“It’s all connected.” That was a line often used on the TV series CSI NY. You get together with friends, clients and prospects; however, some friends also fit into the second and third categories. No one wants to come across as a sponge, yet you don’t want to always be expected to pick up the check just because friends think: “She can expense it.” We need rules.
Your Compliance department may have its own set of rules. Generally speaking, here is how I think things work in polite society:
1. Friends get together for dinner. You do this with the same folks on a regular basis. The check is split evenly.
2. You invite someone out to lunch. It could be business or friendship. You extended the invitation. You pick up the check.
3. You invite friends to dinner, and you specified the restaurant. You might go out on a regular basis together, but this time you said: “I really want to go here.” The restaurant was your choice. You are controlling the cost of the meal. You pick up the check. If it’s within the range of places you would normally dine, they may insist on splitting the bill. You can agree.
4. Friends go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. There are several of you at the table. The bill is split equally among all diners or couples, except for the guest of honor. The birthday person and their spouse are exempt.
5. Friends go out for drinks. There are several of you seated around a large table. People are coming and going. You’ve seen this at industry conferences. Everyone is buying rounds. You must buy a round for the table. Sitting drinking while everyone else buys a round, then saying your goodbyes before it’s your turn to buy is bad behavior.
6. You are invited to dinner at a friend’s house. It might be dinner with two couples. It might be six couples. You bring flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine. You do not arrive empty handed.
7. A group of friends dine out together. You’ve seen this at conferences too. It might be eight individuals at the table. It might be six couples. The bill is divided evenly. You prepare ahead of time by bringing cash including small bills.
8. Couples dine out regularly, alternating paying. This is a stylistic variation. Some people just like the bill to be paid without asking the restaurant to split it. You must keep a mental note who paid last, so you don’t miss your turn. You might end up paying twice, but it’s far better than saying “It’s your turn, isn’t it?”
9. The venue is a place where you can’t pay. Your friend takes you to their private club or their country club. Cash isn’t shown. Everything is done on house accounts. They just sign the bill. It’s unlikely they will let you pay your half to them in cash. The next dinner out is your treat.
10. People dine out and the host insists on paying the bill. This might occur at a business dinner or when a friend is celebrating their good fortune. You offer to pay the tip. You have brought cash for the occasion. If they refuse your offer, you take care of the coat check or car valet for everyone.
11. You are invited to their beach house or county place for the weekend. You are getting free lodging and multiple free meals. You go out to dinner at least once during your visit. You pay for that dinner. You also arrive with a gift in hand.
12. They buy ticket to take you to a show or sporting event. You arrange it so there is a meal before or after. Ideally you choose the venue. You buy you and your friend dinner.
13. You are invited to their house for a potluck dinner. This might be a BBQ or summer picnic. Everyone is usually expected to bring something. You ask for guidance. If you can’t cook, you either buy a prepared dish or bring beer or wine.
14. You are invited to a charity gala. A friend is on the board. There is usually a handwritten note asking you to attend. You buy a ticket. If you cannot attend, you send a check as a donation.
15. You are taking a road trip. They are driving. They are putting wear and tear on their vehicle. It’s unlikely you can pay for tolls because most people have EZPass. You pay for gas when they fill up.
16. You and a friend are having lunch. They are between jobs. You want to be supportive and realize they would enjoy the companionship. You know funds are tight. You pick a reasonably priced place. You pay, explaining they can get it the next time. You can keep inviting them out, forgetting about “next time.” It’s your treat.
There are unofficial rules concerning hospitality. Following them avoids being branded as a sponge.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” can be found on Amazon.