How to tip like a rock star

February 19, 2010

My dearest Stephanie,

A priest and a douchebag walk into a bar. My bar, to be exact. I’ll talk about the douchebag and his boorishly douchey behavior another time. For today, we’re going to focus on the priest and assorted related implications.

The priest orders hot tea and an appetizer, both of which he receives in a timely manner due to the excellent customer service I, the bartender, provide. We’re talking quality all the way. Needless to say.

Eventually, he asks for his check, which he also receives in a timely manner despite the fact that it’s incredibly busy and his freaky douchebag friend keeps distracting me with creepy questions like, “Do you live alone?” (Next time, I’ll tell you what I said in response!)

After opening the check wallet, he looks up at me incredulously and asks, “Did you charge me for the tea?” even though he knows I charged him for the tea because he’s looking right at the receipt. Line one clearly reads: TEA $2.50.

I hate stupid rhetorical questions.

“Uh huh,” I say, all wide-eyed and confused. Of course I charged you for the tea. You ordered and subsequently drank it, didn’t you? Don’t bother answering. It’s a rhetorical question!

This may come as a shock to you, Stephanie, but I do not in fact set the prices at my place of employ. Nor do I decide what customers will and won’t be charged for. For example, I’m permitted to provide crunchy noodles and duck sauce to my customers free of charge. This also applies to peanuts. I am, however, supposed to charge for tea.

So I did.

“I can’t believe you charged me for the tea!” he says. “I’ve never been charged for tea before.”

I shrug. It’s $2.50. Suck it up.

“We always charge for tea. That’s why there’s a button on the computer for it,” I explain. “If you have concerns about that, I’d be happy to get a manager for you.”

I always say this to customers who have complaints because my attitude is that they need to own their dissatisfaction not passive-aggressively take it out on someone who is powerless to change the situation, i.e. me. Recently, when a couple complained about how one of their dishes was prepared and told me they weren’t going to eat it, I removed the plate, told a manager, and he deleted the item from their tab. This requires a password, by the way, which I do not have access to.

But of course the priest doesn’t want to speak to the manager. Why speak to the manager when he can express his displeasure by fucking over the bartender, which requires less effort and has a predictable outcome? Passive-aggression is so much easier. That’s why it’s so popular!

I go to the manager anyway.

“Do you know that guy?” I ask him. “Because he’s kicking up a fuss about the fact that I charged him for his tea.”

“We always charge for tea,” says the manager.

“I’m aware of that,” I reply. “But he doesn’t seem to be.”

“Well I’ve never seen him here before, so…” He trails off meaningfully. Meaning: this guy is full of shit, most likely, and he’s not aware that we charge for tea because he’s no kind of regular here.

I return to my post behind the bar and continue going about my business, meaning I run the priest’s credit card and return the check wallet to him. The priest and the douchebag huddle over the credit card receipt and engage in muffled conversation.

After they leave, I open the check wallet to close out the transaction. Of course, the tip column has a line running through it. I wasn’t surprised. Are you? What’s happened is that the priest paid for his tea with the money he would otherwise have left me as a tip. Another way of saying this: He used my tip to pay for his tea.

The priest probably felt pretty good about himself. Maybe he even felt holy. In his not-so-humble opinion, he probably felt like he made an important point. It’s the principle of the thing! Honestly, I’m not crying over it. It’s $2.50. I can suck it up. I’m well aware that the priest is a self-righteous ignoramus. And that, really, is the point of my story.

What the priest doesn’t know and probably wouldn’t care if he did know is that his antics cost me money, and I’m not referring to the fact that he treated himself to tea on my tip. I tip out the runners based on my food sales, so they get a cut of my sales whether I get tipped or not. And The Government? It’s got Its greedy little paws all over my sales total too. When It sees a line through the tip column, It does not assume a priest stiffed me. It assumes I received a hefty cash tip. Or at least two dollars.

So in addition to paying the runners out of my own pocket, I also paid taxes on at least two dollars that I never made.

Once again, I didn’t sweat it because, really, on a piddly little tab like the priest’s (I believe the total was $11 and change), the difference doesn’t cost me all that much. Certainly not enough to let it spoil my night. But what about my friend Jade, who was stiffed on a $125 tab by two upper-middle class women driving luxury cars because they were offended by the price of the wine and so decided to tip Jade based on what they thought would have been a reasonable sales total?

I was there that night, and the two women were livid that they paid $14 per glass from a bottle they could have purchased at a liquor store for $12. Of course, my question is, Why not stay home then? Go to the liquor store, buy your bottle of wine, and save us all the aggravation. I suggested they complain to the manager or owner (who happened to be on the premises) if they were that angry. But like my buddy the priest, they took the coward’s route—they took it out on the bartender.

“She doesn’t set the prices, you know,” I told them because I was sitting next to them, and their whining was pissing me off.

“I know that, but $14!” one of them said. “I’m not cheap. I have money, but I mean…”

But nothing, bitch! Guess what? You leave a shitty tip, and the owner still profits on the wild mark-up. He still gets his money. The Government isn’t interested in how you feel. Jade still has to pay her taxes on her actual sales total not your imagined one, and she still has to tip out her runners based on that actual sales total. But hey, congratulations! You just took money out of the pocket of the person who can probably least afford it. Hope you sleep well tonight on your 5000-thread count sheets.

In case you didn’t catch it, allow me to be explicit. The key phrase here is

Sales Total.

The government taxes you based on presumed tips as a percentage of your sales total. It knows your sales total because these numbers are carefully documented. So even if you try to hide your tips, The Government can do the math, and It wants Its money. After all, It’s got a ghastly spending habit and absolutely no scruples whatsoever.

If you don’t believe me, check out this blatant lie from the IRS’s ever-so-handy “Tipping Guide.” I don’t know about you, but I know I’m gratified to know that, according to the IRS, “Tip Reporting may increase your social security credits resulting in greater social security and Medicare benefits when you retire.” Obviously we all know we’re not going to see a red cent of that money. But let’s stay focused.

If you want to tip like a rock star—and I know you do—tip 20% of your sales total. Forget what the Ms Manners of the world tell you about “a dollar per drink” or “quality of service.” If you don’t want to pay $17 for a glass of wine ($14 + $3 tip), there’s always your friendly neighborhood liquor store. If the service is not up to your standard, ask yourself if the service was so bad that the server should pay for it. Really. Like, literally.

Otherwise, 20% on the sales total is not only the standard but how the server or bartender can actually make a living.




2 Responses to “How to tip like a rock star”

  1. lettrist Says:

    The IRS book says this? Ahahah wow, who’d ever fall for that.

    That must be really frustrating, holding a phd and working at a bar with shitty customers. I have two BAs and I work at a bar too. It’s been fun but I was ready to move on as soon as I started.

  2. stella333 Says:

    Yes, it really does say that! I can’t decide if the tone is earnest or malevolent (maybe both?). It also encourages you to declare “all (100%)” of your tips so that you will be eligible for higher loans.

    I really enjoyed your “Adventures in Gay Bartending” post!

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