It pays to be nice to your bartender. The last thing you want to do is upset the man or woman standing between you and your precious booze, especially when you're already competing for attention in a crowded bar.
Luckily, bartenders aren't the fragile sort. Dealing with hardcore drinkers and rowdy after-work crowds has given most mixologists a thick skin, like that of the oranges and lemons they're so fond of zesting and slipping into our old-fashioneds. But they're still human, and they're very much capable of getting ticked off — and that's when your service might really start to suffer.
We asked a couple of long-time bartenders (real names withheld) to list the behaviors they find most annoying about their patrons, and here's what they said:
#1. You Don't Tip
Tips make up a hefty portion of bartenders' income, so they find it pretty nerve-wracking when they don't get any. "We obviously want you to tip," said Joe, a bartender in New York City. "I don't ignore [people who don't], but I go to the customers that are tipping first. You'll be the last person I'll go to when there's five people who are trying to order. And bartenders will make your drinks weaker when you don't tip."
"You don't have to tip me when you order a water, but we really appreciate it when you do," added Jeff, a bartender from San Francisco. "I'm going to remember that. The next time you order a drink, I'm going to get to you first. [I'll put you at the] front of the line, because I know you're a decent guy."
#2. You Repeatedly Ask for Water
As mentioned above, asking for water is no big deal if you're a paying customer, or accompanied by a group of paying customers, or acting as a designated driver. But when you park yourself on a bar stool just to sip on some H2O — perhaps while waiting for your dinner reservations across the street, or in the hopes of sobering up at the end of the night — just go home. "You're taking up a seat and blocking other customers," said Joe.
Jeff agreed. "If you're coming in to hang out, or to see a band that's playing, you're taking up real estate," he explained. "Tipping helps, but remember: You're not tipping on that soda water you just drank — you're tipping on the two hours you sat there, taking away space from paying customers."
Oh and did we mention -- bartenders really like it when you tip them?
#3. You Try and Flag Us Down
When the bar's busy, there could be several people vying for the bartender's attention — but be patient, because your time will come.
"The thing that annoys every bartender is the whistling or snapping," said Jeff, who named this as his foremost annoyance. "It's not that I don't see you there, it's that you're not next," he explained. "We're working as fast as we can."
"We've got you," added Joe. "We know you're there and you need a drink; it doesn't help that you're waving and calling my name."
Similarly, the bartenders don't need to be told who's next, or which of the patrons has been trying to get their attention. "You don't need to tell me who else needs a drink," said Jeff. "I've been keeping an eye on the bar. I know who needs a drink, and in what order — and it's not the girl behind you."
#4. You Don't Know What You Want
If you don't know what to drink, you might want to step back from the bar and take a good look at the menu — or at least narrow down your choices.
"This might be a personal thing, but I hate when people just come in and say, 'Make me whatever you like,'" said Joe. "I usually just ask them what liquor they'd like me to make a drink with, because I've got a full bar, and most people don't like everything back there.
"Or, I warn them," he added. "I just say, 'I like a shot of whiskey.' If they don't come up with something after that, that's what I'm bringing them."
#5. You Split Tiny Checks
"If you're out with three friends, and there's four of you, and you order a round of drinks, do you really have to pay with four credit cards?" asked Jeff. "I'd understand if there's a hefty tab at the end of the night, but I hate splitting $22 four ways. If you don't want to pay for your friends' drinks, or they won't pay for a round, maybe you should re-think your friends."
#6. You Ask For the Cheapest Drinks on the Menu
"When people ask me, 'What's your cheapest thing here?' my first instinct is to say, 'You!' but I never do," explained Joe. "From the [bar] owner's perspective, [this customer is] not going to make the place any money. But for me, I can guess you're probably not going to tip, either."
#7. You Play the Same Songs on the Jukebox, Over and Over
"You know what gets old? When people play Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin'' on the jukebox," said Joe. "At my bar, they like Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas,' too — but all year long. If it's not Christmas, I skip it. We have a remote control behind the bar. I pretend like it was a malfunction."
#8. You Don't Have Your Cash Ready
If you don't have a running tab, your bartenders prefer you be ready to pay for drinks by the time they're on the bar. "Some people order, so you go get their drink and bring it back, and they take five minutes to get through their wallet," said Joe. "So you're just sitting there, waiting." This is especially annoying when the bar is busy, meaning that you've had ample time to dig through your pockets, he added.
"Don't wait until I'm handing you your drinks to start rummaging through [your] purse for your debit card," Jeff echoed. "Drinks obviously cost money, [so] have it ready."
#9. You Rearrange Furniture
"I hate furniture re-arrangers," said Jeff. "This isn't your living room, so don't start moving the ottoman around. If you want to rearrange some chairs, I'd appreciate if you just ask. I'll probably say yes."
#10. You Won't Give Multiple Drink Orders All at Once
When ordering multiple drinks at a bar, the bartenders agree that you should order them all at once. "You order a drink, and I walk away and make it, then come back and you order another — it's a waste of time," said Joe. "I can remember three drinks. It's not rocket science. I can make them all at once."
Of couse, giving several drink orders to your bartender only works if you know what you want. As Jeff told us, sometimes patrons combine this annoyance with annoyances #3 and #4 (above) to create one spectacular faux pas. "I've had people wave their arms to get my attention, like a crazy person, and then when I get to them, they turn around to ask their friends what they want to drink. It's not a big deal on a slow night, but kind of frustrating when we're busy."
#11. You Question Our Knowledge of the Bar
"If I tell you we don't have something, just believe me," requested Jeff. "If I tell you there's no Bud Light, don't ask me to check again, or say something like, 'Really?'"
Jeff said he especially dislikes when someone asks "Why not?" when he tells them he doesn't stock their chosen drink. "When someone asks why they can't get a Bud Light, I want to open the cooler and say, 'Because none of the bottles in here say 'Bud Light' on them, OK?'"
#12. You're Condescending
"Most guests are good, but there's always the guy that gives me the 'buddy,' the 'pal,' the 'chief,' the 'boss' — all that [stuff]," said Jeff. "I'm not asking anybody to call me 'sir,' but just understand that I'm working. The manners and patience that people have at their day job, they don't always bring that to the bar.
"And I get it, there's alcohol here, and people are having fun," he added. "It's just nice to be treated with respect. Can't you say 'Hello'?"
#13. You Touch the Garnishes and Fruit Behind the Bar
"Don't stick your grubby hands in the fruit," said Jeff, referring to the cherries, oranges and olives in the garnish trays. "You can have as much as you want, but just ask me. I'm there to make your night's easy and good."
#14. You Don't Know Where You Are
"We have signs all over the bar that read "Cash Only," but when it comes time to pay, people still hand me their credit cards," said Joe. "I try to remind them politely, but after every new drink, they forget. They get buzzed and hand me a credit card every time."
It's even worse when people don't have cash on hand, added Joe. "That's when I refer them to our ATM machine, and then they look at my like I'm the jerk."
#15. You Think We're Mean
"We're not the misanthropic bunch that people think we are," said Jeff. "I don't want anybody to have a bad night at my bar. I mean, I work on tips, so why would that make any sense?"
"The bartenders at my work really like what we do," added Joe. "Unless you show up drunk or start a fight, we've got no problems with you. Just be patient and have some respect, and we'll never stand in the way of your fun."