Wednesday 25 January 2012

My fair lady ( Oh wouldn't it be luvverly ?)

In the last two days I've been following two news stories that show how important we feel it is to be fair. In the case of an LA fitness gym insisting on a couple paying their 2 year membership despite them being close to destitute there was outrage on Twitter. In the end for fear of further opprobrium the gym chain climbed down and waived the contractual arrangement. Cue hand wringing and wailing and gnashing of teeth over how hideous the contracts are when we all know that it's people paying up front and not using the gym that renders profit and enables people like me to have so many free trial sessions.

The other story being played out today on local news radio is that babies will need paid for tickets to attend Olympic events. The last I heard they were reconsidering this as various Mummy websites and even the (mostly useless) equality and human rights commission suggested there might be a case for claiming sex discrimination if a mother taking a child to the games was required to pay for that child. I bought tickets to some events and at the time had no idea I was also expected to buy tickets for my son. There is no question of him not coming with us. How can I not take him to a once in a lifetime event taking place in his own home town ?  Mumsnet and Netmums - for all the pointless meandering tub thumping about mini dramas that affect their precious little Avi-Mays and Ocean-Blues - do stand up for the things that they believe to be fair.

My own issue with fairness is one that causes people to look away muttering in almost complete disgust. I am the person who does the unthinkable. I check the bill at the end of the meal and work out what everyone owes in order to be fair to all - it's not popular and it's completely unEnglish. I have a strong opinion about why it is important to do this and there are two meals in particular that have caused me to become the human calculator and social pariah.

Firstly when I was a student I didn't have a lot of money, but I did work during holidays and even during term time to finance my way through my degree studies. I still met up with friends who I had worked with in my Saturday job at a library and at one particular Christmas meal I ordered one course - the cheapest dish - and one soft drink as I knew I didn't have the means to splash out. The senior librarians ordered massive sharing starters, expensive main courses and puddings, wine and coffees. When the bill came they split it 5 ways and I didn't want to make a fuss so I ended up subsidising their meals by paying well over the £10 that my meal had actually cost.

The second time was when a friend chose a reasonably priced venue for his 30th birthday which was offering a three course menu for £16. Me and hubbie went along and the other diners had already been drinking before we arrived. They had ordered champagne for the birthday boy (very generous we thought) and they also thought it would be a wheeze to order him some shots - after all you only turn 30 once don't you ? When the bill came it was carved up and we were told we owed £45. I questioned how this was so when I hadn't had any alcohol and hubbie had one beer and our food was only £16. A recalculation was done and we were still ordered to part with £30 each. That means my cup of tea and hubbie's beer cost £14 each.

I vowed from then on to not be taken advantage of again when other 'friends' decide to be generous with my money.

This was tested when I was on a skiing holiday with some friends in Whistler and we went out for dinner with a couple we didn't know very well, but who seemed nice enough. He wanted to order a particular bottle of red wine and we said that was fine, but we didn't want any. When the bottle came he insisted we try it which we politely did. So when he divided the bill up for us all to pay I said that wasn't fair as one of us had only eaten soup and the others hadn't ordered the wine. We paid for what we had eaten and included a tip. The correct money in the dish we all got ready to leave and he again asked us for money for a tip which we explained to him we'd already included. He had expected us to subsidise his choice of wine and we were pretty clear that wasn't going to happen.

I don't think twice about challenging bill payments now as I think I'm old enough not to care if someone is offended by me saying I'll only pay what I owe. We're all on a budget these days so if you want to splash out pay for yourself - it's only fair.

Fairness is a simple concept and one that in principle we all agree with. It's just that some people think it's only fair to take advantage of others. It's a small stand to say no I won't pay for your dinner, or your extravagance in wine or cocktails, but it's a start.

Oh and I'm taking my son to the Olympic games whatever Seb Coe says - and so there !


  1. I always work out exactly what I owe at the end of a meal out, although to be fair, most of my friends do this too. Often we all end up rounding up by a little bit just to be sure, and then that leaves an enormous tip!

    I'm not sure about the Olympic games though. I wouldn't think to take a baby if they didn't have a ticket, but that would be more because I would want to enjoy the event myself and not have to worry about a baby needing attention. We do have tickets, but we knew when we booked them that our youngest would be old enough to leave with the Grandparents for a day. I think that if I had still been breastfeeding then I would have reconsidered my decision to go. But then if it wasn't for my husband I would not be going, as he is the more interested one, and I can understand why people are angry about having to pay for a baby that doesn't have its own seat.

    Just found your blog, and looking forward to reading!

  2. Welcome welcome welcome Jennifer, lovely to have you on board.

    Yes I agree that if everyone pays for what they ate it makes for a generous tip, but there are people who underestimate their own expenditure every time. Thankfully not my good friends - they are lovely, lovely people and if anything always overestimate.

    I don't enjoy watching sports at all so I'm only going because of Hubbie, but not taking my son is unthinkable. How do I explain years later that it happened when he was a child and I didn't take him ? Nah, I can't do it.