My dearest Refugee,
I am a regular at my local bar. It is a place where everyone knows your name, and, in most cases, your drink. As a result of my friendships with the bartenders, my tab is never what my tab should be. In fact, my tab is normally $7. I might have 3 glasses of wine, 4 rum and cokes. Doesn’t matter. My tab is normally $7. As a rule of thumb, I leave a $20 tip.
My problem arises when friends join me for a drink. Well, one friend in particular. One night this week, we met for a drink. He had 2 rounds, I had 3. When the tab came, he offered to pick it up. It was $11. He tipped $5. FIVE DOLLARS! Our tab easily should have been $35, which means that at 20% the bartender would have walked away with $7. And my friend tipped $5. Even if he had tipped $20, the charge still would have been under what the tab should have been.
I’m so embarrassed that he’s shafting my bartenders, my friends! What’s a girl to do?
Dear Girl with a Cheap Friend,
Your issue isn’t so much a question of tipping etiquette as it is a friend etiquette quandary.
Some explanations for those who aren’t serious bar regulars.
GCF’s tab is so preposterously low because the bartender(s) has decided that she’s good for the bar. She’s the kind of guest who brings other people into the bar, and makes people who are already there want to stay a little longer. That and/or he’s trying to sleep with her (subsequent conversations with GCF via gChat eliminated that option.)
Further gChat conversation indicated that GCF’s CF has done this on more than one occasion, and knows that he is being “taken care of.”
GCF, I feel for you – I’ve been in your situation and the bartender’s situation as well. I can assure you that your bartender knows exactly what happened and is not assigning blame to you for the low tip. There are a few options for you.
- Don’t drink with cheap people once you’ve learned that s/he is cheap.
- Have a difficult conversation with your friend to alert him to your discomfort with this tooltastic behavior.
- Don’t let him get any tabs and eventually have a difficult conversation when he asks you why.
- Find a way to slip back into the bar – “I forgot to tell my bartender something” – and slip him some extra cash.
I am inclined to think that the first two are the best of the available options as the last two are incredibly passive responses. Assuming you don’t wish to get rid of this friend over this issue, how do you have that conversation?
With any awkward discussion, I am a fan of having a script in my head if not on paper. The script need be no more formal than a rough outline of the points you need to make. No one wants to have to revisit this issue because you forgot something and writing them down will help crystallize the points and maybe illuminate new ones.
Just like you would never talk your partner about a sexual issue right before you were about to have sex, find a non-related moment to talk with him, and no accusations, just conversation, and never have these talks in front of others – ever*.
I would refer you to the Refugee Guide to Fighting Fairly for more information.
p.s. I am looking forward to writing a general tipping guide, and frankly cannot believe that I haven’t written one already. Expect it soon.
* interventions are an obvious exception.