Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Rounding on binge drinkers

Several papers have reported that Richard Thaler, a professor from Chicago and an adviser to the PM, has suggested that groups of more than three shouldn't buy rounds and should instead have a tab with everyone paying their share at the end of the evening. He argues that this will reduce binge drinking. Prof Thaler clearly hasn't got the faintest idea what he is talking about, and I do wonder how much such nonsense costs us taxpayers. Here are some problems I see straight away (in no particular order):
  1. Many pubs do not operate a system of tabs. Some simply don't have the necessary equipment, but another reason is the worry that a large group will leave without paying their bar bill. Unfortunately, this fear is not without some foundation.
  2. It is not possible to run a tab on a pub crawl.
  3. Disputes would arise about fair shares. Anyone who's been for a meal and witnessed disputes along the lines of, "I didn't have a starter" or, "You had the most expensive meal on the menu but I had the cheapest", and so on, will see the same thing happening: "You were on double Scotches while I only had halves".
  4. How do you work out the share of those who join part way through the evening?
  5. How do people who leave before the end of the evening (e.g. to catch their last bus) pay?
  6. People may be anxious about their share of a mounting bill over which they have no control.
I'm sure I could come up with more criticisms if I thought longer about this. I rarely become involved in rounds myself, and would not want to be party to a tab, but my main reason for this post is that I'm quite annoyed over this suggestion that government should dictate how people spend their own money when buying their own and their friends' drinks. This is adding to insult to injury after the increase in VAT to 20%.

I was also irritated to see the Telegraph illustrate its article about binge drinking with hand pumps and pints of draught beer, rather than the more accurate bottles of vodka and WKD, and tins of super-strength lager and cider.


  1. Run a kitty instead. It fixes most of the problems of a tab.

    The man's still an idiot, though.

  2. I notice women seem more likely to run a kitty. I've no idea what that tells us.


Comments, including disagreements, are welcome.
Abuse and spam are not and will be deleted straight away.
Comment moderation is installed for older posts.