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Online Dating - First Meeting. Who Pays?

Updated on September 19, 2008

I received this comment on my HUB Online Dating Tips - How to tell if he's for real . The HUB is about dating online, and setting up that first meeting with your web-friend.

Dr. 568 says:

"Excellent article. I have a question for you regarding this. By the way I am a guy in my 40's. On this first meeting you suggest, should I offer to pick up the check? I don't want to come off like a jerk and not pick up the check even if it's just coffee. But on the other hand I don't want to give the wrong impression that this was more of a date than it was. It's technically not even a real date, it's a first meeting. I'm not trying to get out of paying. I always pay on dates unless the lady has said before hand that she wants to treat for some reason, like it is my birthday. I don't want to give the wrong impression by picking up the tab. What should I do?"

Thanks for the comment. This is a really good question.

When a man picks up the tab it is definitely sending a certain signal. Several of my HUBmates have written articles about the etiquette of dating. When I was dating, I expected the guy to pick up the check unless like you said, I communicated before the event that this one was on me.

The fair-play side to that, is that if a lady is on a date and she feels no romantic attraction, she shouldn't let the guy treat. At least she should offer to pay for her meal. It's the same principle as not accepting a drink from a guy in a bar that you aren't interested in.

There are some guys that aren't classic gentlemen. And there are women that are freeloaders. Members of both sexes have screwed this nice tradition up royally.

A real man pays, I agree. But a real lady doesn't accept unless she's interested.

There are other factors, like the "who can afford it" factor. We've all had that first apartment with the big spool for a coffee table and milk crates for a bookshelf. If you're at a point in your life where spending a few extra bucks on a couple coffees is a big deal, you need to really think about these meetings.

Dr568, I agree with you that this isn't technically a date. Since this is a first meeting only, I think it's fair to say the guy isn't expected to pay.

Be wary of the signals you send out with this. If you're the guy and you go on this first meeting and you're all about her, by all means pick up the tab. It's a sign to let her know you kinda dig her.

And if you're the lady on that first meeting, and he offers to pick up the tab, only let him if you're all about him too. If you let him treat, you've let him believe this turned out to be a date. Don't send out that signal unless you mean it.

The opposite is a clear signal too. If you meet and don't feel that romantic attraction after all, you should each pay for your own.

I think there is a larger social etiquette that must be kept in mind. It's a first meeting, so hopefully you've chosen a cafe or a bar or an ice cream place on the boardwalk. Hopefully you're talking about $10 - $20 tops. That kind of money is really not worth a scene, or making someone feel uncomfortable. If you've tried to be clear with your signals about how you felt the meeting went, and the other person isn't being the lady or the gentlemen you had hoped for, well... lesson learned. Just go along and then leave.

If you are at a point in life where $10 - $20 isn't always ok, make sure you don't set up one of these initial meetings unless you can cover the tab if it comes to that. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Dr 568, I think you're question was so good that I'd like to use it to ask the ladies to help out here.

Girls, if you initiate the meeting, maybe you could go ahead and say something like, "Let's meet for a coffee, my treat!"

If that's not your style, then maybe you could just be a little extra conscious of your clarity when the meeting is winding up. Before he reaches for the check, maybe you could indicate something, like by saying, "This was so much fun. I really hope we can do this again soon." OR "Well I can always use another friend. I'm glad we met so we can be friends." Ladies, if you see the guy is a bit confused and trying his best, give him a hand. You could just put your money down,or say - "You pay and I'll leave the tip." Or, "You get this round, I will get the next round." Or something. Anything. Don't let a nice guy suffer.

Guys, I'm sorry if this goes against your smoothness factor, but I see nothing wrong with being honest. If she initiates a meeting, I don't see anything wrong with your saying, "Let's do it after Friday, when I get paid." If you're out there on the first meeting and you really don't know what to do, talk about it. Tell her you'd like to pick up the tab, and ask her how would she feel about that. You may even want to settle this before you go out.

Thanks for the comment Dr. 568. Good luck with your online dating. Keep us posted!

All text is original content by Veronica.

All photos are used with permission.

Videos are courtesy of YouTube.

If you liked this HUB, please hit the "Thumbs Up" button below, just before comments. Thanks!


Submit a Comment

  • MsDesign1 profile image


    6 years ago from Riverside, CA

    In a LTR, as a woman, financial security is important to me. If you are not imediately jumping to pick up the tab for my glass of wine on a first meeting, I see this as you being cheap. I had a first 'meeting' (or a first date as it was called years ago) and it went very well and we are going on a real first date tomorrow. He invited me, I like him a lot (actually he is sizling hot) and he likes me a lot and I expect him to pay! I agree with a lot of the posts, if I didn't like him during the first meet, I would offer to pay.

  • Lindsey79 profile image


    6 years ago from CA

    I think a guy should always pay if he's the one that asked the woman out. Now, I've got two reasons for this. One, is that I'm more of a traditionalist and someone that is going to be stingy with money is going to be stingy with the more important things (time, effort, emotional space, etc.). If he's on a budget or can't afford much, then pick a cheaper place -- Thai, hot dogs and a walk, a picnic in the park, etc. There are a lot of things you can do when you're on a budget and still pick up the tab, especially if this is a first meeting where it's only coffee or drinks. The only time I think this shouldn't be expected is if the woman is insisting on an expensive place to eat -- then that's on her, though I'd be hesitant about a woman that wanted to eat somewhere very expensive who didn't expect to at least pick up her end of the tab. But, if as the guy, you're picking the place -- then pick up the tab. Being a gentleman isn't conditional -- it's an all or nothing proposition. If you don't want to be a gentleman, fine, but don't pretend it only counts when you're into her.

    Two, is an economic argument. Unless a man is dating a very granola woman, she is putting in a much larger front end investment to a date than he is. When you add up the differences in costs in hair care, haircuts, skincare, make-up, nails, clothing, undergarments, shoes, perfume -- she's paying way more for her upkeep and investing far more time in getting 'date-ready' than he is. So it's only fair that he pay more for the actual festivities (i.e. pay for dinner). When you work in the fact that women across the board still make less money than their male counterparts for the same work, it really makes little economic sense for a woman to pay for her share of a date. She's at a loss when he comes out net ahead.

    Now, sure she's not necessarily doing all this for this specific date. She's somewhat doing it for herself, her work, etc., but she's also somewhat doing it to attract men if she's dating -- and that's what you as the man was attracted to -- that front end investment that she's made in her appearance.

    So, guys, unless you're dating a woman that puts as much time and money into her appearance as you do, don't complain about having to pick up the check or driving a little further to meet her/pick her up. She's already putting in a lot of time and money to your date, just in a different way. This way it's the most equitable to everyone.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    6 years ago from Planet Earth

    There might be a difference between a 'first meeting' with an online acquaintance and a 'first date.' I'm with the traditionalists on the guy paying (and no, I'm not a freeloader). I learned through observation that you can tell a lot about a guy based on how he handles the 'who pays' situation, especially on the first date. If he scrimps on tipping, that can signal problems in joint finances. If you split it and he comes out ahead financially (that's actually happened to me), that's another clue.

    Guys can easily signal they're on a budget by suggesting what appeals to them on a menu (smart and caring women will take a clue from the price range his choice is in).

    Interesting hub - and it obviously has a long lifespan; it's still getting comments!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I met a guy through online dating we wnt for a couple of drinks and he paid. He then asked me out again for dinner so I accepted as I really quite like him. I felt we had a good time at dinner but then when the check came he span it round and said 'so how do you want to do this?' I was really shocked as I've never been on a date which I've paid for not because I'm a freeloader but because I think a man should woo a woman and treat her well. Anyhow I paid for my half assumming that he hadn't enjoyed the date which is fair enough but he won't stop contacting me saying what a fantastic night he had and trying to arrange another date. I'm confused. I don't want to date a guy who isn't going to treat me like a princess yet I really like hoim and don't feel that I can proach this topic with a guy I barely know. Advice please?

  • profile image

    Travis James 3D 

    7 years ago

    Thank you for writing: "Ladies, if you see the guy is a bit confused and trying his best, give him a hand."

    Thank you thank you thank you.

    So many women I've dated have NOT given me a hand when it comes to this stuff. I don't mean that they should have helped me too much, but just a little bit would have been nice.

    I'm trying to help guys with social anxiety date more, like with my most recent blog post...

    I'm looking to interview a female dating coach about how women can attract more guys through flirting and fun. If you're interested, please check out my site and contact me.



  • profile image


    8 years ago

    well here is a comment from a successful dating story online. I met my significant other online on the worst of dating sites people always had bad luck the only good thing that site brought me was my bf right now. I was hooked after a picture of him and so was he. We date a month over text and phone and via chat camera we talked and talked... we finally met after a month dating we met up at starbucks... he lives like almost two hours away but he took a chance and came too meet me..we met and it was like high school kids all over again... lol he was soo sweet....well now 11 wonderfull months later we are still together...he payed for food on first date and always does... but once in a while i like pitching in... halfies ... or at least the tip... when he lets me... almost never... after a while being together i say its ok too offer too pay halfsies... like sometimes i offer and pay tickets....for movies and he pays food...or sometimes he pays all....first date he did pay allll food coffe cookies lol we had a blast even getting lost....ha ha

  • JakeMcMurphy profile image


    8 years ago from Chicago

    Chivalry is NOT dead. Pick up the check guys. Better yet, don't go out for a dinner date until you know that the relationship is going somewhere and that you picking up the check isn't something she's going to misinterpret (you'll know how she feels about stuff like this as you get to know her better).

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Dallas, - smart ladies. On a date, yes it's really nice if the gentlemen pays. But it definitely does give a clear signal that this was a DATE, and she's interested. If she isn't, it's not fair to let the gentlemen think it is.

    And the other problem is, not all men are gentlemen. There are absolutely men that think if they treat to dinner, they are entitled. So these ladies may have learned the hard way to be better safe than sorry.

  • profile image

    Dallas Dating Man 

    8 years ago

    I'm dating southern girls, and most want to pay themselves. They feel that if the man pays, he'll think they owe him.

  • profile image


    8 years ago from

    ive always based it on, if im enjoying the date or not, and if i think i could like them more. If i do then ill just pay regardless. otherwise ill try and split it, if i dont think its going anywhere.

  • thehotspotguide profile image

    Ashley Lekov 

    9 years ago from Charlotte, NC

    Great hub. I think whoever asked the other person out should pay.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY


    Congratulations on finding your current girlfriend.

    I'm so glad you commented. When a guy picks up the check, he's sending a signal. When a lady lets him, she is sending a signal. Don't signal if you're not turning. And don't confuse that with the gentlemen factor. They say a gentlemen should always pay? No. A gentlemen should always be honest. And they say a lady should never pay? No. A lady should always be honest too.


  • Gerg profile image


    9 years ago from California

    I'm a slow-learner, but I did finally figure out to handle this issue as you say. Several times, I made the mistake of meeting for the first time around 6 at a nice bar affiliated with a restaurant. So naturally, after you've had a few sips and conversation, it transitions to food. Being polite, I was paying for $100 dinners for women I really wasn't into - which sent a signal to them I didn't want to send. I finally figured out I was making this far too complicated. Starbucks at 10am is much simpler! If after that, it's a connection, then move to dinner . . .

    Of course, I met my current girlfriend at about 6 at a wine bar . . . attached to a restaurant . . . . and I happily paid! So, maybe you'd best not listen to me at all on this issue! ;-)

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    New -

    If he kept saying he'd like to see you again, maybe he was feeling you out to see if you too thought this was a "date" and you were into him. Maybe he didn't "pick up" a clear answer from you, and so he didn't "pick up" the check, trying not to pressure you or seem assuming.

    Dating today is a lot different than dating was 10 years ago, and online dating adds another element. Many women today are not old fashioned and do not want guys picking up the check - Not to say it's bad, but to point out that your guy may just be abiding by what he thinks is a current respectful social practice.

    The recurring theme in my HUBS is true for you too - Communicate honestly. You need to just tell him how you feel about this.

    However, in your case I strongly advise you be delicate here since it's new and it kind of involves his manhood. Accept the second date. If you can be very adorable, like offer to make the coffee and bring it in a thermos to meet him at the swings at the park, or at some local attraction or site where you can sit together. That way, you've REMOVED the paying thing from the equation. That way, it is very very clear that you are not a free loader like you said, and that this isn't about money, it's about a feeling.

    Once you've set that stage and you're comfortably there on that second date where there is no check coming, that's when you should tell him. Let him know you weren't sure what to think on the first date when he didn't pick up the check. Let him know you like him in that way, that "Dating" way, and you had hoped he'd pick up the check to show you he felt that way too.

    He could be very surprised you felt that way, and he may put your mind to ease by letting you know he agrees with you but didn't want to assume anything. Then again, he may tell you he thinks that philosophy of the guy paying for the date is bullshit. In any case, this is an important dialogue for you to have and should reveal exactly what you want to know.

    Keep us posted!


  • profile image

    New Online dater 

    9 years ago

    I met up with a man for drinks recently who I'd been talking to online. We got on very well, he mentioned going out again a few times during the evening but I was quite surprised when he didn't pay the bill! I'm not a freeloader, but I do prefer when a guy pays for the first date. He emailed me the next day to say how much he enjoyed the evening and would like to see me again. Normally if a guy didn't pay the first date, I wouldn't accept a second date, but am confused with the rules of online dating!

  • LondonGirl profile image


    10 years ago from London

    All this agreement that the man should pay seems very weird to me! It must be a cultural thing - I've never met any men who would automatically pay all the time and no women who would expect to be paid for all the time either.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    11 years ago from NY


    I like that you're old fashioned and I agree with you. However, not all guys are gentlemen. I'm sure I'm not the only woman that found out the hard way that I sent a certain message when I let the guy pick up the check.


    You're right, better safe than sorry. It's nice that you're old fashioned AND savy at the same time.

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    I'm an old fashioned girl and I think that the man should pay when we go out. But I do not think a man should pay if I'm not dating him. I think when you let a man pay for a drink he has a reason to expect something. It's not smart to put myself in that position. I have met some people on a dating site and I've made it a point to avoid the paying all together. I ask them to meet me at the entrance to the mall. Lots of people, and its free to go into the mall.

  • Chuck profile image

    Chuck Nugent 

    11 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

    Good Hub. I may be old fashioned, but I feel that the guy should pick up the tab when he asks a girl out, even if is a first meeting in an online relationship. I did do some online dating when I was single and each time it came to a first meeting, I would give her my phone number (thereby letting her protect her privacy) so she could call me and we could arrange a time and place to meet. It was usually coffee, a drink or meal and I always paid. I suppose if the woman had insisted on the meeting I might have held back and let her offer, but more than likely I would have simply broken it off online. Chuck

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    Thank you so much for this advice. You hit upon all the different things that were going through my head.

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    I'm one of those women that believes the man should pick up the check when we go out to eat. I feel very strongly about that. I think you are right. If he picks up the check it sends me a signal that this is a date. If it is a first meeting I would take that to mean he's interested. This is good advice. I agree he shouldn't automatically pick up the tab if he doesn't want to send me that signal.


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