This tip was supposedly left by a rich banker showing his disdain for restaurant workers. (Image from

Nobody likes cheap people . . . but in the restaurant business we really don’t like them.

Take 99.9% of the customers at Johnny D’s, and we have no complaints.  But then there are the remaining 00.1% — the cheap, nickel-and-dime c*ck s*ckers.

Understandably, not everyone can afford to be generous.  At Johnny D’s the focus is on live music, and when it comes to World Beat crowds, or Reggae crowds — these people often have alternative life-styles, and probably not much money.

So I can’t complain about the loose change they leave (or don’t leave.)

But it’s the obviously well-off folks . . . those who have the money but are simply too cheap to part with a dime . . . those are the people that really bug me.

Back at The Lark Tavern, Tommy Talbor had his own way of dealing with these folks.  If someone left him a short tip — especially if they offered an insincere apology, or excuse — Tommy was quick to respond.  He’d tell them:  “That’s OK . . . people generally tip what they can afford!”

Tommy’s whole attitude behind the bar was biting and sarcastic, but over the years I have used his line once or twice myself.

There was one guy at Johnny D’s one night who left me a quarter as a tip on a $19.75 round.  I probably wouldn’t remember him, but he made such a big deal of setting the quarter down on the bar.  He had this smug look on his face — an irritating little smirk, as if to say — “I know you expected more, but that’s all I’m leaving!”

He stood there smiling as if his smug grin was intended to add insult to injury — like the $1.33 tip illustrated above, with its “get-a-real-job” jab.

I picked up the quarter, and smiled back at him.

“Thanks,” I said.

That threw him off for a second, but he continued to look at me and shrugged his shoulders as if to repeat, “Hey, that’s all I’m leaving, pal!”

“Don’t worry about it” I said to him, still smiling, “I never expect people to tip more than they can afford.”

Now he looked as though he was choking on something.  He wanted to say something more, he wanted to have the last word, but he wasn’t sure what that was.

“Just try to keep smiling, guy,” I thought as I gave him a quick thumbs-up with one hand, “I just called you an asshole.”

Then I tossed the quarter into the tip jar, and continued making drinks.

There’s a reason all this comes to mind . . . last Saturday night we had one couple who clearly belonged to this cheapskate 00.1% of customers.

Wanda Jackson (Image from

Wanda Jackson was playing at the club that night . . . she’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she’s called “America’s first female Rock and Roll singer.”

It was a great crowd that came to see her . . . or at least 99.9% of them were.  Early in the evening we had one cheap couple who tried to sneak into the show for free.

But that story is for part two of “Cheap People,” and it’s coming in the post next Saturday . . .

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Late Saturday Night

. . .  It’s 4:30 in the morning and after a Saturday night of working behind the taps, I’ve got nothing ready to post.

Wanda Jackson played at Johnny D’s tonight. (Image from

This has been a long two weeks at the club as we put the bar staff back together — a lot of extra shifts and seemingly endless, endless training.  Thankfully three new bartenders are now ready to go and they all look good . . . no, actually they look great.  We should be back on top in no time.

But tonight instead of pulling together the usual Saturday/Sunday post, and I’m going to have a few beers instead.  We’ll be back to the regular schedule on Saturday, October 20th.

Here’s one quick story from tonight’s show at Johnny D’s.  We had Wanda Jackson — a woman who dated Elvis “back in the day,” and then was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame based on her own stellar career.

This is about something that happened after the show, . . . and about someone being amazingly “down-to-earth.”

After her performance, Wanda was sitting in a chair in the kitchen (she said she was too tired to fight through the crowd back downstairs to the dressing room.)  She was enjoying a post-gig glass of wine.

The wait staff was still working, and the cooks were finishing their “night-before” Sunday brunch prep.  Even though the show was over,  it was still all-work-and-no-play for the staff.

Anthony was doing the brunch roll-ups.  (Johnny D’s has a juggernaut of a brunch requiring 600 – 800 brunch roll-ups prepared ahead of time.)  Anthony was sitting between large steel tubes of clean knives, forks and spoons, . . . and chest-high stacks of linen.

As Wanda watched him work, she didn’t feel comfortable just sitting there enjoying her wine . . . so she moved her chair close to his, and began helping him.

I’m not kidding.

This legendary Hall of Famer — she’s called “America’s first female Rock and Roll singer” — sat there doing roll-ups with Anthony.

“Doesn’t feel right doing nothing while someone else works,” she said as she continued to wrap silverware.

Then she looked over at the chef and his staff still bent over the hot stoves, finishing the brunch prep.

“But don’t expect me to do any cooking!” she continued.  She looked down at the red sequined dress she’d worn for the performance.  “I’ve got too many frills on,” she said.

She’d said it in all seriousness, and now looked as though she didn’t quite understand why everyone was laughing.

There was such an innocent honesty about the whole thing . . . I don’t remember anything quite like it.

Anyway, that’s it for this week . . . a full post coming Saturday.

Now back to some ice–cold beer.


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“VENGEANCE DOUCE” (sweet revenge)

(Image from

I like what I do for work.  I love tending bar.  Hell, I’m in a good mood today even after working extra shifts this week.

I certainly don’t have the complaints most workers have about their jobs, but that doesn’t mean I have no complaints about anybody.

The gripe . . .

I do have an issue with one particular gang of customers — the French.  My encounters may not reflect the French populace in general, . . . but the overwhelming percentage of unpleasant experiences vs. good ones is just too large to ignore.

What is it with the French?  Didn’t we bail them out twice — once in World War I and again in World War II?

Snapping your fingers and speaking down to bartenders or wait staff is rude regardless of your nationality.  And when it comes to pompous, arrogant-for-no-reason attitudes, nobody seems to do it was well as the French.

Maybe things are different over there.  Maybe in France anyone who makes or delivers food and drink is immediately considered a servant — the lowest rung on some social caste ladder.

Is this privileged attitude the reason they don’t like to tip?

I remember one French couple at a place I won’t name.  Nothing was right for them — their steaks came out one-hundredth of a degree too-well-done.  They didn’t like that other people were sitting on either side of them at the bar, as though they should have more space . . . an extended section of the bar top reserved for themselves only.  They thought the place was too noisy, that there was too much going on.

And after all this . . . the thing that bothered them most was that pesky blank line at the bottom of their charge slip.  The blank line that was waiting for them to fill in a tip.

As I worked I watched them lean together and talk it over.  This was really bothering them, that blank line.

Then after a minute, one of them laughed.

“Well, we don’t have to leave a tip,” the man said, “ . . . We’re FRENCH!

They turned to look at each other, and now they both laughed.

“We don’t have to tip, . . . we’re FRENCH!”

(I swear that’s what they said.)

They laughed again.  They were cracking themselves up by stiffing us.

Vengeance douce (sweet revenge) . . .

The couple left, and good riddance.  Just a pair of assholes now gone and forgotten . . . but my sweet revenge would come just a few years later.

There was a performer at another bar I worked at in Harvard Square (we used to book entertainment on the weekends.)

I’ll call him “Antoine Poupu-pon”, and he was supposedly one of the best acoustic guitar players in France.

He was such a flaming asshole.

For some reason he thought he was High Lord of the Manor, and our only purpose as his lowly servants was to jump at his every bidding.  And God forbid, after we’d completed our menial tasks, that he could so much as offer a glance or nod of appreciation . . . much less say something as simple as “Thanks.”

“I need a glass of Wha – tur!” he commanded as he walked up to the bar, ignoring that at the time I was busy with a wait staff order and two other customers were already in line ahead of him.

“I NEED A GLASS OF WHA – TUR!” he demanded again.

I stopped what I was doing to hand him a glass of water, and he turned away with a little upward twist of his nose, as though piqued that it had taken him so long to get what he wanted.

It was as though during the entire two seconds it took me to hand him the water, I was somehow depriving him of what was rightfully his.  (What was really rightfully his was my foot up his ass.)

That’s the way it went for the entire night with this guy.

After he had finished his first song on stage, he stopped the performance to demand that the TV’s on the back bar wall should be turned off while he was playing.

We always had the games on TV without the sound.  The silent TV’s were the length of the bar and the entire dining and performance area away from the stage.

He would have had to crane his neck to catch even a glimpse of them from the stage . . . but somehow the faint flicker of light all the way back at the bar was disturbing his highly-tuned artistic sensibilities.

At one point he asked the people to stop eating while he played.  Customers would sit at their tables enjoying their drinks while they listened, and some ordered food during the shows.

But all that clatter … a knife hitting a fork while they ate … that was too much for him.  He stopped the performance, and demanded that people should only eat later.

I’m serious.

No glasses could be stacked while he was playing.  He didn’t want us to ring anything in the registers.  He asked us to stop making that noise with the cash registers.

After his long, painful performance, he once again approached the bar.  I knew he was about to demand something else.

“I need Wha -tur!” he commanded, “Wha -tur!!!”  He made a fluttering motion with his hands on his face  . . . as thought he wanted some luke-warm (exactly ph-balanced) water to splash on his artistically-fevered brow.

He spotted a plastic bottle sitting on the service station’s counter top.  Before we could stop him, . . . before we could say NO! . . . he grabbed the bottle.  He pointed it towards himself and squeezed the trigger, spraying its contents directly onto his face.

“What is Zhis???”  he exclaimed.

He was shocked . . .  aghast, his face now dripping.

“Zhis is not Wha – tur!”  The look on his face was one of pure horror.

“Zhis is not Wha – tur!!!” he said.

“No, you fucking idiot,” I thought.

But instead I said, “No, . . . it’s not water.”

“The wait staff uses that stuff to clean with . . . if you hadn’t grabbed it without asking I would have had time to tell you that.”

“You’ll be fine,” I told him as I handed him a dry bar cloth, and a pint of regular Wha-tur.

“It’s just water with a little vinegar in it . . . for cleaning.  You’ll be fine.”

Of course he would be fine.  The wait staff used it all the time without wearing gloves . . . if you accidentally splashed it on your hand, no big deal.

But now he soaked that bar cloth with Wha-tur from the pint, and rubbed the wet cloth frantically all over his face as if someone had just thrown acid on him.

It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

And one of the most well-deserved.

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Well, I had to work an extra day this week.  One of the bartenders asked me to work for him Thursday because his mother and younger sister had flown in from Venezuela.  He hadn’t seen this little sister in over five years.  (Yeah, so?  What about my day off?)

OK, I guess he deserved a night with his family. . . I’m just bitching because we’re still trying to put the bar staff back together.  And as we train new people I find myself (as I’m sure the other bartenders do, too) saying the same things over and over again to these new guys.  The same things we’ve said a hundred times before.

The basic stuff.  The essentials of the game . . . what they really need to know.

How to use both hands when making drinks.  The best way to handle multiple orders.  Tell-tale signs that someone’s had too much to drink.

And one of the most important rules . . . simply KEEP MOVING!

An old-time barman from Albany, NY (The Lark Tavern) may have said it best . . . Johnny La La.  His line belongs in some Bartender’s Hall of Fame.

“A bartender is like a shark,” Johnny would say, “If you stop moving . . . you die.”

(Apparently it’s the movement of a shark that forces oxygen-filled water over its gills which act as lungs.  If a shark stops moving it will stop “breathing”. . . sink to the bottom and die.)

It’s a simple concept — keep moving.  But damn if it doesn’t take forever for new bartenders to understand it.

I remember this one bartender I worked with years ago (I won’t name the place); he had a habit of leaning against the back bar with his arms folded across his chest.  It wasn’t that he was lazy, really, . . . he just wouldn’t do anything until he absolutely had to do it.

“Hey, why don’t you empty the dishwasher?” I’d say, “How about stacking some pints.  Check your fruit tray.”

I’d say this while I was taking care of the wait staff and serving customers in my section.  But since he really had nothing going on in his section, he saw no harm in taking it easy.  And he’d look at me as though I’d lost my mind.

“I’ll get to it in a minute,” he’d answer, “What’s the big deal?”

Experienced bartenders know what happened next.

The customers he should have checked on when their drinks were low, . . . the trio of waitresses who all rushed up together with their new orders . . . the racks of dirty glasses coming in from the floor . . .  the gang of customers who’d just walked in and now crowded the bar waiting for drinks . . . all of these things hit at the same time.

Now we had fifteen new customers placing their orders, three waitresses shouting for drinks . . . and instead of being able to help me out, he’s down there refreshing the drinks of people that he should have taken care of five minutes ago.

Now the racks of dirty glasses (that could have gone into an empty dishwasher if he’d cleared it earlier) are sitting on top of his beer cooler.  Every time he wants to open the coolers to grab a bottle of beer, he has to move the racks of glasses back and forth.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.

In a busy place it’s a cardinal rule — a completely unforgiving rule — that you have to get out of the way now whatever you can, in any spare moment.

If you don’t it will come back to bite you.

Continuous motion . . .

The idea that you must keep moving — be like a shark — also means keep moving once you get started.

Being a fast bartender isn’t so much about raw speed as simply shaving a few seconds off everything you do — being ruthlessly efficient.  If you’re making 1000 drinks a night and you waste as little two seconds on each round . . .  or between rounds . . . you’ll be fifteen minutes behind pretty quickly.

I remember another bartender who was just starting out.  He was pretty good, but he had this habit of stopping for a second or two after each round he made, . . . sort of standing there like he was congratulating himself for successfully putting that round together.

He’d stand there patting his chest with the palms of his hands, as if saying, “My, what a good little bartender I am!”

“KEEP MOVING!” I’d yell to him from my section, “KEEP MOVING!”

Wasting those precious seconds can be fatal in a busy bar.

Imagine pouring a draft beer — which takes roughly five seconds — and you have to draw three Clown Shoes Eagle Claw Fists.  You’re going to be standing there for fifteen seconds.

You can’t afford to be doing that only.

So you ask the next people standing at the bar what they’d like.  They talk it over with their friends and place their order while you’re drawing those draft beers — not after you’re done.

If you’re efficient — if you have economy of motion and know what the next steps are — you can immediately go from one round to the next with no break in between.

That’s why one bartender “rock and rolls” like a non-stop express train, . . . while another bartender is a like milk train, pausing at each small town on its route.

Start … stop.   Start . . . stop.

In a busy place, no bartender can afford to do that.  You’ve got to keep moving.

A bartender is like a shark . . . if you stop moving, you die.

Damn, I wish I’d said that.

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There was a news story on the internet this week about a man who called 9-1-1 because the prostitute he was in bed with tried to charge him extra money.

In the bar business we also have our share of crazy 9 -1 -1 incidents.  This might be one of the strangest I know.

It happened when I first moved to Boston and began bartending in Harvard Square.  I wasn’t behind the taps that night, but we all heard about it the next day when everyone showed up for work.

According to the prior night’s bartender (“Jeff,” I’ll call him) — it was a typical shift at the beginning.  He only had a handful of customers, and then someone new plopped down on a stool.

Jeff didn’t recognize him, but apparently the guy had been here before because he immediately asked for the bartender who’d been fired the week earlier.

“Where is _____ ???” the guy demanded.

“He’s moved on,” Jeff said, “Doesn’t work here anymore.”

‘What’daya mean he doesn’t work here anymore!!”

“I mean he doesn’t work here,” Jeff shrugged, “He’s moved on.”  The guy had a snooty air as he snapped off his questions, but Jeff was trying to extend a little courtesy.

As Jeff set his drink down, the guy complained — “This dump will never be the same without him!” 

“This drink sucks!!” the guy said after he’d taken one sip, sitting there with his lips pursed.  (I’m sure the dismissed bartender must have been seriously over-pouring.)

From that point on, everything went downhill.

For this guy, nothing was right about the place now.  The drinks sucked, the service was horrible, . . . . and no one would be able to replace his beloved former barman.

After listening to the guy rant on for two drinks, Jeff decided to shut him off.

“What’daya mean I’m shut off!!!”  Now the guy stood up.  He was so livid that his hands were trembling on the bar.  “You can‘t shut me off!!

“ _____ would never shut me off!!!”

“Well I’m not _____,” Jeff said calmly, “And that’s it for tonight, pal.  Time to leave.”

This guy was a nut, a real weirdo.  Personally, I don’t care who you are or what you do . . . but if you look like a fruitcake, and act like a fruitcake . . . you’re probably not going to be the bartender’s favorite customer.

He just wouldn’t leave.  By now all the customers at the bar were looking his way, but he didn’t care.  He stood there bitching.  “You’re violating my civil rights!” he said, “You can’t shut me off!”

“Just leave,” Jeff said, with patience that would almost deserve sainthood — “It’s time to go.”  Then he turned to make some drinks for the waitress.

In the middle of those drinks, Jeff heard a loud crash.

The guy had swept his arm along the bar rail and wiped out the set-up sitting there — the sugar container, the salt and pepper shakers, the drink menu tent, along with his own empty glass with it’s ice, squeezed lime and sip stick.  With a sweep of his arm he sent them all bouncing and flying across the bar, with the salt and pepper shakers spilling behind the bar on the floor mats.

“GET THE FUCK OUTA HERE!!!” Jeff turned back to him, “GET OUT THE FUCK OUTA HERE NOW!”

“I’m not leaving!!!” the guy yelled back, “You can’t throw me out!!”

“I’m calling THE COPS!!” the guy said.

Yup, that’s right . . . . exactly what you just read.

It was the guy who’d been shut off who was threatening to call the cops.

“Yes sir, I’m calling the cops!” he said with an exaggerated air, and with an exaggerated motion he took out his cell phone.

Jeff stood there looking at him, dumbfounded.

The guy swung up the lid cover on his phone.

“I’m calling them.”  He was glaring at Jeff.  “ . . . I’m calling them now.”

Jeff was speechless.

“I’m not kidding!” the guy said, his finger poised over the number pad.  “I’m not kidding . . . I’m calling them!”

“Get out the fuck outa here, YOU FLAKE!” Jeff yelled.

“I really mean it,” the guy said as his fingers tapped in the numbers, 9 -1 -1.  “I’m calling them!”

Someone must have answered immediately, and the guy quickly hung up.

He was about to say something more to Jeff, but then his cell phone started ringing.  Apparently when someone calls 9 -1 -1 and hangs up, the police are required to immediately call back, in case it’s an emergency.

“Yes, I just called,” the guy said into the phone with that same snooty air.  “I’m at _____ (the bar’s name), “And the bartender just shut me off!”

The 9 -1 -1 operator must have said something, and the guy responded.  “No, I’m not drunk!” he snapped at the emergency operator.  “He’s shutting me off for no good reason!”

“What do I want?” the guy said over the phone, “I want you to come down here and arrest him!!”

“Here,” he said to Jeff after listening to the phone again, “They want to speak with you!”  He held the phone out to Jeff.

“I’m not talking with them!” Jeff said, “You called, you talk with them . . . but do it on the way out!”

“See what I mean!” the guy said, speaking again to the 9 -1 -1 dispatcher, “See what I mean!”

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” Jeff yelled, but now the guy was listening again to the dispatcher.  Whatever was said this time, the guy quickly hung up.

“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer!” the guy announced haughtily as he turned toward the front door.

“Don’t think you’re gonna get away with this!” he shouted on his way out.

He stepped out the door, but then stuck his head back in to have the last word.  “YOU’LL BE HEARING FROM MY LAWYER!!” he shouted, his head leaning around the door frame.

I don’t imagine the guy expected the cops to show up so quickly.

Apparently there was a police cruiser already nearby.  The guy had only taken a couple of steps down the sidewalk when the cruiser pulled up.

Jeff ran out and waved his hand.  “That’s the guy!” he yelled to the cops in the cruiser, “That’s the guy who called you!”

“I just wished they’d arrested him,” Jeff recalled the next day.  Now I was tending bar, and Jeff was on other side having a couple of beers.  “I stood there watching,” he told me, “And all I wanted was for them to slap the cuffs on him.  Damn I wanted to see that.”

As it turned out, the police only lectured the guy and sent him on his way, telling him not to come back to this bar for a while.

Anyway, that’s still one of my favorite stories – the guy who essentially called the cops on himself.

_ _ _ _ _

For a related story, click here to read about a man who stole the bartender’s credit card . . . then tried to use it to pay his own bar tab.  The bartender called 9 -1 -1 on him.

Back next Saturday with a few thoughts on “TIPS, and THE FILTHY RICH.”

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