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Clearly you need this more then I do....


I've searched through the tipping threads and have not found this exact topic discussed. I’m a bartender at a NYC bar, didn’t go to bartending school and I fell into the job as a fluke, but I digress...

Anyway I've seen a few of my employees respond very rudely to those who don’t tip or don’t tip well. At my bar we don’t get paid hourly and we don't get shift pay unless we make less than 80. Now I've read many responses on the tipping threads from people angered and astonished when severs approached them or other customers regarding the tip they left. The "policy" at my bar is that if the patron leaves a very poor tip in cash hand them back the change because it might be an error. But for credit cards we're out of luck. So you suck it up. Though I've heard bartenders at my bar and a few other places hand back the change and say something along the lines of "you clearly need this more than I do" or "you don't tip, you don't get served."

Bars are kind of a different story then restaurants, though my bar is a restaurant as well. The bartender has a lot of autonomy and I know I too have given less preference, fewer buybacks, and slower service to those who have stiffed me in the past. However, I've never cut someone off, refused to serve them because they don’t tip, or responded to/questioned the tip, though I've been close. I often feel like saying "do you think I love to come here and make you drinks for free?" How do others feel about bartenders responding hostilely to the tips they receive? Is there different bar etiquette?

  1. The problem is the employer's policy of putting the employee's pay in the hands of the customer. They just do that to keep the employee's pay out of the price of the product, thereby keeping the price low. In Europe the gratuity is included in the price up-front. In Japan they just pay the employees enough to start out.

    The system here works OK for the top-end waiters and bartenders, who can score plenty in tips, but the lower end ones wind up subsidizing the owners.

    1. Just out of curiosity, don't bartenders have the freedom to make stronger drinks for those who want them, to provide a freebie now and then, to provide a bit of conversation and warmth where needed, and to provide some snacks if they look like they'd be welcome? I don't drink much in bars, but have the impression that bartenders can do a lot of simple and fair things to increase their tips. And I might be completely out of it on this one.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        My experience (as the customer) is that different managers give different authority to their staff. At our current watering hole, we get lots of comps (with management's blessings). However two of the people we know from this same restaurant were fired for doing this at our previous watering hole (which caused us to boycott the place and bring our friends to our new place).

      2. I've never been a bartender, so I don't know your side of the situation. I'll say this though... I think tipping bartenders is entirely different from tipping waiters. Typically I never expect to see or have a waiter again. By and large I tip waiters well, but the paradigm is more of a reward for good service, and reinforcing my good restaurant karma. Tipping a bartender is different because I tend to go to any one bar more often than I'd go to any one restaurant. So tipping a bartender is as much about investing in and maintaining a good patron/tender relationship.

        It would be unthinkable for me to stiff or under-tip a bartender *intentionally*. The trouble is, if I've been there for a while and it's been a busy night, it's more chaotic and who knows if the bartender has been able to keep track of who's been tipping how much. My preference is to tip out when I'm leaving just so it's clear what I'm leaving. But if it's crowded and I'm not actually AT the bar, then I'll tip as I go and it's harder for the bartender to keep track.

        I would almost rather the bartender question me, because I'd prefer to clear up any misunderstanding or mistake. Unless he or she were really awful, I tip $1-2 per drink (draft beer), plus double that for each buyback. If the buybacks are more than the purchased drinks (which happens), I'll usually just throw down a 20. Maybe two, if it's been a lot.

        I have a question back at you, speaking of tipping bartenders... do you prefer tipping as they go, or a tip out when the customer is leaving? It's a relevant question, because it relates to how I'd expect a bartender to act and what his/her perspective is on my tipping. If I were walking out and leaving no tip, please say something. If you were awful, that's when I'll let you know (highly highly unlikely... in fact I've never done that and can't imagine it).

        1 Reply
        1. re: egit

          I heard one of my co-workers once tell a customer tip as you go, it will make the bartender remember you. However, in the age of credit cards, i dont deal with cash as much, so most tip at the end anyway. But if you're paying cash it is best to lay down the min of a dollar per drink, it's appriciated and it will keep the bartender and you on much better terms, if they are not accustom to you're tipping system. However, if you're sitting at the bar all night paying cash, not off around the pool table or whatnot, then tipping at the end is normal.

        2. I never knew you could take a job where you didn't get base pay!!! I'm sure others also don't know. Frankly the whole topic of tipping makes me not even want to eat out. As a customer, I don't want get caught in the middle. It sucks! Your income is NOT my responsibility. Now don't slam me as uncompassionate, as that would be flatly untrue. Sometimes I just need or want to eat out. I don't want any guilt trip to go with it. I think tipping should be my discretion, based on service. And yes, there may even be times I'd love to tip big, but got forced to eat out and am on a tight budget, or whatever... I love to be in a position to tip generously, but I'm not always able to. I very rarely eat out at all. Why does this have to be so complex? Sort of takes the fun out of it.

          14 Replies
          1. re: scuzzo

            Yup - this is really how I feel, but of course, I follow along w/the rules. I don't drink, so I rarely go to the bar. From a customer service point of view, I think it's plain rude to say anything. I think in this field you will break even and just deal with it. Sometimes someone will give you a $20 for the 3 drinks that total $20 because they're in a good mood. Sometimes a rude customers who will complain about your drink and swear at you but only order 1 drink and tip you $10 for taking his abuse. Other times, I come along to the bar (so you don't have to come to me), order my $3 Coke with a smile, please, and thank you, and then take my drink w/me, sometimes without tipping. What exactly am I supposed to tip if my order is $3? Do I leave you w/a $1 tip everytime? That's over 30%! But doesn't 50 cents look too little?

            1. re: boltnut55

              I know at local bars, if I am drinking and I order a coke for my "designated driver," the bar does not charge. Usually my driver is right next to me when I do this.

              1. re: boltnut55

                There was another thread about tipping recently where I mentioned this 1.99 breakfast special I used to get that included coffee, juice, toast, eggs and hashed browns. Because the cost is 1.99, does this mean tip should be 30 cents? Of course not.

                Yes, 50 cents does look too little. Speaking as a former bartender and as a person who rarely drinks, when you're tipping per drink you shouldn't tip based on percentage. I feel that you should tip them $1 (min) even if you order a soda. I'm sure there will be some people who disagree saying how difficult is it to pour a glass of soda? Well, a beer can be $6 or $7 and it's the same amount of work. And a beer generally garners $1 tip.

                To the OP -- Sorry that you're not getting a base. I've only heard of waitstaff not getting a base, never bartenders. As frustrating it is when people stiff you, I think it's part of the job to suck it up. Hopefully the generous tippers make up for the lousy ones.

              2. re: scuzzo

                It's not complex at all. When you go out to eat, you must (ethically if not legally) be prepared to leave a minimum tip of 15%. If you cannot afford to do that, then you cannot afford to eat out. Like it or not, waitstaff depends on tips for their basic livelihood. Just enjoy your meal, calculate your tip, pay your bill and that's it. You'll probably feel better about yourself if you tip more than the minimum. If you are at a modestly priced restaurant, another dollar or two will probably put you in good tipper territory.

                1. re: Val55

                  When you go out to eat, you must (ethically if not legally) be prepared to leave a minimum tip of 15%.
                  Excuse me? Where is it written in any state law(s) that I *must* legally leave a minimum tip of 15%?

                  As for the "ethical requirement" to do so - while I tip very well, I believe that if I get poor service, I'm absolutely not *required* to leave at least 15% in gratuity. Defeats the purpose. Good or excellent service gets a good or excellent tip from me. Bad service? There is no way I'm leaving at least 15% if I got surly, indifferent or poor service.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I did not mean to say that it was a legal obligation. What I was trying to say was that before you go out to eat, you ought to be prepared, financially and otherwise, to tip a minimum of 15%. I was addressing the above poster's comment that the waiter's income was not his responsibility and that sometimes money is tight. I don't think you should enter a restaurant intending to tip less than 15%, regardless of service. When you budget ahead of time for a meal, the tip should be part of the budget. If you receive poor service, then you are entitled to adjust the tip accordingly. I doubt we disagree.

                    1. re: Val55

                      You may not have *meant* to say legal obligation, but you did, at least the way it was written. And that was the reason for my response.

                      1. re: Val55

                        You are 100% correct, Val55.

                        1. re: Val55

                          I agree that you should go into a restaurant PREPARED to offer a minimum 15% tip. Whether the service warrants that amount, more, or less, is a different subject.

                            1. re: scuzzo

                              Val55 made the original suggestion. I agree that you should be prepared to leave a 15% tip, but I also think you are in no way OBLIGATED to leave that tip. That's certainly not what I'm saying. I just think that it seems a prudent idea to budget for a 15% tip. If you can't afford a 15% tip, you probably shouldn't be eating there.

                      2. re: Val55

                        I completely agree, Val55. With the exception, of course, for servers and managers who don't know the first thing about the industry they are in.

                        But for those rest who are working in a field I couldn't possibly handle, I admire them and respect them and am grateful to them. And, as noted, am fortunate that I never yet met anyone crude enough to say "you don't tip, you don't get served" to me.

                        I would love to know which part of the country hires service people secure enough to say that to a customer?

                        1. re: dolores

                          New York City...
                          we're very cold and blunt here, : )

                          PS, I've never said it, and would NEVER, however, I have definitely heard it.

                      3. re: scuzzo

                        "Frankly the whole topic of tipping makes me not even want to eat out."

                        What's so difficult about it?

                      4. I tip with every round if the bartender acknowledges me standing there waiting to order drinks. If I am sitting at the bar and the bartender checks every 5 minutes or so to see how my drink is doing I will tip with every round also. When the bartender looks annoyed at me for being in the establishment or seems put out that I want a drink on a busy night I will finish my drink and go elsewhere. There are usually bars next door or right down the street. It's like Ferris Bueller said "You'd be surprised how much a finski will change a guys attitude"

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Paul Weller

                          >>I tip with every round

                          Really? I leave the change down on the bar, but I don't hand it over and/or add to it until I'm done. This to me is comparable of my telling a server 'you know I'm going to tip you really well when the meal is over' between courses.

                          I'm not a Pavlovian dog. I expect good service from a bartender, and they can expect a very good tip from me. The tip is based on service, not on the fear of a bartender cutting me off if I don't tip after each drink.


                          1. re: dolores

                            Yeah that's probably why you wait for a cocktail or beer while my glass is never empty. Cut off? I never drink to that sort of excess. It's called self control.

                            1. re: Paul Weller

                              I think by "cut off" she was referring to the "you don't tip, you don't get served" mantra cited by conngirl in the original statement. NOT that she was gettng completely hammered, and that the bartender would have to enact his/her legal obligation to stop serving.

                            2. re: dolores

                              This is a really common practice, especially among the more seasoned crowd, and it's always nice to see the pile there because you know the person intendes to tip you eventually and will be around for awhile. And of course I will give those who leave that pile there for me to deduct from just as much attention and privlage as those who tip as they go or open a tab with a credit card. Hoping at the end, they are keeping track and will treat me well if I've dont my job well.

                          2. I live in an area where everyone makes a base wage, period.

                            That said, I went to the bar one night, and upon checking my finances the next day, I realized that by tipping with each round, I had tipped 60%. Which I think is way too much. So I changed my habits to tip only at the end of the night. Since doing that, I never got service from the bartender. I guess he only saw me not tip throughout the night, and missed my tip at the end. I stopped going to that bar/drinking at it.

                            And as for the "if you don't tip, you won't get served" mantra, they're right. I won't get served by them, because I'll be down the street buying liquor from a liquor store so I don't have to deal with entitled bartenders.

                            (Which you do not seem to be at all by your description, conngirl.)

                            1. >>"you don't tip, you don't get served."

                              Ouch. Seriously? What if someone like me made a mistake one night, perhaps due to the fun I was having at the bar, and incorrectly left a bad tip? I usually tend to overtip, if you weren't aware.

                              Do you KNOW how long I would be going on about that kind of statement from a bartender? By the way, how would the bartender know how the person tipped until the very end of getting served?

                              Holy cow. Thankfully, I've never met in my area either a bartender or a server who would utter such a statement, conngirl, and I hope never to do so.

                              As to your original question? Sadly, I'd have to say 'suck it up'. There are cheap people out there and there are generous people out there. Yours is a service business, if you can't deal with the vagaries of the humans you're going to meet in your service, try another career.

                              1. conngirl
                                As you can see, there are many different opinions on how to handle this situation. I don't think there is any one specific "correct" response. When we go out for drinks at a bar there are usually 3 or 4 of us. We start out with a large bill, $50 or $100 and the Bartender just keeps taking the rounds out of the remaining amount. every time he/she brings a round, we push part of the remaining amount back. usually $5-$6 for a straight pour and $8-$10 for the more time consuming,mixed drinks. Of course the amount varies according to the number of people and the complexity of the order.
                                We always tip on 'buy backs.' I've never heard of anyone being refused service for not tipping well. That sounds discriminatory. Tipping, while assumed, is not obligatory.
                                Personally, I appreciate that the food service industry is physically demanding and mentally stressful . I would always factor the tip into my budget. If funds were an issue and I wanted to dine out, or go out for drinks, rather than stifff or under tip a Server, I would order a less costly meal or skip a round.

                                28 Replies
                                1. re: Tay

                                  Tay, you sound like a generous tipper, but I have to say I disagree with, "I've never heard of anyone being refused service for not tipping well. That sounds discriminatory. Tipping, while assumed, is not obligatory."

                                  I've been in the industry for many years, and I know from personal experience that if you don't tip the bartender, you're either getting a SUPER weak drink, ignored til you leave, or flat out getting shut off. Bar and wait staff don't go to work for the sheer pleasure of it; they go to earn a living. If you're a known non/bad tipper, you're going to get crummy service. Some restaurants/bars I've worked at have left it 100% the bartender's call whether or not to shut someone off, and will back the bartender every single time, regardless.

                                  My suggestion to avoid not tipping every round is to simply leave an extra generous tip the first round. The bartender will remember you, and you'll definitely get stronger drinks, and quicker service, with more comps.

                                  Scuzzo, you've got me curious about what you tip. I can't imagine not being able to tip your standard (15-20%) because you're "on a tight budget". The difference between a good and bad tip usually isn't too much more than a few dollars, unless you're at a higher end place, but if you're on such a "tight budget", why would you be dining there in the first place? I don't get it.

                                  Boltnut55, yes, I'd leave the 50 cents over nothing. If 50 cents seems like too little, what do you think zero looks like? Also, is the extra buck really going to kill you? I mean, if you're willing to leave 50 cents, why is leaving the other 50 cents a big deal? Because "it's 30%"? If that's really what's bothering you, feel free to leave exactly your (15-20%) standard tip, even if it's change. No bartender can complain about a 20% tip, even if it's in change, especially if it's just for a soda.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    "Tay, you sound like a generous tipper, but I have to say I disagree with, "I've never heard of anyone being refused service for not tipping well. That sounds discriminatory. Tipping, while assumed, is not obligatory."

                                    I've been in the industry for many years, and I know from personal experience that if you don't tip the bartender, you're either getting a SUPER weak drink, ignored til you leave, or flat out getting shut off. Bar and wait staff don't go to work for the sheer pleasure of it; they go to earn a living. If you're a known non/bad tipper, you're going to get crummy service. Some restaurants/bars I've worked at have left it 100% the bartender's call whether or not to shut someone off, and will back the bartender every single time, regardless"

                                    I always enjoy your posts b/c aside from being very well written, I like your, 'within-the-industry, view of things. :-} That having beeen said,,,
                                    Please don't get the impression that I am in any way,shape, or form, advocating under tipping or stiffing bartenders. I'm just saying that tipping, while expected, is not obligatory. With all due respect to your posting, I think it would be very unprofessional, bordering on spiteful to short the liquor content of a drink, ignore, or otherwise 'get back' at a well behaved patron for a tip related reason. I also think it's wrong to leave it to the bartender's discretion as to whether or not he/she wishes to continue to pour drinks based on tip related reasons. Of course, that does NOT appply to obnoxious, harrassing, threatening, or drunk customers, when I think the bartender should have absolute discretion to make those kinds of decisions. I've seen bar patrons, obviously not 'regulars' drink and not tip until they are leaving.I've never seen them being ignored, glared at, or otherwise treated poorly How would the bartender know whether or not they were going to tip until they were ready to leave? It may not be legally discriminatory, but refusing to serve someone b/c they are deemed an under tipper is very bad form. Wait Staff and bartenders depend on tips to make a decent living, but no retaliatory action should be taken against those who do not conform to what is still a voluntary contribution.

                                    1. re: Tay

                                      Tay, thanks for your warm thoughts. I quite enjoy your posts, also.

                                      Do you not find leaving a bad tip spiteful (for good service, obviously)?

                                      I doubt owners would like to know their barstaff is shutting bad tippers off, but I tell you, I've seen it time and time again. I'm not talking about someone running a tab, or someone who may be waiting to tip at the end. I'm talking about KNOWN bad tippers. We remember bad tippers. I see my waitstaff constantly running up to each other with, "Man, I wish I was waiting on table 27. They left me 30% last time" or, conversely, "Have fun with table 86; last time they left me 10%". We remember. If you're taking up a seat at my busy bar on a Friday or Saturday night, and are a notoriously bad tipper, you're getting served last, and again, it's going to be pitifully weak.

                                      Do I think that's unprofessional? Depends. As waiters/bartenders/front of the house workers, you're not allowed to say certain things to customers. You're unable to communicate displeasure other than the aforementioned ways. As someone recently posted, "You're A customer, not THE customer". If you treat your bartender poorly, he's going to treat you as poorly as he can without getting in trouble. No, two wrongs don't make a right, which is why I hope people will tip well and receive good service. That way everyone wins.

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        >>and are a notoriously bad tipper, you're getting served last, and again, it's going to be pitifully weak.

                                        Okay, now it's all clear. And, I'm very happy to read this.

                                        Very happy. This is exactly how bad tippers should be treated.

                                        I would LOVE to see the situations reversed, and the reaction of the bad tipper or the obnoxious customer.

                                        Good for you, invino.

                                        Unprofessional? Absolutely not. I imagine the bad customer or the lousy tipper is given the benefit of the doubt once or twice, but after that, phui, take the gloves off, figuratively.

                                        >>which is why I hope people will tip well and receive good service.

                                        Excellent words. Words to dine by.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          "Do you not find leaving a bad tip spiteful (for good service, obviously)?"

                                          Not really.I say that b/c if the service was good, then the customer would feel no desire to 'get back' AKA: Be spiteful towards the Server. I agree that tipping poorly as a way to 'get back' at a Server would be very passive aggressive. Good Vs bad service is a perception. As your Server, I might think I'm doing a great job, but if you, as the customer doesn't see it as great service then you are going to respond according to your perception. I know how hard most wait staff work and how appreciative I am, so if I'm experiencing poor/distracted/inattentive/rude service, I clear it up right away. I don't stew throughout the meal and have my displeasure reflected in the tip. That's just cowardly.
                                          There are several reasons why people might be "bad tippers". They range from the obvious: The customer is just cheap, to the less obvious: The customer is confused about how/what to tip on a bar tab, or they are from small towns visiting the Big City, and are used to leaving a lower percentage, etc.
                                          As for:
                                          . "If you're taking up a seat at my busy bar on a Friday or Saturday night, and are a notoriously bad tipper, you're getting served last, and again, it's going to be pitifully weak.Do I think that's unprofessional? Depends. As waiters/bartenders/front of the house workers, you're not allowed to say certain things to customers. You're unable to communicate displeasure other than the aforementioned ways. As someone recently posted, "You're A customer, not THE customer". If you treat your bartender poorly, he's going to treat you as poorly as he can without getting in trouble. No, two wrongs don't make a right, which is why I hope people will tip well and receive good service. That way everyone wins"

                                          Again, with great respect to you, I'd have to say I think ignoring a customer who is not breaking any rules other than the "unspoken" one, is unprofessional. I'm not saying he would be your first priority, but he/she is entitled to professional service. Hopefully, when he/she sees that other customers are receiving friendly banter and a smile along with their drinks, he/she will get the hint. Maybe not. Shorting his/her drink is, in my mind, beyond spiteful: It's fraudulent. If a drink calls for a certain proportion of ingredients and the bartender intentionally shorts, that's cheating the customer out of what he/she has paid for.
                                          It would be akin to a Server removing part of a customers dinner from the plate.
                                          I know we don't lve in a black or white right or wrong, world, but when people make a conscious decision to do these things, I feel it's just wrong.
                                          I too hope that people will think before they tip and will do the right thing. :-}

                                          1. re: Tay

                                            "Shorting his/her drink is, in my mind, beyond spiteful: It's fraudulent."

                                            That's exactly how I feel! I once watched a bartender only put in less than one ounce of vodka in a double. But I watched her for the rest of the night, and she pretty much shorted everyone, regardless of tipping practices among patrons. She would usually fill the shot glass halfway, dump it into the glass, then fill it to the top. I communicated the fact to the manager, and he told me I was drunk and wrong. I don't know how I could have gotten drunk with her as a bartender. Needless to say, she doesn't work there anymore.

                                            1. re: miss_bennet

                                              If she shorted everybody and the manager told you that you were wrong, I'm thinking it was the manager who told the bartender to do that.

                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                That never occured to me.. He was the manager/owner... But he doesn't own the bar anymore, and she doesn't work there anymore.

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  I concur with Miss Needle - that was my first thought too.

                                                2. re: miss_bennet

                                                  MB, i think the situation you describe and the one I describe are apples and oranges. The bartender you saw was shorting EVERYONE, which was most likely a house/managerial thing.

                                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                                    Wasn't her behavior economically irrational? The bartender doesn't pay for the liquor and surely would benefit by giving people drinks strong enough for them to loosen up their wallets, make their arms longer and pockets less deep--i.e., become willing to pay more.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      I can tell you people who don't tip when they are sober won't tip when tipsy.

                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                        I tip way better when I'm drunk and not really paying attention. Which is why I only do tabs now.

                                                        1. re: miss_bennet

                                                          But your already tip when sober. My premise is alcohol will not make a bad tipper a good tipper.

                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                            I wouldn't call myself a bad tipper, but I'm usually a better tipper when tipsy. I doubt that this premise applies only to me.

                                                            1. re: miss_bennet

                                                              KTinNYC and miss bennet, I'm a bad boozer. I tip way more when treated nicely and after a few drinks. Although I don't usually drink in bars, I'm one of those types who gets nicer (!!!) with drink and good service. Drink a few with a bartender who pours well and I'm usually apt to leave about a 100% tip--and buy everyone in the bar a couple of rounds. Knowing myself is the reason I now generally stay out of bars.

                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                Yep! Me too! When I drink, I get happy, and I'm also likely to tip 100%! So I don't go to bars either. Why?

                                                                Because I tip more when I drink.

                                                                1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                  When I used to get drunk I would also definitely tip a lot more. I'm also a happy drunk. However, I've found that sometimes when people are drunk, they just plain forget to tip.

                                                  2. re: Tay

                                                    While I agree that the customer should receive what they pay for, so should the bartender. The government assumes that everyone tips X%, and barstaff are taxed on that. If a customer leaves less than that, the bartender is being taxed on money not received. That's kind of a bummer, isn't it? I know the law of averages says the bartender will make what's coming to him, and that it all evens out in the wash, which is true, but it's the bartender's only recourse to not-so-subtley suggest the patron drink someplace else (like home).

                                                    "Again, with great respect to you, I'd have to say I think ignoring a customer who is not breaking any rules other than the "unspoken" one, is unprofessional."

                                                    Tay, I've got to be honest. Tipping is THE most important rule to bar/wait staff. You can be a huge pain in the rear, but if you're a good tipper, we forget all about it. I don't care how politely you ask for your drink, how perfectly made you tell me it is, or how many times you thank me (although these are nice to hear): I care about paying my mortgage.

                                                    Why is that person entitled to my excellent service if he's not reciprocating?

                                                    I would never give the customer LESS than the drink called for; it simply wouldn't be the normal heavy-handed pour my regulars get. To be honest, I'd probably measure his drink to the exact fraction of an ounce. Also, he'd never get free drinks in my bar, as bartenders ALWAYS let each other know of excellent/awful tippers.

                                                    I agree that it's not a black and white issue. Again, I hope everyone receives great service and leaves great tips. In a perfect world, right?

                                              2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                Invino, I like your suggestion about a big tip on the first round. Indeed, this IS a good way to convey your gratitude. Ditto on the guy with the tight budget.

                                                I was sitting at a bar one night (long ago, back in college) when the change from a check (not mine) was just a few pennies. The patron left just those pennies as a tip. The bartender (probably having a bad night by who knows?) actually THREW the pennies at the customer as he was walking away. The clatter of change on the floor got everyone's attention (above and beyond the loud music and dancing) and I suspect tips were a big bigger for the rest of the night.

                                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                                  I'm missing something here.

                                                  I get one drink. I give the bartender a twenty for, say, a $12. drink. I leave the $8. on the table. I have another drink.

                                                  I should tip on the first $12. drink and then tip again on the second drink instead of waiting until I've had both drinks and tip on the $24. plus tax?

                                                  And what if I am paying with a credit card?

                                                  What if I decide to order some food?

                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                    If you are ordering food then usually your bill will be totaled out, drinks, food, etc. on one bill. I think that's different than sitting there having drinks and throwing a buck or so every round or drink. If you are running a tab with a credit card than I suspect the bartender will understand not tipping as you go, but keep in mind those credit card tips can take some time to get into the bartenders pocket, and cash goes in at the end of the shift. I can't imagine a rude bartender in a place that's charging you $12 for a drink.

                                                    1. re: Paul Weller

                                                      Thanks, I understand now.

                                                      I didn't think it was wrong the way I handle things, but I was getting confused.

                                                      I can remember only once meeting a rude bartender but it was at a very busy restaurant in Manhattan.

                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                        Everyone has their own guidelines for tipping. Do whatever you feel is appropriate. The way I do it is just my own way. I kind of think of it as being polite. When I am at work and someone wants me to perform a task I am much more receptive to the person who is polite, maybe brings me a pastry now and then or something like that, than the person who just wants me to do things for them.

                                                        1. re: Paul Weller

                                                          I would agree. People respond positively to polite interactions just as they respond negatively to rude interactions.
                                                          It's just common sense.

                                                  2. re: Cheflambo

                                                    If that happened today, the customer would probably
                                                    1) press charges for assault,
                                                    2) cap the bartender
                                                    I'm kidding (sort of) but seriously, bad behavior in response to bad behavior never accomplishes anything. It just increases the potential for trouble. Bad tempers fueled by alcohol are a recipe for disaster.:-}

                                                    1. re: Cheflambo

                                                      That is probably the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Throwing money at someone because he/she didn't tip (well) would constitute an assault charge, or loss of employment. I'm not saying that a tip of a couple of pennies is right, but throwing the pennies is completely and utterly crossing the line.

                                                      1. re: miss_bennet

                                                        Folks, I am not condoning it .....just reporting it. It is an extreme reation, indeed. And, as I mentioned, it was a LONG time ago in a more pre-litigious era.....

                                                2. I am curious as to how a bartender's service is different from a barista's. Do you tip your baristas?

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                                    Yes. I frequent the same coffee place almost every morning. They remember me, know what I drink, and make it the way I like it.

                                                      1. re: miss_bennet

                                                        Yes. I tip most service industry and hospitality industry people.

                                                    1. re: miss_bennet

                                                      It's different because baristas make at least minimum wage, and, to the best of my knowledge, do not have estimated tips withheld by the government.

                                                    2. This seems easy. If you are paying for each round, credit card or cash, you tip on each round. If you are running a tab, you tip at the end.

                                                      The bartender is going to assume you never tip if you don't tip on a round you are paying for and will probably make you wait for you next drink while they take care of the customers who are paying their rent. Its simple logic.

                                                      At my very busy bar, the customers who tip well are usually the best customers as well so I encourage my staff to take care of the tippers first.

                                                      When I am in a bar, I find that by leaving a good tip on the first round, I get better service through the night and preferencial service the next time I come in.

                                                      (I would never allow my staff to say any of the things the OP mentions however, just serve the bad tippers last)

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Le Den

                                                        Again, this is for my learning that I'm asking... Let's say my first drink cost $7 and I tip $3. The next time I order the same drink, $7. Is he expecting another $3 tip, or can I tip $1 or $2? Or will he know that my original tip was a nice one for the first drink? I'm asking in case I ever have to buy alcohol for others... but it's good to know anyways.

                                                        1. re: boltnut55

                                                          No need to tip extra each round. A normal tip will suffice after the first round.

                                                          1. re: boltnut55

                                                            I dont expect anything, I hope for at least a dollor a drink. But if you leave a good tip first round the bartender will remember. Unless they are three deep and then honestly, they will do their best to remember, but they may not remember to be as gracious. A three dollar tip is very generous on a $7 drink, I doubt any batender would expect you to do it every round.

                                                            1. re: conngirl

                                                              I think you express a very good attitude. I too, would hope you are tipped at least that amount. I am always appreciative of good service and I take care to reflect that in the amount I tip. I hope this thread has made some people think about the amounts they tip. Letting the bartender know that he/she is doing a great job or is a master at mixing their favorite cocktail, doesn't pay the bills, but is also always a nice thing to do. Last month, we had occasion to spend the weekend at the Seaview Marriott. When we left the bar, the bartender thanked us for our generosity and for being such 'good company' and a pleasure to serve. We didn't hear him say that to anyone else. It was very thoughtful of him.

                                                              1. re: conngirl

                                                                I knew a bartender who said "clearly you need this more than I do" when the guy left just some coins on the bar after ordering a round of drinks and stepping away from the bar.

                                                                I've really enjoyed reading this thread, so thanks for starting it. I consider myself a "seasoned" (pickled?) bar patron and my tipping pattern definitely changes from bar to bar. A few bars I go to don't even take money as I go. At the end of the night they present me with a ridiculously low tab, like one beer. Other places I'll have the change pile and the tip pile. (that's how I keep track).

                                                                In most cases though, I think bartenders prefer cash to credit cards.. both in transaction and tip. Am I correct in that?

                                                                1. re: egit

                                                                  Credit cards can be a bigger pain in the but when the bar is busy, to run the card and such. However I find that often times people tip MUCH bigger when it's not coming directly out of their hands. The biggest tips I've recieved, like $50 or $60 have all been left on credit cards after taking care of their tab all night. However, either or, I'm not picky : )

                                                                  1. re: conngirl

                                                                    We typically use credit cards, because of the convenience and none of the bartenders at our watering hole (who are quite open and honest <g>) have ever complained or mentioned a preference for cash, but this is also a place where nearly everyone pays with plastic, so that might make a difference.

                                                                  2. re: egit

                                                                    My favorite credit card "transaction" at bars here in NYC is the padded bar bill, where an extra drink or two shows up when the tab is closed out. This particularly peeves me mostly because they keep the card and run it when you close out the tab and then present you with the already run receipt. But when using a debit card the bank holds the mistake amount and the correct charge for a few days until the charges are cleared. This has happened 3 times within the last 3 or 4 months. The 3rd time I didn't catch it until I got home and looked closer at the receipt.
                                                                    This post isn't meant to be a dig at bartenders. My post is merely meant to point out the pitfalls of using a card at the bar.

                                                            2. jfood has no dog in this hunt so he is only here to state a couple of non-bar tipping items.

                                                              - If anyone at a restaurant threw something at jfood (change included) they sure as shooting better have a very current resume or a good attorney, or both. Ditto for the manager if s/he backs up the server.
                                                              - If you do not leave at least a 15% tip, this causes the server to pay taxes on income not received. This is a total fallacy. Unless someone can point to a section of the Tax Code or a line on a 1040 where you place income not received, then this silliness should stop. The server reports EXACTLY what s/he earns. If the estimates received from the restaurant are incorrect then the burden to keep daily accurate records falls on the server, just like everyone else. If the server does not keep accurate records then s/he has no choice but to report what the restauarnt reported. Don't blame the customer if the server neglects to keep accurate income records. And let's be serious, jfood would bet the converse is more likely the case in which the server under-reports the income.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                Food, while I agree that more under-reporting goes on than over, a bad tip certainly can resule in over-reporting.

                                                                My restaurant claims 10% of waitstaff's total sales (after tipping everyone out) for tax purposes. Even if a server only made 7% that night, and typed that into the POS at the end of the night, the woman who does our book-keeping will modify it to 10% the next day. Most restaurants I've worked at do this to cover their butts from an audit.

                                                                I don't know how all restaurants work, but for wait and barstaff, our 'income received' is an approximation. The server DOES NOT report exactly what he earns (YMMV by restaurant). Why? Because there's no proof on cash tips. There's no way to track it WITHOUT using approximation. A waiter could say they earned only $20 in cash tips for the night, and claim that, when in reality, he earned $150, but you can't prove anything. If he's responsible, he'll keep adequate records in case of an audit.

                                                                No one's "blaming the customer if the server neglects to keep accurate income records". We're blaming the customer for leaving a bad tip.

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde


                                                                  Jfood's bad on the word "blame." Apologies

                                                                  But what you described is obviously accurate since you and many other restaurant people have described the "estimation" process. BUT, when April 15 rolls around each and everyone of us files a tax return. On the very first line on the 1040 is the line for income. Now many people are fortunate that their employers keep records and give them a W2, and it reflects the exact payment made by the employer to the employee. But servers are special in this regard, their W2 do not accurately reflect their income, it is an estimate (let's not go into the history of why this has occured). So the server has the choice of accepting this estimate if it is accurate (99.999% of the time it is not) or place a different and more true number onthe form.

                                                                  In any event it should comply with


                                                                  So there is a heavy burden on servers to keep actual records, and restaurants as well, as you know real time.

                                                                  But if the server keeps accurate records then s/he will only pay taxes on actual tips, whether from bad, regular or great tippers. So this perpetuating concept of if you pay the server a 5% tax is just wrong if the server places that amount in his/her records.

                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    Food, I see what you're saying, but there are no such thing as accurate records when it comes to waiter's earnings. When I was serving, I could write my earnings down every night, but who's to say they're really what I earned?

                                                                    According to your link, a server can challenge what's written down in Box 1 of his W-2 form with "adequate books and records". Again, if receiving a cash tip, there's ZERO record of what the server earned, and he can basically make the amount anything he wants. There's no IRS man following servers around all night, counting their tips.

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      It would make much more sense for any waiter/bartender to fly under the radar of the IRS. So if you end up getting stiffed by a table/patron, that's just one. It wouldn't be worth inviting an audit to challenge the W-2. Unless of course, it really is grossly off... which, honestly, it probably isn't. Most people I know who are waiters/bartenders still say they under-report a bit.

                                                                      Based on those of us in this thread who've talked about the varied and byzantine bar-tipping etiquettes, bartenders probably make far more than 10% of the *reported* income. I have a very hard time imagining someone paying tax on reported tips that were higher than actuals. I'd go so far as to say "preposterous."

                                                                      1. re: egit

                                                                        Agreed, although I used to know a career barman who always overclaimed, citing larger future benefits for retirement. Who knows?

                                                              2. I would like to know how management feels about a bartender's "heavy-handed pour" which appears to be justified by a fatter tip???

                                                                The sentiment here appears to be that you would never give a customer less than what a drink called for (which as a previous poster mentioned, would be in essence fraudulent and wrong), but that it's ok for you to dole out extras of the bar/restaurant's liquor (which is kind of robbing the boss no?).....unless you own the place, not ok.

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: im_nomad

                                                                  I dont think so, I think it's stealing. I HAVE to ring everything I pour into the computer. And I've never made weaker drinks for bad tippers. However, I guess it depends on the establishment policy. Overpouring well liquors is much different then overpouring Gray Goose or giving doubles of Macallan and charging for one. But I know many places where management instructs the bartenders to be heavyhanded for reguals and good tippers so they come back consistantly...

                                                                  1. re: conngirl

                                                                    What about buy-backs? Do you need to ring them in too? I've heard some places give bartenders kind of an allowance of buybacks per night for good customers.

                                                                    1. re: egit

                                                                      Yes, I ring them up in a comps tab and have to account for everything at the end of the night. I get in trouble if i comp to much on a given night, usually more then 10% of the nights sales...which would be unusual for me to go over...

                                                                      1. re: conngirl

                                                                        Hmm. This has been a very helpful glance into the world of bartending. Thank you, conngirl!

                                                                    2. re: conngirl

                                                                      My establishment doesn't push comps, but they do allow for heavier pours to regulars. I don't think I'd call it stealing without knowing the establishment's policy.

                                                                    3. re: im_nomad

                                                                      Many places (mine included) give bartenders wiggle room to "hook up" regulars with heavier pours without giving many free drinks away.


                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                        totally depends on the mgmt. some places you can give tap beer comps or lq comps to regulars, many places have a comp tab that gets closed out at the end of the night & bts who *sell* more can *comp* more. some places have no comps for anyone. many places give a heavier pour on top shelf lq to encourage the purchase of top shelf lq. some places a bt can literally "buy" a good-tipping regular a drink by taking from the tip jar and buying a drink at employee prices (generally 1-3 flat prices/grades). most bts are on camera (cameras locked on the bt's till). if the bt routinely breaks house policy on pours/comps, s/he eventually will get caught and fired. there is a lot of scrutiny-- i used to tell my dh to *never* approach the bar and talk to me, even to tell me there was a family emergency, unless he had cash money in his hand and made some sort of purchase. if i had a nickel for every time i charged him $2, even though all he wanted was ice water. . .

                                                                    4. I like to consider myself a pleasant customer and a good tipper. I don't drink a lot at bars, but when I do I completely agree with the psychology of tipping well on the first round -- I'll often tip a couple of bucks in cash on the first drink even if I'm running a tab, just so the bartender knows.

                                                                      Here's my question: When I enter a restaurant, either alone or as part of a group, I often approach the bar and ask for an ice-water with lots of ice, even before being seated or sometimes before checking in at the host podium for my reservation. I want an ice-water to settle my stomach from the drive and to have something to nurse as we wait for our table. I do not demand attention if the bartender is serving other customers, I wait for a lull. Am I getting blacklisted for not tipping on the free water? I always smile and thank the bartender.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: nosh

                                                                        I don't think what you're doing is unreasonable; a dollar would be a nice touch, but certainly not necessary.

                                                                        1. re: nosh

                                                                          When I wasn't tipped on water, it didn't really bother me. It didn't count as part of my sales. I'd say maybe 1 out of 5 people would leave a dollar or some form of tip for a tap water.

                                                                          I don't think bartenders will blacklist you for not tipping on water, but they'll remember you FOR tipping on it. Cha ching. :)

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            Even though I still maintain the premise that tipping, although customary, expected and the right thing to do, is not obligatory, you will smile to read that I tip on anything that requires the bartender's labor, be it soda, water, seltzer, whatever. If he/she has to lift a finger or fill a glass to serve me, I show my appreciation with a tip.

                                                                        2. I always tip well and buy drinks for the barmaid where I go. Often times when I am about to leave she will buy we a drink which causes me to stay drink more and tip more.

                                                                          1. I rarely go to bars, and if I do, I rarely drink (since it entails driving and I'm a lightweight wrt alcohol), so forgive me for asking such a basic question, but I never know what/how to tip. If I get drinks that are $4 or $5, or multiples, then it's easy. But for any other in between amounts, I never know what to do. Like if a drink is $6, do I slightly under-tip and give $1, or do I leave a 33 percent tip and give $2 or give $1 and change? (Ditto if I just order a soda or something and they charge $2. Do I tip them 50 percent and leave $1?)

                                                                            Is it ok to give change as tip? Or tip on the second drink for my first and second one? (I sometimes do that, but then I try to make sure to get the same bartender, so he gets both tips)

                                                                            And sometimes (since bars are usually impromptu decisions), I'm short on cash, and I'm in a situation where I don't know the price of the drinks and feel silly/cheap asking, so that I order something and have enough for tip. So then I just get water b/c I have like $8 cash on me and I don't know if the drink will cost $5 or $7, and if it is the latter, I won't have enough for a tip. Should I tip on (tap) water?

                                                                            Anyway, as you can see, I don't frequent bars much. :)

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: anzu

                                                                              For drinks under $10 most bartenders will not begrudge you for leaving $1.

                                                                              If the only drink you order is water you should leave a tip. The bartender is providing you with a service and could be serving someone else so a tip is deserved. If you order a drink and then order a glass of water a tip is not really necessary but appreciated.

                                                                              Always tip for the first round. A bartender remembers who tips and if you don't tip for the first drink then don't expect that you will be served in a timely manner for the second. Obviously this does not apply if you are paying with cc.

                                                                              No change unless it is accompanied by paper money (unless the change is a dollar coin).

                                                                              Even though you didn't ask I will also offer that to order a drink, have your money in hand and make eye contact with the bartender. No snapping, waving, or yelling.

                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                Wow. Thanks. I guess I haven't frequented bars much between now and when I was a student/grad student (and therefore very poor). When I was a student, the local bar had drinks for $2-$3, so we typically only tipped 50 cents or so.

                                                                                And thanks for the info on tipping for water. I go about half and half--sometimes tip/sometimes don't depending on circumstances.
                                                                                So if I order water twice, I guess I should tip $1 each time I order it.

                                                                                Gosh, I'm so used to the anonymity of using credit card that on the few occasions I do use cash (e.g. at a bar), at a place I rarely go to, no less, I get flustered and human contact (to ask the price of a certain drink so I make sure I have enough for it, to ask to make change, so I can give a dollar tip on water when I only have a large bill, etc.) just seems overwhelming. :) (Yes, I know I'm being silly. . ..)

                                                                                1. re: anzu

                                                                                  i was a bt for 10 years, and i used to drink like a *champ*! LOL. now i seldom go to bars and don't drink so much, but my style in bars is to drink a cocktail, and at the same time, drink a glass of ice water (large glass, please). when i go to a new bar and order from the bt for the first time, i will ask for my cocktail and my glass of ice water. i will pay cash for the first round and place my cash tip for the cocktail in front of the cocktail glass, and i will also leave a separate tip of buck or two in front of my water glass. the bt *always* gets the straightforward nonverbal hint that i'd like to always have my water glass filled when my drink order is refreshed for the rest of the night. if i order a glass of water by itself i always tip for it-- next time i need a refill, the bt sees me! :)

                                                                                  bts are generally straightforward folks, and they often possess truly generous natures & a panache for hospitality. don't get flustered by human contact with a bt-- remember that they deal with all types of people as part of their job, & they are good judges of character as a result. when in doubt when dealing with an unfamiliar bt whose services are in high demand, remember that money talks (& a little goes a long way), and you'll be fine.

                                                                            2. I too gave up my corporate america job to become a bartender at age 35. I did it because the stress level was low, and I loved the social interaction. But what I did hate were guys who would buy rounds of drinks for "buddies" and shots for girls, and leave a crappy tip, or no tip at all. The WORST were the ones who would order labor intensive drinks, then stiff ya. Well I remembered them well.. and I do recall one night in particular this one guy was waving around his money like a jackass, buying ladies and buddies loads of designer shots that took several mnutes to make.. then he would tip me like $2 for a $48 round of drinks! Well the first time I was shocked, the second time peeved, the third time I said as I brought the shots to the table... "Here you go mr. big spender, can I expect my usual $2 tip now?" I know it sounds petty... but this guy was a huge jerk, and deserved it. (not just for being cheap, he was a loudmouthed bigot as well)

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                While it was out of line, I can't blame you for your remark...and since the worst that could happen is that he'd stiff you, what the hell, it was only two bucks! I would have been tempted to set the shots up on the bar and tell him, "for a $2 tip, you can come get 'em yourself!"

                                                                                1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                  You have to embarrass customers like this in front of their friends. If the girls are near you say something like, "If one of you lucky ladies get to go home with this guy be sure you have money because there is no way this cheapskate is going to pay for breakfast tomorrow." If the buddies are around you can say to him, "When are you going to buy a round? Your cheap friend is killing me with these $2 tips." These things have to be said within earshot of the lousy customer.

                                                                                2. After reading all the responses, it seems like maybe everyone is making things too complicated. I nearly always drink draft beer at bars. I tip $1 per beer, tipping after each drink if I'm paying cash, but if I'm having more than 2 drinks I usually start a tab and then tip at the end. If the bartender has bought back a drink then I'll throw in a couple of extra dollars. That's my standard practice, and I've never had a problem with bartenders ignoring me, acting unfriendly, etc.