A Tip to Bountiful!

First a word about tipping, that event at the end that puts the whole thing in perspective. And it goes like this… based on how far (above or below) the amount called “fifteen percent” gets addressed by the customer, your friendly bartender pretty much gets his job rating. It’s his performance barometer. If it’s way above he did well, if it’s way below he did poorly, but if it’s still below when he actually did well and nothing is left on the bar but the customer’s fingerprints, well, that customer’s either cheap or the guy’s from England!

Like the one perhaps in this story I’m about to share with you…

It was Tuesday night when this event took place, when these two guys entered this bar in midtown Manhattan, and the two of them couldn’t have been more unlike in style. The one guy, the Englishman, was somewhere in his mid to late forties, had a mop of salt and pepper hair some guys would kill for, and a tan that said he obviously moved around the planet. He wore a tailor-made, charcoal, pin stripped suit, a starched white shirt (open collar), and a pinkie ring and watch that backed up the performance. Distinguished but with a flair is how one would describe him.

His companion, on the other hand… this guy who apparently worked for the Englishman… was somewhere in his mid to late thirties and all rock and roll. His head was shaved to a stubble, tattoos encircled his neck like tortured hieroglyphics, the ring  he wore found a home in his ear and his suit was the color of lava long after drying. Subdued and brownish gray, one shade darker than the jersey he wore underneath it. He was Michael Stipe to his boss’s Ralph Lauren.

These guys had just started coming to this place, with three or four visits under their belts, and had always drunk up a storm on each of those visits. The Englishman always drank Guinness with an Amaretto back, while the young guy handled an Amstel backed by a Jameson. And in spite of the fact they drank gangs of this stuff they always remained well behaved and acted like gentlemen, except, that is, when it came time to pay the bill. The tip was always the part where they fucked up the game.

Now it stands to reason if you’re going to be a regular you have to understand what the deal is when it comes to tipping, else you’re always going to leave a frowning bartender in your wake. And more important, on each of your subsequent visits, you’ll be met with a  far less friendly greeting and the whole dynamic will gradually slide down the drain. So whether you’re from London, Bolivia, Guam or Vladi-fucking-vostok, if you’re consistently coming up short, the rules of engagement just have to be drawn which is exactly what this bartender did last Tuesday when the bill came due at a hundred and forty three dollars.

The Englishman, who always paid the tab for these two, just stared at the thing when he got it, while his friend was off to the bathroom giving back Amstel. And seeing that the man was perplexed at the total, that his tan was starting to wane, the bartender approached and asked if he wanted it explained to him. Their shooters had apparently been doubles that day so every beer had an eighteen dollar accompaniment.

“Oh no,” said the Englishman, maintaining his savoir-faire and gentlemanly decorum, “this is fine, I understand.” Then he paid with a card and drew a line through the “tip” space. And when his friend returned from the men’s room, the Englishman got up and took his turn in the head. Well, this being a rather big tab, dear reader, and based on past performances paid by the Englishman, the bartender took advantage of his absence and figured it was high time he laid down some ground rules to the American.

“Listen, my friend,” he said, “I don’t mean to embarrass or insult anyone, but your friend just drew a line here through the tip space. And based on…”

“Oh no” said the guy, “he’ll do the right thing, don’t worry. He’ll tip you in cash.”

“Well, to finish what I started to say, he never does the right thing, he always leaves just barely ten percent. Now I don’t want to make a big deal out of this but since you’re from here I thought you should be aware of that. Because I gotta’ tell you, if he doesn’t do the right thing tonight I’m going to have to say something and I don’t like doing that. Especially since your friend’s a really nice guy. So maybe you can finesses this thing before it comes to that, whaddaya’ say, pal?”

“Oh wow, man, I had no idea. Yeah, I’ll take care of this. And I’ll be cool.”

“Good, because you guys are pretty good customers now and I want you to keep coming back, it’s just that we have to straighten this out if we’re to continue here. Know what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya’, man. No sweat!”

Well, surprisingly, when English came back from the men’s room, he threw a twenty on the bar and that was that. And since twenty was almost fifteen percent the bartender scooped it up and readily thanked him. No conversation necessary. But then something happened that has to be a first in the bar business.

The two of them got into this big discussion… the Englishman and the rocker… and the Englishman seemed to get more perturbed by the minute. Or at least that’s what his brow revealed which was furrowed in a knot of concern. Until finally, after a good ten minutes of back and forth the Englishman raised his hand and summoned the bartender. “Excuse me, Sir,” he said, “would you come for here a second?” Uh-oh, thought the bartender, here comes confrontation!!!

“Yes, Sir, what is it?” said the bartender, ready to hold his ground yet keep his cool.

“My friend and I would like to do you a favor,” said the Englishman.

“What?” said the bartender. “I don’t understand.”

“I said we’d like to do you a favor. See, I happen to own a clothing store that does custom-made garments for men, and we’d like to make you a couple of shirts and a vest. Would you like that?”

“You’re kidding!”

“No, no, I’m serious,” said the Englishman, his brow now smooth and color returning to his cheeks.

“But why?” asked the bartender, “I don’t get it.”

“Because you always take good care of us, you happen to be a nice guy, and it’s something I can do, that’s why.”

Well, needless to say, dear reader, the bartender didn’t see this one coming at all. He was flabbergasted. I happen to know this bartender well and this was one of the few times he was ever speechless.

But he finally spoke. “Hey, man,” he said, “if you’re serious, well, um, I guess so. I guess I’d take some shirts but this is incredible.”

“It’s our pleasure,” announced young Guinness with a Jameson back. “Here, here’s our card, we’re over on Madison Avenue just a bit north of here. Come in and ask for me and I’ll start the ball rolling.” And with that the three shook hands and out went the two.

What in the hell just happened here? thought the bartender. How did a discussion about “fifteen percent” get to something like seven hundred dollars worth of clothing? This English guy’s not cheap… he’s not that typical Brit for a visit who gives a bad name to the rest… this guy’s just unaware or needed some tutoring. Or something!!! But Jesus, Mary and Joseph, two hand made shirts and a hand made vest? This is amazing! Well… pip fucking pip, old chap, here’s to merry old you and merry old England!!!

Ahh, but now that it’s all said and done, dear reader, the question is clearly this… knowing this bartender as I do, is he really going to take them up on this generous offer? Is he really going  to enter that fancy store (probably in polo shirt and jeans), and stand there while they measure his ass for splendor? Is he really going to go from off-the-rack… your typical “wash and wear” fare… to something that’s made to his very own specifications? You bet he is. I’m scheduled to go for a fitting a week from Monday.  🙂

Over and out from Bar-land… ta ta!

PS: Hah, I just thought of something. Do I tip the tailor after he’s finished my shirts? Good grief, what’s the protocol here?

27 Responses to “A Tip to Bountiful!”


  1. 1 Comrade PhysioProf June 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Guinness with an Amaretto back

    That is so fucking disgusting, I just gagged. What kind of grown man drinks like that?

  2. 2 JR June 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Now, if on occasion the English gentleman had bothered to say “and one for yourself” when ordering, then that would at least have demonstrated the requisite level of respect that’s expected in your average pub. But to regularly avail oneself of a barkeep’s services and not make at least that minimal gesture every 3 or 4 rounds is simply rude, even by English standards!

  3. 3 chezjake June 5, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Now that’s a tip!

    Fair warning though, custom shirts can become addictive because they look and feel so good.

  4. 4 scribbler50 June 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Hey, Comrade, no one was more surprised by that order than I was. I actually said the first time he ordered it, “Are you sure about that? Did you say Amaretto there?” Everyone’s taste is different, eh? Now take a drink of water and try to stop gagging, man.

    JR: Now that you mention it, he might’ve offered a drink here and there over those three or four visits (in the manner of British pub practice), but this isn’t England and this guy (I later found out) also has a store in Beverly Hills so he’s been here long enough to know the way we do things here. And he’s a nice guy, just clueless I guess. And it’s hard to call him cheap after offering what he did with those damn shirts!

    Chezjake: No worries there, my friend, I could never afford to support the addiction!

  5. 5 Isis the Scientist June 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    That actually sounds delicious.

  6. 6 Anonymoustache June 6, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Good for you, Scrib50!
    The sartorial stiff (OK, a bit harsh but, hey, anything for alliteration) probably realizes now that a stitch in time could’ve saved nine, eh? Would’nt you think that someone would’ve told him earlier that leaving a string of such poor-tipping episodes could leave people hemming and hawing at him and leave his reputation in tatters? Anyways, now that he is alert to that fact maybe he’ll be able to fit better into the fabric of society here? He clearly seams to be a decent chap though, more than making up for his faux pas with his offer to get you in-vested in his business, wot wot?
    As always, a good post written in your inimitable text-style (ahthankyu)!

  7. 7 scribbler50 June 6, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Isis: Are you serious, darling??? Guinness and Amaretto? Yikes!

    Anonymoustache: What can I say, man? You’ve punned in the past (and well) but this is perhaps your most pun-packed comment to date. Brilliant! I want to come back with one of my own but I fear you’ve used all the words that fit the theme. (Darn) it!

  8. 8 physiobabe June 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Tailor-made for only the finest of men such as yourself, caro.

  9. 9 jc June 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    The measure of a man, Scrib. Enjoy the pampering. We’re on pins and needles for how it goes.

    The Anonyvirus has struck again!

  10. 10 scribbler50 June 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    physiobabe: Since you used the word “caro”… it’s only (fitting), bella mia, that I say, “Grazie.”

    jc: Yes, the virus is back and you’ve been (collared) again, my friend. Love “pins and needles”! I suspect I’ll be seeing more at (length).

  11. 11 Donna B. June 6, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    A more fitting tip, I can’t imagine.

  12. 12 M.A.Peel June 6, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    You well bespeak of bespoke. Enjoy the tailoring!

  13. 13 scribbler50 June 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Donna B.: “Fitting” or not, this certainly is a first in Bar-land tipping. I just hope the stuff fits or I’ll have to (cuff) the guy! 🙂

    M.A.Peel: Thanks, my friend, your sentence bedazzles!

  14. 14 HyeFye June 7, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Hey Bartender.

    Re: Englishmen and tipping in New York.

    A few weeks ago I found myself with an hour to kill waiting for my wife one night, so I entered a well-known Midtown bar. The place was crowded, but in a few minutes a stool opened up. One of the two bartenders came by for my order (Plymouth martini straight up with lemon twist). The place began to fill as I sipped. By now it’s about two deep.

    Just then a rugby squad’s-worth of Brits come in. Now we’re three deep at the bar, but these guys can’t buy attention from either of the two bartenders. They wave, shout, signal … nothing. Bartender No. 1 even comes by and asks if I want another while these guys shift from foot to foot. Bartender No. 2, his back to the customers, is aggressively polishing an already clean glass.

    Suddenly, an arm shoots by my ear, reaching over the bar. It’s one of the Brits, who begins snapping his fingers(!) in an attempt to get Bartender No. 2’s attention. That glass just gets cleaner and cleaner.

    Eventually, the squad files out, muttering assorted curses about bartenders and New Yorkers.

    When I’m ready for a refill, I ask the bartender what that was about. He says, “Those guys were in here last night from 7:30 to closing. They ran up a bill of more than $1,800 and left EXACT CHANGE.”

    I tipped 25%, just for the performance.

  15. 15 d-a-p June 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

    …maybe you buy the guys the 1st round next time they visit….
    enjoy the clothes..
    d-a-p

  16. 16 scribbler50 June 7, 2010 at 11:45 am

    HyeFye: Aw, man, that’s music to my fucking ears. What a performance. And not for nothing, I’m sure those guys were a load to deal with on top of the fact they were stiffs. Good show and thanks for that!

    Now I have one for you. But before I do, let me say I have nothing against the English people in general, believe me. I love their wit, their warmth lurking cautiously below the reserve, and their genius when it comes to the arts, the movies and language. I’m a BBC junkie and Ricky Gervais is the funniest man in the universe. But all that said, it’s this tipping thing that drives me up a wall. And they’re famous for it.

    Okay, so a bartender friend of mine, about ten years ago, was waiting on a couple from England and the wife was a real ball buster the entire time they were there. The husband ordered a rum and coke and she ordered a coke. So when it came time to pay she said, “Bartender, how much?” in a tone that could’ve frosted the glasses. My friend said, “Ten dollars, miss, seven for the rum and three for the coke.” “Seven dollars for a glass of rum, that’s an outrage!” she barked. She put ten dollars on the bar and stomped out. Ah, but not before she stopped at the door and turned to see the bartender’s reaction to being stiffed, to savor the moment. My friend picked up the ten, smiled and gave her a big, “Ta ta!”. Why? The woman had left a hundred instead of a ten!

    d-a-p: If they indeed come through, believe me I’ll buy the first round. And I’ll leave myself a very healthy tip! 🙂

  17. 17 Ken June 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Scrib:

    I wish I could say I’m amazed, but my experiences, a million years ago (OK, 35 years ago) tending bar at a campus pub convinced me that some a few people have no bar manners, and a larger group just have no shame. BTW, I found school teachers were the worst tippers, followed by undergraduates.

    The night I told you about last week, the tab for two came to $98 and change. The service was excellent and unobtrusive. I tossed 25on top. If you are going out and can’t bring yourself to be generous to a person or persons who made it an excellent night, then drink at home for goodness sakes. Don’t abuse the poor staff.

  18. 18 Jager June 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Couple of quick ones:

    My old company always had tickets for games, concerts, openings,lift tickets etc. On a regular basis we would have a few extra pairs for an event. I’d give them to my favorite bartender, hostess, waiters and waitresses. Business associates, friends and ladies were always immpressed with the level of service and attention I got!

    I aways tip 20% and round up to the next dollar, even when you are smashed at 2am, you can still divide by ten and double it! If the service is spectacular, its easy to add an additional third.

    (Worst tipper I ever saw was at breakfast place in Maine, the guy had a ten dollar breakfast at the counter and left 49 cents for the hard working waitress. Mrs J pulled three bucks out of her purse and handed it to me and said “give it to her, when she comes back to bus the dickhead’s plate”)

  19. 19 scribbler50 June 7, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Ken: Yeah, I’m with ya’, a server can make or break and evening and when they succeed in “making it”, the reward should be appropriate. As you did. By the way, though I trust what you say regarding school teachers and their tipping (or lack of it), having been one myself (a million years ago, to use your dateline) I know they are woefully underpaid so maybe it’s just a matter of economics for them. No excuse, but perhaps a reason. From my experience, the worst tippers by profession (though I see very few of them) are airline pilots. I’ve heard this countless times over the years from flight attendants I’ve known, and these guys make a good buck! Weird. Weird that a profession can actually have a tipping reputation.
    Thanks for your comment.

    Jager: Thanks for honoring the profession and cheers to your wife for not only being observant but for interceding at that breakfast the way she did. Classy move, Sir.

  20. 20 Jager June 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Back in the mid-90’s in Boston, a very hot new restaurant and bar opened, hard as hell to get a table or a spot at the bar. I had been at the ‘soft opening” and the hostess (who looked like Molly Ringwald’s twin) was a super kid, going to Emerson and working her butt off 5 nights a week. The 2nd or 3rd time I was in the the place, I slipped her a pair of Dave Matthews tickets, never, ever had a problem getting a table after that..

    btw, when I got into management, I didn’t have a clue, I called my old man who gave a great piece of advice, “never treat the hired help like the hired help” that nugget works on so many levels.

  21. 21 Brenda June 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Holy Hell! At first I was going to say… “Distinguished”? Drinking Amaretto? I don’t THINK so. In fact, I don’t even think the guy is English. No real Englishman would be caught dead drinking Amaretto. Then I thought of my own favorite Brit’s bit of advice re tipping, years ago. When in doubt, don’t! he told me. And then you leave me hyperventilating in wonder. WHAT a story, Scrib. Can not wait to see you in the new garb.

  22. 22 scribbler50 June 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Brenda: This story is so unlikely if not bizarre on so many levels, starting with (as you say) the Amaretto deal, that if it hadn’t happened to me I would’ve questioned its veracity. But there it is. Hey, I’ll let you know when the deal comes through (if indeed it wasn’t just booze talk) and you can come in and check out the new me. Grey Goose Martini, right?

  23. 23 Lucky Dog June 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    S.50,

    A brilliant blog, yours, just noticed/found via M. Lane’s “The Epic” blog, one of the finest in the blogosphere. To have your blog linked there is quite an honor, I’d say. I’d bet you and he have good conversation if he is a customer when in the city.

    Wonder why I’ve never clicked through before? Looking forward to your next post and sharing your link with my (still few) readers.

    Best Regards,
    LD
    aluckydoglife.blogspot.com

  24. 24 Pieter B June 14, 2010 at 12:27 am

    I just finished a season of serving ale at the Renaissance Faire, and I could tell some tip stories, like the 39.50 tabs that hand me two twenties and say “Keep the change.” Gramercy for thy kind indulgence, thou whoreson knave.

    Observations: those who break a C-note rarely tip more than $2, if that, no matter the size of the order. Gen-X and -Y youngsters are almost always good tippers, probably because so many of them have worked (or still work) jobs where they depend on tips to pay their bills. None of the stereotypes about tipping that I’ve been told (ethnicity, region or country of origin, apparent socioeconomic status, whether the order is alcoholic or not) hold true in my experience. The age thing is my own observation, and I’ve never heard it advanced by anyone else when the topic arises.

  25. 25 scribbler50 June 14, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Pieter B: Just curious… though I feel your pain of a fifty cent tip on $39.50, isn’t serving ale at a faire a little different than a saloon situation? By that I mean, people are on the move and not standing at a bar and hanging out. They buy their beer and keep on moving, like buying a pack of gum. In short, they aren’t bar people who understand bar etiquette but groups on an outing buying just one more treat as they roll along. I’m not excusing the behavior, just putting it out as a theory. And I’m in total agreement about young people, I’ve found them almost always to be on top of the situation whether for the reasons you’ve described or not. My only gripe with the Gen-X and Y crowd is (which probably wouldn’t happen at the fair), they’ll hand you a credit card to pay for two beers, come back ten minutes later, order a beer and hand you a card again. That’s a bitch time-wise when you’re slammed.

    Thanks, Pieter, and let me add, I’ll bet the scenery at a Renaissance Fair had to make up for some the lack of remuneration!

  26. 26 Pieter B June 15, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Oh, definitely true that the situations are different, Scrib, but a tip of 50 cents to a buck a drink is more or less standard at Faire. It’s the breezy I’m-being-so-generous “Keep the change” when the change amounts to less than ten cents a drink that frosts me a bit. Often these are people that change the order three times while I’m constructing black & tans and snakebites, tapping two at a time and shutting the tap off with my forehead to serve them more quickly, yadda yadda. Frankly, I’d rather be stiffed.

    Faire itself makes up for those folks. The tokes are good enough that I break even on what I spend with the craftsmen, and that’s all I’m after. I get paid to be a snarky old lecher, and I love turning on the charm for women of a certain age who’ve been doing Faire for decades like myself. Often they’re accompanied by their kids who are now old enough to drink, and as they’re leaving, they get a caress and a wink and a “Dump the kids and come back, luv.” All the 20-somethings do for me these days is make me wish I were 40 again.

    One of the perks of the job is refilling and replacing “bodice chillers.” If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, click http://www.flickr.com/photos/husseygirl/498175510/in/photostream/

  27. 27 Majorie Milnes February 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    What a nice YouTube video it is! Remarkable, I liked it, and I am sharing this YouTube video with all my colleagues.


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