THE BARTENDER KNOWS #19
This is the #1 question always asked about the bartending world. So, as the official Bartender Who Supposedly Knows Everything, I have no choice but to address it. I will try to dial back into the destructed hard drive I call my Hippocampus and answer each question individually. So go ahead: shoot them over. I’ll take each and every question with honesty and accompany it with a teaspoon of vinegar. Here we go:
Do all bartenders work and live for tips?
Answer: YES. Even now in 2022 (with what’s left of it), bartenders must and have to live on tips. Can you believe after all of this human evolution, the one and only legal drug dealer allowed to work in the USA still only gets paid minimum wage? That, in itself, is a crime. The worst shift pay I was ever paid?
0$. Zero. Nil. Nothing.
Let me repeat that. ZERO dollars a fucking hour. There was no shift pay. WE only got paid from what we could generate from the people who walked in. Was this illegal? 100%. But who are you going to complain to? You want your job, don’t you? You have bills to pay, don’t you? Rent in NYC is not cheap. Would I ever allow myself to suffer from this atrocity ever again? No. Never. Not never, never. But yes, that was a thing that happened (don’t worry, I’m Italian. I’ll eventually turn States Evidence and fuck that restaurant group over — HARD. You can bet on that).
When should I tip?
Every time you order a drink, you dumb bastard. Easy answer. Forgive my anger. You’d be surprised how many people don’t even abide by that simple rule. Maybe they were just raised wrong. Here’s the hard and fast rule you should follow in every bar in these great United States of America. One drink, one dollar. That’s it. If the bartender is super hilarious or attentive or both, then it’s up to you how much you want to increase that gratuity. But yeah, one dollar of your time is worth the bartenders time of not putting bleaching solvent in your cocktail (do it for your intestines). Not that we ever would…right?
Are cash tips still tax free?
Answer: YES. Here’s my biggest regret of my work life. At one point in my time, I was working simultaneously at three different bars. All the money that came in was cash. Like straight up, un-taxable Al Capone dollar bills, stuffed in the back pocket of my tight black jeans each and every night. What I should’ve done was stuff all those Washingtons into the center of my mattress, never look at them again, and trade them up for bigger bills and better opportunities. What did I do with those wadded up number 1's? I spent all of them traveling around Western Europe, taking women out (who I don’t even remember their names now), buying unknown (but very helpful) narcotic pills and tipping other nefarious bartenders cash tips to, no doubt, send them on their own careening cyclone into the abyss.
Do I feel any guilt for these actions? No. No — I don’t. We make our own bed in this life. Even if you have to throw away the sheets afterwards.
What about foreigners? I noticed that foreigners don’t tip. Is this a problem for bartenders?
Answer: YES. All people who come to the United States of America know from any normal media suggestions to tip their bartender. They just simply ignore it. It’s a shame, too. I have met so many Americans that purposely study other peoples culture and customs when they plan a trip abroad. They read all the guides, they download the maps — they even reach out to the Culture Bureau of the places they plan to visit. Despite what the common media likes to portray, Americans, the average American, really does attempt to be respectful of the culture they are visiting.
(NOTE: Oh, there’s plenty that don’t. One time I was drinking an espresso in a cafe off the Seine in Paris, as one does. I was doing well. It was there I admired how quiet everything was. That was, until, these, shall we say, obese people waddled up to the garcon and yelled, yes, actually yelled:
“Y’all take American money around here?” The whole place froze. They weren’t afraid. They just couldn’t believe that such utter ignorance actually existed. This moment proved it. I never wanted to fight another American out of pride and representation more in my whole life. I resisted and kept writing sentences in my novel).
Are Bartenders nicer to you if you tip them?
This is a big MAYBE. It really depends on who is working and who is the customer. Let’s first get into the gender thing (shut up, I know. Go there if you want, but right now, shut the F up).
Basic Bitch Rule: If it’s a guy bartender and he likes you (in whatever capacity), yes, he will be nice to you. If it’s a lady bartender and she likes you (in whatever capacity) yes, she will be nice to you.
If you are a fan and a reader, you will know about the “strip-clubbing” phenomenon that I despise (please refer to any other column in this thread). This is a serious problem in the bar world. I want to find a way to eradicate it, but like piranha fish and other sea monsters, it’s going to take time.
Will a male (straight) bartender give free drinks to a gal he fancies? Yes. Will a lady (straight) bartender allow a male drunk to have that last one before he should have been kicked out four drinks ago? Yes.
This profession is not for the weak hearted. But unlike every other job, we work for money that people just hand us, clean and in hand. No, there’s no checks we wait for in the mailbox. No, there’s not a 401K plan we can retire with. We work these long nights to make sure folks like you keep drinking. What else are we supposed to do?
You stop drinking — we’re put out of a job. You stop drinking — we leave empty handed. You stop drinking…
Who else is going to assure that you have a good time?
Bartenders are whores. We just don’t lay down with you horizontally. We got three feet of wood for that (and I’m not talking about our ‘below’ structure. We won’t judge you — and we won’t tell either).
That’s what those George Washingtons are for. It’s a bargain. It says thanks. It says we’re cheaper than a therapist. It says we are the shoulder to rely on. We’ll listen to your problems.
One drink. One dollar.
I wish our real lives were that so perfectly transactional. Maybe things will get better in society. Maybe…we will eventually massage out the hard kinks. But until then…
Maybe we can just make you smile — when everyone else didn’t that day.