There's nothing quite like the stress of going out to a big group dinner, not knowing how the bill will fall out. On one hand, if you have a big group - it's often impossible to split everything individually. Even when it's possible, asking for ten checks is a fast way to get the server to hate you.
On the other hand, splitting everything evenly can turn into its own drama when one guest is knocking back five drinks and an expensive lobster, while another is nibbling on appetizers and water. Unless one person is stacked and willing to cover it all, you're bound to hit some tension when the bill arrives.
In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a man asked if he was wrong for not paying the full amount at a family-style birthday dinner. He wrote:
My wife and I are both vegan, but we don't make a big deal out of it. We don't judge others for their choices and we don't expect them to accommodate us. We usually just find something we can eat wherever we go, or eat beforehand if we know the options are limited. One of my friends invited us to his birthday dinner at a restaurant in Brooklyn.
He said it was a last-minute thing and he didn't have time to make reservations, so we just had to show up and hope for the best. We checked the menu online and saw that there were not many vegan options, except for chips and guacamole, hummus, and bread. We decided to eat a snack at home and then order drinks and appetizers at the restaurant.
We also have been tight with money lately because of some medical expenses, so we didn't want to spend too much on food we couldn't eat anyway. When we got to the restaurant, we found out that they were doing it all family style and splitting the bill evenly among everyone. There were about 15 people in our group, and they ordered a lot of food, most of which was meat or cheese-based.
The only thing we could eat was the bread, so we just had a couple of slices each and two beers each. At the end of the night, my friend sent me a Venmo request for $120 for our share of the dinner. I was shocked by the amount, since our four drinks were only $32 plus tip, so about $40.
I texted him back and explained that we didn't know it was going to be family style, and that we only had the beers and some bread. I said I would send him $60 to cover our drinks and a bit extra for the bread. He got angry and said that we should have told him we were vegan, and that it was rude to not participate in the family-style dinner.
He said that everyone else paid their fair share, and that we were being cheap and selfish. He said that he expected us to pay the full amount. The decision to make it a “family style” meal was done last second too because the restaurant had no idea a party of 15 was showing up. Otherwise, we could have split the bill per party and been fine. I don't think we did anything wrong.
We didn't ask for any special treatment, and we didn't complain about the food. We just ate what we could and tried to have a good time. We also didn't want to make a scene or cause any drama by announcing our dietary preferences. We thought $60 was more than enough for what we consumed, and we didn't want to pay for food we couldn't eat. AITA?
Changing my verdict to ESH for refusing to pay $120 and your friend is kinda being a jerk about it. BUT I do think to some extent that it would’ve helped if you’d been a little more upfront about saying “Hey there’s really nothing here we can eat” so that they’d have either tried to order more of the very few items you could eat and/or not have expected you to pay as much.
I hate this method of paying for meals but if you know it’s going to be split up like that, it’s probably better to speak up early than wait until after the meal is over to negotiate what’s fair for you.
It’s also tough to be the person who has to request payments from everybody at the end of a meal and I’m wondering if he got stuck paying double or if the rest of the party made up for the other half of what he’d requested from you.
How were you shocked at the amount? What did you expect? You did know it was family style & had prior knowledge that the bill was being split evenly prior to the meal. Your choices were speak directly to waitstaff ask for a separate check, explain to the host once you learned it was family style that you & wife are vegan but will happily eat whatever you can & pay for your own meals or just pay.
You did ask for special treatment. You’re saying you’re not paying…after the fact. Speak up prior to dinner! It’s your responsibility to advocate for yourself. Don’t wait to tell people you want a separate check! The host could have easily configured the bill for 13 people instead of 15 while they had the bill! After the fact? No! NTA — but learn from this mistake. It was your mistake.
“Everyone else paid their fair share.”
For you to pay your fair share means paying the $40 worth of food and drinks that you ordered, plus an extra “Happy Birthday” $20. NTA.
ESH It is also pretty obvious that check division could be an issue once a group moves to family style. I have run into this as a Vegetarian. You either need to advocate for yourself for items you can eat, order separate, or make it clear you are not part of the family-style meal.
Your lack of communication put your friend in a position that they either needed to go back to everyone else and ask for more or pick up your difference. I would consider it a lesson learned. People aren’t watching what you are eating in a family-style scenario to proactively ask you if you want to be removed from the bill.
Miscommunication. ESH. Thought exercise. Your friend either has to pony up himself, or more likely text the other 11-12 people and say “ok listen everyone. Ken and Barbie decided not to pay, so can everyone pay me another $10 please?” Which of course will lead to 100 texts and weeks of drama. Or better yet, maybe you should beat him to the punch and send the text for him.
Put your best spin on it. Good luck with that!!!! 😜 my guess is, halfway through writing this text you’re going to choose to just pay the $120, call it an expensive birthday gift and lesson to learn from, and move on. And next time, be just a little bit more upfront. None of this is your fault exactly, but if you don’t tell anyone it’s not exactly their fault either.
This is clearly an ESH situation, OP should have communicated from the jump, but paying $120 when you mostly ate bread is also ridiculous.