In the fleeting memories of my childhood, there’s one moment that strikes me as weirdly formative.
It was a family reunion on my Dad’s side; I was maybe 12 years old. The collective – my parents, my Dad’s four siblings and their spouses, and an excessive number of my cousins – were grabbing breakfast at some forgettable restaurant.
As the meal ended, the adults got into a heated argument over who was going to pay the bill. There was a weird source of pride among the family about grabbing the bill, with an outright refusal to let anyone split it, to the point where it would nearly turn into a fist fight. Cards were drawn, cash was readied, fingers were pointed demanding others stand down. It was equal parts tense and hilarious.
The server came by, and someone asked for the check. And then, the punchline: my 80 year old grandmother had gotten up at the beginning of the meal and slipped the server her card, trumping everyone else.
If behavior has to be inherited from your family, there are worse ones to pick up than wanting to grab the check. As I rolled into adulthood, this became the ongoing game with my parents, for both me and Katie. She once proudly blindsided my parents by grabbing the bill in the same way as my grandmother – forever after referred to as “pulling a Dickinson”.
This method has also proven somewhat useful when I’m out with friends, as years of being the Designated Bill Splitter when out in large groups has made me despise the practice. It’s easier/nicer to just pick up everything and tell everyone not to worry about it. (This goes doubly when I’ve picked the spot we’re hanging at, as sometimes my picks are not the most wallet conscious.)
There’s a roadblock, though: I’m not the only one who tries to do this. For the segment of my friends that want to do the same, or take offense at being told that everything’s cool, it can be considered an dick move. And so we start getting into battles about who’s grabbing the next check, or trying to keep a running total in the name of balance – and that sucks too.
So after some consideration and refinement, I’ve come up with what I will dub The Dickinson Bill Method 2.0. It greatly simplifies settling the bill, allows for acceptable contributions from those who want to contribute, and leaves everyone feeling reasonably good.
Life’s too short to fight with your friends over money.
The Dickinson Method 2.0
- One member of the party will pick up the bill, in full, including tip. We will refer to this person as the Payer.
- Other members of the party (The Party) are told that while the bill has been covered, they can contribute what they feel comfortable giving and/or what they think they owe to the Payer.
- Members of the Party are not allowed to look at the bill, either in sum or in detail, to try and crunch an exact amount they owe. Contributions must be made off gut feeling.
- Because contributions are optional and made off of gut feeling, the Payer may not indicate that a contribution is “too low” or “too high”. No grudges may be held by any person over the size of a contribution.
- Contributions can be made by whatever method is acceptable to the Payer. If using cash, $1 bills may not be exchanged. (No one wants a wallet full of singles.)
- If the outing consists of multiple locations with multiple bills, the same Payer should pay for all stops, with contributions being made when the last bill for the outing arrives.