Thursday, March 29, 2012

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If You Do This...

I would not be amused. 
The kind of not being amused 
that gets a motherfucker 
banned for life 
from my bar.

~ David Wondrich

Tipping waitstaff is expected in America — but there are right and wrong ways to drop a little something extra on those who mix our drinks and serve our food.

"If you do this then fuck you"
There's the normal way to leave a tip; leave some cash, maybe 20% of the total, or put the same on your credit card. Then there are the dick moves, spiteful hate tips. Leaving a lone penny, for example. A penny? Really? If the service was that bad, get a manager, you coward.

Until yesterday, I hadn't seen the cash in glass of water manoeuvre. I found a picture titled "If you do this then fuck you," on one of my favorite time-wasting sites, Imgur. The photo got my immediate attention.

At first glance, the photo taker appears to have put two $20 bills in a glass of water, covered it with a napkin and a plate, then inverted the whole, left as a condescending tip. Alternately — and even worse — perhaps the entire check is being covered by the soaking Andrew Jacksons and the bartender is expected to make change from this sodden mass. I linked to the image on Twitter, writing "Can't determine if customer is utter tool. Hinges on whether this is leaving bartender a tip or paying the bill."

Drinks writer (and author of Punch) David Wondrich got a little, well, punchy at subsequent remarks by others."Why not," he tweeted, "just give the bartender your tip as if he or she were a normal human being?"

When I posited that perhaps there might be more to the picture, that perhaps this was the result of a talk about bar tricks, his ire was plain: "I would not be amused. The kind of not being amused that gets a motherfucker banned for life from my bar."

Wondrich is absolutely correct. Some comments on Imgur run along the lines of "$40 tip? I'll take it." And I can understand the sentiment; after all, what bartender hasn't handled wet cash at one time or another? But if this is a tip, it reeks of arrogance, the kind exhibited by privileged tourists throwing pennies off the pier for local diving boys to retrieve. It's as if the douchbags of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho were alive and well.

Of course, I don't know the backstory here. Was the bartender a tool? Doesn't matter. Even if the bartender is a dick, as @JustinCoz suggests, Wondrich retorts, "If the bartender is a dick, does that mean you should be one, too?"

The problem with photos (even non 'shopped ones) is that we don't know the context. Was this a collaboration between bartender and patron? The result of a bar bet that never even involved the bartender? After all, the pen in the background suggests that a credit card had been run — perhaps the cash was never meant for the bartender in the first place. Just because we don't see the photographer doesn't mean he's gone; this photo could simply be proof that this little physics trick could be done and everything will go back to normal after the photo's taken — the bartender's been tipped by credit card and the soggy bills leave with the photographer. Maybe.

It feels like a tip, though. And a dick move. And if you do this when we're out together, then, yes, fuck you.

Goes well with:
  • I've seen patrons leave all kinds of noteworthy tips. A double fistful of pennies in a cheese tub was lowbrow, but to be fair it was in a Philadelphia basement bar we'd hit after work called 12 Steps Down; the whole scene was lowbrow.
  • At a West Virginia diner, I once absentmindedly folded a paper place mat into an origami box and slipped our waitresses' tip inside. It's not something I usually do. I was preoccupied. Folding and refolding paper gave my hands something to do. But when she saw what I had done, the waitress seemed genuinely delighted. I probably wouldn't fold cash into a crane, though; (1) a box is a lot easier than a crane (2) waitstaff generally want cash, not paper playthings.
  • The Zero Tip and How to Pull it Off. I hate leaving a zero tip when I'm out eating or drinking. It's the end result of something that's gone seriously wrong. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. Here's the solution I've come up with for those almost-never times when I just can't bring myself to tip at all.


Unknown said...

Bar tricks / bad behavior / tooliness aside... its a $40 tip.

Take it, dry it off and give yourself a hearty "Well Done" - you know how to wrangle $40 bucks out of a complete ass.

IanHutton said...

Just maybe this was the bartender giving change back to a customer who was a total dick

frederic said...

My guess is that someone who did this did not tip $40. It's probably a $35 tab with a $5 tip because they're too crafty to tip a full 15% (or a more appropriate 20-25% tip).