drinks on bar (l) young woman (c) bartender handing back credit card (r)

wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock @madegreatbyjo/TikTok (Licensed)

‘I would have tipped you that anyway’: Bar customer says she never closes out because rule is automatic 20% tip on walked tabs. Is that a good idea?

'You saved me from doing math.'

 

Phil West

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Posted on Jan 23, 2024   Updated on Jan 23, 2024, 8:16 am CST

A bar customer has reopened a conversation about a policy some of you might be familiar with: The option to not close out your tab at the end of the night. Some bars now have a policy where you get your card back once it’s entered into the system (when you place your first order), and you can leave without closing out, with an automatic 20% tip applied to the bill.

For TikToker Jo (@madegreatbyjo), who got more than 1.6 million views on a video she put up on TikTok on Sunday, it’s a great idea and adds to her convenience when going out.

She says in the short video, “I personally love going to bars where you give them your card, and they give it back to you, and they’re like, ‘Hey, if you don’t close out by the end of the night, it’s 20% added gratuity.'”

She then reasons, “Because to me, I’m like, oh, that’s less work for me to do. So you’ve already given me my card back. I can just leave. I would’ve tipped you that anyway.”

Other commenters found the convenience similarly appealing and mentioned some other surprising benefits.

“Probably saving me money bc after a couple drinks I’m out here tipping like 50% or more,” one observed. “Better that I just walk out and we’re both happy.”

Another pointed out, “Waiting at the bar to cash out when I’m hammered is the worst. This saves that whole step.”

Jo responded, “Yes like i don’t wanna wait 20 minutes to leave!”

@madegreatbyjo one of my favorite things about going out in this day and age #weekend #bars #drinks ♬ original sound – jo ✦ ˚ . ✧ ✵ · ✧ ˚ ✷

She told the Daily Dot she filmed the video on vacation at Yee-Haw Brewing in Knoxville, Tennessee, and wasn’t surprised by all the reactions her video got. However, she did comment, “There’s at least five completely separate arguments right now, probably the biggest one surrounding the basis of tipping in general.”

She clarified, “What really mattered to me is that a few bartenders whose bars actually implemented this policy commented saying they liked it on their side as well!”

Back in April 2023, the Houston Chronicle put out an article looking at the policy from multiple perspectives, including those working in bars. The verdict was surprisingly mixed.

On one hand, some in the article agreed with the general sentiment of Jo and her commenters. “I have people that forget to close their tabs all the time that call me days later and are worried about if the bartenders got tipped,” Angel Share owner Mary Ellen Angel said in the article.

It went on to note, “The downtown Houston bar states on the menu that they’ll add 20 percent gratuity to all walked tabs. Angel says the team is happy to close people’s tabs, and can even email them an itemized receipt. ‘Everybody wins! Not a big deal at all,’ she says.”

But not all bars have adopted that policy. The article warns that one person interviewed for the story “worked at places where, even if there is a credit card on file, it’s the server or bartender’s responsibility to pay the entirety of a walked tab.”

And for some, the act of closing out at the end of the night is a welcome conclusion to the interactions that server and customer have had. One bartender interviewed for the article observed, “The act of not closing your tab, and not having that personal exchange where you thank your bartender or whatever … It feels a little bit robotic.”

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*First Published: Jan 23, 2024, 9:00 am CST