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Mar 8, 2008 04:44 PM

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

                          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.

                      1. 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.

                      2. re: scuzzo

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

                        What's so difficult about it?

                      3. 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.