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Respectfully Yours: Paying dinner bill

Dear Jacquelyn,

We invited friends out to dinner and things took a turn for the uncomfortable when the waiter dropped the bill for dinner in the center of the table. It was an extremely awkward moment with everyone glancing around and making gestures toward reaching for the check. My husband offered and was happy to pay the bill, but asked if our friend would leave the tip. I wanted to kick my husband under the table. I thought that if someone is treating you to dinner that includes the tip. What is the best way to handle awkward moments when the bill arrives after a lovely dinner out with friends?

Dear Reader,

Sometimes memorable meals can quickly descend into a mess of awkward confusion when it comes time to pay the check.

As you well know, money can be a touchy subject and people don’t always react well when it’s time to pay the bill. A restaurant isn’t the time or place for hurt feelings and misunderstandings about the bill, especially after a lovely dinner with friends.

The real problem I have with this is asking a guest to pay the tip.

Frequently, when someone pays only the tip, they end up paying more than their fair share. There can be a big difference in the balance when someone drinks more than others, orders expensive entrees, or has dessert, each of which drives up the bill.

The rules governing etiquette are in place to prevent uncomfortable situations just like this.

One of the easiest rules of thumb is that when offering to take someone to dinner, as a thank-you or expression of friendship, you should not expect him or her to contribute anything, including the tip.

Money is a personal quirky topic with people. The next time there is a hassle over the dinner bill, handle it as graciously as possible, avoid the urge to kick under the table, and maintain your mastery of the art of poise.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: jacquelyn@ptd.net. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol. She is on the board of the National Civility Foundation.

All Rights Reserved &Copy; 2019 Jacquelyn Youst