There is a custom, still living out its days among us, evident particularly in the United Kingdom and Australia, less so in mainland Europe and with different connotations in the United States, of purchasing 'rounds' of drinks in social circumstances involving more than one person. This practice is, to some extent, subject to the understanding that, having purchased one round of drinks, you are not then liable for the purchase of the next, and so forth until such a time as the cycle begins afresh.

This tradition, necessarily because of the potential savings involved, leads to a plethora of cunning ways people have devised to avoid having to buy a round. (This behaviour is common among, but not unique to, the student population and de rigeur for cheapskates) Inexplicably overlooked by documenters of social history for years, I present some of the more prevalent methods for your advice and precaution:

  1. The most common and least sophisticated method is the First Round Bluff. This technique involves briskly entering drinking establishments flanked by companions and enthusiastically approaching the bar, only to take one step backward at the criticalmoment leaving someone else immediately in front of the bartender. This method is particularly clumsy since it is easily spotted and in no way occludes its perpetrator from subsequent responsibilities.
  2. A variation on the above is the Pre-plotted Friend Spotted. This involves entering the bar, only to be called away from the group by a stategically placed accomplice. If executed properly, this technique is far more effective since the subject will buy his own drink before returning to the group, subliminally impressing the memory upon those present of him making some sort of purchase at the bar.
  3. An even more obnoxious method is the subtle Poverty Plea. You can recognise someone likely to pull this one because you do not see them for weeks and then they telephone you all the time at the end of the month. You agree that they can meet you at a prearranged place and, when it comes to their round, they will produce a few coins from their pocket and mutter something inaudible yet sorrowful, leaving you with no choice, as the one who introduced them to the group, but to pick up their round. It might seem uncharitable to criticise these people, but you will always be able to find them the day after sharing a bottle of Chablis with a young lady they picked up with your funding.
  4. I Do Not Buy Drinks, I am Bought Drinks (ladies only). Sorry girls, but no matter what you look like, that just don't wash around here. Similarly, being the guest or newcomer does not excuse you.
  5. As the night progresses, many will try the Intermittent Toilet Technique. This can only really work, or seem feasible, when everyone in the group has had a few drinks. It involves drinking carefully, keeping yourself a sip or two behind the average and, when there is about an inch left in your glass, excusing yourself to the bathroom. The idea is that, when you come back, someone else will have taken the drink-buying inititative. This method bears being repeated all night, since it is perfectly believable behaviour amongst lager and lime drinkers.
    A variation on this is employed at times by Pool players.
  6. Occasionally, but not rarely enough not to warrant comment, a visitor from afar or the social retard will employ the method Ignorance of Local Customs. These curious people will simply offer neither to buy a round of drinks, nor an excuse not to. This technique relies entirely on those present being too polite to make a formal challenge.
  7. Unbelievably, I have actually walked into a bar with someone who has ordered drinks from the barman and then just looked at me expectantly when payment became an issue. These people should not be allowed into polite society.
  8. Finally, possibly in conjunction with one or more of the above, there is some benefit to be had in the Endless Delay Method. A seasoned professional is able to combine techniques for a whole evening. When it is within half an hour of closing time he will make an unanticipated retreat to avoid being called upon for last orders. Even if this method fails, a saving will have been made based upon the natural trend for the size of the group to diminish as the night goes on.

A danger inherent in using any of the procedures outlined here on a regular basis is that the perpetrator will gain a negative reputation and will be unable to continue. The way they get around this, and a useful method of spotting these people, is by having an apparently large number of friends comprised of numerous small groups. It will be of critical importance to the villain that no member of one such group meets another.

Used carefully and with forethought, these behaviours can be employed to chilling effect, not least because it is considered a social faux pas to bring the misdemeanors of another to the attention of those present. It is only through widespread awareness and education that we can really combat this problem.

bradnowell contacted me having read this node to point out another technique which he has used to great effect. I include his comment in postscript because the method does not really avoid drink-buying responsibilities as such, although interested parties may consider it valuable:

"...u missed out the classic tho - buying a round early in the night while the drinks are cheap, and when only half the expected party of friends has actually turned up. Works a treat"

If You Wanna Play, You Gotta Pay

(or, Eventually "The Guy Who Dies With The Most Money Wins")

If there's one thing that makes me so furious I could explode, it's people who venture out to places of relaxation, conviviality and sometimes stupidity and for some peculiar reason consider being a cheapskate a sporting event instead of boorish behavior. This kind of behavior, sad to say, is all too common today. And I wonder why.

One thought that occurred to me is that perhaps some of my peers grew up in households steeped in Depression-Era mentality. Even if they're pulling a mid-six-figure salary, these poor souls haven't been able to shake their childhood training in frugality. Well, there are some times when frugality becomes stupidity. It takes a lot of exposure to persons of a generous nature for these people to "un-learn" what was drummed into them in their formative years.

There is absolutely no excuse for a person who's been trained by example (e.g., the family dined out a lot) to engage in the game of Penny Pinching (can you spell c-h-e-a-p?).

I Didn't Order That

If you're in a group and, let's say, you're going to a movie, it's hard to squirm out of paying for a ticket. If your group goes to a casino and sits down for a game of blackjack and you just stand there (no, they won't let you take a seat and watch), things get boring fast. And should you ask a friend who's betting $25 a hand to order one of the complimentary cocktails that are given generously to players, in all likelihood you and your friend will at the very least get a scolding from the pit boss. Go out to a diner after an evening's activities and you're going to look like a heel if you sit there drinking your ice water whilst your friends feast on burgers, club sandwiches and the like.

Thirty-four years in and out of the restaurant business has exposed me to some of the worst examples of poor spending behavior in social situations. The first is a large group, typically requesting separate checks. When the bill comes the miser of the group points at his bill and asks the server, "hey; what's this item for $7.95?! I didn't order that!" When the waitress points out it was for the Stuffed Jalapeno Appetizer and then points to the empty plate upon which the Jalapenos in question were served (often also saying "well, somebody ate it and you ordered it") the tightwad usually grumbles, often using obscenities, and will even occasionally ask for a manager. The manager will more often than not remove the item from tightwad's bill. In the short run, tightwad's "won." In the long run, he's probably caused more than one of his party to be embarrassed; doubly so if that individual frequents the restaurant where this has gone on.

Another more brazen version of this trick is gobbling up half of an entree and then calling for either waiter or manager and complaining that it either tastes no good, was poorly cooked, or some other concocted excuse (people use hair all the time to pull this off). Savvy managers can spot a cheapie miles away and will do anything from telling them that it can't be sent back after it's been eaten substantially, or even better, telling the perpetrator that they'll "take care of it right away." Then the bill arrives and they're charged for the half of the entree that they ate.

Oh, This Drink Just Ain't Right

These days alcoholic beverages make up a considerable portion of the cost of dining out, if one imbibes. Now, a restaurateur worth his salt has eyes in the back of his or her head. I have witnessed people who suck down 3/4 of a cocktail and then pour their ice water into the glass. Then, of course, a the perpetrator summons a server and complains that they "took a sip" and found that it's either weak (oh, dear Lord do I hate people who beg for alcohol) or just "doesn't taste right." It's easy to do with either a clear cocktail, or something exotic served in an opaque ceramic device instead of glass. It's much harder with amber stuff like Scotch or Bourbon.

The first time I saw this I seriously thought that the customer just was hesitant to bother the server for ice. Well, they bothered the server alright. I was seventeen years old and supported the server's story to the floor manager. However, this particular place was so expensive that the right thing to do was to replace the doctored drink with a fresh one without question (and keep eyes on the table for the rest of the evening). Despite the watchful eyes, two lovely pewter bread and butter plates managed to make it out of the restaurant along with the couple, who paid cash and stiffed the waiter.

The Bottom Line

If people who try to spend as little as possible do it merely for the fun of it, they're either sick or were brought up by a parent who taught them everything they knew (and said parent may very well be doing five to fifteen in a penitentiary someplace). Why their "friends," especially polite company, put up with this I have yet to find out.

The moral of this story is that parting with a bit of cash is necessary etiquette. And etiquette, distilled to its essence, is merely making the people around you feel as comfortable as possible. If a lack of funds is the case, there are many ways to have a good time on a shoestring. You just ain't going to have that good time at, let's say, the local country club.

/rant off.

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