#806 Trivia Night & Drunk Math

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a great, strong, smart female friend who has fallen head over heels for her boyfriend. They’ve been dating for under a year but already live together.

This friend has been attending a weekly trivia night with us now for over a year. When the new guy came on the scene he said how much he loved trivia and asked to join. We are a very inclusive team with friends from all over so of course we let him.

While he isn’t the favourite at trivia (he is very competitive and we are very bad at trivia but we have fun) things had been mostly fine, until he lost his job. He has been unemployed now for about 4 months, which I get is tough. However, he went from having a few beers at a casual Monday trivia to having 6+ over the course of 2 hours.

It’s awkward when he gets drunk for sure, but again I could have put up with this. I get it being sad about not having a job is hard. However, in the last month there has been a pattern of him not paying for said drinks. The bar we go to refuses to do separate tabs, so what often happens is people put their cash down and go. Consistently it seems he doesn’t put enough in or any at all, and by the time we realize those of us who are left are stuck with the bill. It’s one thing to forget once or twice, but it seems to be a pattern.

I’m not really sure what to do. I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t feel we are good enough friends for me to confront him about it. But I also know my best friend wants to spend the rest of her life with this man, and I’m worried that if I bring it up she’ll get angry with me. Money is such an awkward subject, what do I do?

This seems like a really simple problem but nothing at the intersection of booze, shame, love, and money is ever that simple.

You could start putting in cash for your tab and leaving earlier than he does, so you’re not the one covering for him. If you do this, you could hand your friend the money and make her the Keeper/Counter of the Money, like, “I’m out, this covers me, see you next week.

You could bring it up privately with your friend – “This is awkward, but I’ve noticed that at the past few Trivia nights, Boyfriend hasn’t put in quite enough for all of his drinks and the rest of us have ended up covering it.” Your friend will most likely be mortified and either talk to the dude about cutting back on his intake or working out a system where she treats him. Either way, she/they will handle it between themselves and it won’t be your problem anymore. This may be the beginning of a “Also, Friend, is he ok and are you cool with how much he’s been drinking lately?” conversation or it may not. Be ready to listen, but initially keep the conversation focused on the math.

You could bring it up (or someone in your group could bring it up) at the moment that he puts money down before he leaves, especially if there someone in your group who usually is the Keeper/Counter of the Money, like, “Hey, something’s not right, that’s only $20 but beers are $4, so it’s more like $30.” “Whoa, did you forget to pay? Let’s get your keys while we’re at it, too drunk to pay is definitely too drunk to drive.” You could talk to him directly about it, like, “Hey, I don’t want to embarrass you, but I’ve noticed the tab was short last time, so can you make sure you put in enough tonight? We can help you with Drunk Math if you need. And also, you’re not driving right now, are you?

I think a compassionate strategy is to treat it like an honest mistake – “You/He probably didn’t realize, but now that you do, it surely won’t be a problem anymore!” If it was a mistake, the person now has the information to correct that mistake delivered in the least mortifying way possible. If it’s still a problem going forward, then you’ll know that it wasn’t an honest mistake.

The things that stand out to me from your letter are the anxiety that your friend would be angry with you if you brought this up or that this would somehow ruin their relationship. If she’s angry with you (instead of with him) for saying something, that’s a sign that things are not all the way okay in that relationship and I can see why you are reluctant to poke at it in case that’s the truth. However, it’s okay to not want to cover this dude’s bar tab every week, whether it’s down to sleaze or obliviousness. It’s sweet that you want to not embarrass the guy, but getting annoyingly drunk and then running out on a bar tab week after week is embarrassing stuff! I would be very embarrassed if I were doing that, as would you! You’re experiencing proxy shame and awkwardness on his behalf, and it’s time to return some of that where it belongs.

 

 

 

105 comments
  1. caryatis said:

    Have you considered moving trivia to a place that allows separate tabs? Or asking the bar management to make an exception?
    This is not to disagree with the Captain’s advice–the friend’s behavior sounds like more than just a math fail. But it sounds pretty annoying for each person to have to keep track of exactly how much they owe and make sure they have cash. Even if every person makes a good-faith effort to pay, there’s a high risk that someone will make an error and create social friction.

    • dr_silverware said:

      That’s a possibility, but it’s also an effortful way to avoid putting responsibility on the bf, and I don’t know if it’s worth it.

    • Ha you are clearly not a bar trivia person. Once you find a trivia night you like, you are LOYAL UNTIL DEATH. Or until the grueling break-up of the couple that introduced you to the place, as happened with me.

      • MuddieMae said:

        Indeed. I went to my bar trivia for 3-4 years until the trivia night ended, in fact.

      • therufs said:

        Or until the bar where trivia is hosted closes with no warning. RIP Doolins </3

      • That’s what I thought, too! When you find a place that works, WOE BETIDE THE PERSON WHO RUINS THE BAR.

        DON’T. RUIN. THE BAR.

  2. Cypress said:

    Maybe also think about asking everyone to pay for what they usually drink at the beginning of trivia night, instead of the end? Something like, ‘So we’ve totally faaaaailed at drunk math lately, folks, because the past few weeks Sue and Jack and I have ended up covering more than our own drinks at the end of the night. Can we all cough up the cash for x-number-of-beers a piece before we get started with the game, and anyone who wants another before we’re done can just toss in an extra $4 when they order it?’ might do the trick. Might also be wildly offensive! But toss-money-in-the-drink-fund-as-you-go is how my peeps and I generally operate when we’re out and about, as that way no one ends up ordering something they can’t (or don’t want to!) pay for.

    • tesserae said:

      Plus tax & tip. People have a way of failing to add those amounts in when they calculate their share, or of shorting the tip – 10% tax plus 20% tip (in Los Angeles, anyways) and you really do need to pitch that in as well…

      • Zillah said:

        This is actually why I refuse to be the person collecting the money unless I know the people very, very well. I’m not sure if it’s malice or obliviousness or both, but regardless, people have a tendency to pay exactly what their meal cost plus maybe a dollar or two – which is not enough 99% of the time.

    • Groovy Biscuit Intervention said:

      Yeah, I would be tempted to do something like this. Or else, ‘we’ve totally faaaailed at drunk maths lately, so let’s just pay for our own drinks as we go’? (Assuming that this is a go-to-the-bar venue, not a table service one). Doing something like this raises the issue but doesn’t single out friend’s boyfriend.

    • Agreed. Keepapo

    • Agreed. Keep a pot on the table, or a pint glass – then everyone throws in $5 or whatever their drink costs, BEFORE they go to the bar. No money? No drink!

      Of course this may lead to the awkwardness of him making excuses for why he cant pay, asking people for “loans” or to buy his drinks, but “sorry, I cant” should cover it.

      • Alli525 said:

        I love love LOVE the idea of a money pot on the table! That way you’re still paying per drink (although clearly not at the bar) … if you know your fave beer is $6, you throw in $7 – assuming $1 per drink tip is the established norm where you are – and off you go!

    • Smithy said:

      If the issue is truly just about the money – this is the way to do this. As someone who used to be part of a social group that would go out a lot at a bar with so split tabs – if there were periods with more than one oopsies beyond a few dollars, it would be brought up like that and dealt with. For the most part it truly was in the haze of bad drunk math, and people being called on it fixed it.

      However, another reason to bring it up pre-drinking is because I had a terrible situation go down with a notorious “doesn’t pay”. A boyfriend of someone who was part of the larger social group (but not particularly close to me), was a bit notorious on flaking on the bill and I knew that people were resentful of it. So one night I ended up being with him when the bill came, and he loudly and aggressively refused to pay for anything. Even though this was a bar I went to regularly and worked with the wife of one of the owners, I was actually pretty disappointed with how the bar staff didn’t help me just pay for my part while this guy was getting increasingly violent about being asked to pay. The whole scene was really ugly and scary.

      He had apparently blacked out and he (and his girlfriend) were mortified to hear about it later – and without getting too into his drinking issues – I just made it very vocal that I refused to ever be left alone with him. I was never close to either of them and they ultimately moved away – so the impact on my social life was largely negligent. But I will say that had my point been to avoid creating problems, bringing all of this up after he was drunk was NOT the way to do it.

  3. LW: Is it just me, or do you not like this guy very much?

    It sounds to me like you’re conflating several different, ostensibly unrelated problems:
    1. Your friend has “fallen head over heels” for him, and you feel like she’s moving too quickly. “They’ve been dating for under a year but already live together” — it sounds to me like you’re criticizing them for being living together already.
    2. This guy is now unemployed, drinking more, hanging around you guys drunk and awkward and uncomfortable.
    3. The guy isn’t paying for his drinks and he’s leaving you the tab.

    You’ve made the question just about issue #3, but it sounds to me like the gestalt is bothering you as much or more as the bill. If splitting the bill was all that was bugging you, you could have boiled this down to “a guy who’s part of the group has stopped paying”; the whole intro would’ve been unnecessary.
    If I’m reading you accurately, you’re sincerely worried over your friend, who’s bonded very quickly (in your eyes) to a worrying guy who can’t find a job, has begun drinking heavily, and is content to stick his friends with the bill. That’s a rather different question, which is likely to net you a rather different answer.

    • JenniferP said:

      It’s not just you. 🙂

    • Muffin said:

      Yeah, I second this — LW, it sounds like what you really want, at minimum, is to get this guy out of your trivia team. It is ok to want that! Depending on who’s in charge of deciding who’s on the team, you might even be able to get what you want.

      I think you just have to (a) be honest and (b) be straightforward. I suggest that you say “I’m not comfortable having Dude on the team anymore” to the relevant parties (your bff and/or dude). Make it about how *you* feel, not anyone else. Accept that your friend will probably feel sad and upset, and then, if you’re actually super worried about your friend’s relationship with this guy, make some time to have friend-dates where you don’t discuss this dude or trivia or their relationship at all and instead just have friend-fun and bond together.

      [Addendum: Your letter says that your trivia group is “inclusive,” so “of course” you added this guy to the team, which suggests to me that this is a group whose boundaries and rules for inclusion are not explicit. Who gets to decide who’s added to the team? Are other people on the team uncomfortable with this guy? (I’m guessing it’s not just you.) I’m asking because it may be worthwhile to think about this and talk about this in a more explicit way going forward, and to be conscious of who has the actual social power, even if everyone nominally pretends that This Is Just the Way Things Work. With great social power comes great social responsibility.]

    • Clarry said:

      Not liking the guy very much cuts to the chase. The rest is all window dressing. When I like someone, I’m glad to buy her a drink, pick up the check, ask him over for dinner, give them a place to stay. When I like people, keeping score on who contributed what is what seems awkward, not being generous. The minute I feel something nagging in the back of my mind that I’m being taken advantage of, that’s the canary that lets me know something more fundamental is wrong than just who paid for which beer. In my younger days, I tried to rationalize with things that amounted to “it’s not fair not to like someone just because he’s competitive about trivia” or “but I drink beer too and he only drinks a bit more.” Now I make an effort to listen to my canaries.

      • When She Was good said:

        IDK, I’m fine with covering once or twice for someone I feel just fine about, but for me to be ok with doing that in perpetuity, I have to reaaaallly like them. I totally agree that she seems to not like him. But I think even if she didn’t actively dislike him, it’s understandable to not want to continue covering a bar tab for someone you’re not particularly close with.

        • onyx said:

          Same. I’ve spotted people, and I’ve been generously covered or partially covered by others when I didn’t have cash on me, but if it’s every. single. time.? No matter how much I like someone, mooching is not okay. The ONLY exception would be if they explicitly made arrangements “hey, I’m tight on cash right now, can you help cover my drinks?”. But this dude is just quietly stiffing the entire group. Douche alert.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Same. It’s good to listen to those warning bells/canaries/etc., but I’m *not* perfectly fine with somebody I otherwise like deciding ‘hey, neverjaunty will always cover my tab’.

          Though I’ve also found that genuinely decent people don’t mooch, and tend to go the other way, actually (i.e. not wanting me to pick up the tab one night even when they’re super broke and I’m offering and truly am cool with it).

      • Vicki said:

        If I like someone and can afford it, I am generally happy to buy them a drink or pick up the check, but I want to either offer or at least be asked. “Vicki, can you buy me lunch?” beforehand is very different from someone saying “you’re getting this, right?” after they’ve ordered and eaten, or quietly leaving so I have no choice but to buy their drinks if I want to be able to go back to a place I like.

        Most people don’t like being taken for granted; this guy is somewhere on a continuum from taking the LW for granted (assuming that she has a job and won’t mind buying him beer, so he doesn’t even have to ask), to deliberately ripping her off (if he’s not asking because he doesn’t want to give her the chance to say no, or ask him to handle some kind of chore for her in return). Yes, if you like people you’re more likely to buy them drinks or be happy to do them other favors. That doesn’t mean that expecting people to buy favors (financial or otherwise) is a way to create affection.

      • k8899 said:

        When I was poor, you bet I counted every dollar, because what this guy is expecting others to pay for was my entire shopping budget for the week, and more than other people’s shopping budgets. Nothing to do with how much I/they liked someone.

        • When I was poor (and unemployed), I chose not to go to expensive social outings, or I chose not to drink, or I chose to stick with having just one beverage of choice and stopping there. This is an avoidable problem even if you are financially strapped.

      • Aptly put.

        When I like someone, I’m glad to buy her a drink, pick up the check, ask him over for dinner, give them a place to stay. When I like people, keeping score on who contributed what is what seems awkward, not being generous.

        Also, when you like someone, you can actually talk to them when they do something that bothers you.

        • I dunno, even if it was a good friend, I think I would take issue with paying for their drinking problem. That’s what it sounds like the LW suspects, and I get why that feel uncomfortable. Even for my good friends and family, I don’t want to enable their demons.

    • H.Regalis said:

      Same. It feels more like “and he’s shorting us on money” is just the particular guise you’re using to confront your friend about her boyfriend being a jerk who’s using her. I would say to try as hard as possible to keep whatever conversation you have focused on the money and not have it turn into, “and also all of us hate your boyfriend and think he’s living off of you like a parasite.” It’s true that money is a touchy subject, but it’s likely that your friend already knows the rest of you don’t like this guy and if she does get mad, it may be more about the subtext rather than the actual conversation itself.

  4. in the last month there has been a pattern of him not paying for said drinks

    Drunk boyfriend is stealing from everyone in the group, let’s be clear. This is nothing to be gentle or gracious about, or worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. Everybody else in the group worked for their money, and he is having everybody else pay for his drinks without asking. It doesn’t matter how long he’s been out of work or whether or not that’s his fault or how upset he is about it. Joblessness does not give him a free pass to steal from his or his girlfriend’s friends.

    I’d have a different reaction if he were asking an individual or the group ahead of time to spot him. Or if someone specifically invited him and said they’d cover his tab. As an example, I’m in a circle of pals who meet weekly to talk politics. One of our circle has been super down on his luck lately. He doesn’t come to the gathering unless he has some cash in his pocket, or unless he’s connected with someone ahead of time to pay for him. Or he gets a soft drink and just hangs out, after having had dinner ahead of time. What he doesn’t do is show up, share a tab with some party, and then skip.

    Not sure why drunk boyfriend’s girlfriend — who is living with him — isn’t covering his tab. And if she gets mad when this conversation happens, then she’s not a very good friend to LW.

    As for the venue not doing separate tabs, I would tell the server, “Drunk boyfriend is not part of our party,” and let him go up to the bar and get his own drinks. Thieving problem solved.

    • santaevita said:

      Agreed that he’s stealing from everyone in the group. However, I’m a bit uncomfortable with “worked for their money” rhetoric. First, you don’t actually know the financial situation of other people in the group. Second, that idea of being deserving because of hard work has been and is used in really unpleasant ways.

      But agreed on the basic point of your comment.

      • RVA Cat said:

        It’s only been 4 months, so boyfriend should still be collecting unemployment. Of course that depends on where you live (in my state he’s eligible even if he was fired, so long as it wasn’t for misconduct – i.e. stealing, etc.) and whether or not he is still looking for work….

        Sounds like the undercurrent is that you worry he is sponging off of your friend. It’s good that you’re concerned, but ultimately it is her decision.

        • Trix said:

          “Eligible even if you are fired…”

          Wow, I had no idea about this, and it illuminates what seems to me the ridiculous amount of power employers have in the US.

          In the three countries I’ve lived in, you get govt benefits when you’re fired. Generally there’s a “stand down” period where you don’t get anything – a month or less (and you don’t get any if you have savings in the back). The rules are different if you quit without good reason, though.

          • pazzzia said:

            some states is depends on why you were fired. you are only ineligible for certain firing offenses, but not for others. also it depends on whether your former employer fights it. so always apply and see what happens!

      • onyx said:

        But isn’t this the point? The shameless moocher who is giving no thought to THEIR financial situation is assuming HE is entitled to their money covering him. Any of these friends could be living on a tight budget as well, or struggling financially; drunk boyfriend is assuming they can cover him just fine, to the point he doesn’t even bother asking–he just leaves them to pick up the tab. I read Glomarization’s comment to be a criticism of Drunk Boyfriend’s entitlement, not insinuating the people who are paying are somehow superior or more deserving. (Though they certainly do deserve NOT to be stolen from on a regular basis, which is exactly what is happening.)

  5. AltoFronto said:

    I think that once you’ve pointed out the issue, if this guy is going to keep making a habit of drinking too much at everyone else’s expense, and trivia night is becoming uncomfortable for all of you, he could be disinvited.

    Or, if you’d want him to stay invited to trivia night, could you maybe all agree that everyone gets their own drinks separately at the bar, instead of keeping a tab for the whole group? It would be less convenient, but make it harder for one person to buy more drinks on everyone else’s money.

    I was also concerned that you think Friend will react with anger. Is Friend really likely to get angry with you for pointing out the problem? Or is it more likely that she will be embarrassed by his uncool behaviour as much as you are?
    I mean, she’s living with the guy, if she’s not already clued in to his financial situation and had some kind of conversation along the lines of spending money on trivia night, I’d be surprised.
    Not my (or your) business to speculate, though. The relationship will run whatever course it’s going to run, so don’t be tempted to make this about how he’s a bad fit for her or anything – even if it seems to be at the back of your mind in this letter.

    Give them the benefit of the doubt for now, and an opportunity to amend the behaviour. But if it persists, maybe change the routine to make it harder for him to duck the tab in future, if he refuses to stop taking advantage of your hospitality and good will. Either by changing how you all pay for drinks, or by suggesting he stay at home.

  6. Clarry said:

    6 beers in 2 hours + Dodginess on paying bills or owning up to behavior = Drinking problem. That’s not full blown alcoholic at this point, but it is a waving red flag. I’d skip the concerns about who might be embarrassed or angry and go straight to: You’re drinking too much for me to want to hang out with you. Then let the chips fall where they may. The problem here is that you don’t personally own the trivia game night so others including your strong smart besotted female friend are going to have to decide if they continue the game without you or without him (or without him or her, or without either of you). I realize I take a harder line on not taking responsibility for bad behavior when drinking than most people, but that is the way I see this. (Note that I’m fine with the idea of drinking. I do it myself. I just never excuse bad behavior on account of it.) Also, can you tell the bar tender how much is being consumed by this one guy? They might cut him off if they knew. As it is, they can tell themselves that the beer is going to the table as a whole

    • e_elizabeth said:

      Additionally, he could be stiffing the group for what he owes as a way to justify his drinking, to himself or his girlfriend. As in, if she objects to how much he spends on beers, he can then retaliate, “…but I only had X beers on wheneverday!” and use his bank balance as proof.

    • It’s not LW’s job to police Drunk Boyfriend’s intake. But it is hitting LW in her wallet when Drunk Boyfriend drinks up and then skips out on the bill. Why he’s not paying isn’t LW’s problem; the mere fact that he’s not paying is LW’s problem. I would avoid any intervention-like conversation (“you’re drinking too much for me to want to hang out with you”) and just get to the money issue (“yo, quit drinking 6+ beers and then skipping out on your share of the bill”).

      • Zillah said:

        This. The boyfriend doesn’t seem to be a good friend of the LW’s, so it feels intrusive – particularly since it’s pretty clear that the LW doesn’t like him. And, it’s also not going to get a result that solves any of their problems.

        If they decide to get into this can of worms, rather than talk about how much he’s drinking, I’d suggest talking about the behaviors they don’t like.

  7. Ankh-Morpork said:

    I have been on the exact opposite side of this problem where a friends new boyfriend always wanted to be the one in charge of the bill and collecting money. But after you put in your money and a generous tip – he would always insist everyone was short and make everyone cough up more and more money. We all secretly suspected we were covering his portion of the meal but we knew he was so capable of making a big scene so we didn’t challenge him. I wish i could say we confronted him – but we mostly tried to go to places that would split the check until we all went off to collage. But people can cheap out on both ends of the spectrum.

    • Amy said:

      Whenever I pay my tab to One Who Collects Money, I always say out loud so the table can hear me “My portion was $X, so here’s $Y amount to cover that and the tip.” specifically. It got me out of your type of scenario once when I went out with a friend’s new boyfriend and he pulled that stunt. I asked him to confirm what my portion of the check was (in a situation where we all got wildly different priced meals/drinks) and repeated “Right, so I put in Y amount to cover that and the tip.”

    • WilhelminaMildew said:

      I have a close family member that used to do this in high school & college, if he was driving when our friend group would go out on weekends & get fast food afterwards. He’d order the most expensive items on the menu, but insist that it was everyone else that was coming up short for their one or two (much cheaper) items. When the rest of us figured it out, we all started doing what another poster said they did- “my total is X so here is Y to cover tax” so that when the total came up “short” we were all able to clearly state NOT US. It did stop happening, but in the 30 years since, this person has clearly shown themselves to be a truly awful person, most likely a sociopath, willing to take advantage of anyone he can.

  8. Arielle said:

    LW, this is a complicated version of a problem that happens to people everywhere. Literally every time I go out with friends, someone either gets their math wrong (happens all the time), or someone tries to get away with paying less than their share. It’s not fun to get into why it happens, so I avoid that. Instead, I’ve appointed myself the Check Math person. My friend group uses Venmo all the time, so that frequently what I do. I’ll do the math on the back of the receipt, someone covers the bill, and charges everyone their respective amounts through the app.

    This is easier than confronting individual people about this stuff for me, and it results in a greater level of accountability. We don’t get super nitpicky about it, but, you know, we’re all young adults with varying levels of disposable income. No one wants to feel irritated about covering Joe’s extra martini. We’ve found it to be a good solution, and it avoids singling out people, especially when it’s something we’ve all done.

  9. Morgan said:

    Regardless of what the LW thinks of the guy in general or her friend’s relationship with him, she is wise to keep her focus on the specific behavior of not paying for drinks. Her friend is more likely to be receptive to a discussion about a specific, objective behavior versus subjective interpretations of his personality.

    But I would also not bring the friend into the discussion, at least not yet. First step is to speak directly to the boyfriend and see how he responds. Treating him like a special snowflake who requires handling with kid gloves only exacerbates the problem.

  10. unlurking said:

    > I don’t feel we are good enough friends for me to confront him about it.
    Then you are definitely not good enough friends to be buying him a bunch of drinks! Or any drinks at all! Which is what he’s doing. I know it feels awkward, but definitely use some of the scripts to make sure he realizes he’s shorting everyone — the awkwardness already exists, but right now you’re dealing with it — feel free to foist it back onto him. If it’s honest mistakes, he’ll be embarrassed but then start covering his own tab (plus tax & tip, which sometimes people forget or don’t realize how much it adds up quickly).

    • Fiver said:

      ^ Yep, this. I would be uneasy covering someone’s tab over and over even if I liked them, but someone I wasn’t even close to? Especially when that tab was six beers in two hours… Normally I’d say that was none of my business, but if they’re gonna make me pay for it? Nope!

  11. Isben Takes Tea said:

    The phrase “proxy shame and awkwardness on his behalf” is huge–thanks Captain! I do this ALL THE TIME, and that takes all the energy away from the actual behavior with physical consequences that needs to be addressed into nebulous alternate futures conjured up by non-transferrable personal histories.

    LW, what I’m learning here on CA is that embarrassment can cause defensive reactions that we cannot control, but it is often the only way through behavioral negotiations necessary for any healthy relationship. And the embarrassment also goes way down the less proxy-embarrassment you bring to the conversation, if you can. Very best of luck!

    • Redgirl said:

      Love this response–particularly “nebulous alternate futures conjured up by non-transferrable personal histories.” So well put.

    • There’s a German word for “embarrassment by proxy” (because of course there is) and it is “fremdschämen.” I love it!

  12. e271828 said:

    This is a perennial problem with group tabs! I assume everyone else in the group is noticing it by now and commenting on it?

    LW, if you are best friends, or even only on civil terms, with the non-payer’s girlfriend, then your relationship is strong enough to bear a candid statement like, “Your boyfriend has not been paying his share of the bar tab at trivia night. Either you stay long enough to settle his tab, or we have to start putting cash on the table—drink, tax, and tip—every time each of us gets a drink.” You may blush and feel uncomfortable saying this, but do not add qualifiers or back down! Do not say something apologetic like “I’m sorry to bring this up.” The point is that he is not paying, and she is not paying for him, and the rest of you are being used. That has to stop or the whole trivia night event you all enjoy will fall apart. Being plain-spoken about money makes it easier to talk about, really!

    The cash-on-table method is awkward in some ways, but it does solve the problem of someone shorting the rest of the party. Everyone must know beforehand to bring enough cash for their tab, so you will need to do some communication coordination. Every drink, pay into the kitty: drink plus tax plus tip. (Most places will assess a non-negotiable and hefty group-service charge as mandatory tip on large parties. Make sure that’s being covered.) If a member wants to pay with a credit card, they can scoop the cash and pay the whole thing at the end if the bar will not split the tab.

    If service is available from the bar, the group can stop running a tab. Yes, you have to get up, go over, and order and pay for a drink. But this will solve the problem completely.

    If the rest of the group will not back you up and wants to run a group tab, and service is available at the bar, go to the bar, order your drink, pay for it on the spot, and sit down again with a clean conscience. Leave early so they don’t stick you with the bill. If service is not available at the bar, drink water or nurse one drink (soft drink is good for this), put your cash payment in the middle of the table, and leave early so you are not stuck with the bill.

    If the problem is that the bar is delivering pitchers and this guy is downing his beer faster than anyone else, then going to an individual-glass order system is fairer to all of you. Yes, it’s less of a “bargain” than pitchers, and someone will argue against it on those grounds, but it also means people pay for what they drink, not for the average of what the entire group is drinking.

    It does seem that group events like trivia nights always attract someone like this eventually, but the sponges usually stick to being just a little bit short (forgetting to add tax and tip) rather than stiffing the whole group. A large group (more than five, say) is more likely to have trouble dealing with it than a small, tight one.

    Good luck. I agree that there are alarm bells here and this guy sounds like he may be a developing Missing Stair, pushing social boundaries to get the group to cover for him/accommodate him. But just dealing with the tab problem is the first order of business, and you can do that without saying anything about your friend’s relationship. Keep it about the money, nothing else.

    • e_elizabeth said:

      I agree with everything you’ve said here. LW, I think it is highly unlikely that your friend’s boyfriend has managed to mistakenly not pay for his tab, especially as this has occurred on multiple occasions. He is purposefully getting free drinks by relying on everyone else’s reluctance to cause conflict. Your friend might know, even, and is just trying to ignore the issue until someone brings it up to either or both of them.

      In the future, I’d be sure to request that the tab be closed and fully settled before boyfriend conveniently takes off, so that he can’t just throw in what he claims to owe before anyone else can look over the bill. Then, if the rest of you decide to stay at the bar longer, you can open another tab or get your own drinks directly from the bar.

      I’ve been in a similar situation before, also related to a trivia tournament, and the resentment of feeling like I was consistently having to pitch in for appetizers I’d never ordered really built up and is part of the reason my partner and I have said “Never again” to agreeing to a regular trivia team.

    • glomarization said:

      But just dealing with the tab problem is the first order of business, and you can do that without saying anything about your friend’s relationship. Keep it about the money, nothing else.

      Agreed, agreed, agreed. Call out Drunk Boyfriend on not paying his share of the tab. But don’t get into how much he drinks, or whether he’s a good partner for your friend, or whether he’s maybe a sociopath predator advantage-taker, etc., etc. That way lies drama. Just make him pay his share of the tab or GTFO of trivia night.

  13. Isben Takes Tea said:

    Ooh, good point!

    • Isben Takes Tea said:

      Sorry, that was for @unlurking

  14. Manattee said:

    I wonder if it’s better to talk to the friend or to the friend’s boyfriend about this? I know the LW has a closer/longer standing connection with the friend, but the boyfriend has been coming to the weekly trivia thing for somewhere between 4 months to a year (and enough over 4 months that the change of behaviour was noticeable). I would say that’s long enough for him to be treated as a group member in his own right without this having to be mediated through his girlfriend. I’m not sure what the best solution is, but I was wondering how much of the natural instinct to want to sort this out via the girlfriend is because the LW is closer to that person, or how much because we are socially trained to deal with problem group members who are male by getting their girlfriend’s to sort out the problem? I don’t know the gender of the LW but if they are female too this could also be going hand in hand with a dose of it being super hard/unacceptable for women to criticize/call out men (x5 for a guy described as ‘competitive’).

    • I agree. I think that making the girlfriend responsible for his bad behaviour is probably suboptimal, because if there ARE unhealthy dynamics present in their relationship, it just perpetuates them. If there are not, then you are being reasonable and approaching the person responsible for the bad behaviour.

      The friend may still react poorly, especially if the boyfriend is making her responsible for his bad behaviour, but at that point it’s on her, not you, because you have taken reasonable action to resolve an issue that bothers you. As such, of course, it is important to not “speak for the group” or anything, but to say “I keep having to cover YOUR drink expenses and that’s unreasonable to expect of me. Please pay for your own drinks.”

      If you want to give it one more shot before confronting this dude, another strategy is to, midway through the last round, ask the wait staff to settle up so that your bill comes due before trivia is over and the winners are announced. Competitive people are unlikely to leave before the winners are announced/the round is over, so you may be able to use his competitive streak against him. Again, however, this is just putting the onus on LW to do MORE work, not less, so while it is probably not a specific remedy for this social ill, it might be a good habit for the group to get in going forward so that you don’t end up with another Mooching Mike.

    • JoanofAnon said:

      I agree so hard. He’s been hanging out with you for at least 4 months (probably more), so you do know him enough to have this conversation. And his shitty behaviour is *not* her responsibility and all you’re really doing by talking to her is shifting the awkwardness so she has to have the really hard direct conversation about money instead of you. Plus, how’s this guy going to feel when his girlfriend tells him someone he’s been hanging out with for months asked her to ask him about this. It’s actually quite humiliating and will make him feel completely outside your friendship group at a time when he’s already really low.

      I get that you don’t like this guy, but you’ve been hanging out with him regularly for months. If you don’t like and respect him enough to have this conversation with him directly you might want to rethink that.

      If you’re worried about how his behaviour effects your friend, that’s a conversation to have seperately with her – check in, make sure she’s ok. But she’s not responsible for him shorting people at parties and if you want it to change, you should confront *him* about that.

  15. tawg said:

    I think you could bring it up at the beginning of the next quiz night? “Hey team – we’ve been consistently short on paying the tab the last x weeks, so some of us have been footing an unfair portion of the bill. This really sucks, and it can’t keep happening. What are we going to do to make sure that no one accidentally gets stuck covering someone else’s drinks?” I like this kind of approach because you don’t have the awkward danger of calling out a specific person and putting them in the spotlight. You make it a conversation about the problem rather than the person. You don’t get any backlash for trying to manage the problem because you’ve put it to the whole group to discuss. And you might get someone who is like “Well, I don’t mind paying for a few extra drinks! Whatever! It’s all fun!!” because they really don’t want this awkward thing to be happening. In which case, you can say something like “Well, I don’t think you should have to. I think we should all be able to count our drinks, and not drink more than we can cover for on the night. But if you want to cover the difference at the end of the night more than any other possible solution, then sure.” I’ve known people who will do that to keep one night easy and fun and special, but volunteering to do it indefinitely is a different thing.

  16. I’m not sure how Paying For Things work in your part of the World… (and I recognise this does nothing to actually Address your issues, so much as avoid conflict…) but, is it possible to instigate a Pay-As-You-Go type arrangement for you and your Trivia group? That way, there is no large bill for awkward splitting at the end…

  17. oregonbird said:

    Bringing it up while everyone is settling in: ‘Let’s talk awkwardly about money, guys!’ and go on from there. But please don’t bring it to his GF, because women are not auto-responsible for the actions of any man standing near them.

    • golden peanut said:

      I would argue that while no person is responsible for their significant other’s actions, an existing member bringing in a new member to a group is tacitly vouching for that new member, and can fairly be told, “Hey, New Member is creating a bit of a problem.” This is true even when Existing Member is a woman and New Member is the man she is standing near.

    • Hmmm she’s his gf and it’s through her that he’s been getting his invitations to trivia night (if he wasn’t dating her he wouldn’t be invited) – I don’t think it’s unreasonable that LW ask her friend to talk to her guest.

      • oregonbird said:

        If that’s the context, I agree. But given the ‘if I diss her boyfriend she won’t like me’ worry, there is no healthy emotional separation — it’s Brad&Janet being discussed by the LW, not “Nancy and her guest”. Although as some have noted, she would certainly like it to be the second thing. I just didn’t get a strong feminist vibe, so I went with the usual social cues. I do not mind being wrong.

        • Manattee said:

          I agree with Oregonbird’s advice. Maybe if the boyfriend had only attended once or twice then it would be more appropriate to talk to the girlfriend, but he’s been attending a weekly meeting for over four months, so at least 20 sessions. I think that’s long enough to have established enough of a relationship with the group that members of the group can talk to him directly about things that affect the group event. I think at 20+ sessions we’ve passed a point where the ‘new member’ thing has become a bit of a smokescreen for the gender bias present in who is expected to do the emotional work here.

  18. golden peanut said:

    Switch to a “pay for each drink as you order it” practice would be my solution.

    • stillandstorm said:

      Many people have been saying this and I intensely dislike this solution. The way people in the group pay is not the problem, the dude is. They have been paying for the drinks at the end of the night and it seems to have worked perfectly fine before the dude joined. Maybe they like doing it like this, or maybe they don’t mind either way, but they should not be expected to change their habits because of one dude who’s not paying for himself.

      Right now, everybody’s dealing with the dude’s behaviour by having to pay for him. Using the “pay as you order” solution, again, EVERYBODY is dealing with the dude’s behaviour, by changing their habits.

      Why should they? How is making everybody in the group change the way they pay any better or easier than confronting one person?

      The dude created the problem and he should be the one to deal with it, not everybody else. The sooner the awkwardness is returned to him, the better.

      • The dude created the problem and he should be the one to deal with it, not everybody else. The sooner the awkwardness is returned to him, the better.

        This ^

        I believe a direct call out will work best.

        For example “BF, you’ve been short the last few times and I can’t afford to cover you.”

        Or “BF don’t go yet, you only left 20, and that isn’t enough!”

      • I agree. The dude is the problem. Make him be the solution.

      • Shadowflash said:

        I’d like to agree with this, but after you confront him and he turns out his pockets and only has $2…what do you do? Call the cops? Why should he pay his share when he’s benefiting from the group dynamic? Why should he change his habits when the group doesn’t seem to mind doing it this way? It would be nice if just calling him out on it would fix the problem, but I really don’t see that happening. He’s just got no incentive to (and no, I’m not someone who thinks everyone needs “incentive” to be a good person, but I’d say this guy is clearly beyond the reach of the common good).

        I mean, there’s really no “or else” in this “pay up or else” scenario. The LW can make it awkward, but it seems he’s already willing to be awkwardly short a few bucks if it gets someone else to pay the tab. The only solution is to find a way for the group (as a group or as individuals) to not share a tab with him. I don’t know what a bar not doing separate tabs means (do they do individual tabs at all? is it per table? is the tab on someone’s credit card and the cash reimburses them?) but it sounds like they might need to consider an every-person-for-themselves model if they want to avoid buying this dude any more drinks.

        And if you’re willing to just throw the guy out of your trivia group…do that. Honestly it doesn’t sound like he’s much fun to be around right now anyway, the drink-and-dash is just the quantifiable icing on the I-very-much-dislike-you cake.

        • stillandstorm said:

          Well, if my group of friends was joined by a guy who left others to pay for his drinks, and he didn’t change his behaviour after we directly confronted him about it, he sure as hell wouldn’t be welcome at our table anymore. What we would NOT do is to change the way everyone pays so that the dude can keep awkwardly hanging around.

          • Shadowflash said:

            And that’s good! That’s the way your model works–you’d sooner throw him out of your group than change your drink paying method, and everyone knows/believes this to be true. BUT, I’m inferring from the LW’s use of “inclusive” and “of course we let him in, even though we don’t like him and his trivia style doesn’t mesh with ours [paraphrase]” that the LW’s group doesn’t use that model. They’ve effectively ruled out excluding him. Which is why I, and others, am recommending other models of paying.

            To analogize, a lot of MMOs will ban users who take advantage of flaws in the game’s programming. But that doesn’t mean the flaw itself isn’t a problem. The Drink-and-Dash Dude is a problem, true, but his behavior also reveals an exploitable flaw in the group dynamic which also needs to be dealt with.

            Also, direct confrontation may not even be a safe option if the only time the LW interacts with this guy is when he’s drinking/drunk. Changing group payment models may be the only safe choice.

    • Courtney said:

      Exactly what I was going to say. Stop running a tab for the table for the night. Go to the bar to get your drinks and pay for them then. I love the Captain’s scripts and advice, but if you are really too uncomfortable right now to bring it up, change the dynamic to keep it from happening in the future. (Or use the Captain’s scripts + change the dynamic so there is no tab.)

      • John said:

        It’s kind of rude to the waitstaff to deprive them of tips when you’re sitting at a table they’re covering, and may be against the restaurant’s policy. And it’s not really conducive to team trivia for each person to keep disappearing from the table for 10 minutes to go get a drink.

        • Courtney said:

          What part of what I said implied that the waitstaff wouldn’t get tips? If you are buying your drinks one at a time, you tip when you pay for them.

          • Tips at the bar go to the bartender, not your server. Tips from the table go to your server. Ergo, if your group of six takes up a table in your server’s section for two and a half hours and order all their drinks from the bar and no meal, your server gets no tips.

          • John said:

            Yeah what Bauble de’Ice said, sorry if I wasn’t clearer.

          • Another former server (and bartender!) vouching that waitstaff generally have to tip a percentage out of what they earn from patrons that night to the bartender (and busser), plus the bartender gets his or her own tip jar at the bar on top of that, so it kinda screws your server twice if you bypass him or her and order at the bar.

            The only exception to this rule that I have experienced is in a private club, where there were no tips at all and all employees were tipped a percentage of the sales that night. It is also possible that restaurants that pay their employees an hourly living wage (still extremely rare, and I don’t know of any in my entire state) and tell patrons not to tip would have a different system.

        • johann7 said:

          Complaining about people not tipping is victim-blaming – both customers and servers are victims, as servers are subject to excessive labor exploitation and customers are essentially charged an unadvertised surcharge in order to allow the owner to avoid payroll and excise taxes (and good management practices – if I hear the excuse that tipping motivates good service, instead of, you know, having your manager(s) make sure employees are performing well, like every other fucking business, I’m going to scream). Yes, not tipping can deprive people in vulnerable positions of money, but, crucially, it is THE EMPLOYER NOT PAYING ZIR EMPLOYEE ENOUGH that is actually depriving someone of necessary money. Tipping is still a good thing to do (while demanding a universal, tipping-agnostic minimum wage that is a living wage so that tipping is no longer a norm) because we live in the society we presently do with the laws we do, but if someone isn’t in a position to do so, it’s not a moral imperative. One person’s – or even one group’s – extra or lacking couple of dollars is not going to make much difference either way, which is why demanding we try to solve the problem through individual magnanimous action instead of demanding fair policy is an approach doomed to failure that additionally enables exactly the wrong behavior by allowing selfish free riders to take advantage of others’ generosity and pro-social sentiments to never tip (or, sometimes, even pay their bills at all, as we see here) while the rest of us foot the bill. If a particular group is sitting in the same place every week and not tipping, depriving a single staff member of money relative to others, the staff can rotate serving areas or split tips to compensate, or the restaurant can add an advertised, mandatory surcharge or better yet fold higher wages into the listed prices and pay its employees decently – there are so many options that don’t boil down to using people’s empathy as a means to extort them.

          • John said:

            You have not swayed me. If you go to a restaurant which you know does not and will not implement one of your clever methods for ensuring fair tip distribution and yet insist on not tipping a person who, under an admittedly unjust system, was expecting tips from you, that makes you a dick.

            But thank you for taking so much time out of your day to laboriously explain these things to me. Most other people would assume I’m smart enough to know these things already.

        • therufs said:

          Hoping someone would say this. Not to mention that if you come to the same trivia night all the time, you probably know and like your server and want to give them money. “Go to the bar for drinks” = “screw over someone else you’ve built a relationship with to passive-aggressively avoid the actual problem.”

          • CMart said:

            I too am glad someone had brought this up. I’m a server/bartender and my “service industry” hackles were fully raised.

        • Jackalope said:

          Thanks everyone for the information. I for one was completely unaware of how this would affect who got the tip.

          • Manattee said:

            Me too! This is so useful. I’m from a country with a very different tip culture and the first few times I travelled to the states, none of my US hosts gave me any sort of heads up about how this worked and were then kinda shitty about it when I got it wrong. I’ve learned to ask ahead about tipping in different scenarios, but some situations you wouldn’t even think to ask about! Like I had no idea you were supposed to tip your tattoo artist until I heard some tattoo artist friends complaining about the non-tippers.

          • B said:

            Honestly I think the tipping system in the USA is a little overboard- of course not saying the response to that is to not tip, just that it is pretty confusing and not really intuitive. I actually had little clue that say, most servers guaranteed hourly wage is way less than minimum wage because it is assumed one will get tips, and that most places don’t pool their tips among the whole waitstaff (though a few do), and that one is also supposed to tip a bartender even though you are going up yourself, etc etc.

          • Also: if this is a thing that concerns you, whenever you go to a restaurant where employees are doing something showy and there’s a tip bowl placed nearby, if you want to tip the employees, don’t just shove money in the bowl. Ask first “if I put money in this bowl, will you get it?” If they look uncomfortable, their eyes seek out the manager, or they give a quick shake of the head as they continue to do their job, don’t put money in the bowl. They aren’t getting it. If you want to directly tip the person who cooked your Mongolian barbecue or whatever, introduce yourself and shake their hand with a palmed bill.

            My experience is that random bowls full of cash almost always go to the manager.

  19. Katamari said:

    My first approach would be to put it to the whole group next time – “Hey everyone, about the tab, we’ve been coming up short the last couple of times. Can everyone make sure they’re putting in enough to cover what they had?” By doing this you are also giving boyfriend an ideal opportunity to be a good dude and fess up by saying “actually I think I might have skimped the last couple of times, sorry guys won’t happen again”. If he doesn’t do this, another option is to wait until he’s gone to the bathroom or something and quietly mention to Friend, “Hey the thing I said before about someone not paying their share? I think it might be Boyfriend”. Then see how she reacts to this, which will be very telling. If she makes excuses for him (“oh, he just gets a bit forgetful when he’s had a few”), then gently suggest to her that she make sure that he covers his share, or that she cover his portion. Then if it happens again, institute a blanket “no more bar tab, all drinks to be ordered from the bar” rule.

  20. If this group is like many I’ve encountered, only some are feeling the pain of paying for the Drunken BF and any others who skimp on paying.

    I bring this up because a solution that changes everything (like pay as you go, or going to the bar etc) may seem really odd to those who aren’t stuck paying for DBF.

    So I think it’s important to state that the bill isn’t covered by what people have been Leaving. Maybe even reiterate that what each person owes is drinks plus tax and tip-typically at least 25% more than the price of drinks alone (where I am, closer to 30).

    But I admit that I don’t mind being Bill Apportioner (You – yes you – 10 bucks more. Nope Jenny gets 4.50 back. That’ll be 20 more from all of you over there.). Even when that means I end up paying the extra 20.

    • Yup. Those who stay till the last dog dies/live closest/have to wait longest for a bus/are giving everyone else a ride are going to be bearing the disproportionate brunt of Boyfriend’s skipping out on the bill.

  21. isolucy said:

    Some places that insist on a shared tab will let people bring the check up one at a time and pay as they’re leaving. So a check has 8 beers on it, person A goes up, say’s they’d like to pay for their two beers, pays, leaves, and everyone else can pay their part when they feel like leaving. It’s not generally advertised, and some servers will roll their eyes because it’s more work for them, but some computer systems can deal with this.

  22. Gargleblaster said:

    It’s kind of amazing to me that right on the heels of a post about emotional labor being unfairly apportioned to women, so many people here suggest going not directly to him, but to the girlfriend and expecting her to sort out and mediate his problem with the group.

  23. Gotgingham said:

    It’s funny how cheap petty behaviour is used against us go feed our own fears of looking cheap and petty.

    What DBF is doing is called Social Loafing and can happen on any rowing crew…

    But here’s the THING, we know and they know, we all know when somebody isn’t putting their paddle in.

    We know!

    And we *ride* our luck until the level of loafing gets noticed by two others.

    All it takes is two others to notice, and now it is a thing, not a petty bit of cheapness.

    In this story the setup is volatile because the elephant in the room is jobless. And cohabiting with our *strong* friend.

    What is strong about this friend?

    The Bedouins have an expression:

    *Do not let a Camel’s nose into your tent.*

    What happens is, next it’s the neck, then one hump, then two.

    Strong Friend already has two of his humps inside her tent, and now he is nosing into LWs.

    Here is where it ends sadly: once DBF has been proportionally longer unemployed than working.

    I have been that man. It’s not fun being thought you are a deadbeat. But instead you do things that offset it (like bring amazing handcrafted gifts that blow their minds away at how talented I am and oh surely I will get hired soon, here have a drink.

    It’s to late, the Camel is in the tent.

    He has shown no sign of wanting to come off looking well-intentioned, by bringing in *alternative value*.

    We know when we are loafing.

    Just say *Money is too tight to mention.* And keep singing this song. Coz it fits everybody’s circumstance.

    The trouble with poverty, in my own personal experience, is the advantage we impoverished people take of each other.

    He has two months left before his average sinks and the story won’t be A TRIVIA question but a fundamental life issue.

    • …dude has been unemployed for four months, where are you getting that he’s only ever worked six months in his life? I missed that, if it’s in the comments.

      I am slightly skeptical about the “alternative value” thing being an option, since that implies the guy knows everyone well enough to give gifts which are not only amazing but wanted and appropriate, and I’m not particularly getting the sense from LW’s letter that that is the case. (Also it kind of sounds like a combination of selling and favour-sharking, but possibly it would not ping other people’s “favour-sharking” radar.)

  24. Sheelzebub said:

    How about a standing policy of not leaving until the tab is paid? That way, if you’re short, you can have other people throw in what they owe. Or you can have someone collect at a set time, get everyone’s money for what they ordered (plus tax and tip) and pay the bill from there.

    OR if he starts to leave, stop him and say, “Hey, before you leave, we need you to settle up. We’ve been running short the last few weeks and we can’t afford to keep making up the difference, so we need anyone who leaves early to leave their portion of the bill–with tax and tip.”

  25. Panda flannel said:

    As someone who used to always be a broke drunk always trying to skip out on my share, I would really suggest talking to him directly—I think it would be both kinder and more effective.

    Before I quit drinking I was in a similar position, where I often came along to things because of my best friend and didn’t know others there very well. As long as no one *talked* to me about the fact that I wasn’t buying my share/bringing booze to the party, my drinking problem was strong enough to overrule the otherwise fairly obvious social cues that this wasn’t cool. I knew it probably wasn’t okay, but the vague and unspoken disapproval of people who weren’t really even my friends was very deeply overshadowed by the twin facts of my brokeness and my alcoholism.

    It wasn’t their responsibility, but I wish that someone would have said something at the time, like, “If you are going to come out to this you have to buy your own alcohol,” because then I’d actually have a hard boundary to deal with. I could have tried to save money during the week, or realized this wasn’t the right event/friend group for me and tried to find another, etc. But because no one drew a hard line I could just ignore it. The incentive of addiction was way stronger than the incentive to hear these soft no’s. It did a number on my self-esteem, too—it doesn’t feel great to hang out with a bunch of people resenting you, even if in the back of your mind you know why.

    I think having a “Hey everyone, the tab’s not getting fully covered at the end of the night conversation” won’t be very effective because it still leaves room for this plausible deniability (also, it sounds like it’s not actually a group problem, it’s a BF problem, so it would be much more honest to address him directly instead of sort of publicly shaming him when everyone knows this is about him).

    Also, since it sounds like you also don’t really like BF, is there maybe someone else in the group (not his girlfriend) who has more of a rapport with him, or at least isn’t in the Bitch Eating Crackers stage with him, who could be a better candidate for this conversation? If it can be delivered as truly just about the money, it will probably work better, instead of bearing the weight of everything you hate about this guy and how he’s not good enough for your friend.

    Just two cents in the hat for Set Clear Boundaries With Problem Drinkers Because Addiction Overrules Grey Areas 99% of the Time.

    • Manattee said:

      Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this really honest response.

    • Hopefully my regular username will not show up here this time said:

      As a person who has been dealing with Problem Drinking in my own life lately, this is exactly what I wanted to say, only about 200% more articulately written.

      My personal Problem Drinking Logic Fail was very different than this*, but still, this line of drunk-logic makes sense to me. So, friend’s boyfriend might have a drinking problem, and is using this Pint Glass of Plausible Deniability to mask it. Talking to him directly, using some of the scripts provided by the Captain and some of the commenters, is probably the only method with much chance of success. It might not work, but I think the more indirect methods are even less likely to work.

      And if he does have a drinking problem, I agree completely with everyone who said that it’s not your problem to fix, and it is especially not his girlfriend’s problem to fix. If you think that your friend is in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship, Captain Awkward has many excellent articles on how to be a supportive friend to someone who is dating Darth Vader.

      *I went to the other extreme and decided that since I know some of my friends are uncomfortable being around very drunk people, I would only drink in private. I knew perfectly well that my behavior around drinking did not actually make the drinking more acceptable, and in fact my behavior was a sign of a potentially serious problem. Drinking alone made me feel worse in some ways, since I knew how unhealthy it was, but somehow it was also how I justified drinking as much as I did. If nobody saw it happen, then it didn’t really happen, right? (Wrong)

  26. Ask Cara said:

    I agree with what you’re saying. I have a few suggestions. How about moving Trivia Night somewhere else. A place that lets you pay the tab separately. Then he will be forced to pay for his own. I promise you this guy knows exactly what he’s doing. He should be confronted. I wouldn’t do it in front of everyone. Definitely don’t confront him while he’s been drinking. That will turn into a big mess. Talk with the female friend about it first. See what she says. Either she can say something to the boyfriend or the friend can. Either way there should definitely be something in place when the group meet so this guy won’t continue to take advantage of people.

    • Amy said:

      In my group, telling everyone that trivia night is being moved because of one person would create a bigger mess than handling the guy in the first place.

      • Ask Cara said:

        I’m sure others wouldn’t mind considering the problem. He’s taking advantage of those people.

        • So, the thing is that when finding a pub to do pub quiz at, you need a place that A) holds pub quiz on the right night, B) not too early or too late, C) has the kind of quiz you like, D) doesn’t have a quiz host that you can’t stand, E) has reasonable drinks prices or specials, and F) is in a good location.

          So, the options are: try to find another place that fits all these criteria, or tell someone they need to start actually paying for themselves.

          • Ask Cara said:

            Believe me, I’m not against confronting this guy. He sounds lame. I would’ve confronted this guy by now. The group should also keep their options open though.

      • I feel like there are Trivia People in this thread, who get what pub quiz/trivia is, and people who think we’re going to a bar and playing Trivial Pursuit or something, and can just pack up and find a new one.

        I’ve been living in New City for over a year and haven’t found a new pub quiz yet.

  27. MHM said:

    It seems as if the current strategy as per the LW is to put down the money and then order the drink, and the the BF (boyfriend) is not doing that. The LW calls her friend, her “best friend” and it seems reasonable that she could talk to her friend about the bill, in a gentle manner. Maybe the friend can be asked to be the person in charge of money, as CA suggested. If the friend is a good one she will probably offer her own solution. Yes it sucks that the BF will not be confronted directly, but LW does not feel comfortable with this and I totally get that, a drunken dude can be a scary dude and she doesn’t know him that well.

    The only other option is, the next time they go out, the group (or someone from the group) confronts the couple about the “mistake with the paying last time (no one’s fault) and asks the friend and her BF to pony up the cash for the previous week before new ordering begins. “Oh hey, I had to cover about 4 drinks for you guys last time, would you mind covering me for the next couple of times?” “Oh, I think I may have covered 4 drinks for you last time because you left early. No worries though, a $30 would cover it!”

    But I prefer the idea of talking to the friend beforehand. The situation is already awkward, talking about it just puts the awkwardness where to belongs, as many have already said. BF is her guest, I’d treat them as a unit in this context. Good luck LW!

  28. AW said:

    The bar we go to refuses to do separate tabs…

    What would happen if everyone in the group refused to pay for the boyfriend’s drinks? Does the whole group go to jail? Are you legit legally responsible for his drinks because everyone’s on the same check? Not doing separate checks isn’t a thing where I live.

  29. J R said:

    Girfriend isn’t the problem, and no good purpose is served by talking to her. She isn’t responsible for anything here.

    The guy skipping out on his bill is the problem, and the problem is he’s stealing from people who settle the bill. Someone needs to tell the guy that when he orders a beer, he puts 6 bucks on the table. Every time! Or buys and drinks one beer at a time, and then does ice water after he runs out of money.

  30. JaniesTiredShoes said:

    I don’t know about all of the “you’re not driving now, are you?” comments. Fair enough if LW (and others in the group) genuinely believe the guy is actually going to attempt to drive. However, I’d more like to read these comments as passive aggressive digs at his drinking habits, rather than genuine concern, especially considering the vibes many people seem to have been getting from the letter that LW isn’t so keen on this guy.

%d bloggers like this: