14 Polite Habits Bartenders Secretly Hate—and What to Do Instead

Front view of dirty empty crystal wine glasses, plate, napkin and fork on a bar table with a metallic buckt with some opened wine bottles with cork and a beer faucet without jar at the back. Horizontal photography.


Stuffing napkins, straw wrappers or other trash into your cup

Cleaning up the mess in front of you is a kind gesture, and one that the bussers and bartenders definitely appreciate. But while stuffing all the trash into a glass may look contained and tidy, it actually creates more work. “Now I have to stick my fingers inside the used glasses and fish out soggy napkins,” Joe says.

Do this instead: If you see a trash can, put your trash directly in it. Otherwise, gather the trash in a pile on the table instead of stuffing it in your used glasses. This is also good etiquette at Italian restaurants and pretty much all others.

Young Hispter Bartender Talking With Customers

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Telling them your life story

Bartenders are often seen as kind and sympathetic, and you may feel like it’s an honor to trust them with your problems. Plus, they could use the company, so it’s a win-win, isn’t it? Not exactly. For starters, they’re not therapists. And second, they’re working! “Sometimes customers will sit and chat with me for my whole shift, insisting on keeping me company, telling me they don’t want me to get bored or even saying they’re protecting me from other people who might have bad intentions,” say Miner. “But while I appreciate the thought, they’re rarely helpful, and they can make me miss out on tips.”

Do this instead: “When it’s slow, I don’t mind listening, but the truth is that we’re there to do our job, and we usually have lots of people to serve,” says Joe. “So be friendly and smile, but don’t keep chatting if we’re busy.” If you need some company, there are always the other patrons. Check out these conversation starters to help with small talk.

Smiling woman at the counter of a bar watching barkeeper preparing a cocktail

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Asking them out

Did that cute bartender give you a special smile or touch your hand when giving your card back? Does that mean he or she likes you? Probably not. “We’re not into you, we’re not flirting with you and we do not want to go home with you,” says Miner. “Being kind and nice is part of our job. That’s it.”

Also, don’t ask what time they get off or where they live. That can come across as creepy and even threatening. Flight attendants also wish you would avoid this type of behavior.

Do this instead: Never assume your bartender is flirting with you. However, if you want to roll the dice on your own meet-cute story, it’s OK to give them your number on a napkin and leave the ball in their court, Miner says.

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