It still amazes me everyday how affective a smile or a kind word is when it comes to changing someone’s day. I have learned through my years of bartending that sometimes the best way to receive a tip is to put on a smile. I ran a bar for over 18 months and everyday when I started my shift I would say to all of the bartenders, smile even if you don’t mean it. We as bartenders hide behind this smile most every day. There are some bartenders who have not or cannot achieve this simple gesture while slinging drinks for the masses. But the ones who have will tell you, that their smile could have easily been what has put them through college or paid their mortgage. The smile for me though is not only about getting good tips, although it does help significantly. I have learned over the years that my smile has helped me form connections and relationships with bar regulars that have lasted a life time.
In the monetary since my smile has truly paid my bills, put me through college, and paid for almost any great thing I have accomplished. I have been offered because of my smile cars, clothes, credit cards, and trips around the world. In fact this past weekend I was offered a trip to Tokyo. I have for the most part declined these types of gifts throughout the years because I feel that I would have been taking advantage of a kind and drunken person. I have accepted smaller gifts throughout the years like a crystal necklace from an old lady who wanted me to have it. Or I have received CD’s and other gifts that were made for me. I feel like bartenders have plenty of opportunity to take advantage of their bar regulars when it comes to filling in the tip slot on the credit card at the end of the night, no need to take more. Although sometimes I look back and think how nice it would be if I had that Jeep Wrangler or apartment in NY.
My smile has gotten me more than just money and gifts while bartending. I believe that because of my lack of willingness to take advantage of my bar regulars I have received a wonderful collection of people, whom have become my surrogate family. One of the best relationships that was spawn from my smile was with two bar regulars named Granny and Sid. I worked at a sports bar for a 2 ½ year stint while going to school. I worked at this bar an upwards of 60 hours a week at some points. We had a game unit at this bar that allowed the bar regulars to play free poker and trivia while they drank. Granny and Sid were an old lesbian couple who were lesbians before it was even heard of, and who loved to play some trivia and poker. They were a little on the bitter side and did not like just anyone. After smiling at them and serving them margaritas for a couple of months Sid said to me, “I have never met someone who has smiled so much that they have smile wrinkles at the age of 25”. It broke the ice, from that day on they smiled back, and not just at me. These ladies became family to all of the bartenders at the sports bar. Fortunately I worked with a few other bartenders who were just like me, so Granny and Sid became family to them as well. Sid eventually grew extremely sick and Granny was distraught. I and some of my fellow bartenders helped take care of their animals and apartment while Sid was in the hospital. We got a phone call from Granny hours before Sid died; she wanted us to be there with her because we were the only ones who could make her feel better. The bartenders were not only included in the funeral ceremony but also asked to carry the casket for Sid. After her death we each received a small gift from Granny of something that had belonged to Sid. I still have that gift and I will always keep it. These ladies changed my life and I took part in changing theirs.
So for the bartenders, please remember to smile even if you don’t mean it. Not just for the tips, do it because it just might change someone’s life, even your own. For the bar guests, please keep in mind that it sometimes can be the hardest task a bartender has to achieve in a bad days work, the smile. So if they are smiling, let them know how much you appreciate it. For the bar regulars I have served over the years, I knew you liked smile, Can’t get enough! :) P.S. I have enjoyed all of yours as well.
The largest tip I have ever received and was told it was because of my smile was $500.00. A business man in Detroit had had a rough day, I made him laugh and he tipped me for it… Keep that in mind!