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    Default paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    I have seen this for decades on the screen, but never in real life, so I thought I'd check if this is a thing in the USA or just done for cinematic expediency.
    It's the classic scene of a guy drinking at the bar, or ordering food.. then someone else comes in, they start talking and some emergency comes up... or he gets a phonecall that cuts his drinking/dinner short. Either way, the guy/s in the scene leave the bar, pub, restaurant and throw/s some money on the counter or table, to pay the bill, whether he's consumed his order or not.

    I've been to the US a few times and never tried doing this. In fact, I always either pay my tab or ask for the bill.
    I've also never seen this done, but I haven't really looked out for it.

    Is this done purely to cut the scene short or do people actually IRL exit a restaurant or pub leaving money on the table to cover the meal/drinks without bothering to ask for a check or the waiters tackling them on the way out to verify that they left enough money?
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Depends. If this is a place you go regularly, they may have a running tab that gets closed out at the end of the month. And if the staff is slow or sloppy enough, people will just leave cash to pay the check instead of waiting (lunchtime rush and needing to get back to work is a big one here).

    But generally, yeah, it's a crime to not formally pay the bill. Not that Hollywood cares. Heck, how often do you see them pay for gas, groceries, coffee, etc? They just get what they want and leave.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    I have seen this for decades on the screen, but never in real life, so I thought I'd check if this is a thing in the USA or just done for cinematic expediency.
    It's the classic scene of a guy drinking at the bar, or ordering food.. then someone else comes in, they start talking and some emergency comes up... or he gets a phonecall that cuts his drinking/dinner short. Either way, the guy/s in the scene leave the bar, pub, restaurant and throw/s some money on the counter or table, to pay the bill, whether he's consumed his order or not.

    I've been to the US a few times and never tried doing this. In fact, I always either pay my tab or ask for the bill.
    I've also never seen this done, but I haven't really looked out for it.

    Is this done purely to cut the scene short or do people actually IRL exit a restaurant or pub leaving money on the table to cover the meal/drinks without bothering to ask for a check or the waiters tackling them on the way out to verify that they left enough money?
    Let's be honest, there's almost no life or death emergencies that occur in every day life that can't wait the 2-3 minutes to get a check. My wife was in labor and we left the restaurant early and we still had time to get the check. (Note: labor for a first child is almost always 8-10 hours of boredom and contractions before the baby even thinks about getting into position. Second child is faster).

    I have paid in cash if I didn't have the patience to wait for the charge card to go through

    During parties, I have thrown money at someone if I had to go, but never when dining alone.

    Also, I think for most restaurants, you can easily walk out the door without paying (which is very illegal, but the security tends to be pretty lax).
    Last edited by Joran; 2017-12-18 at 05:05 PM.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    At bars I leave money on it and they just take out of the pile as I go. Now I don't do that if I'm not sitting at the bar.

    Restaurants are different, but you could do it, as you probably have an idea what the price is. You'll just be overpaying
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Very rarely. I think I've just left money on a table two or three times in my 62 years. The amount of the tip is up to you, which gives you some leeway. It requires either not caring about the exact amount, or knowing the exact cost of an order you've ordered before (or close enough to estimate what cost plus tip would be).

    [Or be willing to stiff the restaurant, of course.]

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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    ...do people actually IRL exit a restaurant or pub leaving money on the table to cover the meal/drinks without bothering to ask for a check or the waiters tackling them on the way out to verify that they left enough money?
    .
    Yes, I have done that, but it's rare, you need to be confident that you're overpaying (leaving a tip), the wind won't blow the money off the table when you open the door to go out, etc.

    But yes, it's something that really happens.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    This is mostly a fictional thing. But not always.

    In real life you ask for the check and pay the exact amount.

    It is possible that if you go to a place as a regular, you can just leave the money on the table. Though this is more for a small family run place where you know the owner and other workers.

    Also some places, notably cafes, roadside dinners and truck stops, that see a very, very high volume of people do the toss the money on the table. Even more so for breakfast and lunch times. A lot of people only get half an hour for lunch, and that works out to 10 minutes to get there, 10 minutes to eat, 10 minutes to get back to work...or so. You can't afford to wait even 2 or 3 minutes for a check...or you will be late getting back to work. So you all most have to do the toss the money on the table.

    It's a bit more common a sleepy all night truck stops too....where there will only be one waitress for the whole building. And much worse if is the only cook/cashier/does everything thing else too. As she is not around anyway, you don't get much of a choice other then to wait a long time for her to show up...or drop some money and leave.

    It is also slightly more common in bars, more so on weekend when people ''bar hop'' a lot. Though this is mostly just for drinks and not food. And your average bartender/server is crazy good at keeping track of people coming and going and what they ordered and how much they owe....but then they have to be. And it is common to go to a bar, have everyone order a drink (and maybe some pumpkin spice chilly cheese fires), get ready to leave and just toss the server a $20 and ask if ''that covers it'' (and most likely it will..plus the tip, of course.)

    A lot of it is on the ''honor system'', but it works out just fine for most of the USA outside of the inner cities and/or away from the cold, emotionless corporate areas and the coasts.

    In most cases it is only for small amounts, like less then $10. And you will often take a loss as you won't get change. But, of course, here in the USA we also have a Crazy Insane Tip Culture, so if you order $7 in food you can just drop a $10 with a $3 tip.....

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    I have seen this for decades on the screen, but never in real life, so I thought I'd check if this is a thing in the USA or just done for cinematic expediency.
    It's the classic scene of a guy drinking at the bar, or ordering food.. then someone else comes in, they start talking and some emergency comes up... or he gets a phonecall that cuts his drinking/dinner short. Either way, the guy/s in the scene leave the bar, pub, restaurant and throw/s some money on the counter or table, to pay the bill, whether he's consumed his order or not.

    I've been to the US a few times and never tried doing this. In fact, I always either pay my tab or ask for the bill.
    I've also never seen this done, but I haven't really looked out for it.

    Is this done purely to cut the scene short or do people actually IRL exit a restaurant or pub leaving money on the table to cover the meal/drinks without bothering to ask for a check or the waiters tackling them on the way out to verify that they left enough money?
    It is kind of a fictional wish thing where people karmically wish this would happen in real life. Everybody is made whole. You can do this with the medium of tv and movies for it is an idealized form of living.

    This is similar to the Henry Ford tale of the grateful millionaire who had a Model T and it broke down and a good samaritan helped repair the car and thus the millionaire asked around and paid off the guy's mortage. These myths we tell modify with time and in the 1990s and 2000s it was Bill Gates and Donald Trump who were the grateful millionaires. And before the Henry Ford version Oscar Wilde in the 1890s told a similar tale.

    Well TV and Movies allow us to tell these "myths" and allow them to be true, even more so than stories we talk about that are not real but we tell them anyway at the water cooler.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Yeah, me and my friends do this all the time.

    Most times if you let the server know, by waiving at them or telling them on the way out a lot of places are cool with it. IN my experience though.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    It's a relatively rare thing, but it's doable, especially for smaller and cheaper places like the greasy Route 66 diners that inexplicably predominate Hollywood American eateries.

    It has to do with America's culture of mandatory tipping, I think. It's very common to tip simply by overpaying for a meal (saying, leaving a $10 bill down for a bill that's somewhere between 7 and 9 bucks) and that's what our movie heroes are doing. Just dropping it on the table and leaving is a scene-change shortcut as well as an indication that whatever they're leaving for is important. In real life this might be questioned, but if the server sees them leave cash or knows that their bill is small they'll likely just let it go, unless they're known for ripping that particular eatery off.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    This is mostly a fictional thing. But not always.

    *insert massive list of exceptions
    anyhoo, thanks for clearing this up for me. Quick tip for Americans traveling in Italy: don't do this.
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    Goblin

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Yeah I wouldn't do it in a foreign country between fear of cultural misunderstandings (do you tip in Italy?), currency misunderstandings, and language barrier.
    Last edited by Nerd-o-rama; 2017-12-19 at 09:21 AM.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Cavalier attitudes towards ordinary duties and material things isn’t an especially unusual theme in shows and movies in general. Characters tend to be louder, more given to breaking things, likely to run out of a place without even bothering to leave money, and more likely to get into verbal or physical fights, and when fights break out, they are more likely happen without regard to those around them. I believe this is why such behavior is called “being dramatic.”

    As far as legalities are concerned. My understanding is that it only because of a local statute that it might be illegal to walk out without settling a bill, and leaving enough money to cover leaves no complaints. However, the level of liberty that TV shows take with legalities is extreme. Cops grant binding deals, prosecutors tag along on police operations, and many other absurd breaches of protocol and separation of duties are common, even in things called “police procedurals.” Moreover, criminals often admit what they are doing to police, at least by implication, while the interrogators seem frustrated by their hostile attitude when they are getting basically everything they need out of them (a prosecutor recently thanked TV for this to me). Trial procedures are even more absurdly butchered, often skipping over the Discovery phase and having people ambushed with evidence at trial (modern procedure has evolved specifically to eliminate the ambush). Legalities of daily life get jumbled and mixed around in a similarly cavalier fashion.

    Don’t learn socially appropriate behavior from television and movies, and definitely do not learn from what’s described as a legal.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    I've never done this myself, but then again, I don't think I've paid for anything in cash in years now.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    anyhoo, thanks for clearing this up for me. Quick tip for Americans traveling in Italy: don't do this.
    What if the emergency that interrupts your meal is that the restaurant in which you are dining is on fire?

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    I think generally you have an idea of how much something is going to cost. If you order a meal you know will be like ten dollars when you order it, but an emergency happens and you need to run RIGHT NOW, you'll know to throw down a ten dollar bill and maybe a bit of change. If after taxes it's 11.72 or something odds are the restaurant isn't going to chase you over a buck fifty. If you come in later after the emergency and explain it and pay the buck fifty odds are they won't care to do much about it if they even remember. Or if you have a 20 odds are you'd just drop that and expect it to be a tip or something.

    I always ask for a bill, but I'm never in a crazy emergency where I haven't already paid for something. In that case I probably would just eat the hit and drop the 20, or however much it is.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Quote Originally Posted by dps View Post
    What if the emergency that interrupts your meal is that the restaurant in which you are dining is on fire?
    Then it's Italian policy that the restaurant comps the meal.

    I beleive it's called the "Mille Diavolo, the restauranto is ona fireo." clause.
    Last edited by snowblizz; 2017-12-22 at 04:00 AM.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    As has been said, this does get done. It only really works well in america where tipping is a thing because when the main characters are sitting down having coffee and pie, they know what it costs more or less, so they toss down a ten or twenty and leave, secure in knowing they paid the tab in full and left a tip. Ive done this before when service was either slow or the place was just slammed and I wanted to gtfo. A gesture at the server or hostess to let them know money is on the table and away I go.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    It's just an easy way to show that the character is in a real rush (therefore implying that the situation is now really serious!) but also moral enough to still pay for his food despite his emergencial haste...

    You know... Just like covering a sleeping person with a blanket is a quick and easy way to show that "they really do care!"...

    Generally speaking... You're probably better off not trying to emulate movie tropes IRL.
    Last edited by Lemmy; 2017-12-23 at 09:43 AM.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    I'm pretty sure I've done this, but can't specifically think of the last time I did so. (I keep a running total of what I've ordered in my head, so unless I'm ordering drinks with non-posted prices or something I'll always know what the bill will be - it helps that my state has no sales tax). It's certainly common when eating out in a group if someone needs to leave (since the rest of the group will end up covering any screwup anyway), but any place that I'm a regular I wouldn't worry about doing it if they were taking forever to get a bill to me and I was in a hurry. Of course, a lot of the places I eat are local places that recognize me when I come in, so I'm coming in with a long track record of "pays the bill and leaves a decent tip" on my side if I do need to do something like this.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    I do this all the time, but I live in Canada where the staff are inherently trusting. Nobody has ever expressed concern that I might be dine-and-dashing, even though I've noticed a few servers clearly notice me leaving and make no effort to check with me that I've paid. I simply find it expedites the paying and leaving process for both me and them, and I always carry enough loose change to make up my bill plus tip, so I'm never accidentally overpaying $8 or something.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    I mean, it very well could happen in the future due to the rise of contactless payments. Amazon is actually experimenting with stores even today that scan your phone when you walk in, watches you grab stuff off the shelves with a myriad of cameras & sensors, and then when you walk out, it charges you for whatever you took.

    But as of right now, it's a narrative device... similar to the reason that people in TV shows and movies will often cross town (or states), have a "meeting" with someone for all of 2 minutes, for information that would more realistically been done as a phone call.

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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    I've done it once. I was at a pizza place with a friend and the service was so ridiculously and inexplicably slow at bringing the food that after the thick end of an hour's worth of waiting and increasing difficulty of catching the waiters' eyes (and having asked where our food was once already, being told "it'll be right out" and then nothing for about another 15 minutes) we gave up and decided just to walk out. We left enough on the table to pay for the drinks we'd had and made for the door. A waiter intercepted us, but we briefly explained the situation, gestured to the money and left.

    Normally I would get the bill first, though.
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    Default Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    If you think that's weird, how do you explain how movie/TV characters never seem to need to use the restroom?
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    Lightbulb Re: paying the bills in US shows and movies...

    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    If you think that's weird, how do you explain how movie/TV characters never seem to need to use the restroom?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reddish Mage View Post
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