The other day, I was browsing Reddit and came across stories about cheap people. (If you have time and want a good gasp, I recommend you take a look.) Reading all those horror stories reminded me of an incident during my first year of medical school, where I found out that many of my classmates were massive cheapskates!
It was still the beginning of the school year, and so I’m still getting to know a lot of my classmates. One of my friend invited a whole bunch of people (about 20 or so) to The Cheesecake Factory to celebrate her birthday.
So when I got there, I sat down on one end of the table, with the birthday girl and a few people that I knew. The people I didn’t know sat on the other end of the table. We all placed our orders and had a pleasant time. There were lots of talking, laughs, and getting-to-know-you’s. Everyone was in good spirits until …the check came.
3 Strikes and You’re Out!
The waiter presented one bill for the whole table. I then suggested to the group:
“Since it is Vanessa’s* birthday, we should all chip in and pay for her. It wouldn’t be more than a dollar or two more for each of us.”
My small group of friends were ok with that. But everyone on the other side of the table proceeded to stare at me as if I had two heads. No one vocally disagreed But they just remained silent about that. I guess an extra two dollars is just too much for them. Strike #1.
It was getting awkward. So Vanessa then told me that it’s ok and she would pay her own way. And I thought to myself … What kind of friends are these anyway? It was only a few dollars more. I felt terrible for her.
People passed the receipt and supposedly paid their share. Since the receipt came to me last, I had the “pleasure” of tallying up the total to make sure there was enough money to cover the whole tab.
What was supposed to take 5 – 10 minutes took 30 – 40 minutes.
After putting in more than enough for my own meal, tip, and tax … I added up everything we had. We were short by quite a bit! We were short by $15 or $20! I don’t remember the exact number since it was a while ago. (Since there were a whole bunch of us, tax and tip were already included. So I knew exactly how much money I should have at the end. Thank goodness, because I’m sure some people would have tried to weasel out of paying tax and tip if they could.)
I was shocked. I then told the group, “Guys, we’re short by about $20. Who didn’t pay?” So not only are these people not willing to pay for the birthday girl, they didn’t want to pay for themselves! Strike #2.
Of course, no one would admit to being a cheapskate. No one would say, “Yeah, it was me. Here is my money.” No, that would have been too ideal.
Again, the table remained silent. I then told the group, “I’m passing out the check and money to each one of you. Next to the receipt, initial what you have ordered. Then pay the appropriate amount if you haven’t done so.” (I was giving the moocher a dignified way to pay his or her part.) Then I passed the bill and money around.
Every item on the bill was claimed, except a beverage. Maybe the restaurant made an error. Or maybe someone decided to get out of paying for an item. Whatever. Someone called over the waiter and had the item removed. We received a new bill.
Once again, the bill and cash came to me. I added up the bills and found that we were still missing a few dollars. Of course we were missing money. Why couldn’t people overpay for once? Strike #3.
By this time, paying for the stupid meals have taken way, way, waaaaaay too long. I can’t afford to waste time on this nonsense. Time is money. So I reached into my own wallet and paid the difference.
Smart ≠ Classy
I have nothing against poor or frugal people. Money could be tight or maybe you’re just tight-fisted with the money you have. It’s cool. But if you’re too poor or too frugal to pay, don’t go out and expect others to pay your way. That’s just not cool.
I’m sure there were good and honest people within that group. But I have no way of knowing who is honest and who isn’t. Therefore, aside from one girl (who is dating one of my friends), I have never hung out or eaten with the people on the other side ever again. In addition, I have never went out of my way to talk to them.
To this day, the birthday girl still remembers the painful experience.
I still tease her and ask, “Where do you find ‘friends’ like these?”
She looks at me, smiles, and shakes her head.
Being smart does not mean you’re classy.
(This was not the only time my peers tried to leech off of others. Oh my goodness, the stories I could tell you about cheap-ass medical students. I’ll save those stories for another day. But this experience had to be one of the worst in my life.)
* Name has been changed to protect the innocent.
For more medical school stories, visit the About Alex section and look for “Blast from the Past (Stories of My Medical School Days).”