Pick Up the Tab, Dude

Category: Weekly Columns

Picking up the tab. Is there a more awkward moment between friends, family, dates, or business associates? Okay, maybe asking for a raise, a 2nd date, mom’s approval of the guy or gal you’re dating, and asking a woman if she’s pregnant and she’s not, are more awkward things in life. But, picking up the tab has become a dance, an art, and an art of avoidance for some, plus it creates bizarre and interesting behavior in otherwise relatively normal people!

Is it because money is such a touchy subject for many of us? It’s on that list of the top three things couples fight about! The other two being “sex” and “the kids.”  Oh, and now we’ve been told that nagging is #1 on that list?! So, it’s really no surprise that it’s an issue between people that we know well or don’t.  Call me old fashioned, but I still believe the guy should pick up the tab for the gal. I even like to open my wife’s car door for her and do the heavy lifting now and then, too.

The 1980’s were golden, rich, fun times for most of us. That was when I worked in showbiz and flew First Class, had more or less unlimited expense accounts, got suites at fancy hotels, etc. But, those days are clearly over so given our changing gender roles, the confusion between the sexes, dwindling expense accounts, among other reasons, I believe it is necessary to educate and advise our readers why they should still pick up the tab.

It’s Easier

I, for one, just can’t stand that awkward pause, so I just pick it up and move on. No hesitation, and no awkwardness. I prefer that to those uncomfortable moments when the bill is sitting in the middle of the table and no one is reaching for it. Also, I rarely was able to time my bathroom visit to take place just before the check was left on the table.

You Look Good

C’mon, we all know that looks matter. When you pick up the tab, you are showing style, class, and confidence!

Now, They Owe You!

Depending on whether it’s business or personal, the degree with which “They owe you” varies. But, you are now in the driver’s seat. You don’t have to remember if you or they picked up the last bill ‘cause you know you always pick ‘em up.

First or Second Base Is Assured

I know there are guys that actually believe if a woman is making as much or more than he is, that they should split the bill or, heaven forbid, maybe she should pick up the tab. Guys, forget it. FORGET IT. Women don’t do math that way. If you’ve enjoyed the view at dinner, pick up the tab, and you may get to see more later.

Most People Can’t Afford It

My friend’s friend’s mom said, “The only happy people I know are people I don’t know well.” Well, I’ll paraphrase that as “The only really rich people I know are people I don’t know well.” Most people live above their means. Even Sharon and John KeepUpWithTheJoneses down the street are in hock. Trust me, most people can’t afford it.

You Are Smart and Don’t Live Above Your Means

You, on the other hand, can afford it because you pay off your credit card bill each month and drive a 12-year-old Honda. You saved money ever since you were a camp counselor at summer camp. You’re smart. After all, you’re reading this column!

Brian’s Mentor Said So

My good friend, Brian, had a mentor early in his career. According to Brian, this mentor only gave him two pieces of advice. 1. Don’t loan money to your friends ‘cause you’ll lose the money and the friend. 2. Once people perceive that you have money, they will always expect you to pick up the tab.  Brian violated #1 three times and each time lost the money and the friend. He’s picked up every tab since then.

Mom and Dad Paid for Everything, Now It’s Your Turn

Didn’t your parents pay for everything when you were growing up? Didn’t they scrimp and sacrifice to get you that useless college degree you now possess? How about that loan for the car or the car itself? Or dad co-signing on your home loan? As Stan Lee would say, “Nuff said,” so pick up the tab for your parents!

You Can Be Picky About Where You Eat

Since your family and most of your friends have lousy taste in restaurants, wine, and food, if you know you’re going to pick up the tab, you can be the jerk who always insists on choosing where to eat. When you pick up the tab, that is another of your declared reasons for doing so when you say, “I should pick it up, after all I insisted we go here to eat.” You’re redeemed.

You Get the Miles

Let’s face it, we all love those “free” trips and now you can reap those benefits even faster since you’ll accumulate ALL those miles! Between the mileage you’ll get from picking up everyone’s tab and the rebate you get from your CostCo credit card, you really will be rich!

I’m not sure how Miss Manners or Dear Abby, may their souls rest in peace, would think about these reasons for picking up the tab, but frankly, who cares — they’re dead. It’s a Brave New World and someone has to take a stand. When are we going out for dinner?


  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    So agree with you, Bruce. Shell Out Falter is indeed a very awkward moment than can spoil a nice outing. Much better, as you say, “to pick it up and move on.” 

    Great #DadChat last night. #YouMatter

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx JC, as usual we agree…and especially about #DadChat last night! So fun! Look for a #Nagging #DadChat coming on Thursday, March 1! I’ll remind you…again…and again!

  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    If you’re hanging out with me for the free ride, it will become obvious quickest when you don’t pick up the tab. And by pick up the tab, I mean your wallet is out (in your hand) and you smile/wave to the waiter (approaching with the bill) to bring it directly to you. 

    “Is that a Vuitton wallet? Nice. Looks like you’ve had that for a long, long time. It suits you. A timeless, classic. Like yourself…” 

    Free rides don’t have much to do with good friendship. Or good business. Yes, there are rare exceptions. If you don’t take your pennyless friends out for a bite (or cook for them at your own home) on special occasion, your heart is two-sizes too small.

    If you avoid picking up the tab (like it’s a disease), you avoid hard work, you don’t pay your dues, you don’t help your friends, and whatever successes you may have will be swept away and lost, tomorrow. Or the next day. 

    In other words, you lack any sense of style, justice or fairplay. And I will know you by your spirit guide: a faithless weasel, a cunning rat, or a slithering snake.

    The shell out falter is an excellent test  of character, in fact. I don’t understand why people would want to skip over it. I’m all for laying the cards on the table for all to see.

    There are exceptions, of course.

    He/she who makes the invite and reservation, picks up the tab. 

    He/she who chooses the venue, picks up the tab. 

    He/she who orders to their satisfaction, picks up the tab. 

    He/she who orders a bottle of wine (twice or more the price of the house selection) OR more than two cocktails, picks up the tab.

    If it’s a home game (city or neighborhood), you pick up the tab.

    Those are some tried and true rules that are common sense. There may be confusions – but never really.

    Yes, there is some playfulness to be considered at times: respect and honor, pride and prejudice, generosity and contempt, manipulation and power. And so forth.

    Oh – and if you pick up the tab, you pay the tip too. Not less than 15%.

    Such is my silliness.


    Recently on my blog: Review of the Super Bowl Ads and more posthumorously speculations http://wp.me/pbg0R-CF

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Wow Stan, you are becoming the Comment KING! I am rushing out right now, but will read and reply later – with time and consideration as you’ve so generously shown with your recent comments! TYVM!

      • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

        I’m just hoping, Bruce, that you’ll one day reward me with that one mention (full name of course) in your column that appears in over 100 papers and websites. [laughing] All so that I can show my mom and she’ll have a big smile on her face for a day or two. That will be mission-accomplished. [wink]  

  • http://www.amberrisme.com Amberr Meadows

    Call me old-fashioned, too. The man should pick up the tab for the lady, the child should pay the tabs for the parents, and unless it’s agreed upon who will pay previously, I say split it and everyone pay their own. No awkwardness or confusion. 😉

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I’d be honored to pick up the tab for you anytime, Amberr!

  • David Weber

    Pick up the tab, agreed.

  • http://twitter.com/profkrg Kenna Griffin

    My husband and my father-in-law always fight over the tab. I think we’ve maybe worked out an unwritten agreement. If they drive the two hours to see us, the meal is our treat, and vice versa. We’ll see how long that lasts!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I finally convinced my father-in-law to just split checks – easier.

  • http://twitter.com/BetsyKCross Betsy Cross

    My solution? Don’t go to a restaurant! Go on a picnic. Be creative. I can’t afford it so I’m not getting into that situation where I have to question whether or not I’m washing dishes or racing to the car! Gone are the days where you just go have a cheap and fun date. So sad! It’s more fun being creative!!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Being creative always trumps anything else…so if money is an issue, I say CREATE romance then!

  • http://twitter.com/BradStaib Brad

    Sorting out tabs used to be more of an issue when I was single and out with friends, but now that we are pretty much all married, we usually just split the tabs. My wife and I try to always pick up the tab for our parents ourselves or by splitting with siblings that might be joining us. I definitely look forward to the day when we can afford to treat all our friends and family on a regular basis. 🙂 …and the next time you make it to Denver Bruce, the drinks are on me. 😉 Cheers!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Sounds like you are in a good place, Brad…I look forward to those drinks, someday!

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