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Bartender etiquette

I don't want to overreact to this situation but I found it a bit puzzling and I'm looking for other perspectives. I was at one of the newer, swankier Italian restaurants in town recently and ordered two $8 glasses of prosseco and paid with a $20. The bartender put my change, some bills and some coins, down on the bar right in front of him, far out of my reach. First odd thing: where are the coins coming from? Am I forgetting about tax? Now, this is a very deep bar where people regularly eat full meals, plus it was crowded, so I felt uncomfortable reaching through two parties who were eating and talking to get my change. I decided to wait a few minutes to see if there was a better time to snag the change and (obviously) leave the tip. Five minutes later, the money was gone and I cannot help but feel this was very rude and presumptuous of the bartender, and I feel somewhat taken advantage of. It is the principal of the thing, and I almost feel that there is a dishonest element to it. Am I being overly sensitive here? Outside opinions please.

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  1. Not sure about the tax (don't think so, however). But 5 minutes seems like more than enough time for you to have excused yourself to those people sitting/eating at the bar and gotten your change and left the tip you wanted.

    Those who are sitting/eating at the bar should expect other patrons are probably going to be looking to get drinks and/or change if they're eating and the bar is serving drinks to those standing behind them. This happens frequently at a Dali, and I usually pass the drinks and change back to the person to make it easier for them. Not everyone does this, however, so you should certainly have asked if you could get the change or ask them to pass it over to you. JMO.

    1. It sounds to me like a ruse designed to allow the bartender to keep your change. I would complain to the management about this.

      2 Replies
      1. re: TheScribe

        Sounds like a ruse to me! Maybe the drinks prices were listed pre-tax, or there's a service charge already included? I once remember a drink costing me $9.16, which was an odd amount!


        1. re: TexasToast

          I don't think this was a 'ruse'. Trust me, bartenders do not want your change, nobody wants to count change at the end of a shift.

          The bartender should have left the money within your reach, his error. You should have asked for your money, you didn't, our error.

      2. Yes, the bartender should have put YOUR change within easy reach of YOU!! If not he was either lazy or was hoping YOU were.

        1. Yes, it would seem that your change should be placed in front of you, and not in front of someone else. But to belabor my ever-present point, it's the problem of tipping that leads to this kind of misbehavior (the misbehavior being, presumably, that the bartender was assuming that you would leave a tip, and making it easy for himself to decide how much by putting your change out of your reach). I don't remember this happening in Australia.

          1. Two questions -

            1 - Probably a tax thing but that's really not the issue here, 2 - it's the presumption of the waiter, his ruse or his laziness.

            My DW and I looked at each other and had the same answer so it's KISS.

            The next time the waiter comes over or you can ask him to come over, ask him when he thinks he will have time to bring your change. If he says he did and left it at the bar, feign ignorance and tell him you did not see it because it was so far away. When he brings the second round of change thank him very much, take the change, put it into ur pocket and out the door.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jfood

              Not a good sign when you reply to yourself, but after reading a few replies, I think I misunderstood the question. I thought you were sitting at the bar and the tender put the change out of your reach in front of someone else. That's the KISS response above.

              Different question though, in that you are standing at a crowded bar.

              Probably the same answer. Let's assume you paid with a credit card. He would sure as shooting get you the slip to sign so you can add the tip. His placing the change on the bar when it obviously busy, you can cut a little slack, but not much. The check is not closed until it's signed, sealed and delivered.

              Still sounds like a ruse to me but I can understand that this is in the gray area.

            2. I have a couple of a questions for you.

              Why didn't you make your way to the bar and get your change? You manged to do that when you picked up your first and second drinks.

              If you didn't understand why there were coins in the change, why didn't you ask him? Again, you managed to speak to him when you placed your drink order. Clearly it was possible.

              BTW, the coins by themselves don't indicate anything shady. Some bars charge tax on drinks seperately and don't bundle it in with the cost. The typical bartender (and waiter) tactic to ensure a decent tip is to deliver five singles instead of a $5 bill. Shoving a bunch of quarters your way doesn't fit that pattern. What's he going to get - an extra 50 cents?

              I think you may have misread the situation and you certainly should have spoken up to clarify things.

              1. Looking back, I definitely agree that I was a bit too passive in this situation, however, if the bartender had made even a slight attempt to push the money a couple of inches towards me instead of plunking it down in front of himself, I would have had a chance to get at it. That's what bugs me most here.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Lizziefreshh

                  I think you're on the right track. The best thing to do in those circumstances is to speak up. Don't be embarassed - it's your money and you have a right to find out what's going on. Flag the bartender down and ask for your change. Then, leave whatever tip seems right to you.

                  For what it's worth, I've occasionally had things like this happen with bartenders that have given me good service for years. Sometimes when things get really busy they make innocent mistakes. You weren't necessarily the victim of shady treatment.

                2. I think this is a perfect example of why we need to be our own advocates. I also think (not directed at you Lizzie, but this thread is just a reminder) that while I love Chowhound, I think often threads similar to this tend to major in the minors.

                  1. Well, I can see how the flip side can be true. At some bars, people are packed 5 deep and so once your drink is placed on the bar, it's really easy to just "accidentally" wonder off with it, leaving the bartender to wonder if you paid or not . . . he has no time to go looking for you as people are stuffing $20's in his face left and right!

                    (Not that TT would ever do such a thing!)


                    1. What has generally happened to me when seated at the bar is that if I pay with a large bill the change stays on the tender's side so that when I want another drink he just takes it from that pile. Of course you weren't seated at the bar it seems so you should have just reached out and grabbed your change. Forget being rude.