Humility 101 – Don’t Hate on Comps

Tip Jar

This is my Tip Bucket. There are many like it, but this one is mine (Vince D’Onofrio reference for those not versed on Stanley Kubrick flicks). Take a closer look… there are two C-Notes in there and they came from one person, as one tip, at the end of an otherwise (unusually) mundane Wednesday evening. Oh yeah! Though his B.A.C. was D.U.I.-level twisted after several hours imbibing, the wonderfully talented young gentlemen who bestowed me with such a generous gratuity, didn’t pay for a single drink all evening. You see, he happens to be an entertainer at one of the bars where I happen to work and took it upon himself to amass a tip collection from his fellow band-mates, for the purpose of taking care of yours truly.

Look… every bar has them: (a) Partner A’s wife, cousin, dog, Aunt Mildred, and college roomate (b) Partner B’s mistress, mistress’s other lover, dog-walker (c) the hospitality management group’s accountant, lawyer, HR director, DJ, and cleaning lady, and finally (d) the first tier of friends from all of the above groups. The point is that all of those folks will not be paying for drinks and food and often, they will not be tipping! 

You heard it here first. In this business, be prepared to frequently wait hand and foot on Jim, Joe, Jim and Tyrone, have them run up $1,000 tabs only to have them “comped” by management. In many cases, you can expect those folks to leave you not even a “don’t spit in the wind, son” tip. Now look, that’s not always the case but sometimes, for some folks, it is. There are plenty of good-hearted, hospitable, “gratuity-loose” comped guests.

Most of those I deal with in that category take good care of me. There are those that tip $2, $3 or $5 a drink, every time. There are certainly $1 dollar-a-drink tippers as well. Then there are those who mostly won’t tip but will then drop a $10 or a $20 on you every once in a blue moon. It’s all sincerely appreciated I assure you. Believe it or not, I’m not resentful of any comped guests who walk away leaving me nothing. It’s all for the greater good (my good). My little two hundred dollar bills incident the other night illustrates just how far humble pie can actually take you.

It’s those folks who consistently eat up critical minutes of your time, energy and resources – at the worse possible moments – only to leave you nothing, that really get my ire worked up.

When it comes to ownership however, I have absolutely zero problem waiting on them hand and foot. By most accounts, they busted their asses for a very long time and made extremely large and risky financial bets in order to achieve success. They employ and improve the lives of a whole lot of people. Why shouldn’t they – and a gaggle of their closest friends – be rewarded in the very venue they helped build up? I feel they should indeed!

To boot, I have zero expectation of any gratuity as a result. You heard me. That runs counter to many of my core bartending beliefs. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Ownership should get a pass (if they wish). They already pay you directly and indirectly. My beef stems from the follies of the other 2,581 groupies that have been deemed “too important” to have to pay for food and drinks, and rarely – if ever – tip. That posse includes close friends and relatives, managers, back-office staff, and the entertainment (e.g., band members, DJs, cage dancers, trapeze girls, etc.). I sincerely believe that if you’re doting on them, they should compensate you directly. Especially since they’re shelling out absolutely nothing for product.

It’s not that I don’t want to do my job. I really do understand my F.O.H responsibilities. The main issue with which I struggle is that while I’m making your entitled ass 12 Lemon Drops, muddling 14 Sapphire Mojitos, dripping Absinthe, masterfully concocting 5-layer coffee/liqueur concoctions, and delivering a never-ending assortment of our finest hor d’oeuvres de jour, I could be making dozens of dollars from paying customers on the other side of the bar! Worse, you and your gaggle of long-lost second cousins prostitutes are occupying 3/4 of my bar or two entire cocktail tables further robbing me of income. See the point? Your idiotic ass is preventing me from making money elsewhere. Furthermore, you’re in the same damned business, in the same damned bar and thus – should know a whole lot better than to act like ass. So as Jesse James’ infamous palm tattoo reads, “pay up, sucka!”

In the end, on what would have been a slow night where I could have walked with “only” $250 or so, I instead pocketed a cool $450, accompanied by an ever so slight, shit-eating grin. From my co-workers, who unfortunately bore witness to said tip, I received a mixed bag of congratulatory head-nods as well as a couple of sour-puss, jealous meltdowns accompanied by a couple of “…oh shit! He should have shared that” type grumbles. Eat a little more humble pie and the green will beat a path to your door. My story is that I make these types of things happen on the regular – they don’t just happen

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