Beyond Bravo

My Coworkers Stuck Me With the Bill At a Work Dinner, What Can I Do?

You know the drill. Everyone left early and you had to pay their share.

One woman who got stuck with the bill at a work dinner wonders what she could have done differently. In a situation where you are stuck paying more than everyone else—but didn’t order anything extra, what can you do? 

The woman explains that it was a celebratory dinner for a coworker, so a group of seven employees decided to hit a karaoke bar for happy hour and dinner. The group included two managers, three other senior employees, and one lower level employee, and her girlfriend. 

She explains what happened when it came time to pay the bill.

“Four people left the dinner early and left money for the bill. When the bill came, it was a bit higher than anticipated and those who left the dinner earlier hadn’t left enough money. I hate when things get messy when the bill comes,” she says. “It was obvious that no one was going to pony up the money needed to cover the remainder of the bill, and so I did it, just to get the thing settled so we could go. I ended up paying more than double what I should have paid. During the bill settling, the lower level employee was texting one of the senior employees who had left early to inform her about the bill issues.”

She adds that if it was “a $20 situation,” she wouldn’t mind ponying up the extra cash, but she paid over $80 more than she should have. 

“I fretted all night and during my commute in on how to address this,” she says. 

 Workplace expert Alison Green weighed in on the matter, saying that approaching the problem so gingerly is almost kind of insulting to the other employees, because it implies that you think they wouldn’t just immediately pay up once they hear what happened.

“The way to go in situations like this is to just be totally matter-of-fact,” Alison advises. “Work from the assumption that of course as soon as they have all the info about the situation, they’ll want to pay the remaining amount they owe, because that’s generally going to be true. That means that you can just say it this way: ‘Hey, wanted to let you know that the bill last night came to $X and we didn’t have enough from the money y’all left behind to cover your shares. I ended up putting in $160 to cover it — can you settle up with me in the next few days? Thanks!’"

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