I have had a wide range of jobs in my day. I have mostly had several jobs at once because I enjoy working… and making money. One of my many jobs has been bartending for about a decade now. It is pretty easy to always find a job, you get cash, and it is “fun.” There are some things that some bartenders don’t talk about. Today we are going to explore some of the really odd things about bartending.
If you have ever worked in the hospitality industry, you probably would agree about this. It is odd and I don’t even know why it is a thing. When you get into work, it is customary to hug/kiss every coworker. The same goes for when you leave. If you just walk in and don’t greet every other employee or leave without saying your farewell, you will be hated. I am not a hugger at all. My best friend has hugged me probably twice in the past twenty five years but every chef, cook, barback, server, and fellow bartender has hugged me. Every time I see them it is like we are long lost family even if I saw them the day before.
When I worked in Los Angeles and half of the year here in New Orleans, you will be escorted to your car, the bus, or your Uber. In California, we were not able to leave the building without two security guards walking us to the car and then waiting to make sure we exited the parking garage ok. Back then, I used to make A LOT of money so it rarely bothered me. I wasn’t going to get home till 5am anyways so waiting a few more minutes for someone to escort me was fine. In New Orleans, I rarely accept an escort. There are two reasons for this. I don’t make a fraction of what I made in California and I have the meanest resting bitch face that nobody even talks to me on the street.
A common misconception about being a lady bartender is that we must get hit on all the time. This is a yes and no. Depends on where you work and who you are. In New Orleans the only time I was ever hit on was during a bar crawl and it was by a gay man. It actually was just the nicest compliment I’ve ever received but we will count that as being hit on. Rarely did I get hit on in California. I am personable and relatively good looking. But, I do not flirt with customers. I respect bartenders that do but I am awkward in real life so it would be a disaster to try and flirt. I personally just don’t like flirting on shift. It makes me feel dishonest because I am never going to go home and fuck a customer. All the power to everyone that does. I actually prefer bartending with someone that is a bit more flirty whether it is a man or woman. I also like working with someone who is the opposite of me. Someone has to be a good cop and someone has to be a bad cop. Depending on the situation, you trade off roles.
People always assume bartenders have an amazing social life. FALSE. We work on holidays, birthdays, weekends…. Every day you want to be out at a bar, we are actually there working. We are social in the sense that we have a lot of bartender friends but that’s about it. None of your regular friends are trying to go rage it up on a Tuesday with you.
“It must be so cool to have boujee ass customers throwing money at you.” Said no bartender ever. The ones that are “rich” or pretend to be rich actually tip you less than average people. If a customer fluffs you up with promises of big tips, we never believe it. They generally leave you a 5% tip at the end of the night. It is usually the hard working people that tip you well. Best tippers are the other people in the service industry.
People often don’t understand why it is even important to tip well. There are so many reasons why.
- You will get better service
- The server or bartender has to tip out everyone else in the house. Sometimes you actually lose money out of your own pocket when someone tips shitty. We still HAVE to tip everyone out.
- But, bartenders make hourly so why even tip them because they’re doing their job?? Well, great question. In New Orleans, I believe the hourly rate is around $3. Most states do not pay tipped employees much. I don’t know about you but who can do anything with $3 an hour??
This is a huge ass pet peeve of mine. I.D.’s. People either get angry that you ask or they do what I hate the most which is say “thank you” and then make this big deal out of it. Obviously I can tell your face looks like a leather handbag. I am only asking because it is the law and I am not trying to get fined. On the flip side, if you look my age (33) you still need your I.D. Again, I don’t care that you look like a leather handbag, I STILL NEED YOUR I.D.
Living in a big tourist destination, we see customers from all over. I am going to tell a little secret. I literally still to this day cannot tell a fake I.D. from a real one. I look for about 3 things on the I.D. and call it a day. I check for the date of birth, expiration date, and the holograms. I do some bending action of the I.D. to look official and stare at their face then I am done. I am no detective. There are too many states to be memorizing every acceptable license.
“Living in a big tourist destination, you must make so much money.” Short answer for me personally is, no. During Mardi Gras you will make money IF your bar is in the right spot. We have a huge off season here. You have to budget for making zero money for a big chunk of the year. Also, tourists are cheap as fuck. They are drunk and on vacay with their last $2. They never have to see you again. The tips often reflect that. Regulars is where the money is at. They know you. You know them. You talk about family, school, get invited to their personal events. You both know details of each other’s life so they take care of you like family and the same for them.
We will judge a person on what they order. No bartender will tell you different. If you order a Long Island, we assume little to no tip. You want to black out and have no money. If you are young and order something top shelf and are with someone a little older, we assume you are a prostitute or heard that drink on an episode of Sex and the City. At least if you are a prostitute, we know we will be tipped well by your suitor.
Customers often think we know how to make every drink under the sun. There is just no way. People come in all the time with these new ass drinks I have never heard of. I have to Google that shit every time. Or if it is a drink that has been around forever and I just can’t remember, I make it up. Rarely do people know the difference. Fact: Every bartender has a different way of making drinks. There is no one recipe. I use this as my moto.
As a bartender, we see a lot of unsavory behavior. Nothing shocks us. Most assume we are listening to their convos and must have never heard of such a wild thing. We actually rarely ever listen in. We don’t actually care about how soccer mom Carol just bought her first vibrator to make up for her lack of good sex. We are thinking about when we can pee, when we can say “last call,” and what we will eat for dinner at this late ass hour.
On that note, like I already stated, we see a lot of unsavory behavior. Regardless of where you are at, if you act like an asshole you will be kicked out. If you challenge your bartender because “the customer is always right,” you are mistaken. This is not Starbucks. We are very quick to cut you off and kick you out while making a spectacle so everyone can make you feel embarrassed and probably cheer. My favorite is when people get shitty because the bar is busy. You will literally never get a drink if you get shitty. We serve the people that look ready, have their money ready, and are waiting quietly. But, Becky with the good hair snapping her fingers and talking about slow service will only get her ass handed to her by a bartender for being rude.
It is a common misconception that gets brought up often that bartenders are basically losers with no life skill. In reality, most bartenders are educated, have been to college, maybe own a business, have another job, are in school, etc. I know MANY school teachers that bartend. I hope this puts things into perspective for some people. Your child’s teacher cannot pay their bills so they are bartending and they get treated like shit.
There is definitely an upside to working in a bar. It is cash. *Of course we all pay taxes on the cash. But, the cash is so nice to put away in a drawer for a rainy day or use as your “fun” money or maybe just pay down your debt.
I think everyone should work in the hospitality industry at least once. It will make your next outing more relatable. These are just a few of my thoughts on bartending. It has been a fun ride.