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October 28, 2008

Don't you see we've been robbed?

October 27. Day 119.

I was robbed tonight.

I went out to dinner with a group of people La Sorella is getting to know in Seattle -- friends of a friend -- and when the bill came, I wondered if I should suggest we each pay our share (mine was $18 or so) or take one for the team and split it evenly.

Of course, as always happens when some people get trashed and others hold back, the vocal minority voted to split it, and we all put our cards down. That came to $26 a head. An $8 pseudo friendship fee? Fine.

Only, when the card came back, I saw the waiter had charged $31. I glanced at some other receipts, and they had the same amount. Apparently, someone hadn't paid.

I didnt know anyone in the group. I'm the tourist from San Diego, after all. And La Sorella was trying not to rock the boat, since some of the girls in the group are actually nice. But I couldn't say nothing.

"Was there a miscalculation? I was charged $31. Did anyone else get that?"

"Really?" They were all surprised. "It must be that they added the tip to the $26."

"No, the tip was already included. Maybe someone forgot to pay."

"I don't understand," said another girl, a pretty thing with long loose curls. By then, I had counted the receipts and saw she hadn't paid.

"It's ok," I replied. "I do."

Later, I heard that her boyfriend said he'd pay for both of them and only covered one meal. And then they both played dumb.

Lost: $13.

Gained: I didn't have the courage to explicitly say, "You didn't pay. You are robbing me. You're cheaters." Once I opened my mouth and pointed out the injustice, if everyone else at the table deemed it fair, I went along with it. The charge on my card had been made, and I decided the social cost (appearing cheap and unpleasant) would have affected my sister's chances of befriending the two nice women at the table.

But I am leaning more and more toward paying my own way at group affairs, unless they're all friends I trust. Too many brazen theives out there.

Or maybe next time that happens, I'll flat out refuse to play along.
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