Ask The Salty Waitress: Can I Give My Bartender A Holiday Gift Or Bonus?

Dear Salty, So it's the holiday season, and every year I try to give a little something to the housecleaner, the super, and the dogwalker. The bartender at my local bar provides a service that's at least a valuable as cleaning my house, fixing stuff, and walking my dog. Can I give them a holiday tip or gift, too? Or is that creepy?


Ho, ho, ho, you jolly old elf,

The milk and cookie servers up at the North Pole probably have no need for money at all, but down here, bartenders absolutely love getting holiday tips. Back in the day, it was considered de rigueur. An old bartender pal of mine recently got all misty remembering how, when he started in the game 35 years ago, he'd get half again more than his usual take-home during the month of December. And a merry Christmas it was!

But how much should you give? That question depends on a couple of things. Are you a regular? My pal describes it this way: "Does the server (bartender or on the floor) know you by name, get your usual without being prompted or recommend a new beer or food menu offering that they know is the sort of thing you like, save you a seat or perhaps serve you a bit faster than the strays when the joint's crowded?" If so, sugarplum, count yourself a regular, and that means you should give a holiday tip in the $25-$50 range, depending on how fancy your local bar is. Or you can calculate based on your regular tip. Take that number and double it. Then shove the cash in an envelope or leave it under the coaster, or write "Happy holidays!" on the credit card slip.

Whatever you do, though, please, please, please don't give presents. Save that for when you sneak down the chimney. People in the service industry like the cold, hard cash much better than a scarf they'll never wear or a gift card to a store they'd never shop at. (And also, that can be considered creepy.) January and February are the slowest months of the year, and your bartender might need that holiday cash to get through the downtime.

Though I do have to say, if you bring in a plate of cookies for the poor suckers who get stuck working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I'm sure it won't go unappreciated.

Now go and have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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