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dear customer, just go home
an open letter from a bartending femme
by alex b (@Lexistential)

Dear Customer,

I’m sending this your way because a time has come for us to have a little talk. Your $1 tip for three rounds of Budweiser is irritating; your offer of $10 on a $100 tab is paltry. You yak on and on as though I don’t notice, but trust me, I usually do. When I count out my tips, I wonder if you purposely gave me quarters.

Sometimes, I tell myself to be nice to you because you’re old. I don’t tap my foot as you slowly count out one-dollar bills from your cashed Social Security check. Nor do I roll my eyes while you tell me you were very, very involved with the Russian Mafia. In fact, I try not to snort when you tell me you’re forty-four, especially since the skin on your hands is made of vellum, and your jacket carries a distinctive smell of pee and mothballs. As I try not to breathe, I think it’s a miracle you’re not dead, and hope you don't fall over.

But, most times you are a youthful lad, bounding about like an eager puppy, dying to expound. About everything. Right now. Thanks to you, I’ve learned a lot. I know about your car. I know you hated school. I know about your girlfriend, torrid ex-loves, and flavors of the minute. Heck, I even know about your mom giving you a complex because you’re her only son and damn straight, you have no idea what kind of man you oughta be because your dad left when you were three. I’ve learned all that in about five installments of $2. You have Time Life beat.

I basically know you mean well, so usually, I’m not that mad. However, that said, you really, really piss me off when you start with “the Look.” Don’t deny it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s where you’ve got your chin tilted, your eyes half-lidded, and where your eyebrows knit together then dart up with a quick flash. I suddenly feel like a turkey salivated over on “Looney Tunes” reruns; I hope to God you’re looking at someone else.

But alas, you’re looking at me. I know what that means.

You swear you’ll rock my world that night, promising to give me orgasms that’ll blow me away like Prince's Superbowl Halftime show, and make me write Penthouse Forum. You lean in. You pick up my hand with yours, cupping my fingertips while looking straight into my eyes. You grin impishly, the smile I’m sure you gave your mother whenever you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar, and probably the same one you gave to another chick at another bar with another line.

Of course, the last factor only comes to mind eight hours of not sleeping with you later. But at that point in the night, I’ve already noticed you don’t look like Christian Bale, but remind me of Beavis, Ren, and Stimpy. What you think is going to be an amazing porn flick will probably last only five minutes with the amount of beer you drank. As you wink and keep your lips grinning, I realize I’ll be lucky if I even get you at half-mast. I back off, spreading exasperation across my features instead of opening my mouth. I try to walk away.

But here’s another thing—you don’t take the word “no” nicely. You don’t know how to accept that I’m not jumping for joy at a chance to have an erotic liaison with drunken, $1-tipping you. You don’t take defeat too kindly -— and call out a few obnoxious, last-ditch efforts.

“But I’m a wolf,” you say. “And I’m hungry.”

I arch an eyebrow.

“Baby, now c’mon, don’t be like that.”

I arch both eyebrows.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re no fun?”

At that point, I know we’re through, that the $3 you’ve given over five rounds is the most you’re going to dignify my labor with. While I’ve moved on to bullshitting with cooler, saner customers, you linger till the end of my shift, hitting on other girls I work with, and scoring the same predictable results.

So here it is, uncensored and unadulterated: just go home. Please, just go home. Get a life, and live it. Please don’t captain the retard Titanic any further, and actually get some hobbies. Watch “Heroes.” Listen to both "Trainspotting" soundtracks back-to-back. Read Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”. Hell, just read something, even if it's just a Rolling Stone review. Sample Moroccan food. Dance with a belly-dancer, even if you don't know the music. Make your friends watch the "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings" trilogies with you in one sitting. Ask some nice girl out to dinner without swearing you’re studlier than John Holmes or Ron Jeremy—especially because we’ll totally hold it against you when we learn you’re not.

If I ever see you again, feel free to expound on any of the aforementioned, or about anything that actually matters. But in the meantime, if your lifestyle really is about hanging where everybody knows your name, then tip a little fucking better.

With love from your bat-wielding bartender,

PS- Learn who Ming Tsai and Tim Sale are, and I will personally make you an awesome cocktail.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

more about alex b


three-way etiquette for dummies
a guide to popping the +1 question with finesse
by alex b
topic: humor
published: 3.14.08

talk nerdy to me
appreciating today's nerdy man
by alex b
topic: humor
published: 7.16.08


sandra thompson
3.23.07 @ 9:11a

Back in 1980, I worked as a bartender at a little bar in a big hotel on Miami Beach for about three months when I was between telephone engineering contracts. I had a great time, met a lot of wonderful people, made some really good tips from all the Brit tourists that summer, and also met all those guys you described. It was the hardest work I've ever done. When a bar gets crowded during the night shift, and there's only one bartender to take care of it and one cocktail waitress to serve the tables, it is a physical marathon. If even one piece of equipment fracks up or you run out of one little ingredient, it can become a nightmare. My opinion, with no data whatsoever to back it up, is that tourists probably tip better than "regulars" at neighborhood bars. Since we weren't allowed to drink on duty, and the Brits like to tip by buying you a drink, we had the unenviable task of explaing to them that we appreciate their offer, but if they don't mind we'll charge them for the drink and have it later since we aren't allowed to drink on the job. I never had anybody object, so I really did make great tips. Afternoon shifts were much easier, and I could actually have conversations with customers. There was an Oxford professor of English History and his wife of whom I became quite fond during their three week holiday. He'd ccome in around three o'clock and drink single malt Scotch neat and we'd have lengthy conversations about all kinds of things, until his wife came in around five from her sunbathing, and then we'd have more interesting conversations including all three of us and she drank gin and tonics until they'd leave to go to dinner around seven. We corresponded for several years after they went home to England. They were the best thing about that job. A couple of Welsh nurses were a close second on the list of good things, and I fixed them up with a couple of gorgeous Zimbabwan guys who were fresh from the settler side of that war. I met a lot of really interesting international tourists, but I earned every penny I took home at least twice!

adam kraemer
3.23.07 @ 10:28a

Have you ever considered he might tip you better if you put out for him?


And it's not actually hard to be studlier than Ron Jeremy these days. Not as talented, necessarily, but studlier.

joe procopio
3.23.07 @ 10:46a

When I tended back in college, the less your tip, the waterier your drinks got.

But isn't it a rule by now? You NEVER, EVER hit on the bartender. You've got about the same odds as Powerball.

spence martinez
3.23.07 @ 12:50p

I never worked as a bartender.
I never attempted to date one either, let alone bed one. The minor reason: I just assumed they'd always be too tired after the end of their 9 p.m.- 4 a.m. shift and just want to get the hell out of there without taking a tired, buzzing, stray dog like me home with them.

But the major reason: hitting on the hot bartender at the local watering hole is like calling sensei Bruce Lee out to fight from a dojo filled with white belts like myself. There's just no chance of success--unless "Bruce" rolls over and makes it clear she wants you to put her in that hammer hold.

I suppose it could happen-- but not this week.

In the meantime, I just converse politely and tip well. Sometimes that kind of courtesy can get me intel on people who are cute, single, and with whom I actually might have a shot! Worst case: it gets me stronger drinks.

alex b
3.23.07 @ 3:30p

I've truly enjoyed my job- Sandra, meeting people from all parts of the world (along with the physical demands) is an absolute blast. Most of the Europeans I meet aren't strong tippers, but they are very polite. Every once in awhile, some tell me that they don't think I could ever get 'em drunk in one drink... which of course turns out to be famous last words. (Note: this never happens with Americans.)

With tips, you learn pretty quickly who's going to dignify your labor and who won't. While $1 is pretty standard for a $3 or $4 beer, and $2 or $3 is likewise with a cocktail between $8-$10, I've gotten fabulous tips from union guys happy to bullshit, and fuckall from hipsters who swear "they'll take care of me". When someone gives me a good tip, not only do they get stronger cocktails, but I'll throw a couple on the house.

Adam, if I ever do put out for a cheap horny geekboy, I *might* make $4 instead. Hot.

And ha, Spence, you've gotta let the cute bartender hit on you. That's pretty much how it works! :-)

steve owen
3.27.07 @ 6:16a

Haha, way to put him in his place, Lex. Set me up with a gin and soda, kiddo. Keep the change!

(But hey, Ron Jeremy?? Yikes! I mean really! Even Santa is sexier!)

Hey, this drink is really alright. Better than what they serve at that dive up the street; wouldn't get a fly high and costs f'n double. Thanks!

alex b
3.28.07 @ 5:54p

Hehe, hi Steve! Never knew you're a gin and soda man. I've had some terrific times pouring those for people I love- and laughed the next day when they tell me they're still drunk from the night before (gin does have that lovely way of hanging in your system through the next day).

But strangely enough, yep- Ron Jeremy. The guy is kinda scary to look at, but there's quite a lot of dudes out there who consider him their hero precisely because of that.

reg j
4.4.07 @ 10:17a

Just heard the news.. just want to congratulate you on this great feat! I'm glad that you've found a venue and an audience that appreciates your work and writing talent. I always knew you had it in you. Hopefully this will be a platform for even greater things and hopefully it will catapult you into a career in writing if that's what you want. I'm proud of you!

reg j
4.4.07 @ 10:30a

i used to serve drinks and seat people at a local Japanese restaurant on long island when i was 15. i was underage and serving drinks, which i'm sure isn't legal hehe what's worse is that the owner of the restaurant never let us keep our tips. we had to give them to her and she would keep some and distribute the rest to the wait staff which was soooo wrong. plus i had to be a "geisha" and entertain the people at the sushi bar. just got a lousy $5 a night for a four hour shift... i should've reported that bitch hehe but i remember how hard the work was. and believe me, it was so hard to get $20 tips that i couldn't keep! i give it up to all you bartenders and wait staff out there. i try to tip as best as i can nowadays...at least as much as i can afford to.. guess that's all i can do..

alex b
4.4.07 @ 2:53p

Hiya Reg! Great to see ya commenting!

One thing that does suck about bartending/waitstaffing is that it can be incredibly dodgy when it comes to shift pay and tips. The industry is full of bar managers who- among other things- kidnap tips or withold shift pay. Thankfully, there are websites like ShamelessRestaurants.com, where one can either report shady practices going on, or check out a bar to see if any dodginess is going on.

At one of my previous gigs, I had managers who periodically used to shortchange the tip jar while changing singles and smaller bills for larger ones. We had to write down how much people left as a tip before dropping it into the jar so we wouldn't get screwed. But it happened anyway. Ultimately, that bar in particular was shut down because one staff member got upset with management- and called the IRS *and* the Health Department. Hell may not hath no fury like a woman scorned, but boy, don't screw a bartender out of money, either.

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