Lauren Krueger & Matthew David Brozik

Who pays for dinner?

In Definally on May 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

Perhaps this question, from Jacob S. W. of England, should have capped off last week’s food-y series, but it didn’t. Jacob writes: “When my lovely wife and I visit the U.S., our friends insist on paying for dinner, because we have traveled a long way to see them. On the other hand, when those same friends visit us, they give us a hard time when we insist on paying for them. So: Who has the right to treat their friends to dinner—the out-of-towner, or the in-towner?”

Definally. agrees, Jacob: You do have a lovely wife.

Wait, what…? Oh. Ha ha!

The answer to your actual question seems straightforward enough, and not just because Definally. sometimes is those friends (to you and your lovely wife) of whom you speak: The ones who have not done the long-distance traveling have the prerogative to pay for dinner.

The logic is simple, isn’t it? Couple A has paid no small amount of money to fly from, say, London to, say, New York City. Couple B, thrilled to have the opportunity to have dinner with Couple A, pays much less to take the Long Island Rail Road from, say, Great Neck, to Manhattan. And then maybe the subway, as well. While commuters are forever complaining about oft-increasing rates on both the LIRR and the MTA, the cost to Couple B is still nothing compared to that of Couple A’s airfare. (That doesn’t mean, though, that you can order the lobster. Don’t be greedy.)

That said, there are some circumstances that might provide exceptions to this rule. One is if Couple A is wealthy and Couple B is not. If, for instance, Couple A comprises (1) a famous humor writer who has co-authored not one, not two, but three popular books—with another humor book written all by himself on the way—and (2) a lovely woman with a real job, and together they just rake in the pounds hand over fist… and Couple B consists of, say, (1) a former lawyer and (2) a freelance video editor (also lovely)… then perhaps Couple A should pay for dinner. Even if dinner is at Couple B’s small apartment.

Another exception might be if the dinner is occasioned more by convenience—or even coincidence—than intention. If Couple A and Couple B happen to be in the same restaurant (in Couple B’s country), and, upon noticing each other, decide to join their tables… then Couple B should not have to pay for Couple A’s meal. And Couple A should not let them, even if Couple B insists.

Finally, if Couple A asks Couple B to dinner specifically in order to break up in a public place, hoping that Couple B will be less likely to make a scene, Couple A should pay for dinner. That’s just good manners.

  1. if couple A is hypothetically my brother, then good luck with that! can you ‘go dutch’? or is it the wrong country for that?

  2. Is Definally. in the manners advice business? If so, good.

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