I’ll Just Have Water

December 17, 2009

I went out to dinner with an assortment of people earlier tonight (there were 5 of us total), and noticed something I have noticed often before:

The waiter comes up to the table and asks the person to his immediate left, “what do you want to drink?” She replies, “Oh, I’ll just have water.” The person to her immediate left says the same. Then the next person orders an iced tea – and the two remaining people (I was last) both get cokes. Neither of them get water.

What’s notable here is how often it goes like this – the first person asked almost always gets water, and then either it goes around the entire table with everyone getting water, or someone will get something else and then everyone left feels free to get whatever they want. Rarely will the first person not get water, and rarely will anyone get water after someone has “dared” to not get water.

What’s the explanation for this? I don’t know exactly, but my guess is it has to do with people not wanting to look profligate or poor, and not wanting to force other people to do so either. Buying a coke in a restaurant costs two or three dollars, which is just enough to not be a completely insignificant amount of money. Thus if the first person gets a water, it’s “OK” for the next person to do so as well, and so on, and once someone gets a coke, everyone else has the choice presented to them and usually chooses to get a coke, since, after all, it tastes better. But if the first person got coke, no one could get water without looking cheap, which is no good.


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