I work at an IT MNC. We have a large campus and many eateries. Whenever we go out for eating he stands away from the payment queue and just tells what he would like to have.

At first I ignored it. But after couple of months I started really noticing it. He paid few times (only when we go to comparatively cheaper places like tea stall). Now, I don't want to sound like a miser but now this has really started to annoy me.

I don't want to sound rude to tell this to him. How can I politely convey this message?

Edit: He is neither financially weak nor does he portray himself financially weak. The message I want to convey him is that, What he's doing is inappropriate and can get real annoying. He's superior to me and earns significantly extra.

  • 4
    Convey what message? What are you hoping to accomplish by confronting him with his not paying? Also, do you have any idea WHY he does not pay?
    – Erik
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:32
  • 3
    Do you have a senior position (i.e. and him being Jr)? And did you offer to go out for lunch with him?
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:49
  • 4
    "he stands away from the payment queue and just tells what he would like to have." Does he do that only to you? Are you only annoyed when you have to pay, or also when he does this to others? And as commented before, might he have any good reason not to pay?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:55
  • 10
    What is an IT MNC? Please, there's no need to use abbreviations. Also, where are you? How does this work - a pay queue? Why is anyone ordering what this person wants? In the US you order and pay for your own food. If you aren't paying, you don't order.
    – Catija
    Sep 18, 2017 at 12:50
  • 3
    Why not just order for yourself and have him order for himself?
    – David K
    Oct 11, 2017 at 13:30

6 Answers 6


Just handle it a little earlier, when you're in the process of deciding where to eat.

I'm a little strapped for cash today, can you pick up the check this time?


I picked up the last few lunches, can you get this one?


If you get lunch today, I'll get tea tomorrow.

There are lots of subtle ways to even out the scales in these situations. Generally if someone is letting you pay more often than they do, they're aware of what they're doing. All it takes is a gentle reminder that it should be a little more reciprocal.

Chances are pretty good that they're under the impression that you're ok with paying, because you haven't spoken up yet. This can be exacerbated if there's a significant difference in income between the two of you. If you're the boss or in a superior position, they may even be thinking that you can afford it and are doing it to boost morale.

  • There is a difference in income but its other way round. He's is superior to me. Sep 19, 2017 at 5:41
  • 1
    @VDevD I'm sorry, but that's pretty low... I would be looking for a new job.
    – apaul
    Sep 19, 2017 at 5:43

This is impossible to fix in a polite way, as it is inherently an impolite situation.

So, being blunt either:

  • go your separate ways during lunch.
    wherever he is going, you are more in the mood for tacos (unless he's having them of course, then it is pizza time).


  • 'politely' inform him of the cost and request a few bills to cover it when he orders away from the pay queue.
    hideously impolite but truly effective, and I suspect he'll either keep up his end or seek another crowd to run with.

Sometimes there's good reason for going Dutch.

EDIT: If the above seems harsh please regard this:
Expecting others to pay for your lunch is an excruciating bad habit, there for all to see. It hampers your social standing in no small way. And when you allow a bad habit to continue you become an accessory. That makes it your civic duty to put a stop to it. To the benefit of all, including the perpetrator.

EDIT2: As OP indicated, if this is your superior the first option (avoidance/shunning) is the way to go. The second option, while as mildly confrontational as possible, is still too much of a risk.

  • 2
    The second one can be really awkward (for everyone) if this behavior is caused by the person not actually having any money.
    – Erik
    Sep 18, 2017 at 13:35
  • @Erik if he has no money he should bring his lunch. NOT sponge without explanation.
    – Bookeater
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:38
  • I would agree, unless the company has a very strong "we all go out for lunch together" culture and he would be the only one eating in the office.
    – Erik
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:43
  • Yes, but dropping to the other person's level just makes both parties terrible at behaving decently towards other human beings. The idea of this Stack is to improve people's interpersonal skills. This answer doesn't seem to accomplish that.
    – Erik
    Sep 18, 2017 at 15:02
  • 1
    @Erik why not add your own answer then?
    – Bookeater
    Sep 18, 2017 at 15:20

There's a fairly simple solution: Everyone orders and pays on their own. If he ask you to order for him, just decline and tell him, "Everyone is ordering for themselves today. At least I am."

If he insists, tell him that you will ask for reimbursement as soon as you get the check.


Keep the receipt. Give it to him with his food, smile, and tell him it was X dollars (or favored local currency). If he doesn't take the hint, tell him you won't buy his lunch anymore. Next time you're in line, tell him to slide you some money. If he doesn't, don't bring him any food.


A subtle way would maybe change the situation for a small period, but if you want him to change his behaviour on a long term, you have to be more direct.

You should just tell him something like "Hey, I'm fine paying for you from time to time, but I noticed you rarely return the favor. I'd appreciate if you would do it more often [because I'm low on money and I can't always pay for two]".


For a problem that makes you angry the best way to handle it is when you are not angry. This is tough enough since the discussion of it may set you off again. If you set aside a time to cover it there will be no misunderstandings or escalated finger pointing.

On a day you are not all going to lunch you should stop him away from others and tell him. "I afraid have some tough news for you. When you come to lunch with us and fail to chip in fairly it really aggravates people. We enjoy your coming along but we all pay what we owe and don't make excuses. I hope now you will do the same."

The next time at lunch it will be up to him to come and pay or stay away. It is not unusual for highly intelligent people to be socially awkward in at least one area. They need occasional concrete roadblocks as gentle guide posts to navigate the terrain.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.