WWYD: Cheap Friends

In this installment of “What Would You Do,” discovering that your friends are cheap. Here’s K.

I’m 23, and have a lot of really cheap friends. Not necessarily poor friends, but cheap friends. We live in New York City and all have jobs, but because this is an expensive home (and said friends don’t budget/save), a lot of the people I hang out with are living paycheck to paycheck. This is fine! I don’t judge: we’re young, this is the time if any to be fiscally irresponsible. Here’s the thing though, whenever we go out for dinner or drinks a lot of my friends only leave a 5 or 10 percent tip. No reflection of the service, they just think that amount is sufficient given the balance of their personal bank accounts. You would think that if my friends couldn’t afford the full service of a sit down meal they would suggest other plans, but I feel like the worst offenders are the ones always wanting to go out for these types of meals. As someone who has worked in the service industry I feel terrible about this behavior/habit, so have been compensating by tipping 30 percent or more. Is this unnecessary on my part? I don’t feel like this is a serious enough offense to necessitate an intervention on the cheap friends (though I have sarcastically admonished them before). But maybe I should say something? — K.

Yes, please say something. I’d give these friends the benefit of the doubt that they don’t understand how the U.S. service industry works and why tips are so important. As someone who has worked in the service industry, you’re in a prime position to explain it to them. It’s literally your money you’re putting on the line here by overcompensating for them.

It doesn’t need to be an “intervention” — which sounds super serious — just another typical discussion friends have over dinner. In grad school, I went to dinner with a bunch of fellow broke colleagues, and at the end of dinner one of them grabbed the bill and collected money from us. When he discovered that the tip would amount to something around 17 percent, he said, “everyone should put in another dollar, and we should be good,” and then told a lot of amazing/horrifying stories about being stiffed as a waiter, and that at his restaurant, tips were everything because his wages were less than $3 an hour. No one complained, and we were all entertained.

If I were in your situation, I would try to do the same thing my friend did. It doesn’t have to be a big speech, or a big, scary bully pulpit. But do say something.

Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.