Friday, September 26, 2008

Clarifications on Pub etiquette

In my previous post, I left some statements in a rather ambiguous condition, because of my own paraphrasing, which invited some comments to set me straight. Thank you. What follows are the actual words used in the book I referenced. See if you agree now. (Although the spelling and terminology are American, the author is British.)

“... if you’re only there for a drink, always go to the bar when trying to order. Bars in the UK don’t have wandering waitresses ...

“A warning here: While the bar may be the only place where the Brits don’t seem to be “queuing,” customers will definitely know who got there first, second, and so on. If you try to jump this invisible queue, the barman will probably ignore you and serve the person who is really next. To ensure getting served, simply rest your elbow on the bar (if you can get near it) and hold out your empty glass or money. This must be done very casually, though. The barman will let you know when you are about to be served by looking at you as he’s serving the current customer. You should then indicate that you’ve seen this with a slight nod of the head, a smile, or any other subtle gesture. Pushing and shoving is allowed, if it’s a really busy bar...

“... you are not expected to leave a tip on the bar; indeed, you will receive some very strange looks if you do. Sometimes patrons offer to buy the bar staff a drink (“And one for yourself”) but this is not expected. If you do, the bar staffer (who may not be permitted to drink while on duty) will thank you, tell you what they like, and charge you accordingly...”
I still maintain that it is much easier (and desirable) to simply sit at your table and nod at the waitress when she asks you "if you are ready for another one" every 5 minutes or so. Even having to tip her is better than getting up and walking to the bar and standing "amongst" a "non-queue." (Queue: a word Americans would seldom use, btw. Here we stand in "lines". In New York, you stand "on" line.)


  1. From the last post:

    A, absolutely, I've already promised you a round in Winchester when I make it there. So long as we're not sucked into a black hole by the LHC.

  2. It's very hard to nod at a waitress if there isn't one, Max, however desirable that may be.

    Redbeard, it broke down already I'm told, so try to make it before they switch on again. Next year some time. How embarrassing for them :)

  3. what the F is a "wandering waitress"?? That implies she has nothing to do and trust me, she's working it for those tips. THAT'S not nothing. Sitting behind a bar waiting for some drunk to stagger up and order a drink... well, I don't really have to say it, do I?

  4. Well, so far I've scoped this out. For airfare for 3 and 5 nights at a reasonable hotel in London, according to Expedia, is nearly $5000. Food, local transport and personal spending not included. 5 days, let alone 5 weeks.

    I may have to extend my plan out to retirement, or fly solo - by myself, it would be closer to starting around $1600. It would seem much of that is airfare alone for the extra 2 people.

  5. We have a different system here.
    The barmaid (or barman) is paid a wage. Tips are not expected.
    Most americans are used to the idea that bars and restaurants pay below subsistence levels, and tips are necessary.
    Let's look at it another way. The wait staff are paid to serve you. It's their job to do it and do it right. They should be paid adequately.

    We think it is demeaning to them, and to us, if they need to be bribed not to spit in our drinks.

    The guys who clear your garbage and those who dig out and repair utilities work hard too. Do you tip them?

  6. I take it you've never forgotten your Christmas extra for the binmen then Soubriquet? And found your (now fortnight's) rubbish distributed down the road. Such fun :)

    It's all forbidden in France, so they "sell" you a calendar every year. You end up with one from the postman, one from the binmen and one from the firemen (who tend to be rather, hmm, smart looking in their uniforms, and so may even sell two) and sundry others who may happen by, just before Christmas.

  7. My binmen get no christmas bribe. Firstly, they come around here at the crack of dawn, whilst I'm still yawning my way into wakefulness.
    Unlike the old days, when they lifted, carried, and tipped heavy steel bins, carried them on their backs maybe fifty yards to the truck, came back, left them near the house, picked up a few extra bags and boxes, these days, I have to wheel my bin to the roadside, if it's a yard inside my property, they won't touch it, extra bags are taboo, I have to sort the waste, cardboards, plastics, glass, metal, organics, garden waste, all segregated, take some to the recycling station myself. So... These days their job consists of wheeling a bin to the back of the truck and hooking it on a hydraulic lifter. Then leaving it randomly in the road.
    They get paid well to do that, and work shorter days than I do. The council pays them a bonus for turning up at work, whereas if I want a bonus?
    Ha. Never happen.
    So no, I see no reason to give them a bribe.

  8. Redbeard - Go for it. Hope you do a post on the LHC. I would read it to find out what the heck it is. :)

    a. - Christ, that's my whole point, disruptive one: you don't have waitresses in pubs. How on earth can that be deemed a positive thing?

    Petra - Geez, thanks. A word from the feminist side. I'll bet YOU never waited on tables Zombie lover. :)

    Redbeard - I say take the whole family. Find a way. You're a pirate - hit a few seven elevens.

    Soubriquet - The barmen in my country are paid a regular wage too. They still expect to get tipped if you are sitting at the bar. At the very least "keep the change" with every drink. Wait staffs are paid the mandatory federal wage which is determined by the average expected tips, I think. Good waitresses are hardly "average" and knock off pretty big money sometimes. Which, of course, wink wink nudge nudge, they report to the taxman very honestly.

    But you are right: Americans are used to a lot of things. Such as cab drivers in NY who don't speak English and don't have a clue where the address is expecting huge tips on top of huge meters.

    Your idea of expecting good service without tipping is admirable. I reserve the right to ask British waiters to find out if getting a tip makes them feel demeaned.

    Actually, I DO tip my letter carrier at Christmas time, even though, as a federal employee, he makes big bucks already. And he can't even read numbers. Go figure.

    At least your binman (I'm going out on a limb and guessing that means garbageman) drags the bin over to the truck. Ours don't even get out of the truck. Hydraulic tentacles come out the side, grab the Herbie, lift it high in the air, and dump it. Then they slam it to the ground as fast as they can to see if they can split it open or at least bend the axle. and move on before the tentacles are completely retracted, making sure it tips over for you to pick up. No, I don't tip them either. But, then, they spend Christmases in Mexico with their families anyway.

    The only things I am really getting out of this is that there are many ways of doing things in your country, and your authors lie like shit.

    a. - Tipping is forbidden in France? I'm assuming you mean just public employees. The French waiter is BORN with his hand out, is he not?

    Kirsten - (Big smile) You weren't scared off after all! Welcome back. Next shout's on Readbeard. :)



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