The Credit Card Conundrum

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OK. It's your first day at work at some random French cafe. You've never waited tables before, but you aced the interview and somehow convinced the manager that you were ready for the big time. Your first table is seated. It's a four-top. Old ladies lunching. And after they place their order, Blue Hair No. 1 approaches you at the coffee station, hands you her credit card and says she wants to pick up the bill.

No problem, right?


As the entrees come out, Blue Hair No. 2 pulls you aside. She's offended that BH1 is paying for her lunch. "She always does this," BH2 complains, giving a laundry list of reasons why she needs to pay her share. She hands you a credit card and asks to split the bill.

The manager is nowhere to be found. The other waitstaff is in the weeds. The ladies who lunch are staring you down over their reading glasses.

What do you do?

I bring this up because as a critic, the Observer almost always picks up the bill, unless I'm chomping on a burger for my own pleasures. Sometimes the people I take out expect it. And sometimes they still try and split the check. It's a little awkward -- especially when a waiter is staring you down while you hash things out.

The last time this came up, my waiter simply said that when tables disagree on payment, the first card received is always the dominant card. BH1 commandeered the bill first so her request stands as law. That's the rule. My whole table agreed.

I've been wondering whether this rule is as uniform as fork on the left, knife on the right.

Since my last interaction with industry folk was so very cordial (#LifeBehindBars!), I thought I'd ask nicely: Is this the standard rule? And for all the other diners who have a parent or business partner or showy friend who always picks up the check, how do you pick up your fair share when you think you should?

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