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"