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Who Picks Up the Tab?

Hey, does anyone out there know what the proper etiquette is for picking up the tab when you have a business lunch?

I ask because I attend business lunches almost every day. I meet with clients. I meet with prospects. I meet with business friends.

I always thought the rule of thumb was, if I’m “pitching” something, I should pay. If the other party is trying to “pitch” me, they pay. If no one is selling, you split the tab.
Sound right?

Well, recently I went to breakfast with someone who’s been trying to get together for a long time. We talked a bit about his business and about mine. He tried to sell me a sponsorship for one of his upcoming endeavors.

When the waitress came by, he ordered an egg omelet. I ordered a single egg. I didn’t think about who would pay for what until the bill came. It was $22 for breakfast. He quickly took the bill and put it on his side. I politely asked him how much I owe, and he told me $11. I started to think should I have not said anything and let him pick up the tab? Should I grab the bill and insist on paying?

I made the conscience decision to split the bill. But all I kept thinking was “Why should I pay $11 for a single egg?”

Later in the day, I went for lunch with a retired client. Since she no longer works, my thought was I was paying for lunch. When the bill came, she quickly grabbed it and when I asked how much, she said it was on her. That surprised me since I invited her and she’s no longer employed. I graciously accepted the lunch and thought, whoever pays, it all evens out at the end.

1 thought on “Who Picks Up the Tab?

  1. Hi Hillary, I like your rule of thumb.

    In the first instance, I would not have paid for his omelet nor my egg. He invited me and was trying to sell me something. He took the check and I would have not said one word.

    In the second instance, if your previous client had been laid off as opposed to retired, I would insist on paying. Fortunately, retired doesn’t mean “broke” for some people.

    Great post.

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