Do you have a friend who goes to the loo just when it’s time to pay the bill? Bas, enough is enough. I’m sick and tired of paying for everything, every time. My ‘best’ friend conveniently forgets his wallet each time we eat out. And then, of course, equally conveniently forgets to pay me back even later. I feel like such a damn fool,’ cried out Akshay, in a recent, and excruciatingly long, mail to me.
Oho Akshay, idhar aao. Lemme give you an understanding hug from someone who went through similar helplessness during the growing-up phases. A lot of us have. In every group of friends, there are moochers. People who will either — dodge paying their share of the meal by saying they are not carrying enough cash, or — will try and make an issue out of how they only ate only one piece of the Paneer tikka while someone else ordered a fresh lime too, or — if nothing else, won’t calculate the tax or the waiter’s tip in the amount to be divided among everyone so that this falls as a burden on someone else who’ll either be nice enough to stay quiet or would have failed in math in school.
So how many times have you lent money to a friend, either at the movies or in a group outing, never to see it again? If you are one of those genuinely generous people who loves treating others, it’s a great thing and I would like you to mail me your mobile number for my secure future.
But if you’re being nice and would silently stress later when you’ll notice the same friend splurge on something personal, you gotta a problem.
Let’s try and resolve that, because you see, tumhaari lottery toh nikli nahi hai that you’ll happily assume the burden of paying at group outings all your life.
When a group of friends decides to eat out, one of the two things must happen. Either each person should contribute a fair and equal share of the bill. But hang on, if you are going to make a comedy scene by collecting Rs. 57.675 from nine friends and giving all that chillar to the amused waiter, please avoid, for the sake of sanity and manners.
The other way is for each friend to pick the tab every time, on rotation. Vaise usmey bhi panga hai. Because some outings may happen at Mc Donalds while some at Gurpreet Singh Wang ka roadside chowmein stall.
So what the hell do you do? Here’s what…
1. Set the rules, beforehand: Trust me, nothing cements a friendship more than setting some straight rules of behaviour upfront. Especially when it comes to money. Because money also has the potential to kill a friendship almost as quickly as the class hottie you and your friend may have a collective crush on. Decide, to mutual consent, a pattern of payment before you start going out. If there is a friend in the group who is a known moocher and will try and wriggle out of paying, it’s best to casually mention on your way out that you only brought enough money to pay for yourself. Or say when you’re planning the outing that everyone will be paying for themselves. Make sure you stick to this when the bill comes! May sound blunt but better than cribbing and fretting about it later.
2. Make the moocher responsible: You know in colleges or offices when collective treats are planned, the person who deserves the most sympathy is the one who has the task to do the ‘collection’. It’s anyway not a very pleasant task to go upto everyone and ask to pay up for something that they did, or will enjoy. And then this person faces the additional trauma of listening to cribs who’ll question how their share came upto what it did. And more often than not, this poor soul also ends up paying for many others who say they’ll pay later, knowing that ‘later’ never comes. A suggestion, make such a person the collection in-charge. Pay your fair share, turn around and get vigorously busy in a fake phone call. Let him or her also get a taste of ‘I’ll pay later’ looks.
3. Technology to the rescue: In earlier days, everyone would carry cash and it was difficult to wriggle out of a payment situation when it was time to pay the bill. But now with credit cards replacing cash in our wallets, the easiest victim becomes the one whose credit card gets swapped, as he has to depend on the hope that others will pay him later. Tension not. There are mobile apps now which help you solve this problem. I’m yet to try them out here but saw some friends in the US use these extensively.
One such app is Venmo, which not only allows your friends to e-pay you back there and then, but also sends them polite reminders of payment later if they haven’t. Another called Square turns your phone into a mini credit card machine and you can accept debit or credit card payments from your friends for free. Bahana hi nahi bacha ji ab toh. Try them.
Ancient wisdom says that lend only that much money to a friend which you can afford to lose. But I would say that if spending on friends stresses you out like it does to Akshay, then losing the friend is a bigger potential problem than losing the money. Either change your mindset, or change your friends. And a piece of advice to habitual moochers. Dekho yaar, you may be genuinely short of money and not doing this out of fun, in which case it’s way better to honestly decline a treat saying ‘I can’t afford it right now’, than suffer the tension of making excuses.
If, after knowing that, a friend decides to happily pay for you, at least you would know that your company is valued. Achha lagega. Don’t forget to do the same for someone else, someday.
Sonal Kalra only preaches, but is an expert in timing her loo visit perfectly with the arrival of the bill. It’s a fine art she can teach you at a restaurant, if you’ll agree to foot the bill..