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Jul 10, 2011 09:03 AM

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

Late last week I made a quick trip to Manhattan. Given the schedule there was an opportunity for one meal with friends. As I was waiting for my friends and given the heat and humidity and the proximity to Blind Tiger Ale House, a quick trip to BTAH seemed like a good idea.

As I entered, there were 2 bartenders, and 3 when I left. 2 were females, 1 was male. I ordered 3 beers each served by a different bartender. There were about 4 customers when I entered and about 6-8 customers when I left. I had a great conversation with the male bartender who was quite engaging (I mentioned to him how BTAH was popular on the West coast and that I was surprised to see so little Allagash given its proximity. He said the listings were very dynamic, and I am sure they are!). All three bartenders offered samples and I had 4 samples and ordered 3 beers. My first exchange was with a female bartender and I asked her for the check as she had opened the tab for me. This is what followed:

Me: "Can I have the check please?"
BT: "Sure."
BT brings me the check.
Me: "How much are the BTAH t-shirts for?"
BT: "$22"
Me: "Ohhh..." (shrugged a little indicating it was a little expensive) "Hey, but you guys can get free publicity in Los Angeles (where I live)" (smiling as I said that).
That's when I noticed a discrepancy in the check. They had billed me for 2 beers instead of 3.
Me: "Hey, you haven't charged me for a beer. I had 3, there are only 2 on the check". Again smiling at her I said "So maybe you can give me a new check and a discount on the tshirt"
BT went over to the other side of the bar, as I was bewildered at what had just happened!

I paid for the two beers ($17 and left a $3 tip, lower by my standards, but reasonable given the exchange) and left after having waited to make sure she wasn't returning with a different check.

Funny way to do business?

Revenue so far: $17
Additional revenue: $8 - $30 (depending on the price of the tshirt). All you have to do is give me a new check and possibly smile and say "sorry, its $22".

I am sure $8-30 doesn't make a dent in BTAH's annual revenues, but what a bizarre way to respond to a paying customer, who has recognized an error that is to your advantage and is willing to pay for it (and possibly more!) Mind you there were operating at 10-20% of their capacity and there were 3 bartenders, so there really wasn't a lot of pressure on them.

As I thought about the situation later, I realized was haggling for the tshirt price was a bad idea?
A. I wasn't asking it for free
B. Poor form or not, I am a paying customer and I am being as nice and funny about it. Just say no, you don't have to SHOUT back at me!

Will I ever return to BTAH? In all honesty, its a great establishment serving hard to find beers and being a channel for smaller craft brewers. And I must say 2/3rd of the employees did a fine job! Though, I have decided to send an email to BTAH because maybe this is a repeat offender.

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  1. Super weird. You can only hope there is some backstory that would explain it. Still, I'd have a hard time going back after such an experience.

    1 Reply
    1. re: babette feasts

      As I said, there was a really nice guy, who was engaging and knowledgeable...I like to isolate and identify my problems with a particular place before I decide on return visits. Moreover, everyone deserves a second chance. :)

    2. You got a buyback. Asking for discounted clothing from a bar sounds weird to me, whether you do it with a smile or not.

      5 Replies
      1. re: LeoLioness

        I agree; it is doubtful an employee sets the price of the merch nor can he/she discount the prices for merch. Otherwise, the bartender was a bit harsh definitely.

        1. re: Dax

          I think the "sounds weird" argument is a judgment call; one can argue either way. The more important point here is the response to a weird request: politely declining it is a reasonable option that can and should be exercised. Rebuking a customer is

          BTW, I wrote to Blind Tiger, and they responded very quickly with an apology (accepted) and an offer for a free tshirt (declined). The only explanation for the the bartender's behavior was the she was certainly having a bad day.

          1. re: losfelizhound

            Of course it's a judgement, just as you are judging the bartender. Did you ask for opinions on this scenario or did you just want people to validate you?

            Yeah, asking for discounted clothes in a bar is weird.

          2. re: Dax

            I think the "sounds weird" argument is a judgment call. What's more important is the response to a weird request, and under ideal and almost every condition is to decline it politely. That was a clearly an option that was not exercised.

            I wrote to BTAH and they responded in a matter of hours and offered an apology (accepted) and wanted to send me a free tshirt (politely declined). The only explanation they could offer for the behavior was that she was having a bad day.

          3. re: LeoLioness

            My BF when buying anything will ask for a discount - hey it never hurts to ask and a lot of the time he gets it. Does it embarrass me sometimes? yes, but like he always says $5 is better in my pocket than theirs.

          4. I think the bartender was trying to be funny and trying to find a way to diffuse your focus on getting a T-shirt cheap. Since you wouldn't let it go, she was trying to find a way to make that happen.

            5 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              Haha...that's a funny argument. Having said that, I hope you are not into any business requiring interaction with customers :)

              1. re: losfelizhound

                It is hard to tell exactly what it was like when it happened since no one on this board was there. New Yorkers have strong senses of humor and that 's what it sounded like to me. By the way, I've worked in retail and did just fine with customers who often came back looking for me in particular to help them.;)

                1. re: escondido123

                  ROFL...since "no one on this board was there", lets assume (a) you were in retail and (b) they had high tolerance to pain...:)

                  1. re: losfelizhound

                    What exactly are you getting at? What are you trying to say? I don't understand.

              2. That's the difference between crazy girls in LA versus NY. In NY they tend to be more fractious.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                    I didn't want to get into any over generalizations. Though in that kind of heat and humidity, tempers can flare more quickly!

                  2. Pure speculation, but I would guess that the bartender was trying mightily to disengage, and doing everything they could think of to do so.

                    Could be wrong though,


                    1 Reply