That’s the bright side. The balanced, professional, life-affirming outlook. But there’s a dark side to this too. I go there when I’m forced to deal with that certain contingency of “patrons” who like to shit on me and the other the people who serve them. People who ask for more that they need and give less than they can. I don’t know why these people are this way. Possibly because they think all servers are groveling little incompetents. Maybe they just want to get over on somebody and get something for free, and they know if they pitch and fuss enough they probably will get something for free. But, as the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Said cost should be assessed in terms of the number of minutes taken off the end of the server’s life due to the fact that he or she had to deal with such a jerk-ass.
I suspect that the people who mistreat their servers are just bastards. Little Napoleonic shit birds who catch hell from Napoleonic bosses all day and feel the need to kick the dog. Miserable people, seemingly built like a virus, designed only to spread their misery to any host they encounter. These turds are legion.
Everybody should hate these people, not just those of us in the industry. They are blights on our society and they bring down the cumulative value of our culture. No one’s happy when they’re around. They stand side-by-side with the fucks who yell into their phones in a crowded movie theater. They’re like insurance cheats. Sure, they’ll make a buck, but you better believe your rates will go up. We need to expose and eradicate these parasites. Air quality would improve. Global warming would subside. Places like the DMV would blossom into amusement parks. Definitely restaurants and bars would be better.
Next to a kid-toucher, and maybe a horse thief, one of the worst shit sucking, yellow-bellied dogs on the planet is the tip welsh. These are the bastards who repeatedly promise to tip, promise to tip, promise to tip, and then stiff you. They’re on the shit scale somewhere in between pathological liar and chronic shoplifter. But welshing is not a felony. It’s not even a misdemeanor. Victims like me can only tell their story and hope that it helps other victims. So, in the interest of disclosure, here goes.
The advent of the running credit card tab has created a sort-of tip shelter for fraudulent jerks, allowing them to dangle the carrot in front us poor saps only to yank it back, and gobble it up, at the last minute. Every time their antics cross the line and make the bartender re-evaluate his decision not to go to law school, these fiends wrinkle their noses and nod toward the general area where the credit card tabs are kept. It’s a form of blackmail, really. The bartender can do nothing but sigh, and mix up another goddamn raspberry lemon drop.
Many welshers are liars and cowards, as well as cheapasses. For whatever reason, they are philosophically opposed to the concept of gratuity. They however, do not have the balls to say it to your face. So they masquerade as a descent person until the transaction is done and then slink away at the last minute like a hamburger-stealing cocker-spaniel at a backyard barbeque. You know you’d kick that bastard if you could, but he keeps going under the table or out into the rose garden. Plus, it’s not your place to kick the neighbor’s dog.
Sometimes these welshers are too slow to avoid being caught and they’re forced to come up with a lame excuse. A lot of these jerks will give you the old, “I know this 2 bucks aint much. I’ll come back later with your tip.” To this, I just shake my head. If I feeling diplomatic, I say, “Why don’t we just take care of that now?” Other times, when I’m tired of diplomacy, I say, “No. No, I don’t believe you will.” At no time do I say,” All right then, see you tomorrow.”
The other night, some loud-mouth started a tab with me. “I’ll take care of you if you take care of me,” she said.
“That’s usually how it works,” I replied, smiling.
“No. I mean it,” she said, “I tip well. Just take care of me.”
Now, usually we bartenders can tell who we’re dealing with. If it’s built like a horse and has black and white stripes; it’s probably a zebra. And if it whinnies and snorts, brags, demands, complains, and promises; it’s probably a horsefaced douchebag. So after years of having conversations like the one above, I’ve learned that it generally precludes an annoying evening of service on my part and a bullshit tip on theirs. And as this nag was bragging about how well she was GOING to tip me LATER, she was inadvertently, but explicitly, saying two things to me: Number One, “I’m classless enough to brag about tipping, which means I’m not classy enough to actually tip well. I just use it as leverage.” Number Two, “I am a douchebag and a cheapass.”
But I’ve been wrong before. And since she was buying drinks for her friends, I reasoned that she might just be indelicate, and not altogether cheap. So every time she waddled up to the bar, I dutifully served her. When she called my name (these types always want to know your name, and they always overuse it), I responded. When she expressed irritation that I couldn’t remember all of the drinks from her last round, I made a point to remember (Ketel tonic, Goose cran, etc). All the while, I suspected she would welsh.
So, since she was a loud-mouthed jerk, of course she got wasted. And of course there was drama with her friends. And of course she was crying in the corner by the door. And of course their “Driver” (drunk as the rest of them, of course) tried to close her tab. And since I could see her, I politely refused and explained that people need to close their own tab. So, of course, she stomped up to bar, wiped the tears and snot from her face with the back of her fat hand, and snatched up her tab. She scoffed and rolled her eyes, insinuating, I think, that the bill was too high. She shook her head, mumbled something incomprehensible, and hunched over the thing, as if she were afraid I would try to cheat off it. Her friend came over. They looked at the bill together and began to bicker at one another.
Since it was closing time, and I had work to do, I turned my back to close out my register. After a second (almost because they noticed that my back was turned), the bickering stopped and they started to walk away. Seeing that they were leaving, I yelled, “Thanks” and walked over to the spot where they’d been working on the bill. I immediately saw that they hadn’t left the tab (classic welsher tactic). “Hey,” I shouted after them, “Excuse me. You forgot to leave my copy of the credit card slip. I need your signature.” I deliberately did not mention the tip, although I probably should have. “Oh,” said horseface. She padded her pockets and turned her palms upward to show me they were empty. “No. I left it.” She pointed to the empty spot on the bar where they’d been working on the bill. I shook my head, “Did you accidentally put it your pocket? Or did it fall on the floor?” I was being generous. I was pretty sure she’d picked it up in a deliberate effort to welsh. She looked to the floor and shook her head. “Here,” I said, “I’ll print another.” I put the copy in front of her with a pen and leaned on my forearms, looking her right in the eye. Now I knew, and she knew I knew.
Quickly, she signed it, leaving both the tip and total spot blank. “You should fill the total in,” I said smiling coyly, “or I’ll have to.” Here I’d finally breeched my own edict; I’d mentioned the tip. All the chicanery had forced my hand. I don’t bartend for sport; I’m there for the dough. Her face dropped, and quickly tensed up again. She reached into her hip pocket, pulled out some wadded bills, and dropped the pile on the bar. Wadded bills are another tactic. They figure by the time we unfold them all, they’ll be gone in a poof of smoke. They’re tossing a net over us and we have to wriggle out of it like a Dik-dik trying to escape the bushman’s knife. But it only took a glance for me to see that there were three or four dollars in the pile. Her check was over eighty bucks. I waited for her to reassess, but she turned and walked away.
We’ve all heard the story about the mythological server that chased a tightwad into the parking lot, throwing loose change and yelling, “Here! Take it! You must need it more than me!” I did not do that. My employer wouldn’t dig it and I need to keep my job because my kids like food. All I could do was sarcastically thank her for the “hook-up” and tell my coworkers to short-pour her if they ever saw her again.
But I can also write. For me, it’s kind of like taking the bandage off of a festering wound. Once it’s exposed to the sunlight and the fresh air, hopefully it will dry up and heal. I also want to expose these people. And I want service people to collectively say, “I can tell right away that you’re a jerk. I may have to serve you, but I’m not going to pretend you aren’t an asshole.” It’s a subtle distinction, but maybe it will deny these welshing sons-of-bitches the satisfaction that they got over on us."
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