A lot of you have been asking for more technical stuff. So this is a simple and to the point technical examination of the best, most tried and tested methods of ripping of your bar of choice, from this side of the sticks.
Probably did it.
Before you look over at that high horse, locked away in an impenetrable stable of self imposed morality, let us all take a moment to acknowledge something every bartender reading this blog has in common.
You have stolen alcohol in the workplace. It is more than likely that the alcohol you stole was surreptitiously converted to cash or reward in some indirect and convoluted pride protecting mechanism. You will probably do it again.
Now listen. Some of you are horrible people. That’s because we are members of the human species, within which a few rotten eggs exist. Lots of you will be aware of a large scale personal theft that occurred in the middle of the London bar scene only weeks ago. Lots of you will have read Haley Forest’s recent article detailing the unfortunate experience of William Pineapple when he lost two lovely jiggers at an industry event.
Upon reading this piece I did agree with most of the sentiment. I agree that it is entirely wrong to take another persons personal possessions. But there is such a thing as honour amongst thieves. You’ll know if you are crossing the line because you will feel in your bones that you are fucking someone over and that is not what I am writing about.
But, to imagine the bar industry has a more accurate moral compass than the general public is pure fallacy. I would go a step further and suggest there is more pirate DNA in ‘The Industry’ than most working environments. There are more bartender thieves than dentist thieves. Know thyself.
Powerful as ones ego is, particularly within the bartender species, we cleverly compartmentalize away our theft into neat and tidy drip trays of denial. E.g:
- It’s just a shot on a Saturday night with the team.
- These guys are regulars, this is just great customer service.
- I’m sure they wont mind if I just stick one on the tab for me.
- I just don’t give a fuck if the till balances. This fifty pound note is coming with me.
Spacing out my text with pictures helps you to digest the content.
The common word in all of these sentences is ‘just’. Just is an interesting word in the English language because it essentially contains the lie purporting to be truth. Whenever someone uses the word ‘just’ to you: Be the fuck aware. And believe me, it’s everywhere. When someone uses it, it means you need to ask them more questions.
Let’s get to it. Here are some classics of the genre:
The West End classic. Accrue a medium sized cash prize upon shift completion by regularly missing drinks off bills. To get this right you need to know the menu well and be confident with arithmetic. Tricky if receipts are given out. I saw a high profile bottle basher taken down with a mid shift cash out and marched right out the door once. A gem of a moment.
Fantastic for geeks keen to keep the stock balanced. Whip 5ml (or more) from selected shots and feel smug developing your own positive liquor tab. A great bar manager once said “We should always be up on spirits!” Requires free pouring culture.
Excellent when applied to people that are already wankered but keen to keep drinking. I used to play a game where we would see how little alcohol we could get away with putting in a drink. I won by dipping the top of the straw in a vodka bottle. “Wow, that’s strong!” he slurred.
Twenty for you. One for me. Works best on large parties, especially if you can smell that the service is being removed from the bill and people are clamouring to avoid leaving a well deserved tip. Beware that 5 x 50ml Roses Small Batch stands out against 12 litres of Rosé and 168 mojitos. Bar managers particularly like this one if they’ve had to relentlessly fop around after a party all night without reward and need to reach a sales target.
This is how the London bar scene takes care of itself and I am extremely proud that the code of consideration between us all extends to the point that even bartenders that fucking hate me still look after me in this respect. Probably not anymore. Technique: Give someone worthwhile a free drink. Payoff: ‘Just’ pay it forwards.
Often manifest in events companies ripping off corporates on a significant scale, that scam has more to do with over production.
On an individual level, why the fuck not, David Cameron isn’t going to tax them properly, you may as well.
I worked at a spectacular event for a guy who’s grandad invented the elastic band or something. He was having a humungous party in a different major city across the world every month for a whole year. The party I worked had Kanye West playing to about 200 people. I took a bottle of JW Black Label. Victimless crime bro.
This was a favourite at Café De Paris in Leicester Square twenty-five years ago. The bartender’s would invest in a case or ten of Moet at the local Bookers and then pocket the cash from selling their personal stock over the bar. This one works particularly well if the bar is making money hand over fist anyway and shouldn’t be attempted unless the whole team is in on it.
At the now defunct Navajoe Joe’s in Covent Garden waiters would earn £3 p/h and then the rest of their pay was rounded up to the minimum wage from a sales based commission. They were very smug about how legal it all was. Linking wage to sales in this respect decreases the risk for the business owner, allowing them to speculate with more staff on busier days. The staff en masse and unwittingly accepted that risk.
The worst part about this exceedingly cheeky bullshit is that pervading the venue were various examples of socialist Latin iconography.
This is rife. I asked in a very fancy Camden based joint yesterday, “Do you get the service?”, the response was a despondent shrug combined with a facial expression which read as “I don’t really know what they are up to.” Manipulating gratuities for the benefit of the house seriously offends me. We could probably start a campaign to get this fixed. Who’s with me?
Here is a hilarious video in which a guy is arguing that bartenders will try and bring in their own POS system to really make some big bucks. Best quote of the video is “Judge how much a bartender is stealing by the car he drives.” Incredible.
And finally what to do if you are…
- Deny everything – “No, no, no, no, no definitely not, I didn’t do it how could you even, no, no, yes. This job is lame. I quit anyway.”
- Confess everything – Yes, absolutely, of course I did that. That’s what I always do. I thought that was the thing. That isn’t the thing? Oh I’m very sorry about that. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Ahem.
- Last but not least: A crime is only a crime when the loss is noticed or you are caught. A good bartender knows the line.
Disclaimer: You are free. Do what you like.
Thanks for reading.