HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Drinks "Rounds" Protocol

Here's something that happened a few weeks back. We usually meet the same people for drinks every now and then; sometimes we'll eat afterwards (once everyone's arrived) but on this occasion I was only gonna stay for one, maybe two drinks.

Now, I didn't wanna get into the whole "rounds" game, primarily because I knew I was leaving early. So, I got to the bar first, bought my drink and sat down at a table. As people came, they got a drink from the bar and joined the table.

After a while, one of the party gets up to get drinks. I decline the offer (as I've still got plenty and don't wanna then hang around to buy one back, as I'm pressed for time).

It takes him ages to get drinks, so by the time he returns, I'm done with my drink but still have some time before I leave. So, I go to get a drink, knowing that everyone has just got theirs, only to have the dude (who has just come back with a full drink) say "while you're there, get me one!"

I guess my question is, am I entitled to ask for money? I mean, if I'm making a point of NOT getting involved with the rounds system, what right does someone have to try to make me?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Asking for money would probably cause a tiff that would extend throug to the next time you all went out.

    I would go to the bar and get only my drink. upon returning to the table and the other guy asks where his drink is I would slap my forehead and say "sorry, I forgot to get it." Smile, sit down and have a converation. Finish my drink and adios.

    1. That's exactly what I thought, so I went ahead and got it anyway, but next time, I'm gonna say I forgot!


      1. oh come on, just buy the guy a drink. Unless.. has he finished his drink at this point or is he doubling up?
        If he genuinely needs a drink and it's way expensive then just tell him to get you back next time. If he's doubling up on your tab that's just rude.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mbe

          Seriously, just buy the drink. What goes around...

        2. Well I did, but I won't again.

          I know it sounds petty, and really I'm quite generous, but he really was doubling up. He knew I was leaveing, I had already declined the offer from anyone else, just so I didn't have to buy drinks, and he'd just come back with a full drink.

          Under those circumstances, he seemed to be taking advantage.


          3 Replies
          1. re: TexasToast

            If this is a person you drink with regularly than you should just get him the drink and forget about it. These things tend to work themselves out over a long period of time.

            1. re: KTinNYC

              That's what I was thinking.

              It all evens out over time ...

              1. re: PaulF

                Agreed. Get him the drink, and if you are really concerned with making things even just be sure to ask him for a drink next time.

          2. I know, I know, and I usually do, as I did that night, but it just seemed like he was taking advantage, that's all.


            1. I find this is a custom that varies very much by the local culture. Based on my rather small frame, I usually just can't keep up with others at the table, and I'm often quite teetotal or don't drink alcohol at all. When I lived in the UK this was awful. It was tough to delicately address the issue with the table (hey guys, I don't want to buy the equivalent of ten rounds when I'll be done after two) without feeling churlish, but at the same time, prohibitively expensive not to. In end I confided in one of the group who kindly took an early round and casually said "oh, except for "sam", who isn't drinking" which then established the pattern. That said, sometimes (e.g. dinner with wine when the total bill will be split evenly), I just don't bring it up for the sake of harmony.

              Any other thoughts?

              1. Thank you! At least someone understands what I'm trying to say. I'm not being cheap or trying to "get out of something." It's just that why would I want to buy 10 rounds of drinks if I'm not gonna be there? And having extracated myself from that (or so I thought) it just seemed wrong to almost "demand" I get someone a drink.


                7 Replies
                1. re: TexasToast

                  I also get what you are saying. The responses do make sense, if it is only one drink and he is a good buddy who gets you back, let it go... However, it does sound as if he was "stocking up" on your dime. There may be no "right" answer or solution, as many threads here will illustrate (splitting the check comes to mind), you cannot change some people so do what is right for you.

                  My first thought, though, was to recommend in the future, if it happens again...say you are going to the bathroom or to make a call on your cell outside for a moment and then on the way back, stop to buy a drink at the bar. Not necessarily the best solution, plotting takes the fun out of the evening but...

                    1. re: TexasToast

                      I also dealt with someone who always did that... A friend/worker of my brothers used to join us for drinks after they finished their day when I lived UWS and drank (pregnant and living in suburbs now).

                      Anmyway, he NEVER bought himself even a first drink, even if we already were there and had drinks... He would walk around or sit down without a cocktail for as long as it took (ALWAYS) until my husband or I would be going up for another drink and then say "Would you mind getting me a ?? while you're up there?" I know we have more money than this guy, not always but in general so I took it as long as I could until it started irking me beyond belief... I gave him the opportunity to buy us back JUST ONCE or even come clean and ask for the freebie - we would have been more than happy to pick up a drink for him if he was not so obviously underhanded about it. Never happened and so I asked my brother to stop inviting him, I felt bad but it was him or me. :-). He had money for other things and this was not limited to one drink per night, seemed to show up when we were buying all night or as long as we were at the bar.

                      Also tried the bathroom/ cell phone trick a few times. It worked at first but then he somehow always ended up right next to me at the bar "on my way back."

                      This guy is an exception, most people would catch on eventually, or no?

                      1. re: Michele4466

                        Wow, this one takes the cake! Didn't anyone ever confront him on this?

                        The trouble with freeloaders is that after a while, it's not the amount of money that irritates you, it's the attitude.

                        1. re: Michele4466

                          We never really confronted him as he was an employee of my brother and my brother felt bad about it but I think he must have "gotten the hint"... We only recently moved out of the city and he stopped being invited about eight months ago...

                          Thinking about it, there is a good chance he did not get it, he never picked up any hints...

                          BTW: When I say employee, my brother has a small business and not alot of money so it wasn't as if he assumed the employer was picking up the tab. Additionally, these were not employee nights out, these were "Hey bro, my hubby and I are going to have a drink...want to join us on the way home?" and then the guy would tag along. Eventually, my bro stopped talking in front of him and that was that...

                          1. re: Michele4466

                            See, my guy is nowhere near this bad. I just didn't wanna encourage it because this is what it can lead to. If you're constantly getting drinks without doing anything about it, you're asking for trouble! That's why I wanted to find a way to nip it in the bud now.


                            1. re: Michele4466

                              I would recommend make sure you are next to him when both of you have finished your drinks. Then say, "Hey bud, we're both empty, your turn to make your way to the bar." This way he either has to go up and get your drink or he may come up with some lame excuse like he's done for the night (in which case you won't have to buy him anymore drinks).

                      2. Ah well. Hopefully it is water under the bridge and won't become a repeat issue with your crowd. If it does, let us know how you handle it.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Sam Ottawa

                          Absolutely it is, I just didn't want to set a precedent, you know, "oh, TT will get it (because Toast is too stupid to notice)."

                          Anyway, I've got some good ideas now to use if I ever need to.



                          1. re: TexasToast

                            If it's your choice what to get, get him a sloe gin fizz.

                            1. re: Jefferson

                              Or some other testosterone-lowering fruity drink with an umbrella.

                        2. We always used the old expression " I'll fly if you buy"

                          Gives em an option!!!

                          1. I already posted one solution up there, but I've had some similar experiences and if it's someone I'm friend with, I'll just turn to him and say something along the lines of, "Dude, do you ever pay for your own drinks?" Or as soon as he asks, you can say, "No problem, don't worry about the money, I'll get this one and you can get the next one."

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rcheng

                              That only works if you're staying (which was the whole point)--I wasn't.


                            2. UPDATE:

                              We all went out the other day and the person bought me a drink, without any prodding at all! Maybe they read CH?


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: TexasToast

                                That is cool...

                                Did it seem "forced"? Meaning it was intentional planning on his part, which is a good thing or sort of a "I am going to the bar, anyone need a drink?", which is also a good thing. Just curious...

                                BTW: That person would have to know under what user name you post and that you are an avid CH'er... :-)

                                1. re: Michele4466

                                  Not forced at all. The bill came, and they reached for it and said "I'll get this" so who was I to argue?


                              2. Again, cool...

                                Glad it all worked out...

                                1. OK, I have another question about "Rounds" Protocol. If I'm out with say 3 other guys, and 1 guy always orders a $9 Johnny Walker while the others order $5 beers, the guy ordering Johnny is getting more in return. After 4 rounds, he's saved himself $12 as compared to if he bought himself 4 Johnny's.

                                  So what do you do in this case? We go out frequently but he's always getting more expensive drinks and I end up paying out extra for him.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Hapa Dude

                                    Well, you could order a 25 year old scotch when he goes to buy a round...

                                    Seriously, most of the time the offender is usually just clueless, and the passive aggressive approach will not work. If it's bothering you, step up and say something. If it's really a friend, they will want to know if they are being unfair and offer to make good on it.

                                    1. re: Grubbjunkie

                                      I agree. Choose something the same price, or quit buying "rounds" altogether.


                                    2. re: Hapa Dude

                                      I'm excessively generous, but if I have a friend who's pulling that, I tell him. Usually I'll just attack his masculinity.

                                      When I'm drinking with someone who expects top shelf, I tell him, "well, I don't drink your fancy stuff...so what do you want from the place I buy my drinks?"

                                      I reserve the more expensive drinks for old friends and my girlfriend, both of whom get whatever they want.

                                      Drinking with guys who insist on drinking expensive stuff is silly and counterproductive.

                                      1. re: therealbigtasty

                                        Well, I don't care if someone wants to drink top shelf - in fact, sometimes that someone is me. It's just lame to make others pay for your choice.

                                        1. re: Grubbjunkie

                                          I agree. As a person who works in the business I realize that most of the prices of liquor are regulated by MARKETING... Yep, I'm telling you all...your Grey Goose dirty martinis are a huge waste.

                                          That expensive shit isn't even any more pure than any other liquor you buy, excepting the store brands, of course.

                                    3. You see, this is why you get your table a tab and then you put a notch in your coaster so you can keep count of your drinks and pay for your share at the end.

                                      Reading this, I am very grateful that I live in Toronto where I have never, ever, in my whole life encountered this 'rounds' stuff. Nor do I find that people here expect to even split a bill -- any group I've been with has assumed you indetify your items and pay your share.

                                      p.s. I go out with friends to pubs at LEAST once a week.