By Don Glynn
Niagara Gazette — Restaurants that refuse to provide customers with individual checks are rendering a disservice, if you believe the results of an informal survey.
I witnessed a recent exchange in a restaurant — four people trying to figure out what they owed on a single bill — that nearly turned ugly. It's hardly a customer-friendly way to do business.
"That's just the way it is," the owner of a once-popular Pine Avenue explained the first time I went there for a business lunch with three other persons.
That policy, many people agree, is a recipe for an unpleasant dining experience.
For starters, there's sometimes the guy ordering margaritas and appetizers while the others are content with coffee and soft drinks. He also selects the higher-priced menu items instead of just a sandwich or salad like his luncheon companions. And, of course, when the bill comes, he issues an edict: "The best way to handle this, folks, is just split it even, all the way around."
Question: Why should the others at the table subsidize the last of the big spenders?
Then there's the sneaky one — amidst all the chirping over who owes what — whipping out a pocket calculator that only adds to confusion and doubt. He could be cheating, of course, because no one else at the table is going to call for a review, like a football coach on the sidelines. (It should be noted that women also are often involved in such a brouhaha.)
Some other reaction from people who for obvious reasons prefer anonymity:
• "It just irks me because I don't drink and I don't eat a lot, so why should I end up paying for someone else?"
• "I find myself always getting stuck when the bill is split evenly since I usually have just one drink and some of my friends can easily put away three of four."
• "Separate checks unless it's something like pizza that we're all going to share. Then we split the bill equally."
• "You didn't drink their booze. Why should you pay for it?"
• "My husband and I have seen too many times where people splitting a bill fail to leave a sufficient tip. It's embarrassing and unfair to the waitress."
COMMUNITY-MINDED: Minot H. Ortolani, 83, who died Friday in Williamsville, was involved with numerous civic endeavors including his service with the Niagara Falls-based regional state park commission. Ortolani was a respected voice on the seven-member board, eager to suggest ways to help improve the nation's oldest state park for the millions of annual visitors.
Ortolani also spent 16 years as the executive director of the Buffalo Zoo. During his administration, the 22-acre Delaware Park attraction underwent some $10 million in improvements.Those projects included a gorilla habitat, the outdoor lion and tiger exhibits, and building the Parkside gate entrance to the facility.
He earned a master's degree in finance from Rutger's Graduate School of Banking and was employed by the M&T Bank from 1957 to 1979. He retired as a lieutenant commander from the Navy Reserve in 1989 after 38 years of service.
••• 'LOCATION, LOCATION': A caller to a radio talk show the other day asked why those "Deer Crossing" signs are along the Robert Moses Parkway, especially close to populated areas. "You would think they'd encourage the deer to cross out in the country and in those rural places," the caller added. Perhaps the deer just can't read.
ON THE ROAD: A friend driving on 1-35 in Texas spotted this sign reportedly placed there by a private donor: "Thanks, TEAM USA, from a grateful nation!" Turns out it was a reference to the Navy Seals who took out Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan.
ON SAME PAGE: Overheard at Gadawski's Restaurant, Falls Street: "I went to that 7-Eleven store and asked for a two-by-four and a box of three-by-fives and the clerk said, 'Ten-Four' ."Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246