Britain's Got a Rather Altruistic Drinking Game

Over 500K strangers are buying each other rounds on a pub's app
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2024 10:00 AM CST
500K Strangers Are Using App to Buy Each Other Rounds
   (Getty / ViewApart)

A British drinking game where people order rounds for complete strangers from their couches has a simple premise: Show these folks a good time, and maybe you'll be next on your night out. And a recent shift in how Facebook promotes groups to nonfollowers has made the Wetherspoons Game go viral, the Wall Street Journal reports, resulting in some patrons receiving so much love, it becomes a party for the whole bar. The game uses the app of a popular pub chain, JD Wetherspoon (known affectionately in the UK as Spoons), which requires users to enter their specific location and table number when ordering. In 2018, Chris Illman saw an opportunity in this app quirk and organically created a group on Facebook to spread a little good cheer when he was at a low point in his life.

"When I started the group, I'd just recovered from cancer, got divorced, and was sleeping in my car," he told Rich Pelley of the Guardian. "I wanted something to put me in a positive mindset." Pelley joined Illman on a night out at Spoons via the game, and soon their table was overwhelmed by pitchers of drinks, trays of shots, pints of beer, and fried pub food. They had to stop accepting orders within 17 minutes. The way the game works is simple. Each night a group of moderators posts around 20 requests from Spoons patrons, who must post a photo of everyone at their table and include their location and table number (they often include some color, like why they're celebrating, to draw interest).

Once approved, some tables receive a drink or two, while others get a bounty of orders. The latter has become more common since the game went viral in November, with more than 530,000 members at the time of this writing, and Illman estimates that in all, the page has sent well over $1.25 million in business to the tavern chain (though Spoons' founder eschews social media, and the pub isn't involved in the game). The game has forged social connections over its 800 locations, with members reporting marriages and babies over the years, and has taken on other charitable aspects, including a drive in 2020 that raised thousands of dollars' worth of food donations for those in need. "It's really hard to explain," Illman said of the game's altruism. "Very few of them give to receive." (More pub stories).

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