Stories of bar customers leaving nasty notes instead of a tip

It’s an unfortunate truth in our industry that we must depend on our customer’s common knowledge of proper tipping etiquette and basic math skills to pay our bills. Occasionally, we’re left standing amid a mess of empty tumblers and dirty plates, holding a recently-signed credit card slip, staring blankly at the tip line in utter disbelief. While an inadequate tip can feel like a punch in the gut, it’s the folks who go the extra mile to leave a special note, or piece of advice, rather, that truly exceeds all expectations. Just tonight, two young women (who seemed to enjoy fine service, mind you) hardly spoke to me while sitting at my bar, sipping pilsners slowly together. They decided to leave an inscription on the tip line: “work harder (also maybe don’t drink on the job)” they had composed, before exiting immediately. “Oh, sweet,” I thought to myself, “LG&E will totally accept this as payment tomorrow.”

Sadly, I was completely sober at the time of said note, and, in my flabbergasted incredulity, I began to wonder — why do people leave a note? Are we so deeply entrenched in the digital era that we only feel brave enough to express our opinions behind a screen, or in this case, a tip receipt? Was this simply another attempt for women to tear each other down? What exactly should I have done to “work harder” in this scenario for these young ladies? And, do I really have to stop getting lit on the job? (Just kidding, boss).

It appears human relations have shifted with the age of the interwebs, and while leaving nasty notes regarding customer service may not necessarily be an innovative trend, snide remarks and often-trivial messages are seemingly easier for the average Joe to convey today with the stroke of a finger. There is an ease that comes with being able to project one’s opinion without having to actually speak it, and perhaps folks, who wouldn’t feel comfortable otherwise, have found a liberating identity in doing so. Is leaving a barkeep a note about learning how to do his or her job, or needing to smile more, in the same realm as cyber bullying? Can it really get that bad? I put the question to my Louisville service industry brethren, and here are some of the notes they’ve received over their careers:

“‘Go fuck yourself, asshole,’ with a heart drawn at the end. Guess that’s what I get for cutting someone off at 1 p.m.” — Daniel T.

“‘Let’s go searching in the lost river of vag juice.’ I’ve also had, ‘get a real job,’ and ‘Jesus does not approve of your tattoos.’” — Megin T.

“‘You’re a terrible server. Get a new job, please!’ Loved it.” — Sydney M.

“‘My husband doesn’t want you, slut,’ with zero tip on $80. Complete stranger who I guess thought I smiled a little too much at her husband, who she was right next to the entire time.” — Sarah S.

“‘Sorry, because of my strong personal ties to Christ I cannot tip you knowing you’re gay…’” — Carmen F.

“’You speak very well. Folks like you, where I’m from, talk ghetto.’” — Kyle W.

“‘Call me tonight after my wife goes to bed.’” — Aaron T.

I once had someone leave me a note that simply said: “suck me.” Folks have no qualms about transcribing a love note when it comes to customer service in bars and restaurants. They can touch on a range of subjects, from religion to race to sexual orientation and sexual harassment, or we may be told just that we are fucking morons. Whatever the reason that has gotten us to this point, my challenge to all those in LEO Land is this: in 2017, speak up. If you’re unhappy with something, ask for a manager, or tell your server or bartender you need more attention. Don’t be that faceless villain, eager to leave a distasteful Yelp review from the car. We do understand that shoddy service happens, trust us. But the vast majority of us want to make things better. Start a conversation, in real time, and perhaps things will evolve into a truly wonderful experience. We’re living in an era where we can use our voices to make change. Let’s not use it to be a dick.