Bar Etiquette 101

I tend to write these silly "etiquette" posts following a really poor experience with someone who probably just didn't know better, and I know they sometimes come off as a rant (my Tattoo Etiquette one sure did!), but I genuinely mean well with them! I've worked as a bartender for over 5 and a half years now and I've seen the likes of everything you could imagine. I've been tipped $100 on a $2 beer (on purpose!), and I've been almost physically assaulted by a middle aged man (and woman. and a few people my age.) I've seen people be shocked with a tazer gun, jumped, arrested, etc. And I've seen plenty of people just have a wonderful time. Bars can be a great place to socialize and let your hair down a little. My bar is a karaoke bar and the clientele is a little different from who I'd normally spend my Friday and Saturday nights with, and as much as I may "hate" my job from time to time, I also find myself having a lot of fun there! If you've worked in the food or beverage industry then you probably know exactly what I mean. It can be great money, or it can be awful. It can be awesome to come in contact with so many people during one shift, or it can be excruciating. 

I made an offhanded comment on Twitter a few weeks ago about writing a bar etiquette post and I had so many people say that they'd love to read it. Honestly I'm biased and I tend to be a bit cynical about it, but I promise I'm a fun bartender! I'm no master bar manager or anything, but here is what I've learned in my 5+ years:

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TIP! In the US, it'd very likely that your bartender or server is only making roughly $2 an hour and she relies heavily on tips. I can't stress this enough. I always tipped appropriately when I went places, but after starting to bartend I realized just how tough it could be to do that job daily, so I always tend to over-tip if the service is really good. And I'm going to be perfectly honest here: If you're at my bar and I know you don't tip, I'm going to overlook you and serve the person who does tip before because this girl has bills to pay. I've had people chime in before to say "But tipping is optional!" It's not optional when your server makes $2 an hour. It's not optional when I could work 40 hours a week and still not clear $100. Nope, not optional. I've also had people say they couldn't afford to tip. Wha?! You're in a bar... where the beer is marked up 300%, and the liquor 700%! I realize everyone wants to have a good time but how about you head to the convenience store and then take the party to your house! Start playing babysitter to a bunch of drunk people and then ask yourself if you deserve some payment. 

The amount of the tip will vary. It's polite to always tip 15% in the food service industry and a standard tip in a bar is simply your change if you were to get a $2.50 beer and have 50 cents left over. If you get multiple drinks, a standard tip would be 50 cents per beer and 50 cents to $1 for each cocktail. That's such wishful thinking though! If that were to happen just one night a month then I wouldn't have to work again for 3 weeks! There have definitely been nights where I don't make enough in tips to even cover my gas to get there (hence why I've been working less and less at the bar lately. No sense driving that far!) Don't let the math or anything get in the way. I'm happy to even get 25 cents on certain orders because anything is better than nothing. It's really hard to work in an industry where you rely solely on the generosity of other people. It's not fun to think about! Some people assume all servers and bartenders make bank so they don't need to tip them, but that's not true. One night could be absolutely amazing and then the next 4 or 5 could be horrible. Just keep in mind that they're working hard for your money, too!

Being nice to your bartender/server goes a long way! I have some customers that I've known for all of the 5+ years I've been at my bar and they've never once tipped me so much as a nickel. But here's the kicker: They're so nice. Granted I'd rather pay my bills than just have a lot of nice people at my bar, but I actually enjoy serving them. They make it seem a little less like work. They're polite. They don't jump line. They don't holler or bang their glasses on the bar. I like those people. If you can't afford to tip (then get the heck out of the bar!), at least be one of those nice people!

Do not, under any circumstance, grab/touch a bartender or server. Ever. Do not ever put your hands on me. I've had everything from someone moving my cardigan from my chest so he could read my tattoo (!!!), to a girl coming back behind the bar to pull my hair to "see if it was real". I can't even begin to tell you the rage that ensued. I've had patrons grab my arm and pull me over to the bar when I was trying to walk away simply so they could tell me what they wanted to drink (and it wasn't their order). I've only thrown 2 drinks at customers in my 5 years and believe me, grabbing me will put you on the fast track.

Don't be one of those guys. And what I mean by those guys is the guy who: tries to cut line at the bar (is this 2nd grade?!), the guy who bangs his beer bottle or glass on the bar to get the bartenders attention (we're ignoring you!), the guy who yells "Hey I need a Bud Light!" from the other end of the bar when you're nowhere near him (still ignoring you!). No one likes those guys. I have one or two customers who do this every single time they're in my bar and it finally came down to me just having to say "NO. It is not your turn, you are being rude, and every time you yell at me I make a conscious decision to ignore you for 5 more minutes. Pick your battle!" Usually they'll realize they're being a douche and they'll apologize and wait their turn. Until the next time. 

Bars are like oversized daycares. There are people who just want their sippy cup. There are people who just want to cry and tell everyone what's wrong. There are people who want to be the bully of the playground, etc. The difference is that adults have reasoning capability, and all of that goes out the window after they've been drinking. On a typical Saturday night I play babysitter to 200 drunk overgrown toddlers. You can probably understand why my patience is at an all-time low when I'm working! ;)

Don't be afraid to ask for drink recommendations. Bartenders love to suggest their favorite drinks to other customers (Hence my Cocktail Hour feature!). Don't ask us to name every beer or every mixed drink we have though. We couldn't do that if we tried. (Beer, maybe. Drinks, never). If you're unsure of what you would like, tell the bartender your favorite liquor(s) and if you specifically dislike anything. If you say you want a fruity mixed drink, it's highly likely your bartender will give you a Sex on the Beach. I never suggest that one because it's so overdone! She won't think you're a jerk for saying "I like vodka and peach schnapps but I don't want a Sex on the Beach!" She'll probably be happy that you know that much! 

Don't be pregnant and chain smoking/downing whiskey and cokes in my bar. It's illegal in the state of Tennessee for me to refuse service to a pregnant woman in a bar on the basis that she is with child. That does not stop me. I will never knowingly serve a pregnant woman alcohol. I don't care what the law says, I don't care what her reaction is, I won't do it. Granted I don't say "Um no, you're pregnant. Are you dumb?!?!" (Even though that's exactly what I want to say!). I simply walk away, ignore them or say "I would rather not serve you right now." And if they ask why, I just say "Because I don't want to". Luckily I can do that at my job without getting fired! haha The other bartender/manager knows how I feel about the issue and it's completely against my morals to serve someone. I've had a woman come in and down 6 whiskey and cokes in an hour and a half and she was 7 months pregnant. No thanks. That's on you.

If you start fights, you'll probably be barred. Fights make me so nervous at my bar because us two bartenders/manager are female. We're capable of holding our own and we've both jumped over the bar at times, but we don't get taken as seriously as a big burly bouncer. Luckily we have one of those! If you start crap with anyone, you're out. If you start crap with one of us, you're out for life. Pick your battles wisely! 

Don't tick off your bartender. This kind of goes along with "Don't tick off your waiter" at a restaurant. I'm handling your alcohol. I'm not saying I'm going to go spit in it, but it may make it to your shirt before it makes it to your mouth. ;) I'm kidding, sort of.

Don't ask me to "hook it up", "make it good", "make it stout", or any other variation of "Pour more alcohol in there!" unless you want to pay for a double. This blows my mind. This is a bar, not a soup kitchen. If you want more alcohol, you pay for more alcohol. I get this every night I work. My response is always the same (very politely!): "Do you want a double? That'll be $9" then undoubtedly they all respond "What? $9? That's insane! No I don't want to pay $9! Can't you just hook it up?" "In case you missed the sign on the door, we're a bar. Not a soup kitchen. If you want extra liquor, you pay for extra liquor. If you want less mixer, that's fine, but that's less drink." Usually the ones that argue with you are the ones who aren't going to tip you anyway so you don't really have much to worry about there!

Be responsible enough to know when to cut yourself off. Nothing makes me appreciate a customer more than when he knows enough is enough. He'll come tell us bartenders and the waitress. No more for him. None for him if he orders them, and none for him if anyone else does. I like that. When you've got 200 people in a bar and only 2 bartenders, it can get hard to keep up with the drinks everyone has had. If you start looking sleepy or show any signs of being too drunk, you're done. You're cut off for the rest of the night. We have to protect ourselves and you.

Make eye contact with your bartender. Speak to her face. Put the money in her hand. This makes me rage so hard! I get so many dismissive customers who just waltz up, look around and sort of speak in a general direction all the while I'm standing not two feet away, looking directly at their face, waiting on their order. Girls do this a lot (not to generalize, but it's true!). They'll come up with their boyfriend and I'll ask what she'd like and she won't tell me, but she'll tell her boyfriend who will then have to tell me. Order for yourself! What is this, 1900?!? And of course when people go to pay you for their beers and they just throw the money onto the bar maybe in your direction, but probably not. I'm not playing fetch for your cash/coins. If you throw your money at me, that's how I give you your change.

Don't drive home drunk! I've called the cops on my own customers before. If you get in your car and you show any signs of intoxication and I happen to see it, I don't hesitate to call the police. 1) You shouldn't be driving. 2) You could hit me, or any other innocent driver. 3) If you hurt someone and you've just left my bar, I can be liable. So don't think that other bartenders won't rat you out just as quickly. It's all about staying safe and staying alive. Don't be afraid to ask the bartender for a cab! 

Go out with friends to bars to have a good time. Don't go when you're mopey or depressed. Not only does alcohol metabolize differently in your stomach when you're all worked up/stressed out, but it sets the mood for everyone around you. Drinking won't solve anything or make it better. Don't do it for the wrong reasons!

Don't be afraid to go out to bars and order a coke or water. If you don't drink, that's totally cool! No one minds. I was a bartender for several years and I didn't drink alcohol at all. I have plenty of customers who don't drink. No one will think less of you!

Don't get irritated at the waitress if she takes a little bit of extra time to get you your order. She's busy. She has dozens of people to account for. If you want quicker service, get off of your butt and go to the bar yourself. Don't be lazy.

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I know these are so generalized and totally saturated with sarcasm, bitterness, and the like, but half a decade of bartending will do that to ya! (The other bartender has been there 11 years! And she works 40-50 hours a week there! I work 10 and I want to pull my hair out!) I think the situation has made it so that I'm a lot less likely to be the "nice one" and I'm the one who just calls it like I see it. I'm not as tied to that bar as she is so I tend to get away with a little bit more. These are just things I've noticed from MY bar. Obviously not all bars are equal! You may bartend at the coolest bar ever and it may be all fun and games. In that case, give me your job! ;) haha So there you have it. My bitter Bar Etiquette post that I promised a few weeks ago! 

Have you ever worked as a bartender/server/waitress? Got any fun/horror stories? What's the craziest thing you've ever seen in a bar (even as a bar patron)?

Edit: Please note that this was written with American customs in mind! I know it's not standard to tip in Europe (and I had the hardest time while there!), and various other parts of the world. But in the US, it is and I've never worked anywhere other than America so this is based solely on my experience here! Not worldwide. Though rude customers aren't limited to just the USA!


  1. I don't drink. But I am a waitress. And I completely agree with you that tipping is NOT an option. I was talking to my mom the other day about it. and she told me that some people just don't tip. And you know what that is totally cool. Don't eat where someone relies on those tips. Got to McDonalds and get out of my restaurant. I make 3.70 an hr. and you have me running around like an olympic medalist. I deserve some type of repayment.
    Love your blog by the way. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

    Keep up the goodwork.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I tend to stay away from bars because I generally don't appreciate the atmosphere, but I've met many of the patrons (seems like it's predominantly men, which is interesting) listed above. Not sure I'd have the stones to handle that job night in, night out, so my hat is off to you!

    Can't believe it's illegal to refuse service to a pregnant woman.

  3. At the restaurant where I'm a waitress, we had a guy who would come in, order one cup of coffee, and then stay for six hours. He would expect us to cater to him and check up on him all the time, and he usually left a very small amount of change as tip. One day, the other waitress' hands were full, so he dropped the change into her apron pocket. My boss saw it happen and called him out. She told him that we're not strippers, if he wants to leave a tip, he sets it on the counter.

    ...he never came back.

    I haven't had any horrible customers yet, but it's bound to happen eventually.

  4. From reading the first comment: tips are so crucial. I make four dollars an hour. Some days I walk out with less than minimum wage. Other days (and this is my best day) I make nearly 20 dollars an hour. Not tipping just isn't an option.

  5. I've always said food or drink service is one thing I could never do. Retail was hard enough for me! I don't deal well with people sometimes. When I worked in the mall I had to just walk away a few times to keep myself from doing or saying something I would regret. It's amazing how some people behave!! I think it helps when the people you work with are pleasant though.

    I'm glad to know bartenders don't scoff on people who order non-alcoholic beverages. I have done that a few times and felt sooooo lame!

  6. Haha I was a barmaid for a few years during uni and I agree with these so much.

    Being from the UK, the tipping thing interested me - as although we tip waiting staff etc the 15% (however personally this is completely based on service) bar staff rarely get tipped. Sometimes people told me to "have one for yourself" and this meaning changes from place to place. One place meant I can take no more than £1 from the customer (to cover the price of half a pint of pepsi) and another place it went in a jar and at the end of a month you could spend it on drinks from the bar.

    However when I worked at the hotel, the bar staff LOVED American guests! We once had a group of backpackers from New York and each of the barmen made around £20 each all night!

    I really enjoyed reading!! :D

  7. Great post! My boyfriend bartends and it's crazy some of the stuff that bartenders have to deal with.

  8. I love this entire list! great insight. and I think tipping is probably the most annoying thing people don't get right. whenever my friends pull out their calculators on their phone (literally) to figure out what tip to leave at a bar, I always yell at them & then either grab money out of their wallet or write it on the receipt for them.

    also, that's really great of you to refuse to serve pregnant women. crazy it's illegal to do so!

  9. Excellent post! I've worked as a server for over 4 years now, and because of this, I overtip and am extremely nice when/if I ever go out.
    When it comes down to it, some people are just jerks. That's just the way they are, and you can't change them. I've learned a lot about just letting things go and moving on rather then getting worked up about someone, even though all I really want to do is grab them and tell them how to behave in public.

  10. i'm not a bartender, but i deal with customers in the same manner, and i can't agree with you more about people who just throw money on the counter, what's so difficult about handing money to someone? another huge pet peeve is when people talk on their phones during customer interaction. to me a lot of these things are common sense, but apparently not. thanks for sharing this post, i couldn't agree more!

  11. Man you guys should come serve in washington! You generally get paid state minimum wage.. Like 9.25 an hour and make tips on top of that! I couldn't imagine living/working in a state where you make so little.

  12. I loved reading this, there's nothing wrong with a nice vent! I manage a tea house with a cafe etc and you'd think that people would be better with something non alcoholic, but no. I think it should be compulsory for every person to work just 1 week in a bar/ restaurant. Then we'll see if they click at me or complain that the toast is too dry! :)

  13. Not gonna lie, if the bar is super loud I'm going to tell my guy what I want so HE can shout to the bartender...he's just louder than me ;-)

  14. love this post. i'm a waitress and have been for about 5 years. it sounds like we both deal with a similar crowd of customers, so i know you feel, and this post hit home for me. sometimes i still can't believe the shit people try to pull when they come into a restaurant or bar. i've had to deal with the rudest, trashiest people who have told me to my face they aren't going to tip because they "don't like to", and people who treat me like their personal servant. on any given night, i have 9 tables at once and i wish people would appreciate how hard i am working. needed to vent, thanks girl! ;)

  15. i love the daycare analogy! it's so true! nick swardson did a standup skit about how his drunk friend was like a baby. "he's crying and wants his bottle! put your shirt back on! oh no he fell down!" lol i have never worked in the food/beverage industry but my husband has and i hear how hard it can be. i always make sure to be polite and tip appropriately. it's just common sense though. unfortunately for other people, it's something they lack.

  16. I'm not a bartender/server per say, but I work the pastry counter at a very popular and busy bakery/diner here in Chicago. so much of what you said has resonated with me. I hate when people cut the line and then get mad at YOU when you help the person who you know was next in line instead of them. I've also literally had guys come up with their girlfriends, and order for their girlfriends while the girl is like mumbling what she wants in his ear. Then he's standing there asking me questions for her, when it would be so much easier if she just asked me herself.

    Also, because it is an organic bakery, the prices are a little higher than if you bought a hostess cupcake, obviously. and a lot of people complain/yell about the prices to me - it's not like i priced these items!

    OH, and i HATE the question, "so how much weight have you gained since working here?" "how fat have you gotten since you started here?" i can't even believe people ask that question in the first place.

    Have you read the book Waiter Rant? I think you would really be able to relate to it :) It's a hilarious memoir about a guy who was a waiter for 15 years or something crazy. I've only been doing it for 1 year, and I couldn't even imagine going for 15!

  17. I really enjoyed this piece Kaylah. Granted I am only 18 and haven't been to a bar, but it's nice to know what I should do when I go to one in a few years. I liked your insight into it :)
    Love and Turtledoves,

  18. Ive worked in a bar/as a waitress before. In england it isnt quite the same with tipping, especially in terms of bar. Your pet peeves are basically the same as mine! Particular emphasis on the banging to get attention! I also tended to purposely ignore people who pushed to the front/queue jumped/were rude/seedy. I was a bit of a rubbish waitress to, I dropped numerous plates and even dropped gravy on someone!!! EEK. xxx

  19. I love this post! I'm under 21 right now and I don't go to bars very often, but I've always wondered what to do when the time comes. I've never understood exactly how much to tip (luckily most of the time this means i over tip, haha) so I love reading about this point of view from a real bartender!

    oh, and the people not handing the money directly to you thing drives me absolutely insane. i work retail and it happens to me daily. people put their cash and cards on the counter and i'm like "hello, i am not a leper, nor am i a servant, you can hand it to me." several times i've had people TOSS their credit cards at me! ugh. sorry for the mini rant, haha!

    great post, kaelah my dear! <3

  20. ooo I really loved this post. I've been a "server" at a buffet, but most of my etiquette stories come from when I worked in a coffee shop/bar.
    We were basically a mini Starbucks with beer, wine, and rum and vodka to mix into smoothies.
    We also managed the pool/hot tub, rented bicycles, maintained the gym, booked spa appointments, made sandwiches, had a mini retail store, were in charge of restocking the laundry room, and had to clean/restock all of the above. We normally only had two people on shift (8.5-9 hours) to manage the 3 counters (and go out and rent bikes) and barely got bathroom breaks.
    We got paid minimum wage, and weren't supposed to get tips, but customers wanted to tip, so we'd normally put a cup out.
    One time a customer wanted quarters (in exchange for nickles) so his daughter could ride the merry-go-round. I only had a few left in my register so I told him to ask the cashier at the restaurant across the lobby. He saw my tip jar, grabbed it, and started sorting through it. I was so offended that he would just grab my money! I mean, I don't have a problem giving him the quarters if he'd ask (hadn't thought about my jar), but just to grab it off the counter, dump it out, and start going through it?! UGH.
    I also had tons of customers asking me to make the drinks stronger and complaining about how expensive everything was. Like it was my business and I could change it.
    I only got in tiffs with two customers and they were just crazy. Maybe I'll tell the stories sometime, but I think this is getting too long!

  21. Oh wow! You are definitely on the money with everything you say. And might I just add... as a fellow bartender here in Sydney, Aus, I have absolutely loved your entire series on bartending. I actually made your Hurricane cocktail at le bar the other night!

    I can relate to so much that you've said here. And I take my hat off to you for dealing with it in such a calm and mature way. Whenever somebody is overly rude or obnoxiously drunk at my bar, I generally have a few choice words with them and then use my radio to call security. But you've kind of reminded me that it doesn't have to be this way. At the same time though, respect and common decency will go a long way.

    I rather enjoyed the day care analogy. Sometimes it really feels like baby sitting. Oh and if I am ever in the States, I'll be sure to tip! I do here :)

    I wrote a bar rant not too long ago after a hideous night at work. I've done a much poorer job at hiding my bitterness and sarcasm though...

    It's this one here if you'd like to read how we have the exact same issues here in Sydney!

    I hope your nights at work get better! x

  22. Well that was a fun read! seriously! =)

    I think i would be considered a good customer! yay! Always tip $1 per drink, I actually order for myself and look my bartender in the eye, and never jump out of line! =) Would love to visit your bar the next time I find myself in TN! =)

  23. I LOVE trying new drinks, so I'm glad to hear that bartenders don't mind having someone ask. I usually say something vague like 'What can you mix with Cherry Flavored Vodka?' Also I don't get finicky when it is really busy I just order a Gin & Tonic.

    I try to be a good tipper, but regardless of how many dollars I have in my pocket I am always polite & patient. As a frequent bar patron I can tell that it ABSOLUTELY gets me faster service than rude & pushy people.

  24. "Bars are like oversized daycares. There are people who just want their sippy cup. There are people who just want to cry and tell everyone what's wrong. There are people who want to be the bully of the playground, etc. The difference is that adults have reasoning capability, and all of that goes out the window after they've been drinking." That's one of the best things I've read in awhile!

    Also, WTF it's legal to serve alcohol to pregnant people in TN!?!??? That's peposterous to me, having grown up in the North East where that is illegal.

    I too have been a bartender, but never long enough to have a terrible experience.

    XO Sahra

  25. i hate going out to bars because i feel like it always pisses the bartender off when i order a soda, since i don't drink. the same when i go to a bar for trivia, even though i always order food, and tip!

  26. LOVED IT!!! I live in Vegas and though I don't work as a bartender or cocktail waitress, I've seen everything. Unless you go to a local spot or are a local, the tippers are crazy cheap. Considering drink range from $12-$20 for one cocktail, they think the tips are either included or optional. Bonkers! These bartenders work their asses off!!

    I have a question... Aren't you young like 23 ish? How do you bartend and not be 21? Is that legal in other states. The only reason I ask is Vegas has super strict laws. No minors in bars or even around the slot machines. And you said you've been tending for 5 years and you DO NOT look anywhere near 26/27 :)

  27. thank you for this post! i recently turned 21 & i wanted more than anything to get an idea of bar etiquette; anything that makes a bartenders life easier, i wanna know!

  28. I used to work as a barmaid in the UK and I totally agree with pretty much all you said - can't get my head around it being illegal to refuse a pregnant woman alcohol though - massive respect for you for standing up for your beliefs! xo

  29. Oh my. I've actually never worked for tips, but I feel very strongly about the subject. I agree, if you can't afford to tip at *least* the standard amount, DON'T GO OUT. I also hate it when people make comments about how they're not going to tip as well if the service wasn't outstanding.... really??? Did you come here to eat, or did you come here to get your Pampers changed? My line of work is extremely demanding and sometimes I'm run so ragged I can't possibly manage to get everything done.... but at least I still make the same hourly wage!

    I used to work retail and not a day went by where I didn't want to slap the shit out of someone. Middle-aged men especially. For some reason it was like, they saw a young woman behind the counter and felt entitled to special attention... kind of like a child. So annoying. And then when i didn't flirt with them like they wanted they would get all pissy about it. I encountered plenty of rude women too but in general they just paid for their shit and left without asking me 20 questions in an attempt to get me to pay attention to them.

    God! I'm so glad I don't have to work with the public anymore! Taking care of old people with dementia is a whole other set of challenges, but I wouldn't go back to customer service for anything.

  30. In Australia, no one generally tips because we just don't have that problem in the food industry. Actually, people get paid quite well. In fact, most people WANT bartending jobs here because it pays so well.

    On average their hourly rate is $14-$22 an hour and working most days a week for a good few hours. So you can see, they can do quite well without a busy day of work.

    Tips here usually mean you can have the extra bit of change coming from paying with a note.

    For us, tipping is optional.

    I don't mean to come off as offensive or anything but if you get an Australian customer, likely they will not tip - not out of bad manners but just because over here, we don't!

  31. I rarely drink, so most of the time I'll order a shirley temple, which makes bartenders laugh.
    I guess it's funny? I don't know. When I order a bloody Mary people laugh at that, too. Maybe it's my face and not what I'm ordering.

    So many of my pals are servers or bartenders or hairstylists or massage therapists, I honestly cannot comprehend not tipping. I used to work in a salon and I rarely got tipped, which meant I didn't get paid. I have no respect for people who don't tip. In the UK, servers make a living wage, so they tip very little, and when I first moved to Scotland that was SO hard for me to get used to because I always tip 20%. Everyone thought I was crazy.

    Lauren @ Sea Parrot

  32. I have never worked in the food industry but I do work in retail here in Australia and someday's you can have really great customers and others days you will be bombarded by rudeness.

    Two of my worst retail experiences was nearly being punched by a male customer for not refunding him because his item was over the refund period and my second would be a lady coming out of the changeroom with her young son, she was extremely friendly bought some items and then tells me her son had peed all over the changeroom floor and leave for me to clean it up so much fun!!!

  33. I can't believe it's illegal to refuse to serve a pregnant woman alcohol. Pregnancy is a choice and you don't HAVE to be pregnant, so it really burns me up when I see pregnant women not taking care of themselves. I could go on for days.

    & I'm not a server but I always try to be super nice to my servers and leave a decent tip. Love your blog!

  34. I'm really glad that you decided to write this post. The couple of times I've been to a bar in the US, I've tipped $1 a drink, so it's good to know that's an appropriate amount!
    In the UK, waitresses get paid minimum wage (well, it depends on the place, sometimes more if you're lucky) so we don't have to worry about having to get tipped, but it's still really nice if we do get tipped - it shows we've done a good job.
    I work at a hotel, with both a bar and a restaurant. I'm usually working in the restaurant and it drives me MAD when people in the bar try to get my attention when I'm walking through to get drinks. The bar isn't far away, just get up and walk there yourself instead of taking me away from what I'm supposed to be doing!

    Also, ugh, I can't believe that pregnant women have the nerve to ask for drinks in a bar. I'm glad you choose not to serve them.

  35. Completely know what you mean! I think bartenders get such a tough time dealing with people is hard enough but when they're drunk, goodness!

    Love your pictures they're always lit so beautifully! I need to pick up some tips for all my shoe posts!

  36. Great post! I'm just curious though - isn't there some law that says your employer is supposed to compensate you if you don't make at least minimum wage with tips? I remember hearing that in a women's & gender studies course. May be something worth looking in to with all of those non-tipping customers!

  37. :) you've just become a little bit cooler in my eyes (you were already pretty darn cool to start with).
    Really good post.

  38. GREAT tips! First, I seriously cannot believe it's illegal for you to refuse to serve a pregnant woman...honestly! Good for you for sticking up for your morals. I worked in the food industry for a short time and tipping is NEVER an option here. I totally agree with you!

  39. It's illegal to make $2 an hour in the US. The Federal Minimum Wage for tipped employees is 50% of the Federal Minimum Wage for non-tipped employees. That's over $3.50 an hour. The ONLY REASON they can pay you less than minimum wage is if your tips equal minimum wage. If you have a bad night, and you don't make up to minimum wage including tips, then it's the federal law for your employer to compensate you accordingly. If this is not happening, then your employer is breaking the law.

  40. I honestly feel like everyone at some point should do customer service or work where you rely on tips just to experience the good and bad of dealing with the general public. I've done customer service, retail, and food service and so many people are just horrible. Some people are great but those bad ones really stick out in your mind. Not to mention none of those jobs are easy! They are hard on your body, hard on your patience, and don't pay very well.

    I think not tipping is one of the rudest things someone could do, I've never known a person who didn't tip but if I did they would get an ear full. It is not optional in the States, it is part of the deal of being served. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to go out, period.

    Anyway I love what you wrote. I'm sorry to hear about your bad experiences.

  41. I'm a supermarket cashier and an ice cream girl and I can't agree with you more. I've had people drop bags of change on the counter and tell me to count it! Rude. And with my experience I will never ever not tip someone. I've scooped 70 ice creams for a summer camp and got tipped nothing by the adult who payed. People are unbelievable.

  42. OMG. I've always had a big mental block about my ability to be a waitress/bartender because I just can not deal with how rude people can be. I probably take things too personally, but that's on me. However, having this little quirk makes me SUPER appreciative of service, brilliant or otherwise. It takes a terribly rude individual to garner a bad tip from me; I am so thankful to the waitstaff of the world that I am constantly tipping at least a few dollars more than necessary! I'm sure you're a kick-ass bartender!!

  43. I'm a barista at starbucks. It's been about a year and a half that i've worked there, and holy cow have i learned some things.

    I seriously don't even know how half of these people make it through their day without getting slapped upside the head. The general human interaction and etiquette lost on some people is astounding.

    Like you said though, the nice customers MORE than make up for the d-bags. When they know your name, when they talk TO you and not AT you, it makes the day and the experiences so much better.

    as a server to the public, my #1 pet peeve would be when people come up and just launch into what they want. no hello, no how are you doing, and then the kicker, "I NEED..." no you don't NEED. you WANT. and i will gladly give you whatever it is you desire if you ask me with a little bit of respect.

    another comment mentioned the book Waiter Rant. Super funny and quick read.


  44. Yayyyy for this, Kaelah! Love this post so much, even though working in the service industry makes me feel like this is all common sense. Here in CA we get minimum wage plus tips but we get taxed on what the state assumes we make. When people don't tip, I'm technically paying for part of their meal. ://
    Just last night I gave amazing service to a couple that came in right before closing. They went up to my manager afterward saying I did a horrible job and were obviously trying to get their meals for free. So frustrating!

  45. Oh gosh! It's all so true! I worked as a barista for close to a year and all of this has such resounding clarity it's hard to know where to start. I'd have to say the ordering to my face was probably my biggest pet peeve and consequently the number one thing I try to work on at other food/drink establishments. I'm trying to get my bartending license over the holiday break and am excited to put these to work!

  46. did you ever know that you're my herrrooooo...


  47. My favorites are don't go to the bar when you're mopey and don't drink when you're pregnant. I love that you don't serve pregnant women. Besides the obvious reasons, it's just plain trashy.

    The tips thing blows my mind. I don't go out much anymore, but when I did I always tipped a buck every time I went and got a drink. My husband does, too, and he always just gets a bottled beer. I thought that was "normal!"

  48. i have never worked at a bar or restaurant but i did work at a liquor store for 2 years i was shocked at how many people would come in smelling like liquor , i had one customer come in on christmas eve when there was a line around the store and try to cut in front of everyone after i told him he had to get in the back of the line he proceeded to throw his whole shopping cart at a stack of bottles. I also had soo many creepy men and people asking for a discount we were a wholesale store so not even i got discounts people are so rude

  49. I've probably said this a million times, but the whole tipping thing does make me really sad. I do think that bars make a LOT of money, and should be made to pay their employees a wage. In Australia, it is almost impolite to tip in most industries - the service would have to be something REALLY exceptional. People don't tip because they know that the person serving them is being paid well enough. It just seems unfair that a barmaid in the USA might make $10 a night if the night is slow and the tips aren't good. That just doesn't happen, in any industry in Australia.

  50. good stuff, i enjoyed reading it.

    nice to know I am not the only one to say "okay, I've had enough" and it's necessary to make sure you tell everyone, otherwise, a friend could order you something, etc.

    it saddens me to know pregnant woman are out there poisoning their poor innocent kids... how often do you see that? please don't say every weekend!

    and glad to know you've called the cops over the drinking and driving situation, i've done the same... gotta do what you gotta do to keep everyone safe.

  51. wow you seem so nice but reading this makes you sound like an ubber bitch!lol don't go to the bar if you can't tip, I don't know about where you live but here in cali everyone is paid minium wage and tipping a bartender is optional based on customer service, Most bars are already over priced... so you ignore someone you know isn't going to tip, umm that just sounds plain rude the only way Id ignore someone is if they were in fact rude! I always tip when I eat at a resturant thought, I still like your blog but yeah if I'm ever in your neck of the woods I'd be sure to skip over your bar. Hey but at least your honest, not very nice but honest!


  52. I Can't believe people actually touched you! That is just ridiculous and an invasion of space!!
    I used to work in a Chinese takeaway and people were so rude. One woman said she hated my voice and said she would "hunt me down" if I got her order wrong. Other people being sleasy was something that put me off the job so much! It scared me an awful lot!

    You be careful at that bar, miss! Xx

  53. @Robin/Anonymous: haha riight. how about you work for less than minimum wage, get constantly dehumanized, and see how nice YOU are. i said i wrote this in a bitter/sarcastic tone, and that i'm actually a lot of fun at my job. you simply want to read too much into it, and that's fine. but that's no one's fault but your own. obviously this isn't like "cali", as i said it isn't. wages vary by state and in tennessee for a server it's somewhere between $2-$3 an hour. i don't know why you chose to read certain parts but totally disregard others. and it's rude to serve people who appreciate my service before i serve those who take advantage? hardly. it's called knowing my worth. ridiculous.

    1. Yessss, Kaelah! I work in CA and if you aren't tipping me for your drinks, I skip over you too. Dumbass. why would I take the time to take care of your needs while I'm paying taxes on money you aren't giving me? Have fun waiting for all the other tipping customers to get their orders.

  54. There needs to be some mass notice to the American public in general on tipping etiquette for aaaall industries where employees depend on tips. I have always thought 20% is standard for pretty much every service - wait staff/hair stylist/tattooer, etc. Bars/clubs are a little different I think, I always give $1 to $2 per drink and I mean I'm usually drinking $3 beers.

    I've never worked in food service because I'm not polite enough to deal with people on that level but I was in the cosmetology industry for many years, luckily I had relatively few bad apples fact I recall a lot of exorbitant tips, which is maybe the one thing I miss. My best friend is a hair stylist though and it baffles me the way some people treat her...a woman gets a $300 service that takes her all day, loves it/raves about it, but no tip. Not saying she haaas to give 20% ($60) but really, nothing? How do you do that to someone?

  55. I am really happy to hear that $1 per cocktail is acceptable, because that is how I've always tipped bartenders, and I've always kind of wondered if that's okay.

  56. re: tips

    WHHHAAAAT? maybe i just have really awesome/generous friends, but i have never ever EVER heard that it is polite to tip 50 cents on a beer... i tip $1 per beer, minimum. doesn't matter if i'm drinking PBR or some crazy microbrew that costs $9 a glass. $1 a beer. $2 a drink if it's somewhere fancy/expensive like the patterson house.

    i know tipping etiquette varies by location, but we are both in tennessee so that just blew my mind!

    also, i hate all those people you mentioned. i do not work in a bar - i did for a couple of weeks in 2005 but i would hardly say i know anything about the business - but i have spent lots of time at my neighborhood bar & i have definitely done my share of yelling at self-entitled glass slammers, finger snappers, rude customers, and non-tippers. shit pisses me off so bad! if you don't have money to tip, then you don't have money to eat or drink out! arhghhh!!

  57. Wonderful list! 
    I worked in food service and a retail bookstore. People seem to forget manners, logic and lots else when they are being waited on.
    About the ladies not directly talking to you: it's a thing we've been taught from birth to be meek and to speak up for oneself. Some guys like that submissive crap. Too much nice girl syndrome to the extreme. Some people have social anxiety where they are terrified of talking on the phone or dealing with strangers(or even friends). 
    You seem to have encountered the damsel-in-distress types. They make women look bad.

  58. Wow sooo much respect for you for dealing with so much crap! This sounds like such hard work and I admire you for putting up with it. Also I'm so glad to hear that you refuse to serve pregnant women and also your stance on drunk driving. You have so much integrity and I love that about you! =]

  59. Wow - so proud of you for posting this! For my part-time job, I'm a server in a steakhouse in Virginia for almost 3 years now. We actually get paid $2.13/hour.

    Your point about people telling you to "make this drink a little stronger" always pisses me off, too! I tell them, "Um, we can, but we have to charge you for a double!" You'd think I just proposed to amputate their arm or something with the shocked and confused looks I get! haha.

    I can't believe how many times my serving friends and I have been stiffed because of people not being aware of how important tipping is. Example: last Friday I had a party of 8, with 4 adults and 4 bratty, loud kids. They ordered alcohol and racked up a bill of $170. When they handed me their check with payment, the Dad said "Here, honey. The change is for you. You did such a great job. You were a really good waitress."
    The tip they left me? $7.00

    I could understand if their food was horrible or they had to wait forever or if I sucked as a server. But none of that was true! They were just STUPID to not know the 15-20% rule!

    We deal with this so much. People sign the receipt then forget to leave behind the copy with the tip and signature, so we have to put $0.00 for our tips.

    I'm glad to hear someone speak up about this issue - we need more people aware of this problem!

    ALSO, I'm so moving to Washington! $9.00/hr PLUS tips?? Whoa!

    (Love your blog, girl!)

  60. I went to the bar for the first time about a month after I turned 21, and only ordered one drink, but left the bartender about a 35% tip. It's a popular bar in a college town, so I'm sure the bartenders hardly ever see decent tips because college students can be so cheap! I make it a rule to tip well for anyone who has to deal with ridiculous people on a regular basis.

  61. Haha! This post was so amusing for me! :D Obviously at seventeen I've never been to a bar before (even if I could, it's not really my style) but I loved reading this post! LOL! You have such a funny sense of humor. :D

  62. A lot of this could apply to hairdresser too!
    I've had so many clients in my chair not give me any direction and expect me to figure out how they want their hair cut.
    I've actually had a mom grab my scissors from my hand and start cutting her sons hair.
    My 200 dollar scissors in her hand doing my job even though I've spent a lot of time and effort learning to do my job.
    I absolutely can't stand anyone acting like I can't do my job. If you're in my chair disrespecting me I'm definitely going to ruin your haircut in some way.

  63. Working in the service industry is a whole new lifestyle once you say "How can I help you". I'm not a bartender but I was a Barista for a long time and had many of the same things happen that you talked about. Particularly, the no touching rule is what I identified with. Thanks for this blog post, it always makes you feel better to know that your not the only one that is about a minute away from loosing their shit when they get called "baby doll" and then get stiffed on a tip all while getting hit on.

  64. Do you bartend in all your cute outfits?

  65. Hey Kaelah, do you bartend in all your cute outfits?

  66. I can't imagine having to survive on tips alone, that must be so stressful not knowing what your pay could be from one week to the next! I work in a butchery and sometimes people refuse to be served by me because I'm female.
    I also worked on a cigarette stand and in the UK, packets of cigarettes come with not only health warnings but with horrible pictures of blackened lungs and stuff. People would ask for a pack with a nicer picture and I would refuse. You're choosing to smoke!
    I always tip in restaurants. Even if the service hasn't been that great, I just leave some change. x

  67. @ Sarah Elizabeth: i bartend in dresses, yes! i used to wear jeans only to work in but i conveniently "lost" my work v-neck so now i wear dresses/tights/cardigans. :)

  68. I'm often interested in the stories that aren't told, and you've piqued my curiosity: you mention in this blog post and in the tattoo etiquette one that someone has moved your clothing in order to look at the Latin tattoo on your chest.

    What happened? How did you react? What did you do?

    Considering how many people have touched you without your permission -- from old ladies in supermarkets to the dude who moved your sweater (!!!) -- have you taken any self-defense classes? My husband takes Krav Maga, and I've learned the hard way that it is NOT a good idea to sneak up and surprise him.

    I've also taken some classes (and coaching from him) and it is pretty damn cool to see practice become instinct.

    I hope you've developed some killer instincts -- what lovely justice it would be to smackdown some "well-meaning" old lady or sucker-punch some dipshit in a bar who thinks you are viable property.

  69. @ Carrie: I don't even for a moment hesitate to swat their hands/arm away and say "it's not polite to touch others without their permission". 99% of the people mean well and just want a "better look" but it's still rude and considered assault. i've never taken any self defense classes though. they sound like they'd be interesting but i've never felt into it enough if that makes sense? :)

  70. This was a really interesting read!

    I'm from Scotland & the idea of tipping at a bar is really strange - you absolutely tip in restaurants, but it would be weird to do it in a pub! I never realised how little bartenders earned in America though.. crazy stuff. x

  71. Oh my word I loved this post! Im not sure if you'll ever see this comment but I dont care! Ive got to say just how accurate this is and I dont even work in a bar. Service industry in general is such hard work.. I think it should almost be a law that everyone has to work in the industry for a year just so that they can appreciate what its like.
    I worked in a supermarket for 4 years and licensed cafes for 3. Granted, I get paid $17 an hour flat rate, but we dont get tips at all because it's not custom in australia.
    I think tipping is a great thing though because it makes people work harder for their job and hopefully that results in better customer service. Getting paid a flat rate makes me bitter towards the customers who think they deserve special treatment. The cafe I work in is super busy all the time, we dont get breaks and we barely get a spare second to think... so when someone asks me to 'watch their child for a minute' or 'replace the coffee *they just drank* because it wasnt extra hot like they requested' or 'check up on the price because yesterday I payed 20 cents less' I could honestly explode because it happens about 20 times daily. In my old job it was a tourist town so we didnt rely on repeat customers and it was AWESOME because if someone said 'well Im never coming back' you were allowed to reply with 'good, your not welcome anyway'. Thats the way it should be! Mind you that same boss was extremely abusive and I got called fat and stupid (neither of which I think I am!) almost every shift.
    Oh well, you win some, you loose some!

    Oh and customers who go 'are you new here' even when they know you're not, simply because you couldnt enter the 10 variations they added to their latte in time.

    And creepy people who grab your hand as they place the money in.. I'd prefer money thrown at me than that haha Or people who lick their fingers before grabbing notes.. Im not sure if thats exclusive to australia though because our notes are so plastic they get stuck together.. anyway its gross haha


  72. Can I tell you how glad it makes me to hear you say you do not serve pregnant women even though under Tennessee law you aren't supposed to turn them away. I live in Tennessee and nothing makes me angrier than seeing a preggo drink.

  73. I could've written this word for word myself. As a bartender for 7+ years, I have dealt with just about every scenario coming and going. And nothing makes me angrier when people treat us like crap, then expect to just pass it off "because they were drunk". Well so what? If you can't hold your alcohol, don't drink it!

    I loved this blog and shared it on my FB. I applaud you for writing this blog!

  74. know what I find funny as a bartender ...when I card the 21 or 22 year old and they give me attitude ....your just of age ... when your 50 and I card you give me tude !!!

  75. Etiquette is the fine tunning of education.

  76. This well written and intelligent post - makes me so glad I have returned to live in the UK, a country where;
    1. The legal minimum wage is $9.97. The poor customer pays through the nose already for marked up booze, as you point out. If they also have to make up the barstaff's wages with each order it becomes ridiculous. It is the company which own the bar making the money and THEY should pay wages people can actually live on.
    2. Pregnant women are treated as intelligent enough to be able to have an alcoholic drink every once in a while. While I understand the example given is appalling, that woman should have been reported to social services, a LAW that prevents a pregnant woman from ordering a gin and tonic or glass of champagne on her birthday night out sounds like something the Nazis would think up!

  77. Loved this! I'm guessing bartenders rely on their tips in Canada too. I usually always leave something but I have to admit that sometimes I haven't not thinking it was a big deal. Will never not tip again! Also didn't know you could ask for soemthing made based on what you do/don't like. Makes sense though. Thanks Kaelah!

  78. I really enjoyed reading your post. Seems like I could have written it myself although im not that talented at putting my thoughts on paper. I do have to say that what I hate the worst as a bartender is people that are waiting for a table taking up my barseats drinking free coffee. If you dont want to sit with me that's fine I totally understand, I dont drink, and I never have enough room at the bar to eat. So I do understand, but dont take up my stools it could be 45 minutes before you get your table andi could turn those seats twice by then. Thats at least ten bucks. Now if you want a drink I will happily make you one, but stand up and let the people standing up right behind you sit down and enjoy their breakfast with me. Be courteous! Pay attention! And for the love of GOD be respectful! Don't speak to me like I'm your kid, you will be ignored. Anyway, I am so happy I was able to read this fantastic page and vent all at the same time!

  79. I really enjoyed reading your post. Seems like I could have written it myself although im not that talented at putting my thoughts on paper. I do have to say that what I hate the worst as a bartender is people that are waiting for a table taking up my barseats drinking free coffee. If you dont want to sit with me that's fine I totally understand, I dont drink, and I never have enough room at the bar to eat. So I do understand, but dont take up my stools it could be 45 minutes before you get your table andi could turn those seats twice by then. Thats at least ten bucks. Now if you want a drink I will happily make you one, but stand up and let the people standing up right behind you sit down and enjoy their breakfast with me. Be courteous! Pay attention! And for the love of GOD be respectful! Don't speak to me like I'm your kid, you will be ignored. Anyway, I am so happy I was able to read this fantastic page and vent all at the same time!


HEY! Thanks for dropping by. xo KB