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Nine Service Industry Workers on the ‘Asshole Tax’

Forget spitting in your food –– if you’re a total dickwad to your server, you’ll just get charged more

Sorry, Boomers, but the customer is no longer always right. Being rude toward service workers is a very easy way to ensure you’ll be paying more money for a worse experience, thanks to a little thing commonly called “the asshole tax.” 

This tax can take many forms: Maybe you didn’t think the restaurant hostess heard you call her a bitch under your breath, but oh look, you’ve ended up seated at the table closest to the bathroom. Maybe you snapped your fingers at the bartender to try to get his attention, and hmm, this vodka-cranberry really tastes a lot like straight cranberry. 

Some customers might get a sick sense of satisfaction from the power trip of abusing service workers, but let these stories be a reminder: The workers are the ones in charge. Being nice to your waiter, bartender, host or coat-check guy isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the money-saving one, too. 

Act Like a Jerk, Get Your Drink Tab Fucked Up

“I work in the center of Amherst, Massachusetts, where the clientele is mostly Amherst College families and staff. They’re extremely entitled, but the more shit you take from them, the more they tip you, so I just smile and nod and milk it. But I used to work in a shitty dive bar — one time, someone was being an asshole and I cut them off. I added the person next to them’s tab onto theirs because I wanted the nice customers to come back. They paid for it and didn’t even notice.” — Lindsay*, a server at an upscale restaurant in Massachusetts

“When I worked in bars, if people were being absolute arseholes and then ordered a big round, we’d add a drink for ourselves.” — Jamie, former bartender

“If someone is a prick and then asks for something like a lager and lime, charge for a pint and a dash of lime. It’s not much, but it adds 30 pence [around 40 cents] or so to a pint.” — Nick, former bartender

About Those Automatic Gratuities…

“We always reminded large groups about the automatically added gratuity at the start of the meal, but if they were absolute dickheads, sometimes I’d forget to remind them at the end, as well.” — Alissa*, former server

No Discount For You

“In my first year of college, during the summer, I worked at Gap. There was this guy who was a rich kid who went to my college — he’d been giving one of my colleagues a hard time the week before, being really rude, calling him names, basically treating him like shit. This time he demanded to see the manager because he wanted a discount on some pants, so I said sure — the manager wasn’t in, just me and my colleague who he’d bullied, who I introduced as the deputy manager. It was really embarrassing for him, and he paid full price for those pants.” — Zach*, a former retail employee

“I had a large group of fortysomethings and their wives come in and complain throughout the entire meal. Normally, when someone has a bad experience or waits a long time for drinks, I give them a discount of about 15 to 20 percent. But because they were being rude, I only discounted their bill 8 percent and told them that was the largest I could do, corporate policy.” — Paige, server in Connecticut

Being Nice = Freebies

“Any assholes at my tables pay for non-alcoholic drinks after ordering cocktails/beer. Those who aren’t assholes never see them appear on their check.” — Jeremiah, server

“When people were shitty to me, I’d charge them for shit I’d usually just give out, most notably bread baskets. Nice people get free bread, demanding I get you bread immediately is $1.50, thanks, sir.” — Em, server in Florida

Sometimes, The Asshole Tax Is Just Having to Publicly Admit You’re Wrong

“I worked at a venue/club in Brooklyn. They have a rigorous coat-check system — in the time I worked there, we never lost a coat. But this didn’t stop assholes from claiming we did. For example, this one guy came up to us, shitfaced, maybe 10 times over the night, claiming we’d lost his coat. We asked for his ticket, and he said he didn’t have one. He insisted we had it. He picked used tickets off the floor and said this was his number. No, this. My manager told him we didn’t have it, so he got mad and was condescending to her. I noticed he had coke on him while he was rifling through his pockets. 

“Eventually, the night was over, and it was just us and him and his friend. He kept complaining about how expensive his jacket is. ‘Wouldn’t you be mad if someone lost your $700 coat?’ A security guard, like in a movie, came out of a backroom holding a coat and said, ‘Hey, is this yours?’ The guy looked real abashed and goes, ‘Ugh, yeah.’ 

“I told him he was a total jerk and needed to apologize — he did. He was legitimately apologetic. Then I said, ‘Hey, Mr. $700 Coat, give us some money for harassing us all night,’ and he threw $12 in the bucket. I thought he should have given us a twenty, but maybe he spent his last one on his blow.” — Matthew*, coat-check host at nightclub in Brooklyn

* Names changed upon request.