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A character gets the service bill and is shocked by the price on it. This may be caused by the following:

And will result in the following:

  • Work Off the Debt
  • Fainting
  • Spit Take or Wild Take
  • Getting angry
  • Ask if got the wrong check
    • Finding out it's even more expensive
    • Or getting your check, but finding out it's the same
  • Someone points out it isn't a service bill
  • Escape without paying
  • Getting stuck with the bill as Pretty Freeloaders do the previous step
  • Actually paying
    • Debating on how much each person pays.
  • Questioning whether you have the bill or the establishment's telephone number.

The bill is often related with room service, restaurants, and, recently, cell phones.

This may overlap with Undisclosed Funds if the exact amount of the bill is never shown. This trope also includes reactions to looking at the price tag.

Examples of Shockingly Expensive Bill include:




Anime and Manga

  • In only the fifth episode of Pokémon titled 'Showdown in Pewter City', Ash and Misty discuss the upcoming gym battle with Brock over a meal. After Ash refuses help from Misty, she angrily leaves the restaurant and Ash is left to stare at the bill and subsequently yell for Misty to come back. The bill originally read ¥1150, which just barely qualifies for this trope, but the 4Kids! Entertainment dub changed it to a dollar sign without bothering with exchange rates (or even just adding a decimal point to make it $11.50), which makes it a rather more potent example.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Ed becomes enraged when he gets the bill from Ling about the food he and Lan Fan ate in the hotel.

Comic Books

  • A very, very, very frequent punchline in Archie Comics strips and covers, usually in the form of this joke:

 Veronica: What did you order?

Archie: Separate bills!


  • Late For Dinner: one of the main characters tries to order food after spending a few decades in cryogenic stasis. When the girl at the counter tells him how much it is, he exclaims "That's highway robbery!... Ma'am."
  • Fletch: while Fletch is at the country club he orders lots of food and liquor and tells the waiter to put it on another guest's bill. When the other guest gets the bill he's shocked by the amount and tries to find out who did it.
  • The final scene of Home Alone 2 has Buzz being delivered his little brother Kevin's room service bill. Dad is Not Happy.

 Buzz: Merry Christmas indeed. Yo, Dad...

[the scene cuts to Kevin outside]

Dad: [offscreen] KEVIN! YOU SPENT $967 ON ROOM SERVICE?!?

  • The bill Conrad van Orton gets hit with by Consumer Recreation Services in The Game turns out to be a lot more than he anticipated; fortunately, Nicholas agrees to split it with him.
  • In White Christmas, Bing Crosby's character's reaction to the estimate on how much the Christmas show is going to cost is "Wow!", which is apparently "Right up there between 'ouch' and 'boing'."

Live Action TV

  • Mike from Suits is panicked when Smug Snake Lewis runs up a ridiculously large bill on wine at his dinner. Naturally, Jerkass with a Hidden Heart of Gold Harvey pays it off for him.
  • On time on Mathnet George was working undercover as a diner cook, and had to deal with a patron who didn't expect tax on his bill. "I didn't order tax on my hamburger, just ketchup!" Of course this was just an excuse to deliver some Educational Programming about tax and percentages. The bill wasn't that much bigger than he expected, but it was bigger.)
  • In one episode of Arrested Development, Michael calls his father on the phone in the hotel room where he's waiting for his fiancee, to prove to him that he's not afraid of intimacy. After his father tells him to put her on, Michael claims she's in the shower, to which George Sr. replies that he'll wait. They end up waiting through to the following morning, and anybody who's ever seen the overpriced phone rates at hotels can anticipate Michael's reaction to his room charge that morning:

 Michael: Oh, come on!

  • Happy Days: in episode "Goin' to Chicago" the high school choir goes on a field trip to Chicago. Richie, Potsie & Ralph sneak out of the hotel room they're staying in to go to a nightclub, where all checks are $36. Link.
  • On Chappelle's Show, Dave Chappelle is getting a haircut when the TV in the barber shop reports that he just signed a contract for his show paying him millions of dollars. Cut to everyone at the barber shop looking at him and the barber announcing that the bill for the haircut is $11,000.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? had an absurdly large bill come at the end of the Emergency Room version of the restaurant sketch.
  • Similar to the The Simpsons example below, Earl from Dinosaurs is shocked at the high number on his phone bill, until Francine points out it's their phone number. Earl is not as shocked when he sees the actual bill, although he does admit it's pretty high.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, upon receiving a plumber's bill:

 Dawn: That's a weird phone number. Oh, wait... Is that the bill?!

  • Played for Drama on The Sopranos. Chris is the low man on the totem pole when the crew goes out to dinner, so he's constantly stuck paying the tab. This starts a vicious feud between Chris and Paulie about respect, which culminates when Chris is saddled with a six-figure restaurant bill from Atlantic City. He can barely cover the cost of the check, and when the waiter follows him into the parking lot to demand a tip, Chris murders him.
  • The Aliens in 3rd Rock from the Sun thought the bill was the population of Cleveland. When informed of its true nature, they used a modem to redirect the bill to one of the actors visiting the same hotel.
  • One episode of Victorious features this, prompting both a Spit Take and a successful sneak out from their teacher. Unusual in that they already knew the restaurant was expensive and had ate there before, but Robbie had asked for a big bowl of caviar putting the price beyond what they could afford.


  • In the second act of La Boheme, the Bohemians find they've run up an enormous bill at Café Momus (and, inexplicably, Schaunard's fortune has already been spent). Musetta steps in and passes the bill off on her Meal Ticket, Alcindoro, who takes one look at the bill and faints.

Video Games

  • The premise of Recettear is Recett being left with such a debt after her father disappears, and having to open an item shop to earn enough money to pay it off. When Recett asks Tear (her fairy debt collector-turned-assistant) how much the total figure is, she refuses to say, for fear of provoking the fainting response[1].
  • Persona 4: Yosuke reacts with shock when he finds out Teddie has eaten 10 bowls of ramen on the receipt.
    • And before that, Yosuke says he almost pissed in his pants when he found out the price on receipt on the clothes bought for Teddie.
  • In Law's ending in Tekken 5, after using up the prize money to pay his son's hospital bill, Paul comes to him in a rickety bike carrying loads of wreckage with him. As he collapses in front of his friend, he hands him the bill for the wreckage, having pegged it on Law, who does a Wild Take. When Paul asks him to pay, Law simply knocks him out and runs away.

Web Comics

  • Fooker got his very first mobile phone and started using it for all sorts of things. Unfortunately, he used pay as you go... thud.

Western Animation

  • In The Simpsons episode "The Dad Who Knew Too Little", PI Dexter Colt charges Homer $1000 for expenses, including a $40 steak. Homer flees, refusing to pay, and Colt swears revenge.
    • One time, they were checking out of a hospital and:

 Homer: "Is that the bill or your phone number?"

Nurse: "That's the phone number. That's the bill."

Homer faints.

    • Another time, Marge finds a $378 phone bill for calls made to the Corey hotline by Lisa.
    • Bart makes a collect call worth $900 to Australia.
    • In "Catch 'Em If You Can", the kids chase their parents presumably around the world, using Rodd and Ned's credit cards, respectively. At the end of the episode they both freak out at their hefty credit card bills.
    • In one episode, Lisa accrues a $1200 bill from Mapple for downloading 1000 songs from iTunes. Lisa tries to appeal the bill by visiting Steve Mobs, but is promptly ousted.
  • One Futurama episode has Bender Work Off the Debt at Elzar's restaurant because the crew didn't expect the bill to be so high. (They didn't expect it because Elzar had blinded Leela earlier and led them to believe the meal would be free.)
  • The Fairly Odd Parents: when Timmy was momentarily a grown-up. Eating at a restaurant and is surprised at the bill, saying "This is more than I get for my allowance- I mean, more than I make in a month!" Cut to him washing dishes in the back.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Mr. Krabs is shocked at the cost of the bill for his fancy dinner with Mrs. Puff. The waiter apologizes and brings him the real bill, which he finds even more shocking.
    • In another episode, Mr. Krabs is initially shocked at his hospital bill but decides to send Spongebob, Patrick, and Squidward to med school to get in on the racket.
  • At the end of the Roger Rabbit Short "Tummy Trouble", Roger does a Wild Take and faints at the sight of his hospital bill.
  • The Classic Disney Short "The Trial of Donald Duck" has Donald going into a fancy restaurant to get away from the rain and orders a small cup of coffee. After being served a thimble-sized cup, he gets angry and decides to eat his packed lunch at the table. The maitre'd is outraged, so he decides to charge Donald for his own lunch. Unable to pay the bill with the one nickel he has on his person, he is sentenced to pay it off washing dishes... a decision the maitre'd regrets after he breaks most of the restaurant's flatware in the process.
  • Super Mario World: In "Rock TV", Luigi reminds Mario of "the trouble we got into with that 'Speak to Santa' hotline", where they managed to rack up a phone bill of $1,295.31.
  • In the second episode of Birdz, Eddie runs up a nine gazillion dollar charge on his father's credit card buying gifts for his friends.
    • In "To Beak or Not to Beak", the bill for Eddie's beak surgery is "$$$ A LOT".
  • A classic Looney Tunes episode had Porky Pig and Daffy Duck being stuck with a huge bill after staying in a fancy hotel. (The situation wasn't helped by Daffy gambling away their cash either). They frantically try to fight off the hotel manager and run out on the bill, but are eventually caught for good and confined to their room until they can pay off the debt. A few weeks later, they get the bright idea to call Bugs Bunny and see if he can give them any advice, only to reveal that Bugs is confined to a nearby room himself!

Real Life

  • The FCC has noted that, due to the complexity of mobile phone plans, 17% of customers have experienced a "Bill Shock" at some point. The highest value complaint to the FCC in the first half of 2010 was in the amount of $68505.
  • In Finland, traffic tickets can sometimes be tied to the offender's income, in order to ensure that the ultra-rich don't ignore traffic laws because they know they can afford it. One Nokia executive was hit with a $100,000 ticket for driving 15kph over the limit. Given the above example, this is kind of hilarious.
    • In Finland most fines are in fact tied to the income of the offender to ensure both that they can be expected to afford it, and that it will hurt appropriately.
  • More than a few people traveling to other countries might experience sticker shock if they forget to take their exchange rates into account. For instance, 5 (HK) bucks for a soda isn't so unreasonable a price when you remember that that is about 63 cents US.
  • After the parents of a 8-year old girl let her play the game Smurfs' Village on their iPhone, she bought $1,400 worth of Smurfberries in the game. The girl did not realize that the in-game purchases were in real money and the parents did not know that the game would let her make the purchases for 15 minutes after they last used their account password without prompting for the password again. The publisher Capcom Games and Apple received many similar complaints about this issue from parents seeing $100+ bills on their accounts.
  • A pretty common scam in a lot of countries. Cute girls find a foreigner (as all foreigners are rich!), invite him to a tea ceremony, and the final bill ends up being relatively expensive. The scammers pay as well (although they get their money refunded after the sucker leaves).


  1. It's 820,000 pix
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