me and said, "How much is mine?" And so it began.

"Miss, you are included in the bill with your friends." Suddenly everyone is paying attention to me for the first time all night. "What? We're all on one bill? Oh my God! That's not good. Oh my God! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" Everyone wanted separate checks. I glared at the man who assured me one check was fine. At this point, I had twelve other tables to deal with and now they wanted me to split a nine-top? Deep breaths, calming thoughts. I explained to them that I would do it, but I was going to have to deal with my other tables first since this was going to take some time. They were not having it. At all. They yelled at me and got pissed off and had mini conniptions. Brows were furrowed. Veins were throbbing. Friendships were falling apart before my very eyes. I picked up the check and began the ordeal of splitting it nine times. But they were all in a hurry, of course and the next thing I knew several of them were surrounding me at the computer and throwing credit cards and money at me.

I gave a newly separated check to the host so she could run it out to one woman who was especially irritated. All of a sudden Especially Irritated Woman was standing right next to me. "I need my check right now or I'm just going to leave."

"Oh, the host just took it to your table, ma'am."

"Well, I'm here now. Go get it," she said.

"It's at your table and I am trying to divide up these other checks."

"Well, you better go get it because I'm leaving."

Resisting the urge to strangle her, I said, "Okay, let me stop what I am doing so I can go get your check which is at your table where I told you I would bring it to you." I went to get her goddamn fucking check and came back to the bar and put it next to her. "Here you are, I will be right back." I went downstairs and sat down for five minutes with my head in my hands. I needed to collect myself. If I didn't do it, I was going to say something I regretted and then she would go home and write a blog about me and get my ass fired. When I came back up stairs, she had left cash. Why didn't she just leave cash in the first place? In fact, six out of the ten people left cash and didn't want change. They could have done that when it was all on one bill.

The man who assured me one check was fine came up to pay. "I'm really sorry for all my friends. I've never seen them act that way, I'm so embarrassed. "

"Well, I don't like getting yelled at by people when I didn't do anything wrong. I asked if separate checks was better and you specifically told me that one check was fine. This was not my fault."

"I'm really sorry. Here, just take this. Take all of it." He pressed forty dollars into my hand and sheepishly walked out. I looked down at the two wrinkled twenty dollar bills and then looked at his check. It was for $40.29. Not only did he stiff me, he shorted me twenty-nine fucking cents.

Separate checks are fine, people. Just don't wait until the the bill comes and then tell me. Tell me at the beginning so I don't hyper-ventilate and possibly lose my cool in the process. I try to keep the bitchiness in tow while I'm at work and save it all for the blog. But don't push this Bilbo Baggins bitchy ass waiter. I don't want to lose it, but I just might.



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33 comments:

Tracy said...

We just ate out with 18 people. We asked for separate checks right away and it was still chaos.

Anonymous said...

Separate checks are fine,but like Bitchy said,make sure you tell your server up front not when the bill comes and you are afraid you might have to pay an extra $0.45 cents more than the person sitting next to you if it were all on one bill.

Rachel said...

I so hate when that happens! Especially when you ask up front if they want seperate checks. I treat every table as if it were seperate checks now. Whether it's a 4-top or 24-top. I don't risk the chaos anymore. I'm sorry you had to go thru that though.

Mustang Sally said...

Bitchy, you did good ... really. Some people are just IMPOSSIBLE. They have to be TRYING to be as annoying as possible because nobody could be that damn thoughtless.

Get yourself a big COOL Margarita, and Bitch it all out here in your delightfully funny way ... you KNOW we love to read about it.

I don't wait tables anymore, mostly because I just can't deal with them anymore.

You might like this story about a time when I DID lose it ;)

Functional Kaos

The Empress said...

That nonsense would have pissed off Mother Teresa so don't be too hard on yourself. Unfortunately I think part of the reason people ask for separate checks is because the same people who would stiff a waiter would also stiff their friends. The cheapskates that like to 'split' the bill equally are always those jackwagons that order several cocktails, an appetizer, the most expensive entree followed by dessert and coffee. The only way you can avoid having to front the cost of their expensive meal (when you only ordered a salad) is to ask for a separate check.

lee said...

i hate people who say "oh, just one check, we'll work it out." no, we won't! i only had a cup of soup,a small house salad and plain water, not an appetizer, t-bone, glass of wine and dessert. you can just pony up the cash for your dinner. if i can't afford a steak, i'll be damned if i pay for yours!

but i promise not to skip on the tip!

arathisiewen said...

How has no one mentioned that after all of this, the guy apologized and still stiffed you???

Ass.

ChiTown Girl said...

Ok, this made my blood boil just reading it!!!!!

The separate check thing must be big everywhere else but here. Almost nobody does that here. As a matter of fact, many places refuse to do separate checks for a big group. It's just too much of a hassle.

Jasmine said...

Whenever I go out with a small group of friends, I am the one to chime up to tell our server we'll do separate checks, "Me and him on one check, and the two of them on another." Most of the time, the waiter/waitress will tell me they will do it later. I forget their reasoning, it has something to do with the computers, I have no idea now. But anyway, I do and will continue to notify the server of separate checks beforehand.

Becky LeJeune said...

Ugh! As someone who's "friends" frequently do this kind of crap -- I am sooo sorry! I always, always make a point of asking as politely as I can if it is possible for me and my husband to be on our own check as soon as the waiter first comes to the table. I would hope that the people around me would do the same -- and, by the way, am always prepared if the restaurant policy is not to split the check (course that always means we get stiffed trying to make up the tax and make sure the waiter gets a decent tip). Some people should not be allowed out in public!

Rachel said...

No wonder you lost your cool. Those people were entitled, self-absorbed asswipes, and for reasons that go far beyond the separate check fiasco. They capitalized your time (and thus brought down your tip percentage from your other tables), and then had the gall to behave as if you were the screw up. I don't even bother to give good service to tables with people who sit around talking when I'm trying to ask them questions. Its a waste of time. A miscommunication fiasco is inevitable (because the asswipes will assume that the waitress is going to do something, instead of listening to what she is saying), and they are only going to waste far more time than I should spend at a table.

Anonymous said...

I have never been a waiter in my life and I SO feel your pain. My sympathies and hoped things went better for you the rest of the night.

Anonymous said...

I always ask for a separate check up front if I can, even though I usually pay by cash.

Why? In college, we'd go out as a group. The same woman always collected the money. It took me a while to figure out that we all tipped large - and she therefore put nothing in at all. Thereby reducing the tip the waiter received. And it still happens today - just the other day I grabbed lunch with a guy. My total was 13 and change. I threw in a 20, he put 'the rest' on his card. I saw no change from my $20. I would have thrown at least 5 for my tip - but I'd be surprised if he tipped $5 total. So I always figure I'm forcing my dining parters to tip when I get a separate check. More work for you - but at least you get the money I intend for you.

Perhaps I need a better class of 'friends'.

Babs n Bacchus said...

Ooooh, separate checks. At my second job we will often have tables of twenty needing separate checks. I'm usually pretty good at keeping it all together, but when they start yelling out, "I got that pitcher!", or, "put the hush puppies on mine!", it can get a bit confusing. If you're "friends" with these people, why can't you just figure it out? And when they get annoyed because it takes time to run X number of cards and get X amount of change....while you have other tables...don't get me started! Grrrr : )

fmcgmccllc said...

This is probably the number one reason I have fewer friends now. I will not go out with people that cannot add, are cheap, cheat others, think I am stupid to their tricks. If you cannot tip stay home. I cannot tell you how many times I have actually seen people take a tip off the table and pocket the money. Asshats.

But to apologize and short the bill and stiff you, that is the worst ever.

Anonymous said...

Those are the tables where you almost don't care about getting stiffed just so long as they LEAVE.

I had a family do that last week, and heaven forbid i put the cheeseburger on the check that only had a plain burger (because you cannot pay for that 50 cent slice of cheese your friend had). They were a 10 top and they asked at the end of their meal. I split it, the burgers were flipped so i split it again. When I had it all straightened out I placed the checks on the table and said "For the rest of your trip, it will go a lot faster for you and everyone involved if you tell your waitress at the beginning of your meal that you'd like separate checks so they can have it already split up correctly for you" They tipped shitty and I was just glad I hadn't told them what assholes i thought they were. I should have known when they asked me or sweet tea...People who ask for sweet tea north of virginia never tip well. And why oh why do they never sit near the people they want their check with? It is much easier to split seat 1-4 and 5-8 than 1,3,4,7 and 2,5,6,8.

I once had a 15 top ask me for separate checks at the end of a cocktail/appetizers hour. I had foreseen the issue enough in advance to have every drink labeled in the computer with a seat number, but when they started pointing across the table with the "us together" business, i said "I'm very sorry, but there's really no way I'm going to get it right this far into the drinks. I can bring each person their own separate check and if you'd like you can put the ones you'd like to pay together in the same book with your form of payment, but I am not able to keep paired off splitting straight for a group your size". Sometimes, you just have to tell them how it is.

My last job didn't allow parties larger than 6 people to split itemized checks.

Anonymous said...

Those are the tables where you almost don't care about getting stiffed just so long as they LEAVE.

I had a family do that last week, and heaven forbid i put the cheeseburger on the check that only had a plain burger (because you cannot pay for that 50 cent slice of cheese your friend had). They were a 10 top and they asked at the end of their meal. I split it, the burgers were flipped so i split it again. When I had it all straightened out I placed the checks on the table and said "For the rest of your trip, it will go a lot faster for you and everyone involved if you tell your waitress at the beginning of your meal that you'd like separate checks so they can have it already split up correctly for you" They tipped shitty and I was just glad I hadn't told them what assholes i thought they were. I should have known when they asked me or sweet tea...People who ask for sweet tea north of virginia never tip well. And why oh why do they never sit near the people they want their check with? It is much easier to split seat 1-4 and 5-8 than 1,3,4,7 and 2,5,6,8.

I once had a 15 top ask me for separate checks at the end of a cocktail/appetizers hour. I had foreseen the issue enough in advance to have every drink labeled in the computer with a seat number, but when they started pointing across the table with the "us together" business, i said "I'm very sorry, but there's really no way I'm going to get it right this far into the drinks. I can bring each person their own separate check and if you'd like you can put the ones you'd like to pay together in the same book with your form of payment, but I am not able to keep paired off splitting straight for a group your size". Sometimes, you just have to tell them how it is.

My last job didn't allow parties larger than 6 people to split itemized checks.

Anonymous said...

I love how people think that if they tell you they want separate checks for 18 people- and then proceed to shout out what they want from random parts of the table- that you're going to keep them all straight. Do they think I wrote "red blouse" next to their martini?

I numbered your seat(NO there is not physically a number on your seat). Take turns so that your meal and your drink end up on the same seat number. If you decide to play musical chairs, all bets are off and you can split that check your damn self.

sally said...

I'm sorry, but as a former waitress and frequent diner-outer with friends I have to say that imo, seperate checks are not fine. Seperate checks are for folks who cannot do simple math. Seperate checks are for individuals who have scammers and thieves for friends. If you are worried about the waiter getting stiffed, then YOU be the one to figure out what everyone owes. If you are worried about someone not paying what they owe, don't go out for dinner with that person anymore. If you are worried about paying for more than you actually consumed, you probably can't afford to go out in the first place.
Act like a grown-up when you go to a restaurant: bring enough cash "just in case" and don't go out with people who you know might try to rip you off.
It's easy.

Practical Parsimony said...

The Empress and Lee are right. I am not subsidizing my friends' alcohol habits or living large style. If I order an entree and tea, I guarantee that you will get a good tip from me, but not from them since they spend all their money and mine on stuffing their faces and forgetting to tip.

If I went to a restaurant that refused me a separate check, I would suggest the whole group leave or I would ask for water and sit there, leaving no tip. It seems that when people go out in groups and just split the bill, I end up paying twice what I ordered and watch people count their pennies for their share and then leave no tip.

Anonymous said...

You deserve to be canonized. How you kept your cool is beyond me.

I've never personally worked in the industry buy my father owned a restaurant while I was growing up. Let me tell you, he would have made certain they never came back again or treated the staff that way.

Amanda said...

Those people shouldn't be allowed to dine out. Especially the guy who not only didn't tip, but also stiffed you. I swear waiters should be allowed to take their pictures and pass them around like mug shots.

Most places here will not split checks for groups of 8 or more whether it's a chain or not, and they include gratuity for those same larger parties. I can't say as I blame them.

I do have to disagree with Anonymous who said people who ask for sweet tea north of VA never tip well. My family prefers sweet tea, and while my husband may not tip well when he's alone, your tip starts at 20% when I'm there. More for extra trips, any mess I couldn't prevent my kids from making, and overall stellar service. Less for a shitty attitude, not pre-bussing, or not refilling my glass before you go on break.

Chunky Mama said...

Dude, that is SO not losing it. I think you handle the situation well, and stepping aside for a breather was the smart, and even considerate, thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who always refused seperate checks so he can beg the rest of the group to cover for him. After three times I was like !@#$ NO, HO! SEPERATE CHECKS!

jnana said...

When I'm out with my friends, we always ask for a single check and sort it out between us later on. How difficult is that?

Jasmine said...

To Sally: How are you going to always be able to bring enough cash? What if you're unexpectedly going out to eat after work or something? That's not even good advice. It's 2011, most people are using their cards. I don't carry a lot of cash on me at all. I don't feel like being robbed and losing my money. So, if I have cash, it's just enough for a tip anyways. Oh, and I like paying on my card so I can go back to my bank account and see what I'm spending. And swiping a card is easier for the waiter than going back and forth with 500 different kinds of change. Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

"When I'm out with my friends, we always ask for a single check and sort it out between us later on. How difficult is that?"

I take you've never had the pleasure of dining with Mr. Amnesia aka "Appetizers, prime rib, cocktails & dessert? I didn't order that, I had the house salad and a glass of water!" or Ms. Forgotmywalletpayyabacklater.

Sometimes, when it's coworkers or friend of a friend, you can't get out of going to the restaurant, so it's easier to ask for separate checks. Of course, you should do that when you order, not when the bill is presented.

Anonymous said...

We just got a new computer system at work and for some God-aweful reason when you do separate checks on a table that has to have gratuity added, each separated check has to have the grat added by a manager individually. I'm completely convinced that there's a quicker way (see they never trained the managers on the computers, just put them up and told us 'good luck') but until management figures it out (or lets me play around with a manager card for a few minutes) I die a little every time a 20+ top wants all separate checks....

Wendy Jane said...

I insist on a separate check now. As a single person I was constantly getting screwed. Whenever I went out to dinner with my brother, sister and their spouses (by myself) they would want to split the check three ways. What? I know you've been married a long time but you're still two separate people. I've also gone out with friends who are cheap on the tip. I want them on their own check so they only embarrass themselves.

Jimmy Flatbush said...

Telling a server up front does nothing to diminish the time it takes to process 18 different payments. Most people who ask for separate checks believe we haver some miracle power and can process the checks all art one time.

Just do the math: 18 separate checks take 18 more times to process than one check. Moreover, separate checks tie up one POS terminal, thus slowing the service provided to other tables.

I don't ask my accountant to serve me food. Don't ask me to be your accountant. Fortunately, more and more customers are catching on.

Anonymous said...

As for the first comment to this post, Tracy should consider herself lucky that the server at whatever restaurant she went to would even bother to split checks for that many people. I work in a restaurant and it is company policy that if you have more than 6 people in a party, the check is automatically calculated with a tip and remains on one tab. Not only is the "separate check" nonsense confusing for the server, but can completely confuse the grill line and cause a huge gap in food prep times. Most people, when going somewhere with that many guests, all want to in the same time frame as their entire party, and when you have several checks, things can take longer to come out and there is a much higher chance that something is forgotten or something is not prepared to order. If people don't want larger parties to be "chaotic", they should consider some type of private dining, where attention is dedicated to them, or at the very least, a reservation should be made at a time when the restaurant is known to have less volume.

Anonymous said...

people assume separate checks are easy to do. this is not so. people arrive at different times, order drinks, appetizers, then entrees. they sit scattered around the large group. they move seats. and they still assume we can keep it all separated for them perfectly....i work in a restaurant that doesnt use a POS....and people get mad because they are not equipped to do their own math. separate checks can be ok. but if a restaurant declines the option, they have every right to! theres nothing to get upset about!

Anonymous said...

Servers, being one myself I always do it by seat, that way if they ask for separate checks at the end it is already done. Never do I pile it all up on one especially if they have multiple types. Always do it by seat servers and save yourselves that aggravation.