Tag Archives: buybacks

Tip #2 on Being a Good Bar Customer

18 Dec

(You can read Tip #1 here.)

Never argue with your bartender about the price of your drink.  Especially when your bartender is not actually in charge of setting the prices, the management is, with a fair amount of input from the cost of the bottle or the keg itself.  Bars, the good, fair ones at least, do not just pull prices out of their asses.  They are calculated considering the number of shots, neat pours, or pints expected to come out of the given bottle or keg, taking a certain amount of waste into account.  Bars are businesses, after all.  Some bars have to charge more because of their location and the subsequent higher inputs to keep the bar running.  We do not have to do that which means you, the customer, are getting a completely fair price for whatever it is you ordered.  If you want to drink cheaper, drink at home.  Here’s a story.

I just arrived at work and the bar was a little busy following an office Christmas party earlier in the day for a big group of our regulars.  (Read:  everyone was trashed and being super loud.  But that’s okay because it’s a bar and that’s what people do there.)  I had come straight from the library and had a little bit of a headache but was trying my best — not sure how successful I was at this — to come across as a relatively pleasant person.  One of the veins in my right eye was super red and pulsating.  Transitioning into the bar was going to take a little bit of an adjustment period during which time I planned on smiling at people and getting them their drinks, saving all meaningful conversation for a little later.  One of my customers was being, as usual, extremely loud.  Like, crazy loud.  Like yelling to someone who was literally 2 feet away from him loud.  So I made a joke to one of his friends, in good fun, that went a little something like this:

He is talking to someone right in front of him, right?  He’s like one of those guys from those old 90’s commercials for hip-hop compilation CDs where the dude explaining the product is like SCREAMING and you’re all like, “why are you yelling?  I’m right here!”

It was a joke.  I made it obvious that it was a joke.  But I think it pissed off one of his other friends, who had had WAY too much to drink, who was not even the person I was telling the joke to.  Anyway, this guy, we’ll call him Steve, ordered a whisky.  The same whisky he has been drinking for like 3 years.  I poured him his drink, took his twenty, put 8 of it in the register because that is what this particular drink costs, and gave him his $12 change.  He gave me the stink eye.  Even before he looked at his correct change he gave me the stink eye.  Whatever.  He felt like picking a fight.  So then this interaction happened:

Steve:  Um.  A Bulleit Rye is $8 now?

Me:  A Bulleit Rye has always been 8.  It’s 7 during happy hour, which ends at 8 o’clock, so now it’s 8:30 and so the Bulleit is $8.

Steve:  That’s too expensive.

Me:  Well, I don’t see how it’s too expensive today but it was fine a week ago but, you know, I don’t set the prices.  So, if you have a problem with the price, you have to talk to the boss.  I have nothing to do with it.  I just charge what I am told to charge.

Steve:  I hope you know that I just paid barely twice as much as what you just charged me for 4 drinks.

Me:  I highly doubt that’s the truth.  But maybe you got one for free.  Also, it was happy hour so they were a buck cheaper.

At this point I am getting more than slightly irritated but trying hard to hold my temper.  Trying to give him a little drunk wiggle room to fix the way he was coming across.  He ignored the wiggle room.

Steve:  (In the rudest most condescending voice ever) Well, you need to learn how to take care of your regulars.

Okay.  I’m sorry.  What?  So, again, I refer you to Tip #1 during which I explained how it is not okay ever, under any circumstance, to ask for a buyback.  You know what that does?  It means that the bartender never wants to give you a buyback again.  And you know what?  That’s her prerogative (totally never knew there were two ‘r’s in that).  The buyback, as I believe I have mentioned before, is a privilege, not a rule.  It is me as a bartender, and my establishment as a bar, telling you we think you are awesome and want you to keep coming back all the time.  And you know what this interaction was?  Decidedly not awesome.

Me:  (Hands shaking with anger.  Also, at this point I have slid his $2 tip back towards him and told him I am not interested in his money)  So let me get this straight.  I just got here. I have now served you 1 drink and you want me to give it to you for free?

He wouldn’t look at me.  So I turned on my heal and huffed down the bar.  And then I decided I couldn’t let it go because, really, when can I?  So I got the price book, took out a red pen, highlighted the cost of the drink he was arguing with me over and shoved it under his nose.  (This, I admit, was overkill.  Sue me.)

Me:  See?  Eight dollars.  Deal with it.

I then restormed off down the bar and seethed.  But, as a bartender, I obviously couldn’t seethe for too long so, after a few choice comments to a friend of mine, I went about my business, deciding not to let Steve ruin my night or the night of any of my other customers. I would venture to say I was more smiley than usual, to prove a point.  Then Steve called me down to the end of the bar.  I didn’t expect an apology but I expected something along the lines of “blah blah blah, that got out of hand, are we cool?” which we wouldn’t have been but I’m about keeping the peace for the most part so I probably would have lied and said we were.  But no.  In his hand he had another 20 which he then shoved toward me and said, in a snide tone,

Take this.  It isn’t about the money.

Clearly it is about him, the righteous one, teaching me how to do my job.  It is him teaching me how to treat people. It is him informing me about the way that service industry people should treat their customers, without for a second giving thought to the obligation the one being served has to treat their bartender, waiter, barista, as a human being.  I, obviously, didn’t take it.  Not when he tried to give it to me, and not when he gave it to his friends to give to me.  That money was rude, condescending, asshole money.  Not interested in that kind of money.  I only like sparkling, happy, money.  I’m picky.  Also, it made me feel dirty.  Maybe I am analyzing something through a gendered lens inappropriately, but there is something about being a woman and having someone prove their point by shoving money at you that just feels…icky.  Maybe it’s the case for everyone.  Who knows.

So we’ll see what happens next time I see him.  But, for now, I leave you, friends, with this tasty nugget:  a few years ago this same Steve was arrested for pissing on the outside of a bar after he and his friend, who were behaving badly (surprise!) got kicked out of said bar.  So, there’s that.

Tip #1 on Being a Good Bar Customer

10 Dec

Don’t ask for buybacks.  Under any circumstance.  Ever.  Buybacks are a privilege bestowed upon you by a bartender who thinks you are awesome and who thinks you are deserving of a free beverage.  (And, let it be said, also thinks you will tip them appropriately for the gesture, maybe even enough that they can put some of said tip into the register.)  The second you request that privilege, it disappears.  Poof!  Quite possibly never to be seen again.  Here, let me give you an example about how to get a buyback.

I have a customer who comes in often, does work on his computer, drinks some stuff, leaves.  Sometimes he feels like chatting, sometimes not so much.  I pretty much leave it up to him.  He is always polite.  I like him.  He’s nice.  I never have an overwhelming urge to roll my eyes when I see him walk through the door.  Generally, I give him his third drink on the house.  Sometimes he has a shot.  If I haven’t had a lot of long-staying customers that day I might give him the shot on the house, also.  (I usually allow myself a certain percentage of the ring in buybacks, and if I haven’t bought many people things that day, I throw a little extra the way of my regular customers, you know, to say “thanks, I think you’re great please never stop coming in because you’re nice and you help me pay my rent.”)  Sometimes he leaves me 10 bucks.  Sometimes even more.  Either way I am happy.  If I feel as though the tip it too generous, say 20 bucks, I might put 10 of it in the register.  Then the bar wins, I win and the customer wins.  Everyone is happy.  So now let me give you an example of how not to get a buyback.

I have this couple that comes in on Sundays.  They’re pleasant enough but just sort of irk me.  Especially the female half.  She has this entitlement thing about her and she thinks we’re best friends.  Also, sometimes she carries around this little plastic squirt bottle full of water and she randomly sprays her hair with it.  I guess she thinks it makes her hair look better.  I think it makes her hair, and her, look weird.  I usually buy her and her boyfriend back a drink or two not because I particularly like them, or because they are good tippers, but because they are pleasant enough and, although I do have an urge to roll my eyes when I see them coming through the door, the urge isn’t overwhelming and I think that says something.  Also, my boss likes them.  That’s the real reason.  It’s like a professional courtesy.  Anyway, so yesterday.

Yesterday I got to work and found the bar a complete mess.  Apparently, the plumbers were there to replace the toilet in the ladies room and to fix the pipes in the mens room, pipes that were threatening to spew yucky stuff everywhere at any moment.  I was annoyed with the mess but was happy with the fact that they had placed the old toilet from the ladies room on the curb, giving me hours of entertainment as I watched passersby (and my own customers) pose with the toilet and take photos.  Anything for a good laugh, I say.  Anyway, when they finished working they decided to stay and have a few beers.  Okay.  I figured I would get them a few rounds because (1) they had done work on the bathroom which was appreciated (2) they seemed to want to drink a lot and (3) they were responsible for the placement of the toilet on the street which, as just mentioned, was hilarious and great.  So, okay.  I decided to look past the occasional inappropriate comments being made by the older of the two plumbers.  I also decided to try not to be annoyed at having to refuse a drink about 15 times.  I just thought “okay, he just had his hands all over a toilet (ew!), I will cut him some slack and not really talk to him.”  So, as a mature person, I just decided to avoid his side of the bar entirely unless I saw he and his younger, more polite, friend was in need of a refill.  It went more or less okay.  Then he noticed the couple I was talking about before sitting on the other side of the bar.  Apparently, the male half had given the names of these plumbers to my boss, hence the job.  So, the plumbers bought the couple a few drinks and, eventually, made their way down to the end of the bar to hang out with them.  After all was said and done and the plumbers asked for their check, they had been there, drinking, for at least 3 hours and, with their beers combined with the ones they bought for the couple, they had amassed a sizeable tab, especially considering nothing anyone in the foursome drank was particularly pricey.  I added the tab all together.  It came to just under $100 and I was fairly certain I had forgotten to write down a few things.  I decided, after taking the above listed reasons into consideration, to charge them $72.  That’s called a deal.  I walked over to where they were sitting and said,

“Hey, I got you a few rounds.  Cheers.  Oh, and thanks for the toilet on the street.”

I then walked away to give them some time to sign their tab and do all that.  As I walked away I heard the female of the couple say,

“Wow, that’s a lot of money.  I bet she didn’t give you anything free.  You have to ask her.  That’s just too much.”

I was mad.  So I decided to avoid that side of the bar in order to not have to deal with what I knew was coming.  Also, what did she know about what, how much, and for how long the plumbers had been drinking.  She herself had racked up a $20 tab, most of which the plumbers were paying for!  So rude!  Eventually, the couple called me down to the end.  The plumber then looked at me and said

“Did you include the last round on here?”

I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I thought to myself, self, maybe he is just making sure he is being charged for all the things he ordered.  Maybe he thought his tab was too low and wanted to make sure that I had put everything on there, that I wasn’t going to charge the couple for any of the drinks.

“Yup.  You told me to put the round on your card, so I did.”

The plumber looked at me, confused.  He then looked at his company, confused.  Then the lady, who I guess decided she would help fix the situation because she is so incredibly beloved by the staff of my bar and therefore so deserving of all the drinks for free, clarified for me.

“I think he meant did he get anything for free.  Like, did you buy us all some drinks.  You know, free drinks, because we had a lot.”

Commence deep breathing exercises and a whole-hearted attempt to keep my left eyebrow, which has a mind of its own, under control.  Pretty sure my face turned pink because my ears felt hot.  Deep inhale, and

“I already told you I got you some of your drinks.  And just so you know” at this point I looked around the group of them, stopping meaningfully on each one of them, a skill I learned from my uncle, “the more you ask for buybacks, the less you’re gonna get.”

I walked away.  I might have stormed.  Whatever, details.  As I walked away I heard the lady say,

“Well, the other bartenders here are really nice.”


Seriously?  First of all, as I believe I have said before, there is not a magical force field that separates the bartender from the patrons, although sometimes I wish there were.  I can hear you.  Second of all, I don’t even like you!  I don’t even want to give you buybacks ever!  You give me a headache!  You expect me to make you our $5 bloody marys with Stoli and charge you the same as if I made it with the well.  Why?  Because you’re a jerk!  And you don’t understand that the bar is a business.  Am I the nicest bartender in the world?  No.  Am I a little bit surly at times?  Yes.  Have I put up with your shit for the last 4 years?  Yes.  I think I deserve a medal.