The great [split bill] debate

NO other topic divides Australians quite like the discussion point I’m about to raise, so I apologise in advance if this brings up some issues for you…

I’m referring, of course, to The Split Bill.

Or more specifically, the thing that happens after a group meal when you split the bill by the number of diners and everyone pays an equal share.


In my experience, EVERYONE has an opinion on this and it’s usually shaped by painful personal experience.

I can confirm that I have personally been burnt many, many times by the ‘divide and conquer’ bill strategy:

Example 1 – Fancy dinner with three other couples. We drank white wine (one bottle; cheapest on the menu at $45), the other three couples churned through five bottles of red between them ($70 a pop). We wound up paying $170 for our share of the bill – and the food was ordinary.

Example 2: Group tapas for friend’s birthday. People were ordering chilli squid, grilled prawns and all sorts of seafood dishes I don’t want a bar of. I ended up paying $55 for half a plate of pumpkin salad and some chips.

Example 3: At an Italian restaurant with six people. We split the bill and it came to $27 a head. After five of us threw in $30 each, our frugal friend said to the waiter, “Just put whatever’s left on my card”. He paid around $10 for his meal and I had to find another $10 tip for the waiter, who’d dealt with our rowdy table for two hours.

These are just a few real life examples – I could recite dozens more, but only two or three occasions where the split bill has worked in my favour.

As a result, I’m not a big fan. In fact I’m quite firmly placed in the ‘pay for what you order’ camp.

According to a survey, I’m not alone. Almost 70 per cent of their Queensland respondents confirmed that they think it’s not acceptable to split the bill when your dining partners have obviously spent more.

Maybe the majority of us are just tight with money? I’m a little ashamed to admit that when a split bill situation occurs, I can’t help but work out how much my meal actually costs, so I can work out how much I’ve subsidised my dining partners’ seafood marinara and crab entrée. If it’s more than $10, I feel ripped off.

So maybe I am a scrooge?

Or maybe, the 32 per cent who think it’s a perfectly fine to split the bill at the end of the meal are the ones ordering scotch and coke to chase down an eye fillet steak. With sides.

[signoff icon=”icon-thumbs-up”]The Meddler

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