The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32


Over at, I’m ranting about how the practice of settling the tab at restaurants is woefully broken. It’s launched me on a campaign to demand separate checks whenever dining with a group. Thought this was worthy of the Snarkmarket hive mind. Do you have any foolproof systems for handling checks that must be split? Are there any establishments you’ve been to that deal with this ingeniously?

May 21, 2008 / Uncategorized


I always just go to the bathroom when the check arrives.

I owe a lot of people $20.

I’m a big fan of the even X-way split, even if people got wildly different things, on the theory that, via the Law of Large Numbers, it evens out in the end.

Since alcohol is usually the thing that ruins this — e.g. I got a $12 mojito and you got a Diet Coke — I suppose the next best thing would be to have all alcohol-drinkers pony up $20, then split the remaining tab evenly X ways.

I think Alexis over on strikes most of the right notes. I also am perversely fond of doing tedious arithmetic in my head, and most of the time the people I’m eating with will either defer to what I say or are as mathematically nerdy as I am (or nerdier still).

As for alcohol, I have a good friend who refuses to eat dinner and drink simultaneously, on the theory that these are two tasks best enjoyed separately; i.e., you eat at a restaurant, then resite yourself at a bar to get your drink on. The additional advantage is that it makes calculating the split for dinner (or splitting it evenly) a lot easier. At the bar, everybody pays for their drinks a la carte.

Separate checks solves the problem, but the next best solution involves one diner taking the responsibility to ensure justice to all involved. That might mean simply demanding a x-way split, perhaps modified by making adjustments for those friends whose light wallets forced cheap entrees and no drinks. Or it could involve individual accounting. It helps if history intrudes and the consistent over-payer gets a pass every once in a while. This only works, though, if everyone trusts the diner-in-charge.

I propose that Dan’s theory be called “the benevolent fascist strongman approach.” Robin’s, on the other hand, would have to be called “Seinfeldian socialism.”

I believe that the best way to handle this situation is for everyone to chip in whatever it is they “believe” they owe, then if more is needed, divide the additional amount evenly, all the while keeping in mind: “we’re all friends here.” As Robin said, it will all even out in the end; either you’ll get whatever you over paid back, or the deadbeat will be hastily dropped from the pack.

It’s only money. If you were that worried about it: eat at home – alone.

I like the way Tim thinks.

Some day, somehow, Alexis and Tim are going to meet, and then the strange friends-of-friends(-of-friends-we’ve-never-met) loop of Snarkmarket will be complete.

And the universe will implode.

Tim’s characterization suggests a new solution to this problem. I’ll accept that my post fits under the label of “the benevolent fascist strongman” generally. But that highlights an important flaw in my approach: its so hard to find a good benevolent fascist strongman these days.

Or is it?

Imagine a scenario where the whole world wins. By now its safe to say that Pervez Musharraf has outstayed his welcome as benevolent fascist strongman in Pakistan. He’s doing more harm than good where he is.

Let’s give him a way out. Let’s make Musharraf the official “Supreme Ruler of Restaurant Bills” (Meister der Rechnungen, auf Deutsch). Of course, he’d have to be everywhere at once, but that shouldn’t stop a committed benevolent fascist strongman. And wouldn’t it be an efficient way to end table-wide arguments: “Hey, you in the baseball cap, pony up 5 more bucks or Pervez imposes economic sanctions, breaks off diplomatic relations, or maybe just breaks your legs.”

Oh, you can’t stop a committed benevolent fascist strongman. You can’t stop him one bit.

The universe has been on the verge of imploding since I met Matt, who still gets this momentary look of bewilderment every time he starts a story with “my co-blogger Robin” and I interject “yeah, I’ve met Robin, before I knew you.”

I think we should cut to the chase and have a big Snarkfestival reunion. I think Lawrence, KS might be reasonably halfway for most of the principals, although I hear there are a lot of fun things to do in Minneapolis. Snark Trek ’09!

Totes Minneapolis. This summer? I want to have a picnic next to a lake (you have those, right?) on some SUPER hot day.

That settles it, Snark Trek in Mpls. The weekend of July 11. Done.

Okay, here’s an example of deliberative check-splitting in action: I propose that if the coasters pay to travel to the Twin Cities, the hosters need to bring the barbecue.

Also, I would listen only to The Replacements, Prince, Husker Du, and The Hold Steady while I was there.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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