Here’s what happened to me last night.
We met some friends for dinner, before going out to the town’s holiday festival. Let’s call them Tim and Jill. We enjoyed our dinner together (I don’t often get to hang out with this couple, and they have a daughter L’s age, as well as a baby, whom L adores). We went to the register to pay, and Tim’s card was denied. (It was probably because he had been issued a new one and hadn’t activated the new one.) He didn’t have another card on him, and he asked Jill if she had hers. She opened up her wallet, then said, “Oh, wait – remember it fell down between the seats in the car?” And Tim said, “Watch the kids, I’ll run out and get it.”
Meanwhile, there were two other couples behind me. I said to Jill, “Should I just go ahead and pay for this? We can settle it up later.” She juggled around the baby in her arms and says with a sigh, “Yeah, please, go ahead… it’ll save time. Thanks!”
I was happy to do it – I figured, “Hey, I’m making this more convenient for my friends, for me, for the people behind me waiting in line, and for the staff – plus, I’ll get a few extra points on my credit card.”
Their meal was $44 before tax and tip (I didn’t memorize our cost, because I was memorizing theirs so we could settle it up later), and by the time I added tip, it was up to $67. Tim came back in with the card, but we were already going out the door. So – note: if I had waited a little longer, they would have been fine and could have paid for themselves.
We sailed out, ready to see the beautiful lights of the town. We had a good time: Tim bought the girls ice cream (it isn’t very cold right now where we live), which was really nice of him, because he was grateful that I covered for them, I think. We enjoyed free hot cider, painted a free ornament (awesome!), and went into a few stores.*
When we finally were ready to go home, we went back to the cars.
That’s when Tim said, “Well, we’ll have to take you guys out to dinner sometime!”
Where was my promise of a check the next time we meet? We have NEVER met them for dinner before – we don’t GO out to dinner (our eating-out budget is generally filled by the times my husband forgets to take his lunch to work, or we eat out at Moe’s after L’s dance lessons an hour away from home). They’re in a tight money situation (which, by the way, did not stop Jill from ordering a fancy dinner special for over $13), and maybe they think we aren’t in as bad a situation as they are, but… really?
And honestly, I don’t care what they order for dinner when they’re paying for it – if they wanted to splurge, then why not? But I ended up paying for it. I am not honestly upset with them – I made a mistake by assuming that they would pay me back in cash / check at some point. I didn’t make my intentions known at the very beginning, which I could have, before I swiped the card. So, my bad.
I am of two minds.
One is that I’m very upset about this.
Our eating-out budget is $100 for December. At $67, we’re way too close. We are going to be driving to PA in December, and we generally get our food on the way. That $67 represents more than 50% of that part of our budget. I don’t WANT to go out to dinner with them again – I want that money back in my bank account so we can use it later in the month for our normal expenditures. We didn’t even get to enjoy $44 worth of that food. I tried to do a nice thing, but I will never do it again unless it looks like I absolutely have to. I am angry with myself that I did it, because if I had waited just another couple of minutes, there would have been no situation at all. I wanted to do the right thing, be seen doing the right thing, and get credit card points. I certainly know I didn’t do it all out of the goodness of my heart – my motives were not entirely pure. So maybe I got my just desserts.
The other (mind, that is), is that it’s just $44.
They’re my friends. If they never pay me back, whatever, right? This is the couple that watched L for a day when we needed childcare when my job had started but school hadn’t…. I have been trying to give her a bottle of wine for her trouble, but never could seem to connect with her when I had the bottle of wine. So, technically, I still owe her anyway. Because of that, I’m trying to consider this a debt repaid, and that does make me feel better. They are friends that – while perhaps not kindred spirits – are kind, supportive, and generous. So I’m trying to let the resentment go (again, I’m not really upset with them – I’m frustrated with myself). Besides, if they do turn around and invite us out to dinner (which maybe might happen?), wouldn’t it be nice to spend time with them again (and on their dime)?
Am I really an awful person? Have you paid for someone’s meal with the mis-placed expectation that you would be repaid? Any advice from someone who’s been there?
*That experience alone made it clear to me that I am never meant to have more than one child. Whenever L’s friend was close by us, I had to be sure that neither girl was about to break something. 5-year-olds don’t always follow directions, and it’s frustrating to spend the whole time in a store wrangling children instead of enjoying the store. (To be clear, if L was next to my friend, I would hope that my friend would be looking out for her, too – so I don’t resent watching her daughter. It’s just that going into stores with 5 year olds was no fun to me.)