Service of “I’ll Pay,” No “You’ll Pay”—Who’ll Pay?

July 6th, 2017

Categories: Etiquette, Manners, Restaurant




Tinder is a popular app where singles meet, [it boasts a million subscribers], and it—and websites like it–has changed the dating landscape as people tend to have many more first dates than before. Khadeeja Safdar wrote about the new dynamic in “Who Pays on the First Date? No One Knows Anymore, and It’s Really Awkward–First dates multiply in era of Tinder, and those tabs add up. Some women are wary the fake ‘reach’ for the wallet won’t be turned down.”


The title and subtitle of this Wall Street Journal article tell the story.

Safdar described some of the prickly endings timed around restaurant check arrival time.

  • Before the check came the date excused himself to visit the WC and said, “I’ll wait for you outside.”
  • A woman ordered two entrees, ate the pasta and asked the waiter to wrap up the grilled fish. When she was in the ladies’ room her date, a well healed physician who had planned to pay for dinner, asked for separate checks because he “didn’t like feeling used.”
  • Having met for drinks, the woman asked her date if they were planning to order food. The response: “Don’t you have food at home?”
  • When a college student got home from dinner initiated by her date who chose the restaurant, he sent her an “invoice via the mobile-payment app Vennio for her portion of the meal.” She didn’t pay and blocked him.
  • One date proposed splitting a burger and fries, cut the burger unevenly, taking the far larger half. When the check came, the woman “performed the ritual reach for her credit card, and he agreed to let her pay half without any hesitation. ‘Even the waitress looked at him, like, are you serious?’”
  • The date who forgot his wallet’s an oldie but still happens.

 “The rules aren’t complicated, according to etiquette experts,” wrote Safdar. “‘If you invite, you pay,’ said Diane Gottsman, author of ‘Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.’ ‘But the reality is that the other person may not know the rules or realize it’s a date.’”


This is what I think: To avoid uncomfortable moments establish who pays for what before the date takes place. Who wants to pay for one or two meals with a stranger the cost of which is five times your restaurant budget for the quarter when the other person chose the preposterously pricey venue? On the other hand, if you can afford to watch the scene play out and if you have a strong stomach for discomfort, the way a person acts in this situation tells a lot about them and whether or not you’ll want to see them ever again.

Can you share examples such as those above or ones that turned out nicely? What do you think the answer is for a seamless first date? Does age have anything to do with the outcome?


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14 Responses to “Service of “I’ll Pay,” No “You’ll Pay”—Who’ll Pay?”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    Well. You picked a great topic for right after a big weekend where lots of people eat out.
    Split the bill down the middle, or pay for what you ordered, either way works. I think it applies not only to first dates but for multiple couples going out together as well…

    You may have brought this up in a previous post, but splitting equally works for some. Recently we paid a large tip in lieu of splitting down the middle because we order drinks and the other couple doesn’t! I think fair is fair… Of course a person would feel used in that case where the women ordered two entrées and took one home! That’s nerve! Too bad he didn’t know her better before hand!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Splitting down the middle is fair and square especially if the other person–or couple–agrees on the restaurant and orders in a similar way. There will be those who take advantage and order everything in sight while their date orders only an appetizer. They remain silent when the bill comes and two credit cards are presented. The solution, which you also suggested: ask for separate checks. I add: stay clear of that greedy person in future!

  3. ASK Said:

    Thorny issue, made thornier by the fact that restaurant prices, even outside New York, are somewhat outrageous, and probably are only going to go up. Your suggestion of politely and honestly establishing financial ground rules before one meets someone for the first time sounds like the best course to take. Such discussions might also weed out potential wastes of time, resources, embarrassment and/or rage, thereby exponentially cutting down on the quantity of first dates. Perhaps not very romantic, but then “swiping” left or right on a photo isn’t either.

    PS I’m sure age has something to do with it. Some of the behavior in the WSJ article is really beyond belief…but in this tiresome social media/techie age, basic manners seem to have vanished somewhere into the “Cloud.” When I read articles like that, I don’t have any problem getting older!

  4. HB Said:

    After reading your most recent post, I’ll admit, I felt like those early 19th century European anthropologists must have when they stumbled upon their first pigmies deep in the African jungles. I was stunned. It really is a “brave new world” out there, and one with which I have no experience.

    I always thought that the rules were simple. Boy invites, boy pays. Period. Girl invites to a public place, boy tries to pay; but if girl objects vehemently, boy graciously lets her pay what she wants. Girl invites to home, boy brings chocolates or flowers, never food, drink nor money. Age is irrelevant. No exceptions.

    There is, of course, the eternal exception to prove the rule: If somebody falls in love, all bets are off and anything goes…

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    So true about the cost of a meal. But who would want to invest time and money to sit through what might be a terrible hour + on a first date made, as you note, based on a photo that might have been photoshopped or taken ten years ago?

    I am not proud to tell you that I have experienced stiffs in business situations that have similar rings to them as those in the WSJ article. In one, an artist I met at a function of an organization of which I was then president asked if I would meet her for dinner to advise her about next steps to get out the word about her designs. I was her guest, she said. She hoped that her designs would enhance tableware and greeting cards etc. She chose the spot. During the meal, in between my suggestions, I heard about how she didn’t understand why she had no friends. Soon, I learned why. Time to pay she looked at the check and exclaimed “I don’t have enough cash! Can you pay for yours?” I did. Next, she pulled out a credit card! I never again took her calls. I decided she was nuts. She must have thought I was one of those nasty people who wouldn’t befriend her.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good point! But cupid didn’t enter into these examples or in the first instance, the date wouldn’t have dashed away but might have lingered and not worry about the check; the woman ordering two meals might have thought twice hoping for many more; the fellow asking if the date had food at home might have waved expansively at the waitstaff and ordered two burgers; the college student would have received a text asking for another date, not a Vennio invoice for $20 and the fellow who ate most of the burger would have paid for the whole thing and ordered dessert and coffee. I feel sorry for the man who forgot his wallet as this can happen.

    One memorable first visit by a date to my home for dinner–though admittedly, it wasn’t for the first date–ended up in disaster when my dog ate the food that I’d set out. It was summer and I’d prepared a cold supper so as to be a guest at my own dinner. So when he arrived–his son was also invited–I was out at the deli buying something for us to eat. He brought a giant bouquet of wild flowers he’d picked–I still see them clearly. I married him.

  7. HB Said:

    As sweet as wild flower honey!!!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Aw shucks. xox

  9. EAM Said:

    I had a blind date in my 20’s where I suggested drinks and my date suggested dinner. After numerous attempts from the waiter to retrieve payment for the bill. Neither of us reached for the bill until I finally gestured that he might take a look at it. (By the way, he was a VP at a Bank). I think I did not measure up to what he expected. After he paid the bill, I half-heartedly offered to contribute to the check. And, he took me up on it. Honestly, I was a bit stunned. I learned my lesson, I do not offer unless I intend to follow through.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    This creep must be related to some of the people in the post. A high level fellow in advertising used to treat a friend of mine at the time in the same way and she kept taking it. He could well afford to pay for the dinner and anything else but he’d squeeze her for her share. She worked at a magazine so her salary didn’t compare to his. After many years I think he floated off and out of her life. No loss. He wasn’t even much fun and certainly wasn’t at all nice.

    A picnic in Bryant Park on a summer evening with a lovely person would be far better than a restaurant meal with a stinge.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    I don’t like problems, so have been going Dutch for as long as I can remember. In the event a relationship ends on a sour note, there are fewer recriminations.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I have always liked the concept of Dutch treat and separate checks. You can’t complain when the check comes that’s for sure!

  13. Dee Said:

    My boss had introduced me to a guy, around 21 years old (I’m 19), who apparently had seemed very preppy and put-together the first time she had met him. That was not the version of him that we saw on the day that him and I went out. He was wearing a very chill and unimpressive outfit, his hair was grossly gelled back, and he had braces. His appearance did not completely turn me off yet because I knew he was a nice and intelligent guy, so of course I still decided to go out with him. We chose to go to Ben and Jerry’s, and I got a small ice cream, which is only $5.50 if I might add. When the cashier was finished making our sundaes, she asked “will you be paying together or separately?” There was a long pause of pure silence. I turned to him and he said nothing, so I decided to be the independent woman that I am and answered, “we can pay separately.” But see, that was his chance to redeem himself and say “Nah, I got it.” Normally, I wouldn’t care to pay for myself if I am just hanging out with someone, but clearly this was a first date, especially since he kept trying to put his arm around me after NOT paying for a simple inexpensive ice cream? Boy, please… nice try. Where is the chivalry these days?

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    At your age I would not have had the money to toss around but I wonder what a man would say if the woman, in your situation, said, “If you can’t afford it, I’ll pay for both.”

    Your experience fits right in with those reporter Khadeeja Safdar described! Big mistake not to be chivalrous if you’re not planning to invest $10 or less in a relationship.

    Yet your example also shows how confused everyone is. He knows you have a boss and that you are making money so maybe he worried that you would think poorly of him if he didn’t give you the chance to pay your share.

    If you see him again, and if the moment is right, you might ask him what his thinking was.

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