There’s a lot to be said for an app with a singular function, and that’s what makes the Tab app so magical. Unlike other bill splitting apps like SplitWise, which let you split and track any type of expense, the Tabs app only exists to split the food bill among a group of people. That’s all – it does just that.
I was first introduced to the app by my friends when I lived in New York City. After several dinners and debates about who ordered an extra side of fries, who got three beers instead of two, and who had just one hors d’oeuvre in place of an entree, we were fed up with doing the basic math. So the people sitting at five or six tables could pay their fair share. Thus, we transitioned to the Tabs app. Its appeal was the ease with which new guests sign up, select the items we ordered, and calculate a 20 percent tip for us.
Once the app is downloaded, a person voluntarily pays in cash or credit. They then snap a picture of the bill to get an in-app itemized version of the same bill. At the top of this itemized list, there is a code that the person in charge of the bill gives to the group. Anyone joining a bill needs to tap “Join Bill” from the main screen, regardless of whether they have an account, and then input the code given to them. From this point on, everyone chooses a nickname, and they go under the bill of items and select what they ordered. If there’s a dish that needs to be divided among multiple people, such as an appetizer, the Tabs app allows more than one person to select the same item. When everyone has finished selecting their items, the app will calculate what each person owes after tax and tip. The person in charge of the bill can change the tip at will.
From there, after viewing their total, each person in charge of the bill is given the option of paying more in cash or Venmo. In theory, if you select Venmo and enable permission for the tab, the tab will automatically pay the person in charge of the bill. All that’s left is the person in charge of the bill actually paying and then collecting your Venmo transfers. End! It reduced our time hashing out who had a solid 10 minutes from each meal to easily within a minute between the bill being handed over to our desk and everyone venomed to the person holding their card down. Not to mention that the app’s math was more reliable than our tipsy back-of-the-napkin equations. Not only did it reduce stress and save our time, but every time we had to pull out the Tab app, it became a small celebration as we all loved it so much.
However, as much as we admire the app, my friends and I recently found that the Tab could no longer connect to Venmo. The app still behaves like it can; However, when I select the Venmo option at the end of the bill, Venmo will open and then freeze on the permissions page. This is a real bummer because now we have to manually Venmo the amount to the person paying.
I reached over to the tab for a timeline as to when or whether this would be fixed. A spokesperson who has yet to respond when asked how he was named stated that the “Venmo authentication service we use for Tabs unexpectedly stopped working several months ago” and that someone at Venmo did not. Efforts to get in touch with him have gone unanswered. “It appears that Venmo has completely denied any third-party developer support,” the spokesperson said. In the meantime, we can work around this glitch by noting our total in-app and then manually switching to Venmo to pay the bill holder. The extra step is far from a deal-breaker, but it dampens our enthusiasm.
The best thing about this app – other than save me the math – is that you don’t need a registered account to participate. In fact, neither I nor any of my friends have ever created an account. As long as people with you have the app on their phones or can download it, billing is very easy and efficient. The advantage of having an account, however, is the ability to save and re-view your bill should there be a discrepancy or mistake. But, if your friend group is anything like mine, we can blindly trust this app to fix everything for us.