Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bartender Insider: When The Tip Gods Smile

I had some weird/funny tips tonight which I'll talk about down below, but before that I thought I'd have a brief discussion on tips.

Making good money while bartending or serving people can basically be determined by two numbers: Sales volume and/or tip percentage. There are many variables within these two categories such as check average, the bar's clientele, nights of the week, hours worked vs. money earned, etc, but I feel that sales volume and tip percentage are the best ways to determine if a bartender is walking with a lot or a little money at the end of the night. My breakdown:

Sale Volume: This one is easy to define. When the bar has a high sales night, the bartenders will almost always make decent to really good money. Even if the patrons tip like shit, the sheer number of drinks going over the bar and the amount of money coming into the bar will ensure more tips. People may be tipping poorly, but the bar staff is working nonstop and those ten percent tips will keep adding up and adding up and adding up. This is basically how a bartender makes money at a "college" bar or any joint where drinks are cheap. You "churn em and burn em" so to speak.

Tip Percentage: This is best factored in at higher end bars where the check average is higher, but it can also be applied to your regular run of the mill bar, where a Bud Light still costs $2.50 and you can actually buy a shot for less than 7 dollars. There are a lot of little things that factor into a single nights tip percentage such as customer service, repeat or regular customers, bartenders giving away free drinks in exchange for higher tips, whether or not there is a party in the bar, etc. Generally when bartenders are pulling 18-20 % tips out of the nights sales, they're doing pretty well, if not incredibly well. When that number starts to creep up to 25-30% on a regular basis (and not just one isolated night), then the bar owner may want to keep a closer eye on his bar because he's probably getting shafted.

The bartenders who are really making bank are the ones who work at high dollar, high volume bars. Then of course the ones who work at Ruth Chris and Mortons will also make bank due to the rediculously high check averages and the swanky clientele. Making even 10 percent tips on a night that a bar rang 5,000 dollars equals out to 500 dollars in tips. But I digress... Here are some funny tips and situations I saw tonight at the college bar:

- A girl came in tonight and she has the reputation as a huge tipper. So of course when I see her walk through the door I grab the other bartender who knows her and we make a quick game plan to flatter her ass off because the bar was slow and we wanted to maximize every opportunity and every tip that we could. I semi-jokingly asked if she wanted to make out with me after the bar shut down (yeah, my "game" can be a little direct sometimes). Tip left: 55 dollars on a 25 dollar tab. Cha-ching! This is good for the bartenders, but too many 200 percent tips and the bar owner will probably be showing his bartenders the door.

- Some guy I had never met was running up a tab on disgusting shit like Blue Motorcycles (don't even get me started on these..) and shots of Jager. By the way he was acting, I predicted a zero percent tip. He had amateur hour written all over him. So eventually one of his buddies gets into a small altercation with another patron and he and his buddy are asked to leave because of it. I see it happen and I immediately go to run his tab because I know he's about to get booted. His tab comes to 90 dollars and he was basically being manhandled out the door when I handed him the credit slips and a pen. I didn't even expect to get a slip back, but to my extreme surprise the guy calmed down and started signing the receipt. He made a big show of handing it to me and then he promptly got kicked the fuck out. Tip Left: 97 dollars on a 90 dollar tab. Whoa! Where the hell did that come from? I guess he was really drunk or I just completely read him wrong. My guess is he is probably in an alley pissing himself right now and that his large tip was a fluke. Either way, money is money and this random guy, once again, proved that I shouldn't judge every book by its cover.

-And since I'm always crushing African Americans for their poor tipping habits I thought this deserved mention. Two, not bad looking black girls in their late twenties came up to the bar, they ordered two shots of Patron Tequila and two Grey Goose Vodka and Pineapples. I've seen this order waaaayyyyy too many times, and honestly, I didn't think about what the tip would be because I'm so used to it being nothing on orders similar to this one. The total for this drink order was 34 dollars. One of the girls handed me a 50 and when I went to return her 16 dollars, she just smiled and told me to keep it. I'll admit that I get shafted all the time by every race and every walk of life and sometimes I unfairly judge people because of it, but in this instance (like many others) I was wrong. Infact I was already considering going "back to black" for a spell (hey white guys can go black too!) and this girl left a good taste in my mouth (figuratively of course) for when I do decide to catch another bout of jungle fever.


Anonymous said...

Was the $55 on a $25 from a stripper by chance?

Ambience said...

I go to a few bars a lot, and I usually tip $1 per mixed drink such as Vodka and Tonic, which usually comes to about 20%.

From the bartender's point of view, is that "acceptable" from a regular? Or are regulars expected to tip more?

Jack Goes Forth said...

That's a good question. The real question is, should a "regular" be expected to tip more simply because they're there all the time?

I think one dollar a drink is perfectly acceptable no matter who you are.

I have regulars who go above and beyond (either with their tipping or with kindness) and who will always get impeccable service and attention from me, and then I have regulars who don't tip at all.... and they can go fuck themselves.

Anon- You know, I'm not sure if she's a stripper. It's possible. She certainly isn't bad looking.

roosh said...

If i'm paying for cash it's hard to tip more than a buck even if it's an $8 drink. But if i run my card i give the proper 15-20% depending on service.

But then that works on the flip side. In a cheap bar giving a buck for a $3 beer is over 30%.

Jack Goes Forth said...

I think a good rule of thumb if you're buying cheap beer is to tip big on the first beer (say 3-4 bucks extra) and then sporadically give a buck or two every few beers or so.

Although if you can't tip a buck to fifty cents on every beer, you should probably not be out drinking at a bar.

One thing I absolutely hate is when people are drinking beer (and paying cash), and they say, "uhhh, hey I'll just tip you real big at the end of the night." Sometimes they follow through, but most of the time they skip out without tipping a cent.

MoJezz said...

Let me add to the confusingly bad head games that race plays on people of all races. As a black male, I find myself over-tipping to over-compensate for the perception (or reality) that blacks do not tip enough on average. If there are Napoleon complexes for the black experience this could be one of them.

My wife (who is at least identified as black) feels the same way. My wife and I try to give at least 20% to all servers and at least 10-15% for all other service providers. She even insists that we tip repairmen/installers who work on our house (thankfully many have refused the tip). We are not hurting but we are far from loaded. No family money, just a couple who have good DC jobs and no kids. All in all, it is a strain mentally and in the wallet to try and leave a good impression for your race. When popular bloggers like Jack mention the bad black tippers and not the good ones, it makes me wonder why we even bother to provide an experience if it does not change the perception of the group. I often wonder how many people consciously work to refute stereotypes (even those grounded in reality) that they feel are applied to them.

For now, thank you for mentioning the good tippers who happen to be black. I appreciate it, even if I think, based on past posts, the ladies may have liked the bartender almost as much as the drinks. And for the record, when it comes to race among other factors, at various times we all unfairly judge and are often wrong in the process.

So Jack, let me ask you, are me and my wife wasting our time to win the hearts and minds of the servers one server at a time with good tips from a black person?

Dick Goodnuts said...

I'm waiting on your response to Mojeez...


MoJezz said...

I hope Richard Goodnuts is not thinking that I am baiting JGF. I have commented on rooshv that the only thing harder than writing about race is talking about it. His post just stirred my thoughts about why I do something that I am sure has a marginal return at least as it relates to racial attitudes and issues. My wife would add that we tip well because it is also the right thing to do. Hence her need to tip everyone.

Jack Goes Forth said...

Mojezz- I don't necessarily think you have to overcompensate to make up for the poor tips of other people. I think its pretty funny though because I've never heard of a black person doing this, and I, as well as anyone who serves you appreciates the gesture I'm sure. Come to think of it I've seen this scenario played out (I think), where a black person will follow his non-tipping friend (who is black) with an overly generous tip.

You said it as the end of your comment though: Tipping is the right thing to do.

It really doesn't matter the race, a lot of people don't understand the concept of tipping and end up doing it poorly (if at all). It's unfortunate that black people have to get stuck with the bulk of that perception though.

Stereotypes suck and can be hurtful, but I wouldn't write about black people being poor tippers if I didn't see it over and over and over.

I like the phrase, "If there are Napoleon complexes for the black experience, this could be one of them."

Good comment.

Dick Goodnuts said...

It was a great post! I wanted to let Jack respond before I asked a similar question. I feel the same except more so in restaurants. At the bar I feel that I give what I give and it won't be a problem (generally 1-2 dollars per drink). But at restaurants when I go out with my wife, we make sure that we tip well, not as much because of the black stereotype but because we both previously held jobs in the food and dining industry. It's more karma than race for me often.