March 5th, 2009
Here’s my problem, and it’s what some would call a nice problem to have. I never know much to tip a bartender who’s given me a free drink.
Now, of course, the idea that a barman/maid would be doling out cocktails on the sly to a favored customer is the kind of thing that would send many a bar manager into a yelling, kicking, firing rampage. But let’s face it. It happens. And it’s great that it does.
Once in a while a regular customer, someone who tips well and isn’t a nuisance, is rewarded with one on-the-house or a little something knocked off the tab. It’s a reward. A low-cost, highly appreciated “thanks” for making life behind the bar a little nicer. And it goes a long way. A freebie reinforces good behavior and builds customer loyalty. Besides, it’s a nice thing to do, and what goes around comes around. Karma, and all that.
I’ve been very fortunate to have been, from time to time, on the receiving end of a free drink or two or a suspiciously skimpy bar tab. It’s a wonderful feeling. At first. Then the dread kicks in. How much do I tip? I mean, I must overtip, but do I compensate for the free drink’s price penny for penny? Do I figure out what the actual bill would have been, then split the difference? Do I need a calculator? An accountant? A clue?
So, I turn to you, readers of drinkboston. What’s the tipping point?