A recent commentary on Marketplace really struck a chord, especially after a dinner some months ago that ended with married best friends bickering over the price of a drink, about eight eyeballs straining to reach the ceiling first, and the embarrassing situation of taking so long that the staff milled about the table, hinting with no subtlety at all that it was time to go.
While this is an extreme version of check-splitting, and was probably called for as it was not a regular dining group, Dan Ariely’s assertion that splitting a check causes more mental distress, in total, than does one person treating, never seemed truer.
But there are a couple problems with his point that may not be surmountable, especially to younger diners. First, you need a regular group in which everybody is willing to join in this method. If one person wants the check to be traded from meal to meal, and one wants it to be split every time, it will never work.
Also, picking up the check for a table of four at a moderately priced restaurant can be cost-prohibitive, even for comfortably middle-income people. A meal for $60 might be a ding to the pocketbook, but a $240 check just blew your whole weekend’s entertainment budget.
Still, Ariely’s got a good point about the “pain of paying,” and if you can get to where you only have to experience that pain every fourth dinner, you’re doing pretty well. It’s all about figuring out who’ll pick up the first check…
Splitting the check increases the pain [Marketplace]