I started waiting tables at a pub at the tender age of twenty and a few years later moved up the ranks to bartender. On my nights off, I am known to frequent such establishments, meaning that for the past four years of my life, it is safe to say that I have spent anywhere from 1,095-2,190 nights either working, imbibing, or (my favorite) both. Lately, there have been a few articles circulating the internet on how to end up on your bartender’s bad side, which are very accurate. We do encounter people at their most charismatic and charming, but more often than not, at their very worst. If you are a well-intentioned person who has had the misfortune pissing off your local bartender, don’t fret! There are ways out of the dark side! For those of you who simply want to get preferential treatment, this list also applies to you.
Tip Well and Often
To Insure Proper Service (see what I did there), tip each round. Server wage is typically much lower than minimum wage, so tips are our livelihood. The person who tips us in pocket change and lint while acting mightier-than-thou becomes the lowest priority. They get no buybacks and I will not help them look cool to the girl they are desperately trying to flirt with. Don’t get me wrong, throwing a bunch of greenbacks on the bar and get away with being obnoxious. Money does not afford a crappy personality and there are some transgressions that money doesn’t fix. I am also not implying that bad service warrants the same tip you would grant great service, but a dollar or two per round is just simple human decency.
Acknowledge that Bar Tending is a Real Job
Bartending can be a very fun job, but there are many Not Fun parts as well. Cutting people off or kicking them out can be messy or dangerous. We have to clean up some pretty gross stuff sometimes. Remember when you had a house party in college and someone puked all over the carpet and you had to clean up sticky beer bottles and glasses for a whole day after? That’s the end of a rough night behind the pine. Closing shift workers also can’t go out with their friends after work to blow off steam. Everything’s closed and everyone’s asleep. Don’t keep closers at work late. In fact, encouraging people slowly nursing their last beer to skedaddle on home is greatly appreciated.
Know Your Limitations
Liquors have a variety of effects depending on an individual’s body chemistry. What turns one person into happy drunk can turn another into a very nasty one. It never ceases to amaze me when a customer says something along the lines of “whiskey makes me want to fight” and then they order a Jameson on the rocks.
Also, play it safe. Bars are made to drink in, but getting blackout drunk and causing a ruckus never got anyone on a bartenders preferential treatment list. A bartender does not cut anyone off just to be a giant jerk. For the love of all that is holy, do not drink and drive. It wears on our conscience.
Take Care of Others
Like in airports, if you see something, say something. If someone is passed out or puking or just walked off with another person’s wallet, say something! Many potentially serious issues can be nipped in the bud if one person alerts a bar tender or a bouncer. On the flip side, don’t try to be a hero. This goes back to knowing your limitations: attempting to break up a fight between two very large people alone usually just makes the situation worse. Teamwork makes the dream work: everyone will have a better time at the bar if we all watch out for one another.
Seek Professional Help When You Need It
A big part of tending bar is listening to people’s problems, which if I’m not busy, I am generally happy to do. But, there are some things I am simply not qualified to give advice on. I am not a relationship counselor and I do not know the cure for sexual dysfunction. If the conversation would be more productive with a licensed professional, save it for them.
Respect Bar Policies:
Bartenders don’t make all the rules. We have owners and managers to answer to. We may not like the rules, but we like being employed so it’s uncouth to ask us to do things behind our boss’s back. Customers must earn a bartender’s (an often the owner’s) trust before they become an exception to the rule. Waltzing in and demanding preferential treatment does not speed up that track.
Acknowledge Us As Human
We vividly remember people who are kind, that remember our names, and ask us how our day is going. People that use phrases like “when you’re done with that, could I get a ____” warm our hearts. Patience with us places a customer higher on our priority list, much higher than the rude bad tipper who snaps their fingers to get attention.