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Tipping for Comped Drinks


I have a good friend who is a bartender at his dad's small billiards bar. I'm not hugely into the bar scene, but every few weeks a few other friends and I will head over there for a few drinks, a game or two of pool, and some conversation with some of the friendly regulars. Because we're friends of the bartender, our drinks (whether they be beer, my favorite screwdriver, or shirley temples) are always comped, and sometimes we get free food as well. I was there on New Year's Eve and I got a free glass of Moet.

My friend's dad pays his employees well, with all of his bartenders (not just his son) making $10 an hour, which is just about unheard of in my area. They also make really good tips, with my friend often coming home with close to $200 in cash on top of his paycheck. He makes a LOT more money than I do even before his tips, so I greatly appreciate the fact that he takes care of me whenever I come by. However, I feel weird totally taking advantage of the situation, so in the past I've thrown whatever I would likely have spent on the drinks in the tip jar -- usually $10 to $15 each night, both as a tip for his actual work and as a thank you for his kindness. However, $15 is almost twice my hourly wage, and my friend is already raking it in. Should I continue tipping the cost of the drinks, drop down to the standard bar-tip ($1-$2 a drink), or go somewhere in between? I don't want to be a mooch, but what's the point of getting free drinks if you're paying for them anyway?

  1. if they are comped the arent u paying for the service? not the drinks?
    even if its my friend i tip the server/waiter/bartender for the service..

    i fix cars for a living and even when i do side work for friends/family something for my time and tools and knowledge is good..i dont charge full price ...but something at least lets the person know u appreciate it

    1. How much he makes is irrelevant. You always tip on comps, better than normal.

      1. Since the bartender is your room mate or good friend talk to him about what you should do, since this sounds like a unique situation between friends.

        1. I have a good friend who is a bartender at his dad's small billiards bar........our drinks (whether they be beer, my favorite screwdriver, or shirley temples) are always comped, and sometimes we get free food as well.......
          Friends or not.......your friend is stealing from his father.....you go there knowing full well you will be comped. Offer to pay and leave an appropriate tip. If you continue to accept the free food and liquor, leave at least a $20.

          What you make and what your friend makes is irrelevant.

          7 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            "is stealing from his father"

            Not necessarily. There are many places where staff are allowed to use discretion on comps and/or given a comp allowance.

            1. re: jgg13

              I would agree with you on policy for comp allowances for actual customers.....it's arguable if the OP is an actual customer, as he has never paid for anything.

              1. re: fourunder

                You have to pay to be a customer? Of course- he's patronizing the establishment.

                1. re: monavano

                  If you or your party do not pay for anything ever, you are not customer and you are not patronizing (supporting) the father or his business. However, I will concede he is patronizing his friend the son and bartender. At best, he's a guest.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    But, a service is being provided and accepted. The act is the same. No money is exchanged, but you get more than money when you comp. You get good will, word of mouth etc.
                    It's a fine line - could go either way. Hmm.

                    1. re: monavano

                      Why don't we let the father and owner of the pool hall decide......:i.e., if he is receiving any actual benefit from this arrangement.


                      1. re: fourunder

                        Yes, he's a magnanimous man!

          2. Are you ordering these drinks?

            1. IMO the right way to go with this is to tip about half of what it would have cost you instead of the $1-$2 a drink standard. Some people will say to tip the full cost of said drink, but that's silly - how is that helping you at all?

              There's a place that I frequent where I'm comped pretty regularly. The beers tend to be $5-6 and I tend to leave $2, sometimes $1 (at most bars I'd leave $1). When I get comped I'll usually leave $3, that way we both win.

              1. I have to agree that whatever the bartender makes is irrelevant. You are willingly accepting FREE drinks and food, which is beyond generous, and then you have the nerve even consider not tipping.
                Bad form, really bad form.
                Be grateful you are the recipient of such largess. The rest of us pay for our meal AND tip.

                1 Reply
                1. re: monavano

                  The OP said he/she is tipping the amount of the drinks but wondering if he/she should be tipping what would be the normal tip, though, not whether there should be any tip. I agree w/ everyone that it doesn't matter what either party makes. I'd go along the lines of jgg13 and leave a big tip but not as much as the cost of the drink. But, I'd also make a point to give a nice gift to the owner some time, too, AND a lot of word of mouth advertising. It's a generous comp.

                2. Tip the same amount you would if you paid for the drinks yourself.


                  1. I would never even consider not tipping at all. Several of my friends and family members work in the service industry and rely on their tips, so I know better than to accept services and not tip for them.

                    I have tried several times to pay for my drinks but he always waves me away and tells me not to worry about it. For the record, he has a comp allowance, and if he goes over it he takes it out of his tips. I only go there once or twice a month at most. I always pay to play pool if I play, as well -- he doesn't have the authority to comp the tables. I never get more than two beers or cocktails, and sometimes if I'm staying for a while I'll have a few cokes or shirley temples. I've only gotten food once, and I didn't order it -- he overheard me and another friend talking about getting some food after we left and the next thing I knew I had a plate of chicken strips in front of me. Most of my friends are his friends as well and already come to the bar, so it's hard to give word of mouth, but I've mentioned it to a few people at work.

                    I want to be generous because he's being so generous to me, but at the same time if he wanted me to pay for the drinks he would charge me for the drinks, so it feels a little strange that I'm paying for them anyway. Also, the tips go straight to him (or get split with the other bartender on busy nights), and don't go towards the cost of the drink itself, so tipping the cost of the drink seems a bit high.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: smk5815

                      It's a delicate situation because you already set a precedent.
                      So either you continue to tip the way you have or one day just come out and ask him what would be appropriate between the two of you.

                      1. re: smk5815

                        I want to be generous because he's being so generous to me...

                        Let me put it to you another way. His father is in business to make money. For whatever reasons, he has entrusted or allowed his son to work there. I'll bet any amount of money the father is willing to allow his son some leeway in giveaways for his friends, but not totally on the cuff. I am also sure that if he knew what was happening with you and your group of friends, he would put an end to it immediately. Regardless of whether you are paying for your table time, you are not paying for any drinks or food.....which makes no business sense for anyone. If the father cannot turn a true profit, he cannot pay his bills, his rent/mortgage, overhead, utilities and labor. In time he will not be able to afford his son's generosity to you or his to anyone else. I would also be willing to bet your friend is clueless to these aspects of running a business.

                        If you are sincere in your desire to do what's right, ask for an actual check, so you know it was rung up, pay for your tab so you will know the proceeds go to the father and tip accordingly for the appropriate service you feel is warranted.. If your friend wants to comp you on anything after that, that's his prerogative to do so at that time.......The proper way for him to show you any generosity is outside of his father's business. At this point in time with all the repeated free times in the past, it would be awkward to expect you to pay ( possibly ).....so be the bigger man and insist you want to pay....because it is not fair to his father and it makes you feel uncomfortable, i.e. the appearance of being a mooch (Your word).

                        To give you some actual perspective on this position, let me relay an actual exchange.....my father owned restaurants, as it was my family's business for decades. My father also belonged to a country club and all his friends and fellow members came into the restaurant regularly......however, there was this one fellow member, who rarely paid and rode off other members, who always asked for or demanded a free drink upon arrival from my father....My father,in front of other members in attendance, simply told the buffoon....* I'll buy you all the drinks you want when we are at the club, but here you have to pay. If you don't pay here, you will get no free drinks from me at the club.*

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Your dad's response is classic and now I know you got a country club brat swing.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              You are right. It also begs the question, how many other folks the son is giving free drinks and food to. It is not the son's business, it belongs to the father. When the son owns the joint he can do whatever he wants.

                      2. As someone who has been on both the giving and receiving side of this, I'd say tip at least half of what the total tab would've been. I would tip more myself, but I always overtip friends. If you would've spent $80 on drinks and $20 on tip initially, if you give at least $40, you're still coming out way ahead of the game.

                        27 Replies
                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          Agree, on comps you should tip more than a standard tip, but tipping the total value of the drinks is unnecessary. If it were me, I would tip 50% of the pre-tip tab. So if your pre-tip tab would have been $14, I would tip $7. I don't know why, but 50% feels about right.

                          1. re: Nicole

                            I think the point here (as well described by fourunder above) is that giving a big tip helps the *son*, who is *not* the owner, and not the one comping the drinks (really). He should rather make sure the money ends up back in the hands of the restaurant, not the free-wheeling son.

                            1. re: DGresh

                              But that isn't the OP's question.

                                1. re: DGresh

                                  Why? Comps/waste is built into the cost of doing business. Since when are we the moral police?

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    In this particular example, where the son-bartender is apparently comping his friends all their drinks and much of their food, I think it's relevant to consider whether the friend is taking advantage of his father. Just my opinion. Others may not wish to concern themselves with the morality of it. I would, and I would be more concerned with paying the enterprise than instead giving my friend an extra large tip.

                                    1. re: DGresh

                                      We'll have toagree to disagree. I think that's between the father and son, not you and the OP.

                                      1. re: scoopG

                                        I think part of this thread might have been removed by the mods. The OP had posted at some point that the son has an allowance via the father for comps, and that if the son exceeds that allowance he covers the difference out of pocket. That post no longer seems to be here.

                                        The comp allowance is a pretty common practice.

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          You are correct on a couple of points.....parts of this thread have been removed and exceeding the allowance meant he was supposed pay for drinks out of pocket.....but no where did it give the son any absolute authority or even describe what discretion meant in the son's case.....but seriously, do you really believe the son is going to take money out of his pocket if he is already giving away drinks, or not charging his friend to begin with?

                                          Yes there are assumptions being made by myself and on both sides...but from an owners point of view....there is no benefit with this group of friends to the house's bottom line. I love my son, but I would not allow him to give his friends a free ride every time, even if it were out of his pocket. Maybe once in a while, but not every time.

                                          1. re: fourunder

                                            There are smart businessmen and dumb ones, that goes for sons too.
                                            The old man is lucky enough to have a business they don't have to watch their nickel and dimes with.

                                            1. re: monku

                                              But if dad doesn't watch it carefully, the son may just comp the business away!

                                              1. re: jade628

                                                Son is given an allowance by the father & pays out of pocket to cover any overage. Thus, if the son does this, it is the father's fault for giving too large an allowance.

                                            2. re: fourunder

                                              Again, though, that wasn't the question that was asked. The OP is aware that what his friend is doing may be sketchy. He simply wants to know how much he should tip him. I don't think we should get all high and mighty (not saying you specifically, four), unless none of us have ever accepted a free drink before.

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                He simply wants to know how much he should tip him


                                                in my first comments I replied if he continued to accept free drinks and food, he should leave at least a $20.

                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  Isn't that all that really needs to be said then?

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                    No.....I'll add further that the son is abusing his comp allowance and privilege......and yes, you should tip your friends...


                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      You already did say that, silly goose. ;)

                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        If the son has an allowance and is either:
                                                        a) not going over it
                                                        b) paying out of pocket to cover any difference if he does go over it

                                                        how is he abusing it? is this something like a reverse "pieces of flair" setup from Office Space? The father gives him X amount for comps but he's only supposed to give out X-Y?

                                                    2. re: fourunder

                                                      So if for instance, I'm given two comped drinks which would have cost $10 total, I should leave a $20? Why on earth would I do that? The point of a free drink is to make it cheaper, not to make it more expensive.

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        The point of a free drink is to show appreciation, not make it cheaper for someone and maybe get a buck tip.

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          If I am paying more for it, how is that appreciation? How about I just cut out the proverbial middle man and just mail them a check?

                                                          If I followed your advice, I couldn't afford to receive comps at the rate that I do now. On the up side, my doctor does tell me I should eat & drink less, that'd be one way to go.

                                                  2. re: fourunder

                                                    "but I would not allow him to give his friends a free ride every time, even if it were out of his pocket"

                                                    That has absolutely *zero* to do with this thread.

                                                    You all are running around calling the son evil when you have very few facts, and the facts that have been presented (some of which are no longer on this thread) have all supported your opposition. Simply continuing to yell "no father would allow this!!!!!!" doesn't make it so.

                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                      Where does anyone indicate the son is evil?

                                                  3. re: jgg13

                                                    I have tried several times to pay for my drinks but he always waves me away and tells me not to worry about it. For the record, he has a comp allowance, and if he goes over it he takes it out of his tips. I only go there once or twice a month at most.

                                                    It was not removed....above 2/7 3:41P

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Ok, so even better. Now that your one argument has a giant hole blown right through it, you're going back another dubious step to "I don't believe him"?

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        Again, where is it explicitly detailed or explained the father allowed this?

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          " For the record, he has a comp allowance, and if he goes over it he takes it out of his tips."

                                                          If that's not "explicitly detailed or explained", I don't know what else you need. That arrangement is fairly common.

                                    2. The whole situation is queasy. Sons shouldn't steal from their fathers. You shouldn't tip your friends. You shouldn't be going out to drink if you can't afford it.

                                      Now, if we see this all as a friendly my house is your house thing, and not to make money, you should tip what you can afford, and your friend puts it into the cash register.

                                      I'm sure the dad likes that you and your friends come into his place.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: jaykayen

                                        Does the son/bartender comp drinks behind his dad's back? How do we know this is stealing. Comps are part of the business and when used judiciously, can boost the bottom line. And if said friend is doing his job working, then he should be tipped. I'd be ashamed if I didn't tip, especially someone I call "friend".
                                        I do agree that if you can afford the meal, drink and tip, then buy a 6 pack and call it a day ;-)

                                        1. re: jaykayen

                                          I'm guessing you missed the part where it was explained that it wasn't stealing at all?

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            Yes, I didn't infer that from the post that I responded to.

                                          2. re: jaykayen

                                            "You shouldn't tip your friends"?????

                                          3. I had a friend who owned a restaurant/bar - he ran the resto and he hired a barman to run the bar. I asked him about comped drinks. He said that as long as the bar returned $xx/case of liquor he didn't really care what the barman did.

                                            Sounds like the bar is a friendly place - if I stick my head in, I should see a bunch of folks being friendly and inviting - I won't know who pays for their drinks. And folks drinking free booze tend to be very friendly.

                                            If you give me a free drink I'll probably tip half the usual cost of the drink just as others suggested.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: rich in stl

                                              why would you ask an owner about comp drinks? that's just being thinly veiled advantageous and greedy. What did you expect him to answer?!? Of course, he's say he didn't care. He said that to save face.
                                              Why not just buy a drink support his business instead. People always want something for free. Better yet, open your own place and you can comp us all.

                                              1. re: jade628

                                                Wow, do you even read the post before replying?

                                                1. re: viperlush

                                                  yeah, Viperlush, I have no problem calling ppl on their bs. one of my best friend's has a bar and is taking a beating from these so called patrons who always ask for comps. why do these people feel entitled to free stuff? why is that okay? Do you go into a rest/bar and ask for free food? it's like begging. same thing. Alcohol is not cheap. And when some ppl here are comped to only leave a buck is a disgrace. Why put an owner in the embarrassing situation of having to say no? or having the owner take a position of saying that its up to the bartender? he is obviously shifting responsibility as to not look bad. its putting someone in an awkward place.

                                                  1. re: jade628

                                                    The OP never asked to be comped, though. His friend simply gave him free drinks.

                                            2. my friend often coming home with close to $200 in cash on top of his paycheck....

                                              Is this nightly per shift, or weekly?

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                I don't really see how this matters, especially since it's been established that the difference in our salaries doesn't matter. In any event, though, I meant nightly - at least, on certain nights when he works longer shifts and it's especially busy. He's good at his job and many of the patrons are regulars who have known him his whole life and tend to tip well.

                                                For the record, I didn't intend for this to become a question of the morality of him comping me drinks. It may be wrong of me, but as far as I'm concerned that's between him and his dad. I go there so rarely and drink so little that I doubt I'm costing them hand over fist anyway. I don't know if he comps other people a lot or not, but I don't really think that's my business. I just wanted to know what I should be tipping

                                                1. re: smk5815

                                                  Get the check. then tip accordingly. 20% is great. otherwise, $20 should cover it.

                                                  1. re: smk5815

                                                    Agree, tip 20% on the price of the drinks and food.
                                                    Screw dropping him $20, that's probably more than you'd spend and drink from the way you're talking.

                                                    I can't fathom how a small billiards bar could be rolling in dough like that.
                                                    They want to give the place away that's their business, not yours.

                                                2. It seems like everything there is to be said on this subject has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.