The Single Diner's Dilemma
|Over chips and guacamole at a favorite Mexican restaurant in Manhattan earlier this week, my friend took a moment to rant when I inquired about her dinner out with some of our married friends.|
"I cannot believe I paid $80 for a meal last night when all I ate was a $14 appetizer with two glasses of wine," said the 32 year old single New Yorker.
Whether watching one's spending, alcohol intake or keeping a close count on calories, dining out en masse can push a single person to break their budget every time. Ever wonder why lightweights get penalized when pulling out their purses at the end of a good meal even if they abstained from drinking, dessert and so much more?
According to a study published two years ago in the Economic Journal, titled "The Inefficiency of Splitting the Bill," the authoring economists observed what they called "the unscrupulous diner's dilemma." The research suggests that a person's consumption will be smaller when the payment for the meal is calculated by each individual's order and larger when they know in advance that the bill will be split evenly amongst the diners.
It's upsetting when co-diners have no problem passing the buck to you, especially when those across the table are some of your very best companions. So do you speak up and risk insulting fellow diners? Or do you cough up the cash and leave with a bad aftertaste? Here are some tips we received from the singles we interviewed:
1. Recruit an Advocate: Enlist the help of a close friend before the meal who can speak up on your behalf, says Ken from NYC. Having someone else point out an inequitable distribution will make others sensitive to the situation without putting the burden on you.
2. Join in the After Party: "Agree to meet for after dinner cocktails" says Mike from Brooklyn. When you show up at the tailend of a dinner, it's easy to pay the server on the spot with cash so you don't get sucked for another buck!
3. Excuse Yourself: I hand over my portion' in cash then head straight to the bathroom. It works like a charm everytime, says Will from NYC.
4. Appoint a Secretary: When dining out with couples, my single friends make sure that one of us takes charge of divvying up the bill based on consumption so we are not charged unfairly.
5. Make Pre-arrangements: Call the restaurant in advance or discretely ask the server for individual bills upon arrival, says Liz. Most places do not see this as a difficult request just as long as everyone pays the proper gratuity.