Do I pay for Coffee?
April 10, 2013 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I met a girl through some friends abou 10 days ago. Afterwords I friended her on Facebook and we have been talking quite a bit. I am interested in getting to know her better and maybe dating her. Yesterday I asked her to get coffee with me and she agreed. The thing I'm not really clear on here is if I should pay for the her coffee or should I let her pay for her own?
posted by kitsully to Human Relations (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Rule of thumb: Offer, but do not insist.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:31 AM on April 10, 2013 [71 favorites]

If you're interested in her romantically, act like it. Letting her pay for her own signals right up front "I'm not interested in you, I just want to be platonic friends".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:33 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

You invited her, so you pay.

This is a general principle, however, it goes double for a romantic situation.
posted by tel3path at 7:34 AM on April 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

If it comes naturally, yes. But - agreeing with Tomorrowful - don't insist if it's weird.

Offer it you can, but don't stress if she beats you there by five mins and has her own non-fat decaf vanilla americano already.
posted by charlemangy at 7:35 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think buying coffee is a pretty low-stakes way to show actual romantic interest. By this I mean: it's a nice thing to do that you probably wouldn't do for someone you just met that you only wanted to be friends with, but it's small enough of an expense that it's not overly officious or paternalistic.

So I think the cool thing to do is to offer, when you are standing in line. "Let me buy you coffee." Say it with just a hint of a question. If she says no thanks, respect that. Making the offer, aloud, communicates the interest that you want to communicate.
posted by gauche at 7:35 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pay for it, at least for the first coffee, and offer to buy her a pastry too.

I've been asked on coffee dates where the guy hasn't offered to pay for my first coffee and to me it's been a bit of a red flag. If the guy's bought the first one, and the date's going well, I've always offered to buy the next one.
posted by essexjan at 7:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, regardless of romantic intent and so on, if you ask someone to grab coffee with you, offer to pay when the time comes. If they say "no, let's split it," then you split it. But if you did the inviting, you should offer to pay.
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes. Coffee isn't a big deal so if you're worried about it seeming too "datey" don't worry -- it's low stakes.

The best thing to do is just make the move to pay without offering -- saying "hey, do you want me to get this?" comes across awkward, whereas "I got this" is smoother and easier.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:37 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

You invited her, so please offer to pay.

From there it's a matter of ask vs guess culture type stuff as far as who actually pays.

You will find people insisting you must insist, people suggesting offering any more than once is insulting.

These responses are obviously not based on a universal code of first dates. Pay close attention to her body language. If she offers to pay but hasn't gotten her wallet out she might be less invested in paying. There are so many ifs here. Go with what seems comfortable for her. Which I am happy to see upon preview is the consensus here.
posted by bilabial at 7:38 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've been on this kind of "date" and yeah, offer but don't insist. Pay attention to what she orders, though, and next time maybe have it ready for her :)

non-fat decaf vanilla americano

Don't date her if she orders this, she is lacking a few brain cells.
posted by desjardins at 7:38 AM on April 10, 2013 [10 favorites]

The guy paying on the first date is one of those weird artifacts of a chauvinistic society that persists to this day and has sort of calcified into a cultural norm and become The Done Thing.

Doubly so because you made the invitation, triply so because it's just coffee and coffee is cheap.

So yeah, offer but don't insist.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:38 AM on April 10, 2013

"Oh, I'll get this, since I invited you!"

I mean --- this is easy. Just be clear and polite, and back off if she says she'll get her own.
posted by zizzle at 7:39 AM on April 10, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yes, definitely. Just say, 'What would you like?' and then, if she makes a move to pull out her cash, 'I've got this :)'.

As for 'offer but don't insist' - yep. But really, let's hope you don't have to insist. It's only coffee, not an actual meal. If she makes a big deal about wanting to pay for her own coffee, she's probably sending a 'warning: this is not a date' signal.
posted by Salamander at 7:43 AM on April 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

And by 'offer to pay' I mean, position yourself at the counter so that the cashier can more easily accept money from you, attempt to make it clear that the two beverages are on one order.

Basically, if you can get in front of her without creating weird physical jockeying, do that.

If you can't get in front of her, then tell the cashier that you've got it.

But again, ask vs guess and even tha isn't universal to a person. Maybe she's a coffee guesser and movie choosing guesser. YMMV.
posted by bilabial at 7:43 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Inviter pays, unless invitee refuses. Gender of inviter/invitee doesn't matter. Inviter asks what the invitee would like, orders and then pays unless Invitee says they'll pay for themselves.

A better way to handle this is to say "Want to go for coffee sometime? My treat.". This gives Invitee a chance to say that they'll pay for themselves, or offer to get the coffee next time, etc.
posted by Solomon at 7:43 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yep, I'd agree with what's been said. Get a table first, together, and once you both have seats, get your jackets off etc., ask what you can get her, as you head for the counter. If she wants to pay for her own, she'll say so, and you shouldn't argue or be awkward about that. This, btw, is also how it goes when I'm out for coffee with friends--we informally tend to trade off who gets up and buys. It feels friendlier to me, somehow, to buy something for a friend, and to have something bought for me, than to be wholly autonomous. But ymmv of course.
posted by Edna Million at 7:44 AM on April 10, 2013

Also know that the girl is probably just as befuddled as you are. Twice now I have been invited out for coffee and been so anxious I barged on ahead ordering and paying for my own drink, completely oblivious to the fact that the guy was standing there attempting to do the whole, "Oh let me get this"/"No, no, it's cool"/"Well ok then next time", politeness dance. It means nothing as to whether she is interested in you or not; she's going to be interested (or not) whether or not you buy her a coffee.
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:44 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're out to win and whisk her quickly, then offer 2 rounds of "I'd like to pay."

Many, many women prefer a man that pays all the way through the relationship, it touches on a basic level of wanting to be taken care of (though she likely will never come out and say it given the stigma).

If this is the route you take, just be in a financial position to do so for more expensive dates should things progress.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:48 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

You invited, so you offer to pay, but be gracious if she says will get her own, or will pay for yours too. It's all good. The whole point of this goofy business is to establish some kind of understanding of each other as rational, thoughtful actors who are able to handle situations of some ambiguity without resorting to shouting, becoming violent or breaking down in tears. Kind of important for interpersonal relationships.

So be cool, man. Offer, but don't insist. Like comment #1 up there.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:49 AM on April 10, 2013

Offer to pay, but don't take it too bad if she wants to pay for her own. Granted, that often means she's not interested in a romantic relationship, but it can also mean that she doesn't like accepting gifts from people she doesn't know well.

Don't date her if she orders this, she is lacking a few brain cells.
posted by desjardins at 7:38 AM on April 10 [+] [!]

Also, don't date her if she is weirdly judgmental about trivial matters of taste.
posted by skewed at 7:51 AM on April 10, 2013 [19 favorites]

The person who asks is the person who pays. This is a long-standing rule of good manners.

Assuming a Starbucks-like situation where you are ordering at a register: If you let her order first, and then you are next, the person at the register will look to you for the money. So, she orders first, you order, and then you pay. If she orders and then fumbles around her purse/wallet/whatever, you hold two fingers up to get the register person's attention and then give your order while you take out your wallet.

The polished way to do this is to not mention that you are paying. You don't say "let me pay for this" or "you may also order a pastry and I'll buy that too" or anything like that. It's a couple of bucks and you asked her. Of course you are paying, because you've got good manners.

If she then does one of those things where it's OH NO YOU DON'T MISTER I PAY MY OWN WAY, then of course let her, without comment or arguing. I don't think that will happen, though.
posted by Houstonian at 7:52 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Offer to pay. "What can I get you?" If she answers with a coffee, then buy. If she responds with "I got it" then pay for your own and let her pay for hers. While traditionally you'd pay as you invited her, some women are independent enough to pay themselves even if they still have romantic intentions. Let the situation play out and act casually, either way. I'd personally avoid any "I got this next time" comments as it may show you off as being insecure.
posted by hylaride at 7:52 AM on April 10, 2013

You've gotten the message by now, so offering the woman's perspective on having been asked. "Offering, but not insisting" is the best way to go - I've always taken it as a subtle way of suggesting that the guy is sorta-kinda-maybe-interested as opposed to just wanting to be platonic and that's it forever. At the very least, it implies that you want to hang out again, even if you do end up just being friends.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 AM on April 10, 2013

yup - you invite; you (offer to) pay.
I think this is good practice, also for non-romantic outings.

I don't think you need to ask - just go for it - of course, if she insists, you can put up a bit of a fight (i.e. "don't worry; I invited you, it's my pleasure!"), but if she insists more, then let her pay.

Good luck!
posted by bitteroldman at 7:58 AM on April 10, 2013

You invited her so you offer to pay. Don't just pay without her knowing or having a chance to refuse. Say something like "Let me get this since I invited you" (not as a question but as a soft statement of your immediate intention at the cash registrer) and that gives her a chance to pay herself if she prefers. "Let me get this" is softer than "I'll get this".
posted by Dansaman at 9:23 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Generally, if I invite, I pay, gender notwithstanding, but I don't press the point if they insist.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:38 AM on April 10, 2013

Also, don't date her if she is weirdly judgmental about trivial matters of taste.

Aw boo man, that was just a joke!
But I guess the requisite :) was missing
posted by bitteroldman at 9:45 AM on April 10, 2013

My fiance paid for the first pot of tea on our first date but then seemed to think I should pay for the second one. I was perfectly happy to, and do believe in egalitarian relationships, but it did raise the warning of -- is this guy cheap? Turns out he isn't, just clueless, but the safest thing is to offer and not insist.
posted by peacheater at 9:55 AM on April 10, 2013

Maybe this is (coffee) bean plating, but I always preferred a casual "Let me get this," or "It's on me," or just a gesture to the cashier, rather than "What can I get you," or "Let me pay for you" -type statements that make it less of a neutral statement about who's paying and more of a "Hey look I am doing something for you," which always felt more loaded to me.

Also i she insists on paying, just let her without commenting on it like it's in any way a Thing.
posted by Mchelly at 9:57 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Note: you CAN judge her on whether or not she thanks you for the coffee you paid for, both immediately and then again as you say your farewells (or in a follow-up text).
posted by amaire at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2013

I think the Date part is a red herring; If I’m meeting one of my friends for coffee I say "I got it", or else they do. We’re adults. But don’t make a big deal out of it. If it was a date and I said "I got it" and she said "no, I got it" I would say "it’s yours". Treat her like any other adult friend you like.
posted by bongo_x at 10:13 AM on April 10, 2013

"I invited you, so I'll get it. You can always get me back next time."
posted by klangklangston at 12:27 PM on April 10, 2013

Hmm... Are you a guy or a girl? I just assumed you were male, but maybe the ettiquette is different if you are gay.

As a straight woman, I would assume you wanted to meet up as friends if you didn't offer to pay.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:36 PM on April 10, 2013

Here's a sentence that has worked wonders for me on 1st dates or first meetings when it might or might not be a date:

"I've got it. If you want to, you can get it next time."
posted by 2oh1 at 2:52 PM on April 10, 2013

Good grief. Just pay. If she resists, laugh and say not a chance. If my mom found out I invited someone for coffee and didn't pick up the tab she would- skin me alive- roll over in her grave - whatever.
Make it something to laugh about. If she has no sense of humor you are better off finding out sooner than later.
posted by notreally at 6:37 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly, best to do whatever you're going to do before getting to the counter. I'm a big fan of finding a table and asking "what can I get you?". And then you can bring it to her instead of have her wait in line, or, if she'd rather do for herself (and many people do, for a variety of reasons), she can kindly refuse your offer and join you in line before you have an audience. A dispute which would be resolved quickly when it's just the two of you somehow takes on additional mortifying dimensions and gets everyone's hackles up when there's a barista patiently waiting for you-all to finish up your negotiation.
posted by jackbishop at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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