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The question

I went out with three co-workers recently for an after-work drink. It was a fairly fashionable place with the “in” crowd, I arrived a little late and they had already ordered two bottles of wine. They were half drunk (the bottles of wine, that is). Then they ordered another one. I had maybe two glasses of wine the whole time. I didn’t think much of it at the time but when the bill came these bottles of wine averaged out in price at about $90 each. And I was expected to pay my share (i.e. a quarter) of the bill, which I felt wasn’t fair, because I didn’t have as much wine as they did and I never would have ordered such expensive bottles! Dave, should I just let this go or say something or even look for some kind of restitution/payback?

The answer

Your question scratches me right where I itch – i.e. the wallet region of my anatomy. (Front left pocket.)

For this type of thing, and really for so many other reasons, I find it difficult – nay, painful – to go out to dine, ever, anywhere, for any reason.

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I make an exception for Chinese food: It’s cheap (ish), and outside my skill set to recreate.

But everything else? Hey, I can cook. Mostly, it’s easy: You put what you want to eat near something hot, then chow down. You can cook on a car engine, you can cook a delicious salmon in your dishwasher – though obviously, ideally, you use an oven and stove.

I always feel ripped off in restaurants. I recall once going out for an anniversary dinner with my wife. Me: “Ooh, I’ll have the veal piccata.”

Simple dish: flour, fry on one side, then the other, squeeze a little lemon on it: $38, plus tax and tip.

Kidding me? And it was kind of soggy! Not prepared with love, like I would’ve at home, and we could’ve eaten in front of the fireplace, without, in the words of one writer, being “cheeked and cheated” by the server.

And the markup on the wine? Don’t get me started! I’ve done my research and it can be as much as quadruple the get-it-at-the-store price.

Why? Sure, you avoid the eternal horror of dishes (people talk about the inevitability of death and taxes, but those phenomena only come along once in a while: dishes come around on a daily basis like the refrain of a really bad song) but is it, ultimately, worth it?

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And $90 for a bottle of wine? That’s like $18 a glass. It’s become a standard trope of mine I suppose, but “I was too poor for too long, every dollar I spend is like a knife in my heart”: I can’t bring myself to spend $18 on a bottle of wine, let alone a glass.

I prefer cheap wine, as long as it’s relatively dry, and crisp. I’m a sensible mutt.

And I don’t understand what compels your fancy friends to order such expensive wine. Is it so wonderfully more delicious? Or are they showing off maybe?

But I don’t think there’s much you can do in the way of getting reparation/restitution. It’s just life: Sometimes you have to swallow these things along with your (painful even for me to write) $18 glass of wine.

I recall in our 20s the terrible danger there was, bill-wise, of being one of the last at a huge, long table of people at, say, some celebration. It’s what a friend of mine calls “the half-eaten birthday cake” theory of large get-togethers. You show up late, see a half-eaten birthday cake and a couple of stragglers, turn around and walk away immediately.

Because everyone will have left leaving unrealistic amounts behind. “Yeah, five bucks should cover my two beers.” And the suckers left at the end will be stuck with a staggering tab.

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At least this isn’t that. All you can do with this one, in my view, is inhale, exhale and let it go. Despite everything I may have said, a) in life, horribly, often there are shekels you wish you weren’t shelling out, but it can’t be avoided, b) focus on the conviviality and enjoyment you experienced in the company of your friends.

Cheap I may be. But even I know human relationships are more important than dwelling on (ouch, again, painful) $18 glasses of wine.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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