Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The dumb things customers say

In the service industry, you're nothing without your customers. So bless them for saddling up at the bar and helping me pay my rent. But sometimes, the things customers say really crack me up. To the point where I question their thinking process. I mean really, it's just a drink.

It's interesting to see how some guy will react to certain cocktails and the glasses they're served in. I had a group of three guys sitting at my bar one night. Guy Number One ordered a specialty cocktail featured on our menu that is served in a martini glass. He took a sip of the cocktail and exclaimed how delicious it was. A satisfied customer. Guy Number Two ordered a beer. Bless him. So easy and fast. Guy Number Three looked at Guy Number One's cocktail in a martini glass and then at Guy Number Three's beer, looked at the menu, looked at me and then asked me if "said specialty cocktail on our menu" was a "girlie" drink? I asked him what about the drink he thought made it "girlie?" Then I asked him what makes any drink gender specific really. If he wanted to try the drink, then he should try it. A drink wasn't going to make him anymore of a man or anymore of a woman. He quickly apologized because he thought he had offended me. He didn't offend me. I just thought his question was stupid.

Then there was the lady who picked out the sweetest cocktail on our cocktail menu, easily dessert in a glass. When the lady ordered her cocktail, she proceeded to request that her drink have Amaretto omitted from it. The reason why? She thought the Amaretto would make her drink too sweet. The ingredients for the cocktail she ordered included: Kahlua, Frangelico, Amaretto, Baileys, a shot of espresso, half and half, chocolate sprinkled rim and Chantilly cream on top. Trust me, the subtraction of Amaretto would not have made the drink any less sweet. I made the drink per her request, minus the Amaretto, but I couldn't help but think how her request was just plain stupid. If you don't want a sweet drink then don't order a sweet drink.

Customers not only help me pay my rent on a regular basis, but they are quite entertaining in the process.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Little Time For......

blogging these days, obviously. My last entry was on May 2nd and here it's now July 11th. Sorry guys. I really miss writing in my blog. So much in my life has been happening and I have no time to dump it out on the internet. I have just been swamped with school, work, facials, waxing, makeup, sleeping, studying and trying to keep my sanity in the process. The good news? I have less than two months left of school. The bad news? Well, there really isn't any except that I have very little spare time for anything that doesn't pertain to school or work these days.

I'm really digging the makeup aspect of school. Perhaps I will start putting together some how-to makeup videos, showcasing various looks. Is anyone out there interested?

As you can see, my heart is no longer in bartending. It's moved on into a new and exciting industry. Skin, skin care and makeup!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

People Turn Mean at Last Call

Why is it that people turn mean at the announcement of Last Call?

Case in point: one Saturday night I was having a rather smooth and painless evening behind the bar. The bar was fairly busy, people were tipping and we hadn't ran out of glassware (yet). As soon as the DJ announced Last Call, the night instantly turned from peace into total chaos in a matter of seconds. It seems that whenever the DJ calls Last Lall, people rush the bar to get in their last minute drink orders. I love inflated crowd. The more people ordering drinks means the more tips the bar will make.

On this particular night everything that went wrong did. One of the signed credit card slips went missing so I had to put on a pair of rubber gloves and dig through the trash for it. Since I had to dig through the trash, it took me away from making drinks temporarily. Some customers didn't understand this. Even though there was another bartender behind the bar making drinks, people still yelled at me. One guy even whistled. Did I mention how much I hate it when customers whistle?

After the credit card slip was found, I was able to hop back into the game and quickly make drinks for customers. The first guy I went up to griped at me about how he had waited 20 minutes. I called him out and told him it hadn't been 20 minutes. I asked him if he wanted to order a drink or and argue with me. He told me to shut up. The friend he was with looked mortified and quickly apologized on his friend's behalf. It was too late. I already had a bouncer waiting behind him to escort both of the guys out.

Then I had the guy who, when he originally placed his order with me, ordered four drinks. I confirmed his drink order, repeating it back to him (just like I do with all of my customers) before leaving him to make the drinks. When I came back with the four drinks, he then decided he only wanted two of them, even though he had ordered four. What a waste of time. Now I had to scold him for ordering drinks and changing his mind about them after they were made and then explain to him why he still had to pay for all four drinks.

After that, I had to have two separate detailed conversations with customers about why we call Last Call and stop serving drinks before two o'clock. Of course in this case with these types of customers it's always my fault, even though not serving alcoholic beverages after 2 am in the state of California is a STATE LAW. Explaining a state law to a drunk person is usually a waste of time. They only hear the word "NO" and not the logical rationale behind it. Eventually you just have to walk away from those types of customers.

The best part about Last Call is when the time comes when the alcohol has been locked up for the night and that there are absolutely no more alcoholic drinks to be served, I get to say "no" to the lame jerks who were mean and rude in the first place. That's when I just point to the locked up alcohol, shrug my shoulders, smile and say "Sorry about your luck."

I especially love doing this to the lousy or non-tippers.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Switching Gears

This week marks my first week at beauty school. I am now enrolled in a 17-week program to get my esthetician's license. So far I have learned about microorganisms, good bacteria versus bad bacteria and that bar soap manifests bacteria because bacteria loves living in warm, dark and damp environments. I have since switched to using liquid soap. We have even already shadowed other student estheticians giving treatments (facials and waxing) on real clients.

I think the hardest part of going back to school so far is adjusting to the grueling schedule: Tuesday thru Saturday, 8:30am to 4:30pm. Add in four shifts of working behind the bar a week and I've got myself a loaded schedule.

So don't be surprised if some of my upcoming entries in the blog are esthetically focused instead of bar related. I'm learning so many new things, I want to share the new knowledge. I'm also starting to really get excited about my new career. Now that I am in school, becoming an esthetician is quickly becoming a reality to me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You Drink Em, You Bought Em.

I had a guy come into the bar once who repeatedly accused me of taking his drinks. Sure, there are times when I have thrown out someone's drink on accident. It's pretty common: you see a near empty drink on the bar, there's no one around drinking the drink and there isn't a napkin over the drink (the universal sign for "Hey Bartender, I'm coming back so don't dump my drink out.") So in an effort to keep a tidy bar, I throw the abandoned drinks out.

In this particular case, the customer would come sit down at the bar, order a drink, drink the entire drink and then leave the bar area. Naturally, I toss empty glasses by default. When the customer would return back to the bar, he would ask where his drink went and then accuse me of throwing out his drink that he hadn't yet finished. The first time this happened, I comped his drink. Even though I knew that his glass was empty, I'm still in the business of customer service. I just wanted to shut this guy up and make him happy.

The second time this same scenario happened, I had actually watched the customer leave the bar entirely. The glass was empty and I figured he was leaving the bar for the night. Of course the customer came back and demanded to know where his drink went. I became suspicious. Instead of just comping him another drink, I explained to the customer that I took the glass away because it was EMPTY. The guy had the nerve to tell me that his drink was half full. I told him that I was more than happy to make him another drink, but he would have to pay for it. He didn't like that answer. Then he told me that he was a server. Well, if he was indeed a server, he should know better to appreciate the first drink that I comped him (which he did not tip on) and if he didn't want me to touch his glass then leave a napkin over it whenever he walked away from it. I firmly stood my ground and he bought another drink.

Throughout the course of the night, he would "leave" his drink in magical places around the bar and complain that someone was taking his drinks. Each time he complained that someone took his drink and wanted another one (which he did for the next three rounds), he would be upset that I would charge him.

Sorry buddy, but if you drink the drink then you have to pay for it. Be sure to ALWAYS tip your bartenders and waitstaff. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Whenever You Have A Moment...

Why is it that whenever I am at my busiest behind the bar (server tickets printing out of control and standing room only at the bar full of thirsty customers), people will sometimes try to get my attention by uttering, "Whenever you have a moment..."

Whenever I have a moment? Why don't you hop in line behind all the people who have been waiting at the bar before you along with my servers who also need their drinks for their tables. It's not like I'm sitting back here picking my nose. Whenever I have a moment. Sheesh!

Also, screaming "Hey Bartender!" at me will only get you ignored and keep you at the end of the line. Just be patient like everyone else. Don't worry, I know who's next in line and I'm moving just as fast as I can to get to everybody because I want your money too. :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Things I've Learned Bartending in a Strip Club #7

#7: The bar is the bartender's stage.

So bartending in a strip club has its perks. The money is good. It's great for people watching. The "scenery" isn't too shabby. Working in a strip club, its obvious that the dominant clientele is going to be male. There are many reasons why men frequent strip clubs. Where else can a guy grab a beer and look at women running around in their underwear, willing to talk to them? This attention comes with a price, but that's what the men come for and they're willing to pay for it.

Believe it or not, there are strip club customers out there who come in for the bar staff and don't get lap dances. I didn't believe it until I started meeting regular customers who would come in and not once ever leave the bar area. That's right. Not everyone coming into a strip club is looking for a lap dance. I have guys who come in during my shifts every week who chat it up with me at the bar and candidly tell me that they have no interest in the ladies performing on stage.

Which brings me to the question I get asked every night:

"So when do YOU go on stage?"

I have customers all the time, at least once a night, ask me if I dance or when it will be my turn to get onstage. My reaction is always the same. I smile and laugh while pointing at the bar and say "This is my stage and I'll be performing here all night." It seems to be working because the customers always come back to saddle up at my bar, each week.

It doesn't matter what type of bar you bartend at. Having a sense of humor and a good personality will always help you build up a regular clientele base, even when you are competing with half naked girls running around all over the place.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reflection: 2009

2009 was a whirlwind of a year. I feel like I started it off on the right foot, was doing alright, took a chance, fell behind and by the year's end, picked myself back up and started it all over again. I'm still working just as hard as I have always been, but this year (2010), I want to work smarter instead of harder.

I bartended my whole way through 2009. I even dabbled a bit in bar managing. I also started writing for in 2009. Writing for is something that I still do on a consistent basis. I am just as passionate about writing as the Bartender Examiner as the first day I started. Now that I have myself pretty established on my Examiner page, I'd like to focus on getting my writing out there in the print form such as in magazine articles and maybe, possibly start working on that book I've always wanted to write.

Before moving full-speed ahead onto 2010, let's look back at my ten most popular articles posted on my page this past year:

#10: George Dickel, the other Tennessee whiskey

#9: Busting bar myths: Why Corona is garnished with a lime
#8: Bartending 101: What is a barback?
#7: Busting bar myths: Food does not sober a person up
#6: Find a bartender job: Interview
#5: Redhook Brewery
#4: Bartending 101: What is triple sec?
#3: 11 factors that affect a person’s BAC
#2: Bartending 101: What is rye whiskey?
#1: Find a bartender job: Resume

There is a lot of hope for 2010. I can feel it. There is power is positive thinking. I am bound and determine to finish what I've started and to get it right once and for all this year. I promise to continue to bring educational and entertaining content throughout the new year on both my blog and page.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

When a customer repeatedly stiffs you

It's bad enough when a customer stiffs you on a tip for a round or two, but what if a customer repeatedly stiffs you on every single round that they order? How I handle the situation all depends on the bar I am working at. Sometimes bars and restaurants have a strict policy about customer service. They fumble over themselves doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy. That means that when a customer doesn't tip, there isn't much you can do or say. You just have to accept it and hope that the next customer does tip.

Then there are places where providing good customer service isn't as much of a priority as it is to pour an accurate shot amount. When customer service in general goes by the wayside, you have a little bit more flexibility in how you handle the stiffers. I'm the type of bartender that feels it is important to always provide good customer service. My philosophy? The better the service, the better the tip. It also increases the chances of return business.

When some bartenders call out a customer right after the first or second round, I give the customer three chances (just like three strikes). After the third round of being stiffed, I pull the customer aside and check in with them. I ask them if the drinks and the service being provided is okay. If they answer yes with a smile, I then let them know that when a customer doesn't tip, it makes the bartender think that there is a problem with the drinks or service and because they haven't tipped me on any of the rounds that they've ordered, it leads me to believe that there might be a problem.

Now this conversation can go a few ways and you have to be prepared to deal with the repurcussions. Either the customer will "get it", apologize and grab whatever cash is in their pocket and leave it on the bar as a tip. Or the customer could just be a complete jerk who doesn't tip and just walks away. Then there are the customers who don't speak a lick of English and don't understand what you're saying so they just smile and walk away.

With the non-English speaking customers, I've had the best luck when they come in groups because there's always one person in the group who does speak English. The English speaking group member will see that a conversation is taking place at the bar, come up to the bar to make sure that everything is okay and when they realize what we're talking about, they'll leave some sort of tip.

Most importantly, as a bartender you have to pick and choose your battles. You don't want to be the whiny, rude bartender, but then again you work for tips and don't want to be constantly ran over by the cheap customers. In the big picture, the tips all even out at the end of the shift anyways. For the one person who doesn't tip, there will be someone who over tips. So don't get upset over the one person who stiffs you on a round. It happens. But when a customer does it each and every time they order a drink (even more so if their order is complicated and their high maintenance), then having the conversation might be a good idea.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Simple Questions Always Have Complex Answers

Why does it seem like when customers are asked the most simple questions, they respond with the most complex answers?

How are you today?
What would you like to drink?
Would you like your beer in a chilled glass?
Is everything okay?

It might be hard to imagine that simple questions like these lead to exhaustive answers from certain customers. Like when you ask a customer if they want their bottled beer served in a chilled glass and instead of answering yes or no, they look at you like you've just asked them how to solve global warming.

Or when you ask a customer what they want to drink they respond with, "I don't know. What's good?" Then you have to spend the next ten to fifteen minutes trying to figure out what spirits and cocktails the customer normally only to have them order a beer or a glass of house wine.

Even the "How are you today?" can lead into a long winded discussion involving a customer's number of ailments and personal woes, making you sorry that you asked in the first place.

Simple questions should always have simple answers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Are you listening or just dumb?

In the state of California, the ABC has a strict policy about not serving alcoholic drinks past 2AM. Most bars will close at 2AM, but there are a few "after hours" bars that remain open well past 2. Even though a bar might be open past 2, it can only serve non-alcoholic drinks. Chances are those bottled waters, cans of Red Bull and sodas will be more expensive in an after hours club, after hours, than during normal hours. It's just the nature of the business. Business is business.

It's a hard transition to make when 2AM comes around. The booze have to be locked up and put away and there is still a club full of thirsty customers. Bartenders work for tips and therefore generally hate having to tell a customer no. Sometimes customers can't understand why a club will remain open and not serve alcohol. Customers who get upset about not having access to alcohol past 2AM either aren't familiar with the ABC and its statewide liquor laws or they are from a state that serves alcohol after two.

It's hard enough having to tell a customer no. It's even harder to have to tell a customer no, multiple times. Here is a typical conversation that takes place between a bartender and a customer in an "after hours" club, after 2AM:

"Can I get a Corona?"
Bartender: "We aren't serving alcohol."
Customer: "Can I get a Stella?"
Bartender: "I'm sorry, but we stopped serving alcohol at 2AM."
Customer: "Can I get a Heineken?"
Bartender: "No! I'm sorry, but it is California law that I can't serve alcohol past 2AM."
Customer: "What time is it?"

At this point, the bartender usually slaps their hand on their forehead and moves on to the next customer only to have a similar conversation.

I always find it entertaining when a customer tries to get me to serve them an alcoholic beverage well after last call. It's even funnier when they try to bribe me. If a customer honestly thinks I am willing to risk my job and bartending career just so I can serve them a drink for a couple hundred bucks, than the joke's on them. All of the bribing, whining and pleading wont get them anywhere with me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Stiffer Who Got Stiffed

The Stiffers. There's always a couple each shift. These are the people who leave a big fat zero for a tip. If a customer stiffs me once, it sucks, but it isn't the end of the world. If a customer stiffs me multiple times in a row or on a large tab, chances are the next time they approach my bar, I wont help them right away and when I do, the drink they order will be on the weak side.

Every time this one customer would come up to the bar, he would order one beer at a time. Each time he would order a beer, he would give me his credit card and have me close him out. On every round he ordered, he would only sign the slip and not leave me a tip. Talk about a pain in the ass. This guy was not only stiffing me, but having to run his card for one beer each time instead of running his card once at the end of the night was a bit time consuming.

By the fourth time the Stiffer approached the bar, last call had been announced. I knew that the Stiffer wanted another beer, but I also knew that he wasn't going to tip me. I had plenty of other customers to take care of so it was easy to make myself look busy and not get to the Stiffer right away.

When I finally did get around to helping the Stiffer, last call had come and gone and we weren't serving any more alcohol for the night. Whoops! When I explained to the Stiffer that I couldn't serve him a beer passed two (Hey, it's the law!), he told me that he had been waiting for someone to help him. That's when I smiled, looked him in the ye and told him, "Maybe you shouldn't have stiffed me three times. If you would have tipped, you might have been helped faster."

The Stiffer had nothing to say. He knew that I was right. Maybe next time he will reconsider stiffing a bartender multiple times a night.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Change Thrower

Some bars use change. Others only use paper money. When working at a bar that deals with change, often times customers will leave their tip in the form of the actual change. The change itself isn't a big deal. You can cash it all in at the end of the night for bills. What's a big deal is when customers decide to literally throw their change on the bar. I don't know about you, but I don't like to have anything thrown at me, even if it's change.

I once had a customer come up to the bar and order a beer. There was no "please" or "thank you" involved with his request. He quickly approached the bar, grunted the name of the beer he wanted and refused to make any sort of eye contact with me. Not exactly the nicest guy, but whatever. He was just ordering a beer. The sooner I helped him, the sooner I could get him out of my face.

I set the beer down in front of him and said "$6.50 please." He threw a twenty on the bar. I brought him back his change and watched him throw the two quarters on the bar towards me along with a couple bucks. For as rude as he was, he left a pretty decent tip for his beer. It wasn't until he walked away that I picked up the change and noticed the five dollar bill underneath the singles. Score. The rude customer was so busy giving me attitude that he didn't even notice that he left me a tip that was more than the beer itself.