Halloween’s not as far off as you might think. “OCD Me” is already brainstorming on ideas for costumes that are both over-the-top unique as well as being somewaht functional for a 10 hour bar shift. I take my Halloween bartending shifts very seriously. It’s a big money night. Last year, “Bunny” and I (below) walked with $650 each if I recall. Along with being bartenders with seriously mad flighty skills and speed, we’re all-in when it comes to Halloween. That often includes our costumes, as well as being appropriately engaging (partying) with customers who’ve made serious efforts to stand out from your dime-a-dozen, cheaply accessorized Heath Ledger jokers, Batmans, Catholic School Girls, etc. Then there are the lame-asses who’s only idea of effort is to slap on a Afro wig and some sunglasses.
Tip Talk. Many, many non-industry folks are severely misguided in their assumption that bartenders/waiters earn a decent salary. That notion is flatly false. Unlike many of our European counterparts, gratuities (a.k.a,tips) are what we depend on to earn a living here. The whole reason the system is set up as it is (here in the U.S.) is to allow a certain degree of “compensation flexibility” for service. As we’ve all experienced, that service can run the gammut from abysmal to extraordinary. The ensuing “tip” should be reflective of that service level. As a result, gratuity-dependent servers are highly encouraged to always put on their game face, lest they shoot themselves in the proverbial foot.
Net net? Give shitty service – make shitty money. Give stupendous service – make stupendous money. Well, at least it should work that way in theory. In reality, it actually does work that way most of the time. However, like inexplicable streaks at an Atlantic City craps table, there are going to be times in your bartending career where numerous, unpredictable forces of nature conspire to fuck with your income. A string of douchebags will occupy your bar for seemingly endless hours, either refusing to tip at all, insulting you with coins, or repeatedly committing an appalling financial offense like dropping two dollars on a round of 4 Mojitos and 2 Old Fashions.
Chicks and credit cards. When did they become joined at the hip and so socially unaware of anyone and everything around them? Young chicks, old chicks, models, fugly chicks, college girls, 4′s, 9′s, sophisticated Upper-East-Siders… all kinds. It’s as if 8 out of 10 of them skipped the entire semester on Dining and Drinking Etiquette – opting instead for How to Behave Badly at Bar 101.
The air around a gaggle of girls rolling up my bar is so thick with anticipation, it makes bartenders instantly panic-stricken. The last thing I want to see when I’m rolling 3-deep on a Friday night, is see Cindy, Paula, Antionette and Lindsey sashay (they do that on purpose) up to the counter. They’re all 24 years of age, sporting super-sexy platforms platforms, barely-there spaghetti-string chiffon blouses, and skirts that really don’t hide their vajayjays all that well from most angles.
Houston, we’ve got a problem. Man down… uhh… make that several men down. My barbacks of the last few months have seemingly developed a new fangled love affair for this funny tasting juice distilled from Mezcal and Agave cactus plants. I don’t know exactly what the deal is, but these bros love this stuff. They love it so much, that in the last 5 months, four of them have wound up exactly like our latest barback, above. His name was Francisco and as you can imagine, he just got shit-canned.
I digress from my “normal” bar banter for the first time to get on my soap box about an issue I am vehemently passionate about. The topic is one that like (1) abortion (2) gay marriage (3) drug legalization and (4) capital punishment – incites ridiculous levels of irrationality and passion as opposed to substance and reason. That topic is guns. WARNING: Long diatribe ahead having nothing to do with bartending.
Haiti. Most of you had never heard of it before the earthquake a couple of years ago. Following that disaster, the ravaged island was been plastered all over CNN and other major news networks. Celebs like Sean Penn and Kim “The Butt” Kardashian have seemingly taken over Haiti’s public relations – making the poorest country in the Westeren Hemisphere their latest “cause célèbre.” Mr. Ciccone-Wright-Penn is prolly still big pimpin’ in his outboard-motored aluminum skiff, pump-shotgun at the ready, while tossing out cases of rice and beans. Makes the heart warm, don’t it? K.K. on the other hand, seems perfectly content, simply parading her perfectly juicy ass around for additional photo ops and exploitation. They’re not the only ones
taking advantage of the poor trying to help a brother out; they’re just at the forefront of attention is all.
Those who did know a little somethin’ about Haiti prior to the Earthquake, at least knew that it was Columbus’ first stop in 1492 (then known as Hispaniola). Questioned further, most of those folks would rattle off mindlessly degrading and crazy myths like (a) “Oh yeah. Those dudes like to get their beastiality on with monkeys. That’s where A.I.D.S. came from” (b) “You’re Haitian? You practice Voodoo, right?” and (c) “Hades? Isn’t that where the devil kicks it?”
I’m the bartender. She’s the drunk. No, seriously – my wife is a raging, binging, drink ’til you pass out (or get arrested), violent, lunatic of an alcoholic. I have guy friends and co-workers with the a similar, inbred “disposition.” But I didn’t date them on and off for years, get them sperminated a couple of times, then wind up signing some bullshit, legally binding, life-long contract like I did with this one – let’s call her – Shanaynay (Martin Lawrence reference for you young’uns)
So how the fuck is a chick with nearly no capacity to avoid getting black-out state sauced, supposed to stay sober when her boyfriend/husband is continually engaged in dirty deeds – doling out Enablement, and depending upon it for a living? Short answer: It’s nearly impossible.
Ever wonder why a bottle-o-suds at your favorite watering hole costs 3 or 4 times what you’d fork over at Manuel’s bodega? Well dear readers, I’m going to break it down for your reading pleasure. Hopefully, you’ll still frequent my bar and continue to hand over your cash for wildly overpriced hooch.
A “business,” by definition, is an operation whose primary purpose is to generate revenue and in turn, a steady stream of profit. No profit = No business – period. This is just about the only reason why you see bars and restaurant doors shuttered… they haven’t been able to operate in the black for whatever reason. A huge part of a successful bar is properly pricing your products. There are many factors that go into those decisions including (a) neighboring/competing establishments’ prices (b) the type of clientele you’re trying to attract and image (c) supply/demand (d) availability/desirabilty and of course (e) cost baseline.
Living and working in the headquarters (arguably) of the financial, cultural, and entertainment worlds – New York City – I’ve often thought that I do pretty well behind the bar. I make a steady living. No, it’s not millions or billions, and I’ll never get notably wealthy by simply working for someone else. But, I’m sort of comfortable. I have everything I need, most of what I want, and I get to enjoy myself with extravagances on occasion.
In the bar business, few things cause me more angst than the topic of money; I mean my money. It’s my main reason for emerging from my man-cave isn’t it? Come the end of the night or shift, I want to get paid and I want it on the spot. Contrary to appearances and actions during my shift, I didn’t come to work to chase blue-ribbon ass, suck down endless Jamo shots, or juggle empty bottles of Malibu. I came to work primarily to enhance my collection of Benjamins (and maybe a few Jacksons).
Depending on where you work, there may be a myriad of tipping scenarios that may severely affect your cash – what you “walk” with come the end of the night. The universe has conspired to amass a shitload of things that can quickly torpedo your earnings. Among them, you have a tip division scheme or two that the bosses (in their infinite wisdom) have dreamed up and implemented. Let’s take a look at a few of them in no particular order and how they can affect your take. When you’re done reading, play around with my Tip Pooling Spreadsheet to get an idea how it works.