Okay, here’s the thing: That last post was initially longer, and I edited it to stay more on focus with the question. I shouldn’t have done that because it lost a lot of the context.
That’s not to say that your end judgment would have necessarily changed — you may still have chastised where I ultimately landed on the subject — but now that I’m going back to add said context… Well, hopefully this helps you understand why I felt I had to go to that extreme.
The full story, which I’ll get into below, boils down to one thing: Tim doesn’t do gray areas.
I initially was okay, if not loving, the idea that Tim would order drinks at trivia. He wanted to use alcohol to alleviate some of his social anxiety, and I figured that was reasonable.
Unfortunately, Tim has a high tolerance, so one or two wouldn’t cut it. He’d order anywhere from three to five drinks, which meant that the bill generally came to $25+ after tip. My frugal sensibilities would’ve preferred to keep it under $25 — preferably a little closer to $10 to $15 — but it still wasn’t too bad.
But things quickly escalated. He started ordering food too, and the entrees were generally $12 to $14. He wanted full-fledged meals most of the time, so we couldn’t just split an appetizer. Besides, those weren’t a ton better at $8 to $9 a pop for less food.
At this point the bills were routinely hitting $35 to $40 a night after tip. The breaking point came one night when I was also hungry and ordered an entree. After tip, we paid $48 — and it was only that low because he’d had just two drinks.
As we were leaving, I told him that we’d need to scale back. Aaaaannnd that’s when the arguments began.
Trying to compromise
I asked him to choose between a meal and drinks. No. He said he was always hungry and it smelled great. Meanwhile, he also wanted a little liquid courage. (The social anxiety wasn’t easing, despite it being the same crowd most weeks.)
I suggested we get fast food on the way to trivia. If he were full, the smells wouldn’t be as enticing. He didn’t think that was true and refused to try.
We tried having him pre-funk at home so that he could just eat at the bar. But he made the mistake of just sipping the drink for about 45 minutes before we left. Consequently, the alcohol made almost no impact. He wouldn’t try again.
Okay, I said, could he at least keep it to one or two drinks? No, he wouldn’t promise that because that might not be enough for him to relax.
Fine, could he just keep it under $25 (since we’d also have to tip)? No, he didn’t want to “count pennies” when he was already self-conscious around these people.
From frugal to cheap
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we ended up at soda and water. Since we couldn’t afford “all” and he refused anything in between, I was forced to go with “nothing.” He simply wouldn’t understand anything else.
I can see how that looks like a step too far. Perhaps it is, but I didn’t know what else to do short of no longer meeting up with the only friends I have in this state. Hopefully, you can see my dilemma a bit better, even if you still don’t agree with the outcome.
That said, I won’t pretend that I didn’t dream all along of a free trivia night. I didn’t think it should have to cost anything except maybe a soda to keep Tim’s dry mouth at bay.
But your arguments* have swayed me… to a point.
The restaurants don’t suffer
The “What if everyone stopped ordering?” argument still makes no sense to me. I look around the room and 90% (or more) of the 30 to 50 people in the room have ordered food and/or drinks. That’s quite a lot of sales for two hours on a weeknight, after dinner, during what would normally be a lull in business.
These folks are enjoying their orders. They certainly don’t look like they made a purchase out of a sense of obligation. And even if they did, they don’t know me and whether I’m ordering. So my lack of food isn’t going to somehow cause a cascade of food-abstention. At these places at least, enough people are always ordering because they’re hungry, the food smells too good to pass up or they could just really go for a beer right then.
Meanwhile, no business in its right mind would expect every single person to order, let alone rely on that for its profit margins.
Due to a few other factors, Tim isn’t coming back to the group no matter what. This means that I can open up to spending a little bit. Still, I’m not necessarily going to buy something every time. Here’s why:
I don’t drink coffee, tea or soda. I hate beer and wine. And I’m definitely not going to drink hard alcohol and drive. (Even cider gives me a slight buzz for at least an hour, making me paranoid to have it at a two-hour event.) So if forced, I’d order a soda which I don’t particularly want and wouldn’t particularly enjoy. All for $6 to $8 after tip.
Nope, not doing that.
Yes, I could order food. And I might. But here’s the problem: Due to a weird eating schedule, I have dinner at 4 p.m. I’m usually just not hungry by trivia time. And no, I don’t want to put off dinner because that’d lead to at least two hours of hunger pangs — all for the privilege of breaking my diet. Just to support venues that, from the look of things, are doing just fine on trivia nights.
That said, sometimes my dinner doesn’t cut it, especially if the restaurant’s food smells particularly good. In those cases, I’ll order. Probably.
I’m only going to order if the food is worth the price (or at least almost worth the price).
I’m not paying $13 for a chicken patty with pepper jack cheese and a smear of chipotle mayo. Nor will I spend $9 for a plate of half-assed nachos or three pretzel sticks and cheese. (All of those are actual examples of menu items at some of the bars/restaurants we attend.)
If I’m at least a little hungry, I’ll try to order something small like fries. Or if the restaurant decides to have some appetizers on special then I’ll get one of those.
But if I’m not hungry and the food is unappetizing/horrendously overpriced (for the quality received), I’m not going to feel bad about not ordering anything.** If the restaurant wants my business, it needs to make its food worthwhile and/or appealing. Which several of them do, so I don’t foresee a problem.
The servers are a different story
I didn’t realize that Arizona was one of the states that can pay tipped workers less than minimum wage. I still don’t believe that the places we go to pays the reduced amount.
But I could be wrong.
I also still firmly believe that the waitstaff does indeed ignore me once they realize I’m not ordering. The couple of times I’ve changed my mind about ordering, it was pretty difficult to flag the server down. I had become a blank spot, just as requested.
But I could be wrong.
Therefore, I will make sure from now on that I carry cash to these events so that I can always leave a tip even if I order nothing. Just in case I am taking up any of their brain space.
*To everyone I didn’t respond to, please don’t be offended. I did read what you said. I did digest it. I’m just in a spot right now where I cry at the drop of a hat. (Seriously, I’m crying right now as I type this. That’s not on you at all. It’s just a fact.) Anyway, it was all I could do to read the dissenting voices. Trying to respond to them was too much.
**Incidentally, I told three people in my trivia group about the veritable poo-storm the last post generated. They seemed puzzled as to why I’d feel obligated to order something. So I guess at least I know the group wasn’t judging me all those times I ordered water.