Monday, June 7, 2010

What to Do When A Guy Offers to Split the Check

Last week, a friend of ours met a guy at a party. He asked for her number and called a few days later to invite her to dinner at a swanky sushi place. On the actual date, he ordered all the food—which was a major turn-on for our friend. When the bill came, she politely pulled out her wallet and offered to split. He paused. “It’s up to you,” he said.

Our friend instantly lost all interest in her date.

There are a million reasons why a guy should pay on the first date, and why you might want to rethink things if he doesn’t. But here’s the SparkNotes version: on a first date, you’re seeing the guy on his best behavior. He should be going out of his way to impress you and show off his good manners, and he knows going into it that the guy picking up the check is what society calls good manners (just like you know that you need to offer to split it). So if he doesn’t even want to go out of his way to make a good impression by picking up the check on the first date, there’s a good chance you’ll be eating at Wendy’s (and picking up the tab) six months from now.

And then there’s the issue that, in this case (and on most first dates), the guy does the inviting. Which means he picks the restaurant. Which means the girl has little control over the price. And when the guy orders everything, she has zero control, and letting her pay half the bill is like asking her to subsidize his splurge.

But this guy did something even more manipulative. When our friend offered to split, he told her the decision was hers to make. This might seem nice, but what he was really doing was making it seem like she had a choice when really he was dumping an awkward nondecision on her. When he says, “It’s up to you,” what’s she going to say? No, you pay?

But our friend actually handled this very well. She said, “I’m gonna let you pick up dinner, and I’ll buy you a drink.”

If you’re under thirty and working in DC, chances are, you’re on a pretty tight budget. And when a guy pulls a move like that, you probably don’t want to see him again. So why blow rent money to pay for a meal you didn’t order just to avoid a potentially awkward situation with a guy you don’t care about?

If you do what our friend did (i.e., tell him you’ll “let him pick this up” and offer to buy him a drink), you avoid the awkwardness. But if grace under pressure isn’t your forte, it’s still better to hold your ground. He got himself into this bill, he can pay his way out. If he insists on your paying, you can say something like, “You know, I didn’t order any of this food, and this is way out of my budget. I’m happy to give you thirty bucks, but I can’t afford to split this with you.”

A guy who acts like this on the first date only gets worse as the relationship goes on. So don’t worry about what he’ll tell his friends and congratulate yourself on getting out early.


  1. Agreed. If the dude INSISTS that you pay for half of dinner, what is he doing inviting you to dinner? And if the dinner is expensive, then he is also careless enough not to look at the prices or just flat out clueless.

  2. I went on a first date, did the whole scene where I reach for my wallet ($30 bill) and offered to pay and he insisted. He made some comment about how it was very nice for me to offer and not to assume he was paying.

    I'm just curious as to what second date rules are.

    My story is he invited me on a second date and picked the place, the check came, I made it a point to do the same thing to offer. And then he said "Hmm... how about $10?"- on a $40 bill! He didn't say "let's split it", he didn't say "could you get the tip?" (I think that was his intention but I refused to leave a $10 tip on mediocre service). I gave him the $10 and made him put a 20% tip on his credit card.

    I thought the date was going well until this point. But seriously? $10 - What difference does that make? Is $10 making or breaking you? I would have felt more respected if he asked me to pay my share of food and drink or the entire thing. He ruined any chance he had all over making me pay the cost of the beer that he ordered that night.

    Since $10 was an issue on the second date... it was a dealbreaker and there was no third date.

  3. As a guy, yes, I understand the man should absolutely pay for the first date. Having said that, it is a First Date. It can be nerve wracking. The "It’s up to you" response seems at worse a nervous misstep response, not an indicator of being cheap. Also, the response only occurred because of her "offer," and maybe he didn't expect her to do that and wasn't sure how to respond. She doesn't *have* to offer, especially since she knows she's not gonna pay anyway. I think that is mutually understood, so why play charades?

    So for her to "lose all interest" seems pretty shallow to me, give that (a.) he did everything else right and (b.) he ended up paying for the "swanky" sushi anyway. Why can't people stop playing stupid games like this and just be real? Frankly, I'd be pretty upset if I found out that this was the reason I didn't get a second date.

  4. This is how I feel about first dates. Whomever does the asking out is expected to pay. Since I never ask guys out, I always expect them to pay.

    You friend should have NEVER offered to pay, if she was the one asked out. The fact that she did and he was fine with splitting it showed his true colors. First impressions mean a lot and by him not refusing her offer, made him look cheap. Who wants to date a cheap man? I know I don't.

  5. This same thing happened to me a few weeks ago. I met this guy on He seemed cute, smart, funny...and then he asked me out and his exact words were, "I would like to take you out to dinner." Then, while we are making plans on where to meet, he emails "meet me at _____." I liked how assertive he was (I like guys who take control of situations). We go out, there is good conversation, chemistry, etc. Then the bill comes and he excuses himself to go to the bathroom. When he comes back, he looks down at it like expecting me to have paid. I didn't (obviously). Then, the conversation goes way down, to where it is borderline uncomfortable because there is nothing to talk about--- and the entire time he keeps eyeing the bill out of the corner of his eye. Finally, the waitress comes over and tells us that she needs to leave (we are her last table) and he says okay...and still does not pick up the check. At this point, I just reached for my wallet and said "so, do you want to split the bill?" And he says, "Yes, I do." What a weirdo. Then he had the nerve to send me another email the next day saying "I would really like to take you out again." AGAIN? He never even took me out the first time!

  6. "If you’re under thirty and working in DC, chances are, you’re on a pretty tight budget." and that is only true for girls, of course.

    seriously, who cares about money ? as i recall, women fought last century so that they could get financially independent from their husbands (jobs and bank accounts and stuff) and you still make a fuss about whether he can afford an expensive bill ?
    1. he actually is broke, and considering that a turn-off is like saying "oh god you're awesome too bad you're poor".
    2. he thinks that you should pay for what you ate (except, of course, if he specifically invites you, or offers the wine or whatever) because this is what you'll probably end up doing if you have a mid/long-term relationship with him. he is only not being hypocritical.

    it's not the fact that he pays the bill or not, it's the way he does it, so do not focus on it. obviously, the guy that went to the bathroom waiting for her to pay the bill, that was hilarious, but do not focus on it. isn't it supposed to be about how he is than about how much he pays ?

  7. I think it all depends on the individuals on either side of the table, honestly. Eeveryone has a different expectations of how events should occur. I suppose to avoid an uncomfortable situation when the check comes, you all could have an open conversation about it before sitting down for dinner. I can't imagine that would be too tough.

    I once dated a girl who, after a few dates, copped an attitude with me after I dropped in my card and the waitress took off with it. I aksed her what the trouble was and she said 'you never let me pay for anything'. Apparently, I was taking away her independance by paying the bill when she had the capability of doing it herself.

    So, I really think it depends on expectations and the two people involved, period. For myself, if I ask out a girl, I always pay the bill. I can't recall that I've ever asked a date to split a check with me but that's just how I am. In addition, I often eat and drink more than they do so how fair is it for them to pay half of things they didn't consume? Maybe I'm from the old school but I think it's just proper to pick up the bill. 'Nuff said.

  8. My ex boyfriend and me hang out and go out but he also dates others. Other women treat him out. He usually treats me out but when it is an event that is over $10 I have to pay my own way. I do not work and live on very low income. He makes about $4000 per month and does NOT pay rent, utilities, phone, computer and health insurance because it is included in his job. Te only thing he pays is food, clothes, entertainment.
    He has me paying my own way on things over $10. I share with him that I only live on $1000 a month and cannot afford some of these things but he says ok then you can't go. It bothers me that when it is buy one ticket at full price and the 2nd ticket is half off, he wants to split the half off ticket also. I think he is being miserly when he even wants his portion back from the savings of the second ticket. Why can't he even give me the discounted ticket or meal?

  9. To clarify, I will pay for the discounted 2nd ticket, but he wants to split the discounted savings too. I get $1000 a month and pay everything. He lives on $4000 a month and pays nothing. I feel he should pay because of the huge difference in income and I helped him get his job by resume writing, cover letters, helping him ask for raises, medical insurance, advertised his skills on flyers I made,...etc. He also chooses to pay his grand children's college and pays his ex wife money that was not in the divorce decree. A nice thing to do but they all work and I am disabled and cannot work, but I am great company and a lot of fun to be with. I feel he is selfish with me and never will be part of his family. I am never invited anywhere when it comes to meeting his friends or family. I let him know all the time how I feel but he snaps back, "that is just the way it is". Any advice on the 1/2 off discount and he wants to split the discount also?

  10. wow that is soooooooo mean and cheap...forget him! I would rather stay home alone and watch movies on the box then go out with an ex like that who is ALSO dating others?!!! Come on lady, where is your self worth!!! Cut him off! He is treating you like garbage because you are way too available to him...change this situation before you get more hurt!

  11. The way the dude did it was certainly wrong...but if you think that "best behavior" in general can't be applied to BOTH parties paying on a first date, then you're gonna have a bad time in the dating world. Antiquated guys like that generally don't treat women very well behind closed doors these days.