OPINION: Tip Your mf Bartender
The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the USU or the Pulp editorial staff.
I’m going to paint a familiar scene for you. You and your friend walk into a bar, sit down and get handed a menu. You don’t pay too much attention because you’re excited to be hanging out with your friend. It’s a Friday night and you’re looking to have some fun and let your hair down for the weekend. The bartender returns and asks if you would like a drink: a quick glance at the menu shows too many options and you don’t have time to make a decision. You just ask for a white wine, not too sweet, quite dry and not so expensive you’ll cripple your bank card. Your friend similarly doesn’t have the time to waste going through a wine list or cocktail menu and just orders a dry gin Martini with a twist. The bartender returns with a glass of pinot blanc for you and a Martini that hits just the right spot for your friend and your night continues as if nothing happened.
That bartender deserves a tip. Every bartender that serves you well deserves a tip. The person making that Negroni is probably a university student who is being stupidly underpaid because it’s the only job where they can get enough hours to pay rent and uni fees that fit around their study schedule. They will work often without breaks, penalty rates, and below the minimum wage because they’re so easily exploitable. They’re exploitable because they are desperate and they know there’s always a backpacker with more experience who will do the same job for significantly less.
This isn’t an isolated phenomenon, everyone knows that hospitality staff are underpaid and overworked. It’s one of the hospitality industry’s worst kept secrets: we’ve all known for years that corporations like Rockpool and Merivale don’t pay their staff properly. It’s everyone, from the glassie at the Ivy to the most experienced and talented bartender at The Baxter Inn. Even for those of us who treat this as a career, not a part time job are being exploited. I work for the best company I have ever worked for in the best venue I have ever worked in. My bosses strive to “be the bosses they never had”, and for the most part they’re excellent. I work in an environment that I love with the best owners and managers I have ever had. I get paid award rates, tips are pooled and split evenly at the end of every shift, I get superannuation, a good quality meal, training, and I get to work with the finest tools, spirits and produce with the biggest and best names in the industry. But even I get exploited: I back up to work less than 8 hours after I left the night before (illegal) and I work eight, nine, ten hour shifts with no break without the no-break penalty rates. This is just the way it is in the industry, it’s rampant and unavoidable.
So, we now come to the point where you respond with “ Well, we don’t solve this through tipping we solve this through reform.” You’re absolutely right. We do need to introduce labour laws so that hospitality is a safer workplace, but that isn’t the point I am getting at. The person stirring your martini knows how to stir it so as to get the perfect dilution, temperature and so that it sits in the glass with a perfect washline. They know the difference between different gins and vermouths, they know how to make it wet, dry, dirty and can recommend what twist to have with it. The same way the person pouring your chardonnay can tell you the vineyard, the vintage and the tasting notes. I can promise you that they don’t learn that whilst the bar is bursting at the seams, they learn it at home, through following Punch on Facebook or reading Death and Co. or going to masterclasses on their days off. That is the commitment this job takes just to be competent, let alone good. So, if someone can recommend something to you, get your order perfect or just know what the fuck they’re doing, they’ve committed numerous hours off the clock and they deserve a compensation. Did you have a pleasant experience? Tip because the staff deserve your gratitude for the amount of unrecognised work they’ve put in to facilitate your night out.