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Ten Principles of Bar Etiquette

Many years ago in New York, a gentleman at a restaurant I was working in instructed me that I should treat him with respect because he is paying my rent. I was unaware that I was being disrespectful in any way, but I retorted that I had the utmost respect for him. I'm sure I gave a cheeky grin that illustrated my inner sarcasm. He then returned that I should simply assume respectful treatment toward my elders and that my mother should have taught me that.

At that point in the conversation, immense pressure formed in my chest and head. Before I could edit myself, I told him that my mother, in fact, taught me not to piss people off that bring food to the table and that maybe his mother should have taught him the same. Luckily, his wife laughed out loud as did his other two guests while I walked away.

I would have been fired for this little escapade had the guests complained that night, and rightfully so. This is an example of both customer and bartender acting inappropriately. The truth is that the bar business forces you to smile when you feel like frowning and to be polite when you feel like screaming. It's called service and, of course, it is a choice to be in the service industry. In Myrtle Beach, most people have either worked, are currently working, or know someone who works in the service industry. Thus, the masses are fairly well-versed in proper etiquette, but, being a tourist-driven economy, we still encounter a few customers and bartenders that can't seem to manage the duality of ordering a drink. Here are ten tips for us all to drink to.

› Yelling, whistling or waving money to get the attention of the bartender sends the message that you look down on them. Try simply making eye contact or moving into line of sight. If the bartender is using his cell phone or smoking while customers are waiting for drinks, by all means whistle and wave your cash or, better yet, just go somewhere else.

› If you would like a strong drink, then order - and pay for - a double.

› A gratuity is a voluntary act. It's purely customary and not required if the service falters. That being said, bartenders make their living on tips. Good service should be compensated.

Ever wonder why the person next to you walked in and a drink magically appeared without a verbal exchange? They have been there before, probably a few times, and took very good care of the bar staff. I'm talking about an extra special gratuity that, probably, was the result of stellar service or a really festive night out. Either way, cash is the best way to enhance a bartender's memory.

› Fast service and good service are not always related. However, slow service and poor service are.

› Every bar in this country would serve drinks to anyone with money if they could. Unethical? Yes. This is why the national government stepped in and mandated that you must be 21 years of age to purchase alcohol. If you are asked to show your identification, take it as a compliment.

› If a bartender suggests a brand of spirits, a cocktail or a wine, then they probably can explain why. Bartending is a sales position. They are doing their job by recommending the best products, not to mention sparing you a cheap hangover. However, if you are automatically poured the premium brands without being asked for your preference, then the amateur bartender should be notified of the mistake and work something out with the management if need be.

› Drink prices are determined by the owners, not the bartender. If you are on a budget, be conscious of what you order and always read the itemized receipt. Mistakes can happen while adding items to various tabs.

› Harassment, sexual or otherwise, can come from either side of the bar and either may have legal ramifications. Be careful what you say and how you say it.

› Our taste memory is linked to other senses such as smell and feel. Thus, the wonderful pina colada you had in Barbados will pack a more blissful punch than the same drink in your local watering hole. The drink is probably made exactly the same in both places, but environment and mindset make the island delight taste completely different. It - normally - has nothing to do with the way the drink was made or who made it.

› Never condone poor service in any industry, especially bars and restaurants. However, I do understand the human condition of reaching a breaking point. We have all been there. If we, as patrons and bartenders, would remind ourselves that customer service is a two-word phrase where one word depends upon the other, then there would be even more harmony in our bar scene. A nice customer yields nice service and nice service yields nice customers. Cheers!