Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Check, Please! Splitting the Bill Can Be Awkward

DEAR HARRIETTE: My family went out to dinner with friends of ours who were in town visiting. There were five of them and three of us, and the restaurant was kind of expensive. When it came time to pay the bill, it was a little awkward. Normally we would just split the bill, but the number of people in each party was so different. When I thought about it, though, I was OK with splitting it because we had drinks and the others drank water. (Alcoholic beverages always hike up the bill.)

Our visitors ended up doing a partial split, where they paid a lot more than us. I guess it worked out, but I don’t know if I handled it as well as I should have. What is the best way to handle a situation like that? -- Splitting the Bill

DEAR SPLITTING THE BILL: Whenever there is a group and people need to split the check, there can be an awkward moment.

The easiest thing to do is to take a quick glance at the check to get a sense of what you owe. If your portion is significantly smaller than the others’, you can offer to pay for your group plus a hearty tip and give the rest to the other people who are paying. You could also simply split it evenly (if you can afford to do so) -- but that is not necessary. People go into situations like that knowing who they want to pay for. If you are upfront about what you plan to do and quickly and proactively make it known what your intentions are for settling the check, chances are, the others will follow suit.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I always give a tip to the staff in my apartment building in the new year. I started this several years ago, when money was so tight that I couldn’t afford to give them money and buy gifts for my friends. Now it is just what I do. I noticed that one of the new guys has been looking at me kind of funny, and I think it’s because he didn’t get his tip from me yet. I plan to give out cards next week, but his attitude makes me want to skip him. It is not a requirement to tip, even though it is expected. Should I leave him out of my new year’s gifts, or just get over it? -- Ready To Gift

DEAR READY TO GIFT: Even though this new staffer has a bad attitude, don’t let it sour your good humor. You know what your plan is. Include him in your building’s tips. If there are certain people who have a more difficult role in your building or who you are closer to, by all means tip them more generously. For this newbie, a basic tip is fine to show that you are thinking of him. He can earn a higher tip if he steps up and has a better attitude in the new year.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)