Let Me Write That Down

Thoughts of an Author in Training

No More Pinching

Bar Etiquette is something that I assumed was unanimously understood and followed by anyone who expects to be drinking in public. The unspoken rules of drinking at a bar, as I like to call it, common sense, is something that apparently is not so common or sensible since I started working in the service industry. So there are some basic ideas I wanted to put out to those of you who may be guilty of engaging in one of these bar inadequacies. It may be that you don’t know what it’s like being on the other side of the bar, but I want to break down what you should not be doing in a bar if you expect to get good service or any service at all really.

I call it the PINCH. Nobody likes to get pinched, the quick and annoying pain of your skin being squeezed together as your body fights the urge to burst is not enjoyable. It’s involuntary, and it’s initiated by someone else hurting you against your insistence that they don’t. Some people’s behavior in the bar is relatively the same–painful, annoying and childish.

Pouting–Children who pout are somewhat adorable and it’s a tolerable trait children use to express their disapproval of a situation. But when a grown man with hairy arms and sweat stains throws his hands up and says, “Can I get some service over here?” it’s definitely not cute or tolerable.

Is this a literal question? Can you get service? I don’t really know if I want to help you with whatever it is that you need service for. I would say no, you are not getting service obviously because I have my hands full and I’m helping the patient and tolerable person next to you. Believe it or not part of my job is to categorize the order in which people show up to the bar and after three years of practice, I’ve managed to keep a good order to things. Yelling and pouting does not get my attention any quicker.

IgnoranceImagine your bartenders as real people outside the apron and alcohol splash-back. I do have a life beyond my job, I have a degree, a car, a home, I like to eat food just like you. So talking to your bartender, person to person is appropriate. I respond well to pleasantries, greetings of “hello,” and “how are you,” go over well when we’re engaging and about to make a trade. I understand when it gets busy these might get cut short, but I don’t recall please and thank you’s ever taking more than two breaths.

Another step to breaking the worker-to-customer barrier is getting to know one another. I congratulate those of you who take the time to know your bar attendants name, but you can’t abuse the privilege. Yelling my name from across the room doesn’t mean I’m going to rush over like Wonder Woman to tend to your demands. Names are used for recognition and attention yes, but not for short-cuts and insignificant demands.

Neediness–Often times there will be a heard of people at the bar waiting for their turn to order. When it’s your turn, don’t be needy. Neediness meaning that you ask what is in every signature based cocktail, asking me what’s on tap when I kid you not, it’s two feet in front of them, or worst of all, not knowing and trying to order for a group of three or four people behind you. I’m open to answering questions, it’s my job to help you decide on something to drink, but be conscious of how much time and space you’re taking up in a fast paced and crowded environment.

Cheap–Which brings us to the great category of being cheap when going out to eat or drink. Food is essential. We need it to survive so the budget for food in your life is mandatory. Going out to eat isn’t mandatory and you are paying for the convenience as well as prompt and entertaining service, thus the tip should be based on the service, food and convenience. Drinking however is not mandatory. It is not essential to life. It is a luxury and an expensive one sometimes. So if you have money to go out and spend on booze, then you have a dollar to tip your bartender who is making $4.80 an hour. Yes, I’m sure this argument has happened over and over but it’s just part of American culture that you tip your service providers.

In free enterprise America everybody is trying to make money. The cycle continues in every aspect of business including bars that have to make money to pay for their liquor and employees. Tipping isn’t going to just disappear in America, and if you’re one of those people that refuse to tip at bars or restaurants, you’re not making a statement or being progressive, you’re just being an asshole. Who wants to be an asshole?

Handsy–Something I didn’t think I would have to address in working at a bar would be to not grab your bartender while she’s making drinks. Ridiculous I know, but it’s happened on several occasions where someone reached over the counter and grabbed me in order to get my attention and order a drink.

Think of the counter as having a sneeze guard like Subway. There is an invisible barrier between you and the bartender. You don’t reach across and poke the food at Subway, similarly you don’t grab people for attention. It’s like reaching in to the lion’s cage at the zoo and poking him to try and get a good picture. You’ll just piss off the lion and you’re most likely still not going to get the results you want.

Another area of over stimulated handsy action at the bar is extended handshakes. You know, the ones where someone, in my case mostly men, ask your name and then shake your hand but don’t let go for a minute. I know this can happen anywhere, and it bugs me in any regards of life, but at a bar it’s an attempt to keep you in one spot for longer- to delay you helping the next customer. I should consider it a form of flattery, but I’m at work and my main goal is not maintaining a flirtatious relationship with extended-hand-shake-guy. So be mindful of how long you hold on, especially because my hands are probably sticky or wet. Gross, I know.


The cycle of the service industry is a delicate ecosystem, complete with random strangers, loyal regulars and kickass waiters/bartenders. So in respecting the balance of the market that allows people to enjoy an atmosphere outside of their domestic quarters, we must avoid the pinching one another and throwing off the system that’s been in place since before dial-up-internet. Most importantly, drink like a responsible adult and be safe.

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