10 Things Bartenders and Customers Hate About Each Other

19242_555925833852_6177310_n                  (me circa 2009, Juliet NYC. Photo by Kirill.)

What some of you might not know about me is that I was a bartender for many years of my life. I’ve worked everywhere from wine bars, to nightclubs. I’ve done high-volume, I’ve done food service at the bar, I’ve made complex cocktails. Needless to say, I have plenty of experience serving several types of customers and dealing with the most unimaginable situations. Seriously, I could write a book about all the shit that I’ve dealt with.

So when I was trying to decide what to write about this week, I began to think about bars and quickly realized how long it’s been since I’ve actually been behind one. I remembered how I always wanted to compile a list of things that ticks bartenders off but then I realized – hey, they do stuff that pisses me off all the time, too! The tables have turned: I now find bartenders to be at fault many times. Which got me thinking, I probably wasn’t as pleasant of a bartender as I thought I was and these guys should probably be reminded of their own wrongdoings. Which leads me to this post: it’s not just one-sided. Bartenders are not perfect, and most certainly, not always the best at customer service. So this is a post for EVERYONE to take a lesson in bar etiquette. Take it or leave it, here are the 10 things bartenders and customers hate about each other.

10 Things Bartenders Hate:

1- When you ask them to smile. This had to be number one, and I’m sure most bartenders would agree with me here: we hate being told to smile. The same way everyone probably hates to be told to smile when they’re in a bad mood, we hate to be told to smile when we’re bartending. Do you tell your client to smile via email? No. So why would you come to our work place and do that? Just don’t. Tip well and we’ll smile. It’s really that easy. 🙂

2- When you refuse to keep your tab open. We’re busy and the fact that you frequently get hammered and forget your card behind the bar shouldn’t be our problem. Sure, you want to avoid the trip back to the bar the next day so instead you make us work extra hard. That’s okay, right? No. Time is money, and you’re wasting our time. Instead, why don’t you tell your friend to remind you to get your CC. That way you don’t have to place the burden on us by asking us to close you out every 10 damn minutes.

3- When you order a complicated cocktail and then reorder the same one seconds later. Oh em gee, that drink on the menu sounds incredibly delicious. Thank you, we’re flattered you are excited to order it. And yes, it’ll probably take at least 3 minutes to make it due to its many ingredients and steps. You order it, you love it, that’s awesome. Then you go, “wait, actually, can I get 1 more?” Seriously? You saw how long that took to make, right? You SUCK in my book right now. But, I guess I can’t blame you for liking my delicious drink so much– just don’t let that happen again.

4- When you only order ice water and leave no tip. Service is service, and if we’re pleasant to you and offer you any sort of service, you should tip us. I would always be grateful if someone left me a tip for serving them ice water. It’s a sure way to be on a bartender’s good side. Chances are we think you’re alright if you tip us after ordering water. It means you’re a solid human being that understands the basic concept of service.

5- When you’re with a big group and don’t know their drink order or how you’re paying. Ladies are especially guilty of this: not knowing what their friends want to drink when they come up to a busy bar. If you’re at a packed bar that’s 2 deep or more, make sure one of you steps up to be the leader, takes everyone’s drink order, and is ready when the bartender is ready for you. Your conversation can wait until you have your drinks in hand.

6- When you name drop for a free drink. Name dropping in general is just ugh. You’re broke and I want nothing to do with you now. If you’re that important, the owner will come talk to me personally and tell me to buy you a round. Otherwise, they just want your money just as much as we do.

7- When you wave your hands, wave your money, or yell. This is just bad etiquette and you should not be allowed in a bar if you’re doing any of the above… period.

8- When you ask for less ice thinking that it’s going to get you more alcohol. “Easy on the ice.” Red flag: you’re a cheap asshole. Less ice does not equal more alcohol. That is a FACT. So unless you like your drink room temperature, don’t bother asking a bartender for less ice. It’ll get you nowhere.

9- When you steal fruit from the bar. This isn’t a buffet, and you are not allowed to steal all of our olives. There are limits to grabbing things off a bar. Napkins are understandable, maybe even straws. But fruit, we take it personal. That’s food that’s going in people’s drinks and as soon as you put your infested paws on them, you’re spreading nasty germs into other’s people’s mouths. It’s unsanitary and unacceptable. Just ask our barback if you can’t get our attention.

10- When a promoter or a VIP stretches their drink ticket limit. Perhaps my biggest battle during my bartending days was dealing with a promoter. They are the worst. Let me paint a picture for you: You’re a promoter that brings say, I don’t know, 6 people with you to “the club.” The manager gives you 5-8 drink tickets (which is a lot considering that could fall anywhere between $50-$150 in lost sales.) You get your drinks, don’t bother tipping me because “we work together” (we don’t), and then you make your way back to the bar and ask for more drinks with no drink tickets to show for it. Really? How about I go to your part-time job at a clothing boutique and ask you for a free shirt? Not sure that would fly with your employer, right? Same goes here, pal. Sacrificing our job is not what we do. If you order a drink without a drink ticket even if we know you’re “special”, be prepared to fork over a credit card or a wad of cash.

Some other pet peeves worth noting: Bartenders hate when you order Mojitos, LIT’s, or Cosmos. Cash is always better. And we don’t accept being a tourist as an excuse for not tipping.

10 Things Customers Hate:

1- When you don’t say hello or show any sign of respect. Quite frankly, the rudest thing a human being could do is to nod their head in an upwards notion and ask “what do you want?” You need my money, I don’t need your service. As much as you’d like to think that you can be rude, you can’t. You depend on our tips and you should take that into consideration before being rude straight off the bat.

2- When you only take orders in front of you. Most GOOD bartenders know to work the line. That means, they have a peripheral sense of who came up to the bar when and they’ll acknowledge those people as they show up. Bartenders who only take orders in front of them are lazy and just lack the skills that good bartenders possess.

3- When you make them wait for minutes without any sign of acknowledgement. This is kind of perpendicular to #2. If you get this sort of treatment, there’s a good chance you have bartender #2 in front of you. They’re horrible at acknowledging their patrons, and even worse at articulating that they’ll get around to serving you soon. A quick hello goes a long way.

4- When you don’t put garnishes on our drink. Lazy bartenders are the worst– like the WORST. I know this first hand on both sides. I know you’re busy, but are you really too busy to put a lime wedge in my vodka soda? I really hope not, because you know what? You’re going to have to deal with me bothering you for a lime, therefore giving yourself even more work. Spare yourself the extra trip.

5- When you get hammered and lose our credit card.  I’m sure this has happened to a lot of you: you trust a bartender with your credit card and then he/she gets wasted and gives it to another customer. Fine, mistakes happen. However, it’s your responsibility to help me get that credit card back. I don’t care if you have to step away from the bar and get a manager, act like you care and be apologetic.

6- When you judge us based on our drink order. This mostly applies to high-brow cocktail bars and their “mixologists.” Sometimes, I don’t want a fancy cocktail. Sometimes, it wasn’t my idea to come to your bar, I’m just meeting friends, and I want a regular drink. Regular drink meaning a vodka tonic, jack and ginger, or some other basic concoction. The only time you’re allowed to judge us is when we order a Long Island or the equivalent of that.

7- When you don’t tell me it’s happy hour. This is by far one of my hugest pet peeves. Specials are specials for a reason. They’re not conceptualized to be a secret– the owners want people to know about it. They want happy customers who return during off hours and stay into the night when the special is no longer in effect. The fact that you withhold that information from someone for whatever the reason is just dishonest. Your employer will not be grateful you neglected to tell us, they’ll probably frown upon it.

8- When you don’t tell me the tip is included. It’s a tough time for bartenders after the new IRS rule went into effect in January 2013. However, some bars (especially those outside of NYC) still allow for auto-gratuity on credit card transactions, therefore allowing for some dishonesty to occur amongst bartenders and customers. This is not acceptable, and even back during my bartending days I would always hand over an itemized receipt with a large circle around the tip. The slimiest thing a bartender could do is fork over a copy of the bill with no itemized copy and no mention of a service charge. It’s just wrong– those people work hard for their money, too.

9- When you under-pour my drink. Drinks are expensive, and I want to get my money’s worth. Under pouring me a cocktail is not cool, won’t result in another order, and lastly- it won’t get you a good tip. Granted, most people don’t know what the actual measurements to a cocktail are, but I do. Don’t rip off your patrons.

10- When you steal my money. This one is tricky but it has happened to me a couple of times. Picture this: you pay for a drink with cash, you turn around and start talking to your friends. All of a sudden you realize, “Oh shoot, I forgot to grab my change.” Only to turn around and it’s gone. Of course one of the bartenders assume it’s a tip and refuses to reason with you.  This is utter nonsense. If you thought I was actually leaving you $10 for one drink then you would be thanking me, or at the very least your co-worker would’ve mentioned there was a generous tip on the bar and you two would’ve had a quick conversation about it. As a bartender, I’ve had this happen to me before and although it’s annoying, I’ve returned their money. People get carried away; chances are they were having a good time and spaced out. We are responsible for their money until it’s off the bar and if it wasn’t their intention to leave it there, we should consult with our co-workers and return their money if seen fit.

Some other pet peeves worth noting: Don’t clear our drink before it’s empty. Do hook us up occasionally if we’re regulars and leave you great tips every time. Don’t ignore us because you’re on your phone or are talking to your friends, and please try to remember our face and what we drink.//

As you can see, the bartender-customer relationship has been a bit of a frenemies scenario since the beginning of time. Suffice to say, I think we can all be a little better to one another in this industry. Bartenders earn their living by serving you alcohol, and you need them to fulfill your vice. It’s a win-win situation, so let’s treat it that way. 

I hope my advice results in good tips and free drinks. And if none of the above applies to you, congratulations you’re an awesome human being!

A special thank you to all of my Facebook friends who helped me in writing this post! This one’s for you. Cheers!

xx Cyndi

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