On Efficiently Freeloading Booze and Nibbles at Events

It is a truth universally known that where there’s an official reception or formal get-together, there will be free food and drink. Works things, launch parties, family and friends’ formal events: no doubt you’ve been to this sort of thing. They’re pretty good fun, and in my current posts volunteering at a couple of museums I’ve been guest at two receptions/exhibition launches. But to be honest, schmooze if you want to but we all really know why we’re here: free booze and nibbles. And free posh soft drinks, depending on the event. Here are my tips to maximising your freeloading (not that it’s really freeloading, because you’ve been invited. Haven’t you?)

  • Know your event and set your sights accordingly. A large party for an organisation’s volunteers will not be as well stocked as a smaller exhibition opening attended by several VIPs.
  • Be nice to the waiters. They are your friends in this endeavour, and no-one likes a rude bugger.
  • Start off trying everything, then narrow down to what you actually like and pay more attention to those waiters. Or just don’t be picky. Unless you’ve got an allergy or think your host is trying to poison you, then all free food is good food. Tuck in.
I shouldn’t need to tell you not to accept drinks from Chinese mobsters. Or any kind of mobsters, really. (Pic from bplusmovieblog.com)

I shouldn’t need to tell you not to accept drinks from Chinese mobsters. Or any kind of mobsters, really. (Pic from bplusmovieblog.com)

  • Scope out the room. Sometimes there’s a table somewhere with the drinks bottles on for you or the waiters to pick up. At one reception recently, I was most miffed to find only on my way out that there was a whole table of nice beer bottles I hadn’t noticed. I’d wasted my evening on the slightly nasty white wine I was offered when I could have been drinking Amsterdam’s third-finest lager.
  • Notice the waiters’ distribution pattern. Don’t stand too near their entrance, because sometimes they zoom in, but don’t be at the far end of the circuit because they might have run out by then.
  • There are two diverging tactics when it comes to conspicuous consumption. For the most of us, it doesn’t work be a noticeable gut-bucket because some waiters avoid those who leap straight at their trays. For us, stealth is key. However, and a bit unfairly, I’ve noticed that the opposite approach could work for you if you’re a louder, larger middle-aged bloke – make your appreciation of the grub known and the waiters return deliberately to you, especially if they’re nearing the end of a tray.
  • Smile at the waiters who have the tail end of a bottle to finish. In an effort to get rid of their bottle they might fill your glass more generously.
  • If you’re feeling particularly sociable, time your flitting between groups with them being approached by a waiter, or a waiter crossing your path on the floor.
  • In a pair, work out who likes and dislikes what, grab everything going and share around. Also, when a waiter comes over, if there’s a few of you picking off the tray then they may not notice you using both hands.
Artist's impression of me when I discovered some amazing beef and cheese nibbles.

Artist’s impression of me when I discovered some amazing beef and cheese nibbles.

  • Use the bookend method if you’re in a large-ish group. Make sure the waiter tops your drink up first, then drink away as the rest of your group is refilled, and get topped up again before the waiter leaves. With any luck they shouldn’t notice you’ve gone twice, or they might just admire your dedication to free wine.
  • Don’t speak with your mouth full. And don’t chew with your mouth open. It’s disgusting, didn’t anyone teach you manners?
  • Don’t get pissed. Seriously, I shouldn’t need to say this but you don’t want to look like a tit in front of your work colleagues or someone important. Getting mortal is what you do afterwards at the pub/afterparty/crying alone in your house. Just keep an eye on how often your glass is being filled and be aware of your limits. Expand your drink acquiring to non-alcoholics – the posher the event the nicer the non-booze anyway.
  • If you do go to excess, don’t forget these top hangover cures.
  • Admit defeat when the trays start coming out just for carrying away glasses. There’s no food anymore, and the booze will be down to a drip. This is the point where you make use of all your new contacts or office friends and head off down the pub, or to a disreputable fast food joint. Or just head home, safe in the knowledge that you have freeloaded, and freeloaded well.

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