Dear Come Correct:
My best friend and I see each other a couple times a week. We go to movies and museums, window-shop, hit the gym, and sometimes we just sit down and talk for an hour over a cup of coffee in a cafe. We are in perfect harmony EXCEPT when we decide to eat out. To put it bluntly, my best friend doesn't believe in tipping. She's fine with paying her half of the bill—as long as the tip isn't included. She says the restaurant pays its staff, and she doesn't need to add to it—especially if the service isn't up to her expectations.
So to keep the peace and to avoid embarrassment—and because I DO believe in tipping—I cover her half of the tip, too. Depending on what kind of meal it is, that can add up to $10 to my part of the shared bill. (I usually tip around 15 percent if it's a diner or cafe, 20% if the service is more involved. And, come to think of it, 20 percent in a diner if the server is really great.)
In the beginning, I didn't mind. Now I'm starting to feel taken advantage of. I don't want to get to the point where I resent her, but I don't want to keep subsidizing her, either. What can I do?
The Tipping Point
I'm guessing you've already explained to your friend that people who wait tables for a living are paid minimally and are expected to make it up with tips, and she either doesn't believe you or doesn't care. So you have a couple of choices:
You can do things together that don't involve eating out;
You can go places where you pick up your food at the counter and everything is self-serve (the burger joint, the fried chicken joint, the taco joint, etc.)
You can explain upfront how things need to go: "Love you, babe, but if you want to eat here, we're gonna have to split the tip. You up for that, or should we go get a burger?" She knows ahead of time what the deal is. And you know whether or not she'll agree to it.
If you are both insistent on doing things your way, just take eating out off the list of things you do together, and your friendship stays intact.
is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).