Friday, August 31, 2007

To Insure Proper Service (TIPS)

Due to the fact that I spend a large chunk of every week slinging boozes at the highs and lows of humanity, people often ask me about proper tipping etiquette. In an attempt to clarify the odd rules of "how much is enough" I'm laying out a few easy rules to make everyone's lives easier.

-In many states the minimum wage for people who make the majority of their income from tips can be adjusted down to as low as $2.13 an hour. What this means is that for many people working in the tipping industry their paychecks cover most of the taxes they pay on their income but nothing more, as servers are required to declare between 8-10% of their sales as tips whether or not they actually made that much (I'm lucky to live in one of the few states that has an across-the-board minimum wage). Don't be shocked if your drinks get progressively weaker and your service slower if you haven't bothered tipping your server. Why waste time on someone who's actually costing you money just by being in the bar?

-As a general rule never tip less than a dollar. While everyone likes laundry money, 50 cents is generally considered an insult rather than a tip.

-For bottled beers a dollar a round is generally fair (popping caps doesn't take that long, unless you've just ordered a whole six-pack in which case you should toss in another dollar or two).

-Draft beers and simple cocktails (i.e. rum and coke, vodka cranberry) are generally a dollar for every two drinks.

-For anything more complicated (muddled drinks, martinis, specialty drinks) take into account that these are very labor intensive and as such a dollar per drink is not uncommon. After all, any decent bartender takes pride in the more advanced drinks they serve and genuinely wants them to be enjoyed. Conversely, if they're only making .25 cents a round don't be shocked at how cheap that cosmopolitan can start to taste.

-Never tip at the end of your time in the bar. If you're ordering drinks and paying per round but not leaving anything it will be assumed that you intend to stiff the server for the rest of the night. Obviously your service quality will quickly decline. If you plan on tipping out at the end of your evening then start a tab, it saves everyone a lot of grief.

-If you start a tab with a bartender and there are multiple bartenders working, do not go to the other bartender for drinks even if they have a shorter line. It is almost universally true that bartenders keep separate tabs as they have separate tills, and mixing up a round of mojitos and kamikazes only to have the person tell you to put it on the other guy's tab is a sure-fire way to incite the staff's ire. If you're unhappy with the service or wait times for your current bartender then close your tab and reopen it with the other one.

-Also realize that just because you're ringing up a large tab doesn't mean that your bartender is being taxed less because it was all in a large chunk. If your server is letting you cut in line or is giving you preferential treatment realize that this is at the expense of other patrons and let that reflect in your tip. Few things sting more than giving someone exceptional service only to be stung with a 5% tip because the patron wasn't paying attention to their spending.

While not exactly tipping etiquette, there are two things to never, EVER, say to your bartender:

"I'm so drunk right now." At this point it becomes a crime to serve you. Fines can range from a few hundred up to a few thousand dollars depending on the local laws. If you get cut off try to realize that the bartender isn't being a dick but is simply abiding by VERY strict laws set up back during the Prohibition.

"Make sure to pour that extra strong!" This translates as "I want to get drunk as fast and cheap as possible and have no intention of tipping you." If your friend is ordering for you and starts to say something idiotic like this stop them by whatever means possible! (Foot stomping is entirely appropriate in this situation) many bartenders pour a little over the standard ounce and a half, but if they've just been told they're getting stiffed you can safely bet those will be the weakest drinks you've had all night.

That's really it as far as fair tipping goes, and don't fret too much if mistakes are occasionally made. Anyone who's worked for tips long enough knows that for every cheapskate who doesn't think that servers deserve to be paid for their work there s another generous soul out there who understands what it's like to live on the whims of others and puts a little something extra in at the end.

Keep in mind that all of this is in regards to tipping in The USA. If you're traveling abroad there are many resources out there to help you avoid faux pas in regards to tipping.

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Blogger Hot Toddy said...

I was wondering if you had found a new friend or if you just disappeared from Portland. I am glad it's the former. Big love.

2:45 PM, September 27, 2007  

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