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4 Ways to Sneakily Pay the Restaurant Bill

Alright, let’s have a raise of hands! Who here has ever watched their family fight for the bill?

Better yet, who here has actually fought for the bill?

Growing up, I’ve witnessed a couple of occasions where my parents would call over the waiter to pay for a seemingly random table on another side of the restaurant, only to find out that they were family — some relatives, maybe, or my cousins hanging out with a bunch of friends. Sometimes, the same thing would also happen to us. We’d casually ask a server for the bill after a great meal, only to discover that it had already been paid for! Then we’d turn our heads around like chickens and look around for who could have possibly done it. 

What most of you probably already know is that Chinese people, especially those of the older generation, make it a general habit to reach for the bill. And if you’re like me, who’s been occasionally passed down this duty to save face or for the sake of friendship and propriety — though not necessarily in that order — then you might understand the difficulties of actually succeeding in getting that bill. 

In light of this, we’re here to help you maintain this important cultural tradition. Based on experience and observations, here are four ways to sneakily pay that bill: 

(Disclaimer: This is all for fun and games, so remember to take this all with just a grain of salt!)


1. Did we say sneaky? Forget that — assert your dominance!

Oftentimes, simplicity is truly the best method. 

Once you’re done with your meal, raise your hand and confidently ask for the bill. Don’t be hesitant! You need to show the server that you’re definitely the bill-paying authority in this party. If the other person you’re treating objects, test out the waters, and make sure to express that you wholeheartedly wish to cover the bill at least three times. Flash a joke if you have to. When worse comes to worst, just insist that the other person can have the bill next time.

Finally, quickly hand over that credit card to the waiter, but don’t shove it in their face either! You’re paying this bill out of kindness, not out of arrogance. (Or so we hope.) Play it cool.

WHEN TO USE: This method best works if you are either a) the older person in the group or b) the host of the group. After all, the one who is most “suited” to pay the bill is the one who has the most responsibility. The other members of your group are more likely to concede if their obligation to pay is lesser than yours. 

The more socially daring may also use this approach with people they are already really familiar with. Those you’re close to will probably not be too offended by a person they already know. What’s good is that if they’re close to you, they can also always pay you back with some other meal or favor, should they truly wish to. 


2. Go to the bathroom. 

Yup, you read that right! The most common way to sneak off to pay that bill is to pretend you’re going to the bathroom near the end of the meal. 

Our advice here is to do things naturally. Don’t loudly announce that you’re heading to the toilet. Just make sure to have your (hidden) wallet on you and discreetly tell the person beside you that you need a short bathroom break, then make your move. 

Whether you pay the bill before or after you actually go to the bathroom — it would be suspicious if you didn’t — make sure to keep your eyes open for the other members of your group and keep track of the layout of the restaurant. (Is the bathroom near the counter? Is there even a bathroom present? Be sure to be sharp!) Those experienced in the game will absolutely know to watch out for this trick, so it’s best to be alert of any countermoves that may come to play.



WHEN TO USE: Have you ever attended a business-related meal with other Chinoys? Because this is often how it goes. If done right, then this method is certainly the best way to avoid a bill wrestling match. But be sure to always be on guard — the battle is not the war. Maybe you’ve succeeded in paying for the meal, but for drinks, dessert, or even a taxi? Who knows?


3. Play mind games. (We’re joking, kind of.)

We don’t mean this in a mean way, but if you have a friend or relative who doesn’t quite remember who paid last time, then is this not the perfect opportunity to gently coax them into submission? 

For this scenario, there are a lot of excuses that one can come up with depending on the situation one is in. In fact, maybe it’s not even the matter of who last paid the bill. Be innovative! For example, what if your guest did you some favor in the past, and you want to pay them back? What if you “forgot” your friend’s birthday and want to make it up to them?

The possibilities are endless!

WHEN TO USE: This is definitely one to use only with another person you’re close to — someone who you think would look at the situation light-heartedly. Since the goal of this method is to find a somewhat believable excuse that would pass the bill-paying responsibility to you, then the other person needs to be one you can comfortably mess around with. 


4. Ask for some water.

This one’s risky because you’re trying to deliberately be sneaky in plain sight. In this case, the best chance would be to wait for when everyone else at the table is completely immersed in conversation. Be sure to observe the situation, then carefully determine the best time to flag the server over for some tissue, water, or even some extra bread, depending on your creativity. 

At this moment, hand off your credit card discreetly, and make sure that the server knows your intent to pay at the end of the meal. Use eye contact to communicate your purpose. If you can sneak in a couple of whispered words, even better!

WHEN TO USE: Use this method when you’re sitting with a large group of people, and when you’re feeling particularly daring. The probability of being caught with this one might be pretty high, but confidence is the key to success — when there is a will, there will surely be a way! Anyway, if all else fails, then an old-fashioned tug-of-war works, too. Right?


We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips on how to sneakily grab the bill! That said, let it also be known that you don’t have to pay that bill if you really don’t have to; and that, in lots of situations, it might even be better not to. 

Read the social context of the situation well. At the end of the day paying the bill is all about generosity: You either give the other person some face or a lot of free food. 


Could you relate to sneakily paying the restaurant bill? Here are more things Chinoys can definitely relate to.

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