- Tip $1 per beer minimum.
- Tip 20% minimum on a big tab.
- Pay the tip with cash.
- Tip for bad service, too.
- Even if the owner serves you, leave a tip.
- Kick in some more for special favors, like samples.
What about when you don't enjoy your visit to the pub, because the service is bad? Short answer: tip normally anyway. For one thing, if you plan on visiting the establishment again, you don't want to get a reputation as a non-tipper. For another, failing to tip doesn't fix the problem. The remedy for bad (or rude) service is to let management know -- on the spot if that is convenient or comfortable for you; otherwise later on with an email or a phone call. Not tipping the front-line employee isn't going to teach them a lesson -- if anything they might feel justified in their treatment of you -- and the message isn't going to reach the manager who could do something about it. A competing school of thought says to leave a symbolic insulting tip like one penny. That only seems like an option if you know you'll never be back, but it's also very petty. Don't be petty. Be big and then wash your hands of the place. Another thing to consider: people don't stay in the same service jobs forever, and the surly bartender you stiff today might show up at your favorite haunt tomorrow.
Another thing I was curious about was the etiquette of tipping the owner of a bar. In the comments, Jeff set me straight pretty quick about that: tip the owner normally. For one thing, if the owner is working a shift behind the bar instead of relaxing by the pool, he or she is probably working for a lower hourly figure than the employees. Secondly, some of that tip money goes to the other employees on duty at the time. And finally, if the proprietor finds you to be too generous, it's within his or her power to make it up to you -- or, to put it another way, why wouldn't you try and get on the good side of the owner of a bar you like to go to?
Finally, there's the question of cash. Forget about the tax angle -- let's assume that our bartenders are honest citizens who will pay whatever taxes are due on the tips. There are two issues with cash. First of all, on the previous post, Ezra pointed out that the surest way to make sure that your tip goes to the server you want to flatter, is to put your cash on the barrelhead. In his experience, the credit card tips are averaged for the week and distributed based on the number of hours worked. Furthermore, as I've pointed out before, more of your money stays local if you pay in cash, instead of having the bar pay roughly a 4% tax to out-of-state credit card processors.
Thanks again to everyone who chimed in on the earlier discussion. Tip your bartender, and tell 'em It's Pub Night sent you.