The leftovers are mostly gone, the family spats over politics and grandpa’s casual racism have simmered and been repaired (for the time being), and now you have a whole new set of potentially awkward holiday-related interactions ahead of you: the work party.
I don’t know if I can help you not get drunk in front of your boss, or avoid making out with Bob from accounting, but as someone who’s worked several mid-December gatherings for the 9 to 5 world, here’s what you can do to not be the bane of your servers’, bartenders’ and hosting establishment’s existences.
’Tis the season, and all.
You are guests in our house
I don’t care if you’re on the way to curing cancer, creating affordable housing, or getting the Spice Girls back together—we agreed to host your party and augment your experience with our ambience, food, beverage, and expertise. You are not gracing us with your presence. We do not care how much money you make, or where you go to school, or who you work for, especially since, in my experience, the more money you make, the more prestigious the university or company, often the more intolerable you are as a guest.
Be the exception to the rule. Show us you understand how hospitality works. You don’t have to be on your best behavior; this is a party, after all. But if it wouldn’t fly at your friend’s friend’s house, it definitely won’t fly in ours.
“Open Bar” doesn’t mean “I Don’t Have to Tip”
If you’re fortunate enough to be dining and imbibing on your company’s dollar, you aren’t paying a darn thing for your food and drink throughout the evening—so do your part to take care of the staff.
For large parties, where a portion if not all of the restaurant is reserved for you and your colleagues—a “buy-out,” for those on my side of the bar—there is often a minimum dollar amount that must be spent on food and drink, and a tip (often 18 percent) is included on the tab that whoever is in charge of the event (not typically the person actually paying the tab) signs at the end of the night.
So, yes, without your money on the bar we’re still getting paid, but we’re getting paid less than the bare minimum of what it is acceptable to tip. Customers who aren’t tipping on an open bar are like silent canaries in a coal mine, a clear sign that things are going to bad. Except unlike coal miners, we can’t bolt for the exit.
People who think it’s okay to tip badly also generally behave like assholes, and not tipping at an open bar, where you are drinking whatever you want for free, says loud and clear that you, my friend, are just that.
Respect the inventory
I’m not going to make you a Pappy Van Winkle sour. Sure, I can, but unless you want me to stand on bar with a megaphone and single you out as the guy who just ordered an $85 spiked lemonade because you’re not responsible for paying for it, I’m going to make that sour with something reasonable instead.
Yes, I can cut you off
In fact, it’s my job to do so, regardless of the letters that come after your name.
We want you to have a great time – that’s what we’re here for. Just, you know: don’t be a dick.
Haley is an AAN Award-winning columnist for DigBoston and Mel magazine and has contributed to publications including the Boston Globe and helped found Homicide Watch Boston. She has spearheaded and led several Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism investigations including a landmark multipart series about the racialized history of liquor licensing in Massachusetts, and for three years wrote the column Terms of Service about restaurant industry issues from the perspective of workers.