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Confessions of a Fed-Up Bartender: 15 Things I Hate About You

September 17, 2015

Mickey Finn began his bartending career as a young man. He loved booze, he loved the ladies, and he loved the money. But the party got away from him and after thousands of drunken nights on both sides of the bar, he sobered up. Well into middle age at this point, he still works in New York City more nights than not, a veteran, a grinder, a mercenary. Mr. Finn does not hate people. Quite the opposite. And while he is usually cranky, he isn’t bitter. But darling, he is over this job.

Mickey Finn is so over you. (Photo: Thinkstock)

At the high-end restaurant where I work, I deal with a lot of people I’ve never seen before and I’ll likely never see again. As if arrogance weren’t already exploding all over the place in New York City, this creates an entirely different level of entitlement among the clientele. Rare is the evening when I don’t encounter a handful of these kinds of behaviors. On some extra-special shifts, I get to cope with all of them.  Here are fifteen things I hate.

1. Waving. Why not fire off a sea flare while you’re at it? I know you’re here. I’m gonna be with you in a minute.

2. The celebrity who’s going faux low pro. That’s fake low profile, and it’s false modesty. This dude, and it’s almost always a dude, is insistently invested in making me think he’s a regular guy. With his faded Levi’s and his quite frankly too casual t-shirt, my man would love to have me believe he’s just like me. He’s got a supermodel wife, three residences, and matching Academy Awards. I’m married to a real doll, but she works overtime to support the family. I’m carrying an overpriced rental in an outer borough, and I’ve got this bar job. Bro? You and me? Nothing in common.

Hey drunk celebrity, guess what? We’re not bros. (Photo: Thinkstock)

3. Third Base Coaches, aka Traffic Cops. That’s the guy who’s sure he knows who’s next for service. He calls me over, cranes his neck at the fourth stranger deep, asks that person what they want, and then repeats the order for me. That’s okay, Coach. There’s a sequence here. I know what it is, and you don’t. I can handle this. It ain’t that hard.

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4. Bum-rushing the bar and barking out an order before you’ve been acknowledged. Don’t do that. I’m not suggesting you wait until the universe provides you some mystical guidance, but do me a favor, give it a couple of beats until I have the chance to make eye contact before you tell me what you need. When I dip my chin or wink or maybe even say hello, you’re up. What’ll it be?

5. Getting orders when my back is turned. If I’m faced the other way, I’m dealing with something else, recording a sale, making change, searching for some obscure bottle we probably don’t have. Don’t talk to the back of my head. What is this, Ford’s Theatre? Who are you, John Wilkes Booth?

6. Being asked my name Why? So you can holler it out over the next two hours? 

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7. Answering personal questions. Yes, I’m married. See that wedding ring? That means I’m married. Uh-huh, I’m a father, too. I’m extremely close to my family, and I’d rather not discuss them with a stranger. I’d like to have the option of acting offended, but I don’t. I know, I know, you’re just being friendly, and not being able to get angry is infuriating. I’d rather talk about the weather. Scorcher today, huh?

8. The wasted celebrity who papers over his obnoxiousness with oily charm. Not unlike the dog who kicks dirt on his morning business. Trust me, at this stage of the game I know what trashed looks like, it looks like you, and you’re lingering. You think you’re being nice, and maybe you are, but holding the staff hostage while you dazzle your crew with tales of Hollywood daring-do is passive aggression. The manager is making me stay until you’re finished, should you be in need of an ice cube, or your 16th shot of Don Julio. I could’ve been home an hour ago. You’re killing me, man. Text your driver.

9. S.C.L. (Stupid Cocktail Lists). Virtually every dive has one of these irritating menus now, and since this is a bartender’s confessions, I’ll let you in on a secret: the house makes a huge profit on them. The lion’s share of the ingredients has negligible cost, and the finished product comes with an eye-popping price tag. Thus, the ubiquity of the Stupid Cocktail List. Bad enough I’ve got to make time-consuming classics all night, like the Old-Fashioned (thanks, Don Draper), but the bar manager has also been perusing antique recipe books, and he wants me to manufacture these long forgotten delectables.  When I get several orders for a handful of six ingredient-cocktails, I’m in the weeds. When I’m in the weeds, I can’t make money. I hate that.

Little did you know, these elaborate cocktails are the bane of a bartender’s existence. (Photo: Thinkstock)

10. Making a drink from somebody else’s S.C.L. Bad enough I’m responsible for my own batch of lame libations, but don’t roll up on me and ask for a Hairy Puritan. There’s no such thing. The cocktologist (I’m sorry, I mean the mixologist) down the street concocted that beauty, and we don’t make it here. Thanks.

11. Bespoke cocktails. By bespoke, I mean made-to-measure. Never walk up to the bar and utter something inane such as, “I like gin and ginger. Go!” If I invent a drink for you, which I am fully capable of doing, I’m obliged to invent a drink for the guy after you, and the guy after that. And then, when you don’t like the drink I’ve just conjured up for your enjoyment, you’re gonna want me to start over. This is going to slow me right the heck down, that is, prevent me from making money. I hate being prevented from making money. Don’t you?

12. Getting tipped in change. As in coins. Quarters, dimes, or nickels.  If I was the kind of guy who could be insulted, I might be inclined to take this as an insult. In France, I understand it’s customary when the service has been exceptional to leave a few sous on top of the gratuity that’s already included on your check. This isn’t France. I would almost rather be stiffed.

Just keep it in your pocket. (Photo: Thinkstock)

13. Getting stiffed. Like, zero tip. I am working for tips. I know that, you know that, and I know that you know. I am extraordinarily competent at this point; I’m polite and I can be engaging if you want to be engaged. And that dollar a drink thing went away with the 1970s. Dig a little deeper. I know you want to do the right thing. This might look like fun from where’re you’re sitting, but I’m trying to earn a living here.

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14. Receiving an explanation about why I’m getting stiffed.  Your health insurance premium is due, your ex-wife prevailed in her alimony arbitration, your kid needs braces. All of these may be true, as they are unpleasant facts of life. They have nothing to do with me. If you can’t afford to tip properly, you cannot afford to go out. Stay home.

15. Being promised you’ll “get me”—I suppose that means you’ll leave a proper tip—“next time.” Really? Got a date zeroed in on your calendar?  After stiffing me (the Number One Never) and then explaining your stiff (Number Two) you have the gall to make an empty promise? Congratulations. You’ve achieved the trifecta of annoyance.