Bar Etiquette: Tabs, Cards & Paying for Drinks
If you are not going to pay for the drinks, don't order them
If somebody is going to buy you a drink, let him/her order it. If you order a drink and the person you're with doesn't want to pay for it, you will have to pay it. You ordered the drink, you pay for it.
Warning: If somebody you don't know is going to buy you a drink, make sure you get it from the bartender. You don't want a stranger putting something in your drink.
Have your money ready
While the bartender is making your drinks, you should be getting your money ready. Don't wait until you get your drinks to start looking for your money. Don't keep the bartender waiting for you while you're looking for money in your pockets or purse. Don't waste the bartender's time. There are people waiting for the bartender.
Activate your debit/credit card before using it
If you just got a new card, make sure you activate it before going to the bar. Your new card should have a sticker that says something like this, "please activate this card at any ATM and then use it for your next purchase." You don't want to order several drinks and have your card declined because you forgot to activate it. If that happens, I hope you have some cash with you. One more thing, once you activate your card, you should remove the sticker.
Don't use your credit card more than twice
You should only use your credit card ounce at the bar. If you are going to use a credit card, open a tab. When you are finished drinking, close your tab and go home. Ordering one drink and closing your tab several times in one night is not acceptable. Opening and closing your tab all night slows down the bartender and keeps the other customers waiting longer. If you don't want to leave a tab open, bring cash.
Note: Some establishments have a bar tab minimum when paying with a card.
Don't complain about your bill when your account says, "pending"
When you open a tab, some establishments will pre-authorize your card. This is done to insure that your card is valid and that you have enough money to pay for your bill. When your card is pre-authorized, it will place a hold on your account for a given amount. When you close your tab, you will get charged the amount of your tab.
If you check your account the following day, you will see a pending transaction. If your card was pre-authorized, you will see the amount of the pre-authorization and not the actual amount of your bill. If the amount of the pre-authorization is higher than the actual amount of your bill, don't freak out. Don't start calling the establishment to complain about a higher amount on your account. Once the transaction is cleared, the pre-authorization goes away and you get charged the actual amount of your bill.
Note: The pre-authorization is not a charge and it takes about 3 days to clear.
Don't try to use somebody else's credit card
If you want to open a tab, use your own credit card. Don't try to use somebody else's credit card. It really doesn't matter if the credit card that you are trying to use is your relative's (mother, father, husband, wife, etc). Don't try to convince the bartender that it is OK to use the card. Don't show your ID to prove that you have the same last name. If the card is not yours, don't use it.
Don't ask the bartender to put a drink on somebody's tab
Don't order a drink and then tell the bartender to put it on somebody's tab. If the tab is not yours, don't ask the bartender to put it on another person's tab. It doesn't matter if it's your best friend's tab or your relative's tab.
The only way that you can order a drink on somebody's tab is if the owner of the tab agrees and let's the bartender know that you can order in his/her tab.
Note: Make sure that the owner of the tab let's the bartender know that you can order on his/her tab.
Don't ask the bartender to charge you now and give you the drinks later
If there are drink specials until a certain time, don't ask the bartender to charge you for several drink specials now and then give them to you at a later time (after the specials ended). There is no "pay now, get later" service.
Note: There might be a limit on how many drinks specials you can buy at one time.
Remember where you opened your tab
Pay attention who you open your tab with. Make sure you remember the bartender as well as the bar where you opened your tab. Don't go to another bar to order a drink and ask the bartender to put it on your tab. If you are at a different bar, the bartender does not have access to your tab.
Remember where you put your card after you closed your tab
Before you start accusing the bartender of not returning your card back when you closed your tab, check your pockets first. Many times customers get their card back and forget that they placed it in their pockets, purse or even in their boobs.
Don't argue your tab unless you are really sure
Take a really good look at your receipt before you start arguing your tab. Make sure that all the drinks that are on your tab, you actually ordered.
Many times, people forget that they bought drinks for a friend or for a lady. Sometimes, they loose count on how many drinks they had all night. In addition, by the time they close their tab, they are buzzed and don't think straight.
Don't ask the bartender how much does he want for a tip if you are not willing to give it him
Don't ask the bartender, "how much do you want for a tip?" If you ask a bartender, he will say a big amount. If you are not willing to give that amount, don't ask. Just give him 20% or more of the total.
You don't need to point out how much you left for a tip
When you close your tab, you don't have to point out how much you left for a tip. When a person points out the tip, he/she thinks that he/she is leaving a good tip. Unfortunately, many times it's not a good tip. The bartender knows when you leave a good tip and if you do, he will remember you.
Don't forget to sign your tab
When you close your tab, some establishments will give you two slips. One slip is for them and the other is for you. You need to sign their slip and return it to the bartender. If you only sign one, make sure you give the signed slip to the bartender. Don't take the signed slip for you and leave a blank slip for the bartender.
Another common mistake is that some people write the tip on the slip and forget to sign it. Please fill the slip completely (tip, total and signature).
When closing your tab, write clearly
Many people don't write clearly when they write the tip on their slip. The bartenders have to try to figure out how much they received for a tip. Example: The 4's look like 9's, 3's look like 8's or 0's look like 6's, etc.
If you can not add, ask somebody to help you. When people write the tip and total, many times they don't add up. If you are too drunk to add, ask somebody to help you do the sum.
Return the pens back to the bartender
Once you have finished signing your tab, please return the pen and slip back to the bartender.
Ladies: Please, don't put the bartender's pen in your purse. I've seen it many times and I always have to ask for my pen back. I always wonder: how many pens do you have in your purse?
Guys: If you are going to the bar to get ladies' phone numbers, bring your own pen. Don't come to the bartender saying, "Hey! let me borrow a pen" when the bartender is busy making drinks for other customers.
If you forgot your tab, come tomorrow. Not after the place closed
If you left a tab open when you went home, you could go back and close it. But if the place already closed, go back the next day. Don't stay outside knocking trying to get somebody to open the door. Even if there is still people inside, don't knock. If it's already closed, they are not going to open the door. Specially, if it is at night.
Don't pay with coins. No pennies, nickels or dimes
Bars don't use anything smaller than quarters. They don't use pennies, nickels or dimes. All drinks are rounded to the quarter. Have you ever paid for a drink that costs $2.98?
Note: Please, don't tip with coins either.
Don't try to pay with something order than money
Don't offer to show or touch your boobs or any other body part for a free drink. Are you surprised? Don't be. Some women will do a lot of things to get a free drink.
Don't try to pay for drinks with drugs. Drugs are illegal and they are not accepted at the bar. Money is the only means of payment.
Don't ask for cash back
The bar is not the super market where you could get cash back when you make a purchase. There is no cash back at the bar. If you want cash, go to the ATM.