The subject is greed, and the context is people’s behaviour when presented with a “free bar”, or “open tab” at a function such as a wedding, firm’s do, or other event where the host will be picking up the bill.
Last Saturday evening, my wife and I attended a bash thrown by a firm of builder’s she does work for. My wife works as a book-keeper, on a self-employed basis, checking people’s accounts and helping them to file their tax and VAT returns. She only spends a few hours a week on this particular company’s books, but she looks after the payroll, and the boss obviously appreciate what she does for the firm.
Once a year, the boss throws a summer party, which he claims is a much better idea than a Christmas do. I wouldn’t disagree, as it is certainly nice to be outside enjoying some alfresco drinking and eating during the warm weather.
Last Saturday was the second such event we have been invited to. The venue was the same as the previous year, and was the Carpenter’s Arms; a slightly upmarket pub, just to the north of Tonbridge, on the road towards East Peckham. I wrote about the pub here, and this year I am pleased to report that this time around the beer offering was enhanced by the addition of Dark Star Hophead, to go with the Harvey’s Sussex, plus the ubiquitous Doom Bar.
We arrived a little late – 90 minutes late to be precise, as somehow Eileen had got the times wrong! It didn’t matter, as the party was in full swing and, more importantly, there was still some food left. The food was excellent, with mini-burgers and those posh freshly-cooked scotch eggs, with the bright yellow, runny yolks, some seriously good quiche, chicken drumsticks plus sausage rolls. The beer was good too, although the Hophead was rather on the cold side, even for my liking.
The guests had gathered on the walled patio, over-looking the road at the front of the pub. We sat ourselves down at a vacant table in order to enjoy our food, before moving over to join the rest of the assembly. We managed to squeeze on at the end of one of the tables, and after a few introductions, joined in with the conversation plus the general and, at times quite lewd, banter (we are talking builders here!).
I made a trip back to the bar to pick up a couple more drinks, and it is here that I need to point out that the company were running an “open tab”. I had another pint of Hophead, whilst Eileen, who doesn’t really drink, had a lime and soda.
I returned with our drinks and sat back down again. It was then that I noticed the two pints of Becks (they were badged glasses), on the table close to where we were sitting, hadn’t been touched. Actually, that’s not quite true as both were around a third empty. What I should have said, they hadn’t been touched, or even claimed, all the time we were sitting there.
I also noticed a full bottle of Orange J2O, sitting there with the cap off, but otherwise untouched. When the barmaid came round collecting empties, I noticed quite a few other partially full glasses which were also unclaimed.
Later in the evening, the champagne was brought out and there was a rush for that. I didn’t bother, as I was quite happy with my beer and didn’t want to mix drinks either. Shortly before 11pm, the company boss called time on the tab. This seemed to induce panic in the two girls sitting opposite us, who rushed (staggered actually, as they were quite drunk), into the pub to “Get a few shots”.
To me this really was taking the piss, and a real abuse of the host’s generosity. Along with the umpteen drinks left unfinished on several of the tables, plus the partially drunk bottles of wine, still in their cooling buckets, these cost of these wasted items must have amounted to a fairly significant amount.
Don’t get me wrong this was a good evening out, and both Eileen and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The food was excellent and the company, on the whole, good. Drink wise I had four pints of Hophead, whilst Eileen had a slimline tonic, a lime and soda plus a coffee. Neither of us wanted, or indeed needed any more. Now I am not trying to be virtuous, as I’m certain had we wanted more drinks we could have had them, and that applied to everyone; but there does come a point where people’s greed takes over, and they start ordering more alcohol, just because they can. Given the amount of half-consumed drinks scattered around the place, I was glad it was not me picking up the tab, but I also felt annoyed that the host’s generosity had been taken for granted and abused in this fashion.
Back at work on Monday, I related Saturday night’s experiences, and my thoughts about people taking the piss, to a couple of colleagues. One said he had been a guest at a wedding recently where there WAS an “open bar”, but drinks were restricted to beer, wine or non-alcoholic ones. Those wanting spirits or shots were required to dip into their own pockets.
He said that virtually everyone was happy with this arrangement, which seemed eminently sensible to me. It mirrors the policy adopted in recent years by the company I work for. After putting up with people playing “drinking games” (usually involving shots), at the firm’s Christmas Party, a similar edict, limiting drinks to beer, wine and soft drinks, was issued. The result, less loutish behaviour and drunkenness, along with a greatly reduced bar-bill at the end of the evening.
It is this last point which is probably the most important, particularly in the context of last Saturday night. The company hosting the party is family owned, and like most small businesses sometimes struggles to pay its bills. Whilst it obviously makes for good employer, worker and supplier relations, at the end of the day these events have to be paid for out of company profits. It makes little sense for people to indulge in the sort of irresponsible or wasteful behaviour witnessed the other night; especially when such actions might place the future survival of the company they work for, in jeopardy.
I am all for people having a good time, but when they start taking advantage in this sort of fashion, I get rather annoyed. My wife who as previously mentioned, looks after the accounts, hasn’t yet seen the bill, but we were guesstimating that it would be quite substantial. As with all these things there needs to be limits set. My company has learned this over the years, and I’m sure others are starting to do the same.
People’s behaviour though, never ceases to amaze me and when there’s a heady mixture of alcohol involved, it is perhaps not surprising they sometimes end up getting carried away.