Every server/bartender hates the verbal gratuity. Why? Because we know that if we get an amazing verbal gratuity that means the monetary gratuity is not coming with it. So this begs the question, why give verbal gratuity at all? Most bartenders either know they are awesome at their job, or they know they’re not. Either way their manager usually can handle telling them all about it. Bartenders make anywhere from $3.00 an hour to $8.00 an hour plus tips. They usually have to do about two hours of prep or cleanup work before or after their shift. They deal with drunken ass holes all night at work. They go to work on their death beds because in general they cannot afford health insurance, and cannot afford to take the night off and pay for the doctor’s visit both. The worst kind of verbal grat comes on slow nights when we need the money the most.
The worst Verbal gratuity I ever received came on a Wednesday night about 4 years ago. I remember because it was that bad. I was working at a sports bar in my home town in Indiana. At the time my ex-husband was finishing up his bachelor degree and was only working during the Christmas season at Best Buy. I had made the decision sometime that previous summer that I would work full time serving and bartending while only taking a part time school load on. This verbal gratuity night came in October right before Halloween. I was working 5 – 12 hour shifts a week and going to school 6 credit hours. I hated this job; it was the worst bar I had ever worked in, which made the verbal grat that much worse. I had paid most of my bills for the month knowing that I was running about two-hundred dollars short. I was also in dire need of a costume for the following week. I didn’t want to tell anyone that I couldn’t pay my bills, seeing how I had made the situation for myself. So I picked up some extra shifts knowing that it was during mid-terms.
I went to class that Wednesday morning and received my instructions for my mid-terms. They didn’t seem too impossible, but it would be a close call with the two extra shifts I had picked up. That evening I went to work, it was such a slow night that I started to get frustrated because I was not making any money. Just then I had a ten top of people walk in to the bar. To my surprise it was most of my professors from the university along with some fellow class mates. I waited on them until 2:00am, which was not that late considering I would not arrive home for another 3 hours after last call and clean up was finished. Their bill was around $600.00 that evening. They told me how awesome I was that I could take on a school load and work 60 hours a week. They praised my drink making skills and my good attitude. They were truly amazed that I was always in such high spirits in my morning classes considering I went to them on only a few hours of sleep. I knew the tip was going to be bad at this point, I just didn’t realize how bad. At this bar we were not allowed to add gratuity to tabs, so we just had to butter up the guests and hope for the best. Needless to say they did not just tell me how good I was, they told my managers, and corporate. Unfortunately, my managers did not give a shit! So the verbal gratuity didn’t even get me as much as a sticker on the way to go bartender chart in the office. The table left me a ten dollar tip on a six hundred dollar tab. I was so pissed. To make matters worse I had to go to class the following morning at 10:00am and take a mid-term in one of their classes.
I showed up to class the next morning and took the exam on four hours of sleep with a little bitterness in my heart. The professor gave me a b-. What kind of bull shit is that? I mean if I was that amazing of a bartender, you would think I would at very least have received a break on my test. Bitches! Everything worked out for the best, I have a degree and I eventually quit that shitty job. I have never forgotten that verbal gratuity though. I had to tip out $15.00 on that tab, so I actually lost $5.00 in the deal. Oh, did I mention my total sales that night were $650.00 and that this was one of those bars where I made $2.13 an hour.
So my vote is no on the verbal gratuity. I don’t need to hear from drunken people how awesome I am at my job. If someone wants to let me know how much they love my bartending skills, show me with twenty dollar tips.