The S**t List
A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a few pals from work. It was a Sunday evening, and most of us had worked the brunch shift earlier and had to endure a few especially volatile characters that day. For example, I was lucky enough to meet two 20-something gentlemen, both severely lit up , at the crack of 10:30 a.m. They were a real treat. They regaled me with a harrowing epic about how they spent their morning drinking beers and driving around the city “looking for a place to go fishing,” but to no avail. Then to add insult to injury, our heroes were stopped by police after blowing through a few red lights and swerving onto the interstate. It would seem that our pals had been busted, BUT WAIT. Instead, the officer allowed them to pour out the beers they were drinking and let them go with a ticket for reckless driving. By the time these ass clowns were finished with their story, I was ready to call the cops, or at least smack the one who let these guys go. To make things even less awkward (sarcasm), they decide to order a couple cocktails.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of “What? No … good god no,” which immediately turned into an argument and resulted in them calling me a “hippie.”
And so they were added to the great cavalcade of outrageous custy stories that we service folk like to tell once we’re safely seated on the business end of the bar. For the most part, working in hospitality is a lot of fun and has definite perks — flexible scheduling, meeting new people, etc. But at the same time, you deal with a lot of personalities … and some of those personalities were never taught proper outdoor behavior. And so, after many post-shift bitch sessions, I’ve compiled a list of a few memorable customer offenses for your consideration, your enjoyment and possibly even for your information.
Tipping: There are very few instances when it’s okay not to tip, but at this moment I can’t think of what those instances are. It makes you look cheap and can be downright condescending. You might think, “They just poured me a drink, why does that deserve a tip?” You might answer that question while you make your own coffee/dinner/cocktail at home.
Server, not servant: DO NOT snap your fingers, whistle or wave your arms like a lunatic. It’s embarrassing for you and everyone around you, not to mention rude. Jeepers.
Don’t ask for free stuff: Seriously, where did this myth that buying x amount of product entitles the purchaser to a free gift? This is a business, not an infomercial. Double Jeepers.
Don’t name drop: What are you trying to accomplish? Being acquainted with restaurateurs and bar managers in this town isn’t rare. It’s Milwaukee, not Manhattan.Either you’re trying to prove street cred, be threatening or you’re trying to get something for free, and none of those things will happen.
No requests: Ask yourself, “Does this place have a jukebox?” If the answer is no, then don’t make requests for music (unless you’re having an amiable conversation with the person in charge of the music; but even then, it’s kind of annoying).
Don’t shoot the messenger: If your meal is not up to par, don’t blame your server — after all, they didn’t make the food. The best thing to do is politely alert your server so that the issue can be remedied. The worst thing to do is throw stank face instead of articulating what you want.
Leave the kids at home: A tavern is no place for a child and their spongy, pink little lungs even if said tavern happens to serve brunch, a deceptively family-friendly occasion. If you do decided to introduce your children to the bar scene, please do not be upset if: the bar is smoky, the bar does not have apple juice or if the service staff in the bar ask your children to stop crawling on the booths.
Know what you want: This applies on high-volume nights. If the bar is empty, take your time and feel free to ask the bartender for suggestions. We like experimenting! If it’s Saturday night and the line to belly up is four deep on all sides, make your life easier by using that wait time to figure out what you’re drinking. This also applies to coffee shops, especially when the line behind you is trying to get to work on time.
Waving money in the air never works: It just makes you look silly.
Don’t argue prices: If you order top-shelf, you pay top-shelf. And here’s a money-saving tip: if you’re just going to muddle up fancy liquor with soda or juice, opt for rail — it tastes the same. If it’s a martini or Manhattan you’re after, it’s worthwhile to pony up the extra cash for a smoother cocktail.
Don’t ask to “make it strong”: Gosh. While I agree that a weak cocktail is unsettling, you get what you pay for. If you want another shot, you pay for another shot. See, a bar is a business. Heavy pours and over-serving customers harms that business because it means we’re giving out more than we’re taking in, and our customer base is getting soused. I know that’s a lot to think about when you’re staring at the bottom of a rocks glass, but that’s why someone else — someone sober — is in charge.
(Last Call is a weekly column that appears on Thursdays on this website.)