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August 28, 2005

Bar tipping

Josh Bernstein calls bullshit on bar tipping:

Now let's do some math. Say I spend $40 boozing. Conservatively, that's eight drinks at $4 per—$32. The remaining $8 arises from the obligatory dollar-per-drink tip. Tipping one dollar on a four-dollar drink is akin to a 25-percent gratuity. Throwing a buck on a $2 PBR, why, that's 50 percent. Hookers aren't tipped that well. [New York Press]

Bernstein goes on to suggest a sliding scale for tips: at least a whole dollar for mixed drinks, a buck for two out of every three rounds of draft beer, and nothing for beer in a can.

Well, I call bullshit on Bernstein. If you can afford to drink in a bar, you can afford to tip at least a dollar per drink.

Why should the tip depend entirely on the relative difficulty of serving a particular beverage? Whatever you're drinking, you're tipping for the whole package: taking the order, getting it right, bringing it out, juggling competing demands to keep service running smoothly, being friendly, and so on.

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Comments

Good tips is also a good habit to get into if you're heading to West Europe. Cos the European custom doesn't involve tipping, so a good tip gives you some really damn good service.

As for Bernstein, quit your whining. If you don't like tipping, no one will object to you getting hammered at home.

Why should the tip depend entirely on the relative difficulty of serving a particular beverage?

Because well-mixed cocktails take up more of the bartender's time. It's really inconsiderate to ask for a labor-intensive drink (like, say, a Mojito) when the bartender is already swamped, and then not tip him extra.

That said, $1/drink is the minimum bar tip. You should tip at least $2 for a well-mixed Martini, Manhattan, Sidecar, etc, especially if the bartender takes the time to prepare it correctly -- i.e., chills the cocktail glasses, stirs vigorously for at least 15 seconds (not just a half-assed swizzle), uses freshly-squeezed citrus (for the Sidecar, etc) instead of sour mix, gives you a proper lemon twist and instead of a sliver of rind, etc. These things are so rarely done well -- if you care about getting a decent cocktail, you owe it to yourself to reward the bartenders that do it right.

I always thought the tip was to pay for the optional "urine free" aspect of the drinks?

Whatever you're drinking, you're tipping for the whole package: taking the order, getting it right, bringing it out, juggling competing demands to keep service running smoothly, being friendly, and so on.

No, they're getting payed a wage to do all that, the tips are there so that rich bastards can show off how generous they are, really, the whole idea of tipping is just to make service people resent the poor customers more than the rich ones, and thus perpetuates the class system.

though of course drinks are usually more than $4, and I woudl have perosnally rounded up to about 4.5/5 dollars per drink which (multiplied by 8) gives us final figures of $36/$40, which means that he actually pays less than a dollar per drink in tips (at the liberal estimate he pays for less than 1 drink more than he actually drank), which is the real solution, you think you're over tipping? tip less, they goes home with less money than they normally would when you're trying to simply keep up the appearance of being a non-scrooge, but if you feel you're being over charged then don't give them the non-obligatory extra dollar, you nut.

At least the tax-phobic anarchists are being forced to pay taxes, but whining about optional charges? puh-leez

I agree, Thad. That's why I asked why the tip should depend entirely on the labor intensiveness of the drink.

In a climate where tipping is the norm, you can't really separate what people get paid a wage to do from what they get tipped for. The wages of the servers and the sticker prices on the menu are predicated on the assumption that patrons will tip.

Some people treat tipping as if it were merely a bonus for service above and beyond the call of duty--but that's just not how it works. Tipping isn't really optional. The norm is always to leave something, even if it's a lousy tip. So, you can't really argue that servers get paid to bring you drinks and tipped to bring you elaborate drinks.

No, they're getting payed a wage to do all that,

They're getting paid $2.35 an hour and, unless you pay with a credit card, the bartender/server has to pay taxes on the expected tip of 15% whether you tip them or not.

the tips are there so that rich bastards can show off how generous they are, really, the whole idea of tipping is just to make service people resent the poor customers more than the rich ones, and thus perpetuates the class system.

When I was a server it was my experience that the less affluent tended to be better tippers. I didn't resent the poorer customers, I looked forward to them, and gave them the best service that I could.

I tip based upon service and quality...just as I do with food service. I taste the drink and then tip...if its exceptional I'll likely leave quite a large tip (say $3 on a $7 drink). If its only average or marginal I'll leave a $1 tip for a mixed drink. For a beer or just about anything else, I tip about $1 per drink.

For table service, it has a lot more to do with the service and the number of rounds we order than with the drinks themselves.

Don't know if this is part of what RM is thinking about, but I think it's a lousy system to pay servers crap wages and make them dependent on tips for their living. For one thing, it shifts a lot of risk onto the server for bad business--if no one comes in, the server gets paid less for working the same hours. It also puts the server at the mercy of the customers in what I think is an undesirable way. So I'd rather we had something like the Western European system, in which servers seem to be able to make a living from their wages (though I know nothing about the system).

But, given that we don't have that system, you have to tip, or you're basically taking food out of the server's mouth. I mean, I'd rather have a system in which we had universal healthcare irrespective of your employer, but that under our current system individual employers should stop offering healthcare. (Or even withhold it for 90 days after you start employment, but that's another story. Stupid Texas.)

"healthcare" should be "health insurance"

If a drink is $3.25 or $3.50, I take no change from a fiver. (The advantage of living out here in Boondoxia: $4 drinks are not so common.)

I tended bar for nearly 5 years. If you can't afford to tip, then you can't afford to drink at a bar. Just go to the liquor store.

Having said that, if you're at a bar on a busy night when multiple customers are simultaneously vying for the bartender's attention -- and you haven't been tipping -- notice who gets served next. It's marketplace economics. The bartender's time is valuable, and he (or she) is motivated by self-interest. I'll bet Josh Bernstein is a thirsty man.

He might be thirsty, but I'll also bet he doesn't have a regular bar. Tipping your regular bartender extravagantly builds a long-term relationship that definitely pays off in the end. And on those occasions where the regular bartender comps a drink? She gets the whole price of the drink for a tip anyway.

I don't leave tips at bars. Because I don't go to bars, and prefer social situations where I can smoke pot to social situations where I am drinking. On those rare occasions where I do go to a bar, I usually just have some water and watch the drunk people act like idiots. Drinking is stupid. And, even if you do want to drink, why not pay 8 dollars for a 6 pack of good beers rather then just a round of 2 drinks. !?!

I also do not eat out that much, since there is so little good vegetarian food at most restuarants and none of my friends like to eat at the resturants with good vegetarian food.

I thought that's what they meant by "e'er'body in the club get tip-sy," no? Everybody tips?

Maybe I should get out more.

I guess I don't care what tip amount someone deserves. I only care what they expect, so I can just pay what I'm supposed to pay and not think about one more pain in the ass uncivilized American custom.

Rule: If you're going out to eat or drink and you're getting anything but fast-food counter service, tip. It's part of your budget for not doing it yourself, and if you don't like it, then settle for DIY. Otherwise, you are a pig, and bad company, and should probably avoid eating and drinking in public.

My wife and I tip pretty well .. but there is one thing that gets my goat ... tip jars at counters .. at these places I would expect the owner to be paying a full wage .. if they are not I guess I will keep on tipping even there... to be honest tipping for good service makes me and the wife feel good ... we both did more than our fair share of service jobs ... liven on a nickel trying to make a dime ...

I don't think that Bernstein is all that unreasonable. In an ideal world, people would be paid a living wage, and tips would be reserved for exceptional service -- in all service industries, not just waiters and bartenders.

When I'm not at university, I work at a big box retailer in their merchandising department. Most of my day is spent helping customers get their purchases to their car. When someone comes in to buy an open box plasma tv, I wrap it up in layers of bubble wrap and cardboard and delicately transport it to their BMW. In the last year, only three people have offered me a tip. (Which is not surprising, since most of these people are too cheap to pay the $50 to have their $5000 TV delivered directly to their living room.)

If a dollar is the minimum expected tip for getting the correct alcohol to your table with a smile and without spilling, why don't you show the kid who pumps you gas a little love too? Maybe you should offer him an extra buck if he offers to wash your windows or check your oil. Even that would be a pretty stingy tip considering the price of gas these days.

If someone goes out of their way to provide good customer service, I'll gladly tip 20-25%. However, tipping for the sake of tipping is stupid. And if you're supporting a restaurant that expects their staff to work for minimum wage, while they charge $7 for a beer, or $16 for a plate of pasta then your tips are encouraging this type of bad business behavior.

Either we should be tipping as a rule for all service industries if someone actually completes their task successfully, or we should tip based on merit not social pressure and guilt.

And if you're supporting a restaurant that expects their staff to work for minimum wage, while they charge $7 for a beer, or $16 for a plate of pasta then your tips are encouraging this type of bad business behavior.

If you were to follow this rule rigorously (at least in the US), you'd never go out.

In most jurisdictions, all restaurant and bar staff work for subminimum wage, regardless of how fancy the restaurant is. (In New York, I think it's $2.15 per hour). The waiters in more expensive restaurants don't get paid more per hour -- they get paid more in tips only (because the meals cost more).

[Anyway, how practical is it to ask your bartender what their hourly rate is before you decide how much to tip?]

Either we should be tipping as a rule for all service industries if someone actually completes their task successfully

That's exactly how it is for a bartender. $1/drink minimum. Extra for merit, preparation-intensive drinks, or improved consideration if the bar is busy. Any less and you are -- literally -- stealing from them.

All service industries are not the food and beverage industry, invinciblesuperchan. Your wages are not calculated with ane xpected tip amount, and you already make above minimum wage. Your waitstaff and bartenders don't. When I was waiting tables it was not uncommon to get a paycheck for a couple of bucks after taxes.


If you don't tip, or don't tip well, and you frequent the same place, your service will not be very good and your food will have a very high saliva content.

I find it curious that the people who get exercised about tipping seem never to talk about their own choices in where they choose to drink and eat - are they just blown hither and yon, constantly at the mercy of bad food/bad service? I still stand by the Always Tip rule, but if you get bad product or bad service, don't go back!
What's nicer for a customer than to find a restaurant or club or pub that you really like, where the staff gets to know you, and welcome you? I reward those people (been one myself, from time to time) who take service seriously, and even if I see them only once a week, over time they know me pretty well, too. My bill or tab may vary a lot, but my appreciation does not, and that makes a gratuity more than a gratuity.
I'd love the scene where the you walked into an interview facing the woman you unjustly stiffed, back when she was moonlighting while working on her MBA, and she remembers you.

Very much agree with whoever it was that said the help should get paid a decent wage to start with and not have to be dependent on charity. (Yes, there are real countries where this happens.)

There's an economic complication in many jurisdictions of the "tip credit"... I believe the way it works is that a server whose subminimum wage plus tips is less than regular mimimum wage has the difference made up by the employer. So if you're the first (or only) tipper, you're actually giving more money to the house, but if you're one of many tippers, then you really are giving something to the server. I try not to think about it.

I have a regular bar, which has a stunning range of beers avaliable, many of which are expensive (There are many $10 bottles of beer and a few $40 bottles). So I tip 20% or a dollar per drink, whichever is more, and round up to the next whole dollar (always pay cash). It's worked out well for me.

"And on those occasions where the regular bartender comps a drink? She gets the whole price of the drink for a tip anyway."

Odd. Comped drinks were the only ones I never tipped for. It seemed ungracious to me to, kind of like stepping on the bartender's gesture. I tipped more later to make up for it, but never tipped for the freebies.

I always figured that the tipping was to make you feel good. The person serving you is on their feet all day, probably getting harrassed by drunks. It feels good to do something nice. I've never noticed any evidence that tipping well or being cheap had the slightest impact on service

Tips may also be shared with the barbacks, doormen, and kitchen staff, all of whom, like the bartenders, are paid a lower wage in anticipation of customer tips.

>>No, they're getting payed a wage to do all that, the tips are there so that rich bastards can show off how generous they are...

You are apparently desperately unaware of your own ignorance. As a result, people who know what's going on here are laughing at your comment. Some of us in the service industry look forward to your ilk, since watching your face redden as we shortpour your next drink with the spare bottle of low grade alcohol after making you wait forever livens up the evening a bit. Bartenders are not paid below minimum wage to wait on people like yourself.

>>Don't know if this is part of what RM is thinking about, but I think it's a lousy system to pay servers crap wages and make them dependent on tips for their living.

We could instead up the cost of your meal by 20%. Would you prefer that? At standard prices, most restaurants would instantly go out of business if they had to pay all their servers even minimum wage. If you want to eat out, the restaurant business has to be profitable, you know.

>>Very much agree with whoever it was that said the help should get paid a decent wage to start with and not have to be dependent on charity.

We'll build your 20% tip into the menu price too. As the system stands, it's not charity. It's your obligation. Ignorance of how the system works is no excuse for the dereliction of your duties.

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