Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Carried away?

The subject of this post is not particularly about beer, although beer does play a part. What I am about to write about is one of the less pleasant sides of human behaviour, and whilst the perpetrators may not even realise  their actions show them in a less than favourable light, I feel it is something worth drawing people’s attention to, and also worthy of further discussion.

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.


Anonymous said...

A good read, Paul. We see the same sort of greed at all-yo-can eat buffets, particularly on cruise ships when there's terrible waste.

Dave said...

Not sure this is limited to events and food. I see coworkers who spend the companies money in a way they would never spend their own. There is a sense of entitlement that I don't really understand in this behavior.

Anonymous said...

Seen this many times before, a previous employer of mine went from full open bar to wine and beer only to a ticketed system to finally having dry Christmas parties.
The shift happened over time and was caused by perhaps four or five of the 300 or so that worked there. People who would normally drink beer and cheap beer at that would switch immediately to spirits and then wine when that was the only other option. The theory seemed to be drink as much cash as you can as fast as you can, trying to cut people off when they were drunk and belligerent led to the pleasant scenes you can imagine.
When the booze was turned off there was a predictable outcry but pointing at the half dozen idiots responsible didn't deflect any of the perceived anger at the company for being "cheap"
It did however make for company events that had a lot less strife and was probably worth it to be honest.
Unfortunately the entitled idiots that caused the problems never really saw that they contributed to the policy change in any way.


Curmudgeon said...

In the early 80s, I worked for a company that was an offshoot of a multinational, but still had something of the atmosphere of a family firm. Each year, they would put on coaches to take their employees for a lavish Christmas lunch at a coaching inn a few miles away. This included unlimited free wine but not other drinks at the bar.

However, eventually, due to misbehaviour and examples of people taking half-drunk bottles back home with them, it was cancelled. There was no announcement - one year it just didn't happen.

On the other hand, I've seen reports that buffet restaurants actually cut down on food waste, because people don't take what they're not going to eat. How many half-eaten plates of food do you see going back into the kitchen at Wetherspoon's?

Dave said...

How much of the food waste is due to excessive portion size? A lot of the meals served seem to be enough for two. My wife and I typically split an entrée and I am not a small person.

Curmudgeon said...

Yes, excessive portion size is a common problem, plus meals being served with a combination of items not all of which are to everyone's taste. Yes, you can always say "can I have it without X?" but often it's simpler just to leave X on your plate. With a buffet you only take what you want, and in your desired quantity.

Paul Bailey said...

There is definitely a culture of “entitlement” amongst those who indulge in this sort of behaviour, and as several people have pointed out, they don’t seem to even realise that they’re doing anything wrong. Spending someone else’s money in this cavalier fashion is inexcusable, and really shows up the worst in certain people. As Dave points out, they wouldn’t spend their own money in this fashion.

I’m not sure about the buffest argument though Mudge, as there is still a tendency amongst some people to let their greed get he better of them. We have one of these “all you can eat” establishments in Tonbridge, which offers a range of both Chinese and Indian food. Most people are sensible, but you do get the odd person who will go back for a third or even a fourth portion, before inevitably leaving some of it on his or her plate.

I haven’t been on a cruise, but I know several people who have. I’ve been told there’s an unlimited amount of food, of every description imaginable. Strong will-power is needed, but I imagine the cost of feeding the few really greedy individuals is factored into that of the whole package, along with that of any wastage, and at least on a cruise, passengers have paid in advance for their food. With free or “open tab” bars, some other poor so and so is picking up the bill, and it is here that people really should learn not to take advantage.

Curmudgeon said...

@Paul - *some* people take advantage of all-you-can-eat buffets to stuff their faces, but most don't, and that's built into the operators' costings.

I did this blogpost a while back about the Taybarns chain, which now seems to have bitten the dust. Chips are one of the prime examples where standard meals come with excessive portions, and in that piece "manager Simon Ewins says Taybarns orders the same amount of chips for 8,000 meals a week as the previous pub ordered for 2,000."

All you can drink bars are a different matter because they will inevitably attract people with drink problems, and some who don't will end up getting carried away, whereas there's a bit of a natural limit with eating too much.

Ian Worden said...

Although it was a few years ago, I was told by a Wetherspoons manager (at the George in Wanstead) that company rules stipulated 14 chips per portion. I counted the chips when next eating in their pubs, two different ones I think, and there were indeed 14 on the plate each time.

Amazing how some statistics stick in your head.

Liam K said...

I tend to find whenever there is an open bar/tab going there is always one guy (normally a guy) who stands at the bar the whole time and when he goes to order his drink decides to order for everyone else, like its his round or tab. It's an open bar people can get their own drinks, and his asking of people is slowing down me getting a beer...

But once that tab is closed and he goes to order...oh once he finds out the tab is closed he's found nowhere near the bar

People do have that sense of entitlement and thinking like shot it to get my money. I'm naturally a beer guy so it doesn't quite work that way. I'm also aware that a lot of companies set limits and people drinking stupidly reduces everyone elses chance of having a further drink and good time.

But in the end, with open taba, the pub will make a good profit and don't care if people finish their drinks before moving on. Their aim is to make good sales that day to boost their profit/income.

Paul Bailey said...

Taybarns don’t seem to have lasted long, Mudge. I often wonder who thinks up these daft corporate names (Hungry Horse, Wendy’s Kitchen, Brewer’s Fayre etc). Counting chips Ian, also seems rather petty, but I expect some bean counter will have costed everything right down to the last French Fry.

Liam, I agree that the pub wins when there’s an open bar, but given the way a few greedy individuals behave, they are increasingly subject to sensible limits. Rightly so in my view.

RedNev said...

Having worked only in the public sector, I've never experienced a works do with a free bar, but this kind of behaviour doesn't surprise me at all. There are some people in such situations who, instead of appreciating the hospitality, have a sense of entitlement based partly on not wanting to 'lose out', partly on 'they've got money - they can afford it', and perhaps partly on 'I work hard for this company and I deserve these', perhaps coupled with a reflection on the level of the salary.

Taking what is essentially a gift for granted or, worse, exploiting it is an unpleasant trait.

Dave said...

Those are the exact statements i hear to justify it.

Paul Bailey said...

Nev, the public sector might not offer its staff works functions with a free bar, but it does tend to offer far better pension provisions than the private sector; certainly now that most “final salary” schemes have been scrapped.

I know what I’d rather have!

RedNev said...

That's decreasingly the case, Paul: the value of many public sector pensions has been eroded in recent years. The best UK pension scheme is that for MPs, who can get a pension equal to their final salary, currently £74,962, after 40 years.

Personally, I never missed employer-sponsored parties. Our office sports & social club occasionally put on parties until they were banned from on high, but they were paid for by us club members. To use official funds for drinks has always been a sacking offence in the civil service.

Constantine said...

This place is clean and has nice ambiance, more like modern than classic. Our visit to New York Event Venues was just amazing. I believe it was a treat to be here. It would be a treat to attend another event here.