Someone once pointed out to me the fact that there seems to be a micro-economy in the service industry. Restaurant workers take their tip money out to bars and clubs at night and give it to the bartenders, who promptly return it to the waiters and waitresses the next day at lunch. The cycle is almost self-sufficient and is mutually beneficial. Knowing the pain of waiting on customers, each group tips the other well and never raises a fuss. These people do not need to be educated. The rest of you do.
Many of us have stood in a noisy, crowded bar and asked, “What’s a guy got to do to get a drink around here?” Well, you’re about to find out. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that will keep the relationship between the bartender and bar patron running smoothly.
- Fail to have your money ready – We’re waiting on you. Everyone else is waiting on us. Therefore, by the Transitive Property of Equality, everyone is waiting on you. Rule #1: Have your shit together. Not only will following Rule #1 get you served quicker in a bar, it’s a good general rule to adopt in life and is especially helpful in Central American border crossing scenarios.
- Whistle – This is an absolute No-No. You whistle at dogs and the ice cream truck, not people.
- Wave money – Oh, you’ve got a dollar!! I’ll be right over!! Hopefully I won’t break an ankle in my fevered rush to get you your “curz lite.” Well, at least you’re not breaking the next rule.
- Yell out the bartender’s first name – There’s something deeply psychologically disturbing about hearing your name called out, turning around and seeing a complete stranger. That’s one of the reasons strippers use stage names. Bartender’s do too. Mine is Pixie.
- Say “make it strong!” or “put a lot of liquor in it” – Oh, you’re one of the rare drinkers that like their drink strong! When you say this, you’re assuming I make weak drinks (which is insulting) and you’re assuming that I’ll stiffen this one up for my new best buddy, you. This is the best way to get a weak drink.
- Give the ever-expanding drink order – You want a Bud. I go get it. I come back and now you want a Margarita. Okay, no prob. I come back, and (oh yeah!) now you want a shot of Tequila, too. You really could have told us this all at once. See Rule #1.
- Pull the redirect (or the bait ‘n’ switch) – Usually used after the money wave or the whistle, this is when the gentlemen passes his turn to the lady behind him. Yeah, um, don’t do that, okay? Chances are she’s not ready, and your weak attempt at chivalry just cost you your turn. See you in 30 minutes.
- Try the confused, lost look – This is usually accompanied by the question “What kind of beer y’all got?” while looking at all the beers we have. You did know you were in a bar, right? You didn’t just appear here, did you? Refer to Rule #1.
- Order High Maintenance shooters – Example: “Lemme get an Alabama Slammer, a Red Snapper, two Kamikazes, a Buttery Nipple and a Lemon Drop.” Usually followed by a small tip. People, these shooters are fine by themselves, but there are multiple steps involved with each one. Translation: Time Sink. You may get them this time, but you’ll probably be waited on last the next time we see your face. Here’s a clue as to whether or not you’re high maintenance; if two bartenders are working and they see you, and they flip a coin and the loser comes over to take your order, pretty good chance you’re high maintenance.
- Assume we know you’re in the band – We know, we know, you’re gonna be really famous, but you’re not there yet, tiger. Tell us you’re in the band and which band you’re in. By the way, if you are in a band and get free/reduced drink prices, feel free to tip, as most bartenders are also in bands! It’s not like we don’t know how it is. Oh, and our bands will smoke your band.
- Assume we know you period – Unless you’ve followed the first “Do” rule below, we don’t remember you. You are one of a thousand faces for us, and when you point at an empty glass or a beer bottle that’s invariably facing away from us, your attempt at a shortcut backfires. Tell us what you want.
- Apologize for sucking – Don’t apologize for not tipping. Acknowledging that you suck is not the same as not sucking. Oh, and don’t say “I’ll get ya next time.” We know all about you.
- Assume soft drinks are free – Are they free at McDonald’s? Are they free at Wal-Mart? Are they free anywhere? I blame M.A.D.D. for this myth.
- Put pennies and nickels in the tip jar – We don’t want that crap in our pockets any more than you do. We don’t have anything smaller than quarters. Have you ever ordered a drink that cost $3.17?
- Be “The Microbrew Aficionado” – Usually a pseudo-hippy who can’t tip a quarter but can’t bring himself to drink “schwag,” and who has to sample some new berry-wheat-harvest-ale that he heard about at Burning Man. “Do you have the new Vernal-Equinox Special Welcome-Fest?” “Does Anyone?” Here’s your Newcastle. Go.
- Be “The Daddy Warbucks” – Dressed in classic day-trader wear, this loud, boisterous guy smokes cigars and orders Martinis and generally exudes an air of money. Until the tip. We hate you.
- Be a “Whiney Baby” – Under no circumstances should you ever whine to a bartender when asked to see your ID. Our jobs depend on them, and when we spot a fake/expired ID, don’t argue; we’ve seen and heard it all a million times before, and it will get you absolutely nowhere. If you “don’t have one” or “forgot it,” forget it; you don’t belong out on the town in the first place. That’s the law, plain and simple. If we don’t have the law, the terrorists win. You don’t want the terrorists to win, do you? Bring your ID. Remember Rule #1, from a minute ago?
- Tip – Tip heavy right off the bat, and you’re the first person we aim for every time you come up to the bar. Did you get that? Go back and read it again. The word will spread to the other bartenders and you’ll be treated like a prince. It will pay off in better drinks and the occasional free one.
- Be patient – All you really need to do to get waited on is make eye contact. We see you, and we’ll get to you before the guy right next to you waving money and whistling. Remember, this isn’t insulin we’re passing out here. If you really need the drink that bad, you’ve got a problem to address, Jack. The meek shall inherit the bar.
- Be an attractive female – As in life, this goes far.
If this comes across as a little petty, remember: bartenders are a jaded lot.