Water: Lighter than Booze?
My parents live about 90 miles east of the San Francisco Bay Area, and so their summer weather experience is slightly different than that of folks around here. I say “slightly” because Lodi still gets hot as balls. The main difference between summer temps in the Central Valley and in North Texas are the nights: There, a phenomenon called the Delta Breeze blows the torpor out of the air when the sun goes down, and the mercury slides into the 70s. I don’t need to tell you what happens here, because at 11 p.m., you’re still ducking inside to dry out your armpits in the air conditioning.
If you’re drying your pits in a bar, you’re probably drinking water too. As a bartender, I’ve never bothered to tally the number of waters I serve during the summer, but it’s obvious that drinkers tend to hydrate more right now than they do, say, in November. That’s great. Healthy. Maybe lifesaving even. But what I’d like to know is why water drinkers almost never tip.
I’ll admit that bartenders’ gripes about gratuities make up the bulk of a very tired service-industry trope, but here’s the thing: When you drop a single in our jar, what you’re really paying for is our time. Since you’ve probably just screwed your face into a scowl and vowed never to tip us greedy bartenders again, let me explain a little. Bartenders are essentially salespeople. Most of us don’t make much more than what you (the drinker) leave on our countertops, which really means that a tip is like a commission. And when you come up to the bar wanting a glass of ice water, not only are we not making a sale, we’re not making a commission either, which kind of turns pouring your glass of water into an unprofitable use of our time.
Yeah, yeah. I know that makes me sound like a dick, but think of it this way: Generally speaking, it’s good etiquette to tip a buck per drink — I charitably amend this to a dollar per trip to the bar (provided you’re not ordering 10 things on that single trip). I use the same motions in making an ice water as I do in mixing a Jack and Coke. People generally tip on the latter but not the former, which makes absolutely zero sense to me — you’d think that the item you get for free would elicit a buck rather than the one that costs $5. Maybe it’s just me.
At any rate, I took note of this scandal a couple of years ago when I was working a shift during a vaguely Christian band’s set, because nobody ordered booze. I still made a shitload of drinks and, as a result, more or less worked for free. After awhile, I started charging for Cokes, even though that made me feel like a heel. But I had to do something. More recently, I dealt with a musician whose band went on in the 11 p.m. slot. He didn’t want to drink any beer before he played, but he did drink an awful lot of water. Not surprisingly, for the seven or eight visits he made to the bar prior to playing his set, he left me nothing other than a promise to order a beer when he was done. He didn’t tip on that beer, either, despite the discount he got for playing a show. I didn’t really care at that point, because his promise to buy a beer after getting something for nothing indicated to me that he knew exactly what he was doing: being a cheapskate.
Of course, I’m a cheapskate, too, as evidenced by a recent trip to Rick’s Cabaret (see “Raining at Rick’s,” Jun. 29, 2011), where I didn’t get a lap dance. Thing is, I informed every “entertainer” who came by my table that I wasn’t packing any big bills, and the lasses were more than happy to beat the carpet for greener wallets. For all of the curvaceous clouds of dust that remained, I was glad not to be a non-tipping time-burning burden.
I don’t expect everyone in the bar to hit the bottle like Boris Yeltsin — and Mormons, recovering alcoholics, and other teetotalers are as welcome as anyone else. I just wish the water drinkers extended to us bartenders the same courtesy that we get from the drunks. –– Steve Steward
Oscar’s Ollie Room
I popped into Oscar’s Pub the other night right before close, and while there’s a $10 minimum on credit card tabs, it goes a long way on Sundays and Mondays, when the bar has happy-hour prices all day. I had a Sierra Nevada and two shots of Jack for a grand total of $11. (Normal price would have been $15.) I asked the barkeep, an affable dude named Chuck, about the Ollie Room, advertised on the front door. He led me to the basement, home to a very cool little bar/wine cellar. If you get in touch with the owner, you can book the Ollie Room for private events, and on the last Wednesday of every month, there’s a group that screens war movies. (Last month’s feature was Full Metal Jacket.) This Saturday, you can get Bulleit-riddled (or fire other similarly less-lethal shots) in the Ollie Room during the opening of an art show put on by the local collective Piranha Bear. Admission is free, and children are welcome –– the Ollie Room is smoke-free. Piranha Bear also is covering the first $100 worth of drinks. Tips, a-hem, are not included. –– S.S.
6323 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. 817-732-3833.
Contact Last Call at email@example.com.