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If bartender serves you a 2nd beer without asking, do you assume it's on the house?

Today I tried a local pub because their wings got rave reviews. I'm not really a beer drinker, but ordered a pint since I was sitting at the bar. I finished it, and would have declined a second one had I been asked. But the bartender served me another pint without asking. I was surprised to see it added to the tab. Thoughts?

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  1. In my experience, when a bartender serves a drink that's on the house, he tells you. I probably would have said that I didn't order a 2nd beer when he served it.

    1. Did you drink it? What did the BT say when s/he delivered it? Was there any comment at all or did s/he slide it over with only a wink? Seems odd. Maybe there was some uber subtle suggestion of another that you somehow missed. It shouldn't be the diner's burden to refuse additional drinks, but if you didn't want it, you should have said something when it was brought over.

      1. I wouldn't assume it was free unless I was told so.

        And I regard being served anything non-complimentary in a restaurant without being asked first as bad service. They might get the price of an extra beer that night, but they're not getting a tip, and they're not getting my money in the future.

        1. I have to admit, I would have assumed it was on the house. At every bar I've ever been to, even with the most not-chatty bartenders at pubs that open at 9am in the US in order to show Premier League games from the UK - there's always some kind of communication to indicate if you'd like to order a refill. Even if it's just through body language. And with first timers, I've never seen complete nonverbal communication work that way.

          However, as a woman - I probably also rely on using some routine "aw gee, I don't need this" just to confirm the drink is free. While I would have assumed the beer was on the house, I do usually try to establish some kind of verbal understanding that it is in fact on the house.

          1. did the BT give a 2-knock knuckle-rap on the bar while serving the 2nd?

            18 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              Just shows that there is always something to be learned by reading Chowhound! I'm 50+ and never heard of the 2-knock knuckle-rap as a sign to mean "on-the-house." I thought bartenders knocked on the bar to acknowledge a tip, but I've never noticed if it was a single knock or a double-knock.

              1. re: hill food

                Yep. The 2 knuckle rap along with "good luck!" One of life's sweetest sounds.

                1. re: Bob Martinez

                  Yeah usually accompanied by "Cheers" around these parts. It's not subtle by any means, since they will take money out of your pile if you're paying cash. If a credit card, I would think they would take it away and run it? Usually the third drink is earliest though.

                  1. re: coll

                    I always thought that's what it meant, but have never been sure, I go ahead and pay for it anyway (gotta be real, I was probably going to order one anyway and the BT can take it as a nice tip if it was in fact being comped)

                    but if I was confused, I would just say something like "oh I didn't order this" as pleasant as possible, and see where it went from there.

                    1. re: hill food

                      They do always knock on the bar in my neck of the woods, of course if not for the company I occasionally keep I might not have known either!

                      1. re: coll

                        and I figure if I go ahead and pay for it, that BT will give me even better service if (yeah right 'if'! OK - when) I come back again.

                        lotsa body language in bars, catch the BT's eye and tap the glass for another, or as you're getting low, give a sideways wave over it to say 'cut me off'

                        I like to claim I grew up in pool halls and juke joints. started smoking as my mom was always too hungover to make breakfast and just lit us some Lucky Strikes and hoped we made to school OK w/o the assistance of 'friendly' strangers. (she's horrified and a little amused I tell people that completely fictitious version of somebody else's childhood as my own).

                        maybe that's a pitch for SpikeTV or Trav. "The Bar Whisperer"

                    2. re: coll

                      "Usually the third drink is earliest though."

                      That is exactly what I was going to say. Even at the kind of old-fashioned neighborhood bars that actually still do rounds, you have to actually buy a couple of rounds first. In NYC the fourth round is the free one. The point is to keep you drinking, after all, and it works. There are always people who'd probably just drink two beers but will drink a third if they know that means the fourth one is free. And of course, then you're not just having a couple of beers but actually moving into some serious drinking, and not going home (or to the next bar) after all.

                  2. re: hill food

                    2-knock-knuckle-rap - that's new to me. What part of the country?

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        huh. I need to work on my bar etiquette, then, as I'm close enough to have known this thing

                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                          It's really old fashioned, I find it more out on the east end of Long Island than in the city. Not that I travel to drink all that much! but maybe it's more if they know you nowadays?

                      2. re: BiscuitBoy

                        Definitely done (and appreciated!) in San Francisco.

                        1. re: monfrancisco

                          definitely saw it in SF (those WERE my days of wine and roses I really haven't spent much (that much) time in bars since, like I did back then), also seen in NYC, DC, sometimes NOLA, and in the Midwest, but it is usually a grumpy old man type place where it occurs. yes, several rounds in and you're tipping well and not an asshole and the BT figures, let's keep these folks around a while (I guess)

                          1. re: hill food

                            Yes. In one of my grumpy old man places, I'm an honorary "lonely guy," something I'm inordinately proud of (I was busted purchasing a Hungry Man tv dinner at the store across the street after a long afternoon of baseball watching). Oh, I'm female, thus the "honorary."

                            1. re: monfrancisco

                              it is a MOST inclusive club one certainly not gender restricted. so welcome. and pipe down, Pujols is up (smirk).

                              1. re: hill food

                                Grumpy old man places is a perfect desciption of the places I'm thinking of!

                                1. re: hill food

                                  Thanks! May you have many "rap rap, Live a little"s in your future!