I have a question for you. While it’s not in regards to the restaurant industry, it has to do with the bar business. And, you guessed it, tipping.

Within the last two years, I’ve developed some severe medical problems, mainly claustrophobia and agoraphobia, and I really can’t stand being around people. Or more precisely, people being too close to me. Yet, I still go out every single night. I choose bars that are generally dead, and I scope out a seat at the bar where I am least likely to be bothered. This means usually one seat away from a wall orthe seat right next to the service station. I am generally fine if there’s one person to the left or right of me, but not both, and definitely not if they are standing.

Usually everything’s fine. People usually respect my space. Until I get up to use the restroom. When I get back 2-3 minutes later, there’s ALWAYS either someone sitting in my seat or leaning on my seat or leaning next to my seat……. It doesn’t matter which bar or which part of town I’m at either anymore, or even how empty the bar is. This really is a recent occurrence. I always say “Excuse me” so I can sit back down but why should I have to do that? That’s not my question.

My question is in regards to when I sit by the service station and someone wants to close out their tab. Nine out of ten times they will lean right up against me and brush up against me. I always say “Excuse me” as well, but if they don’t move, I get mad and tell them to stop touching me. (I really hate being touched.) I’ve just found out in the last couple of days that I’m adversely affecting the bartender’s tips because I’m telling customers to respect my space and to stop touching me. And that instead of a standard, say, $5 credit card tip, they only leave $2 because “I” am an asshole and I somehow just ruined their evening because I told them to stop touching me.

Before you tell me to see a doctor or stop going out every night or start popping pills to control anxiety, that’s not going to happen. I’m not going to stop drinking and I’m not going to stop going out andI refuse to pop pills and doctors are evil price gouging bastards (but that’s another story for another time). The bars I frequent know me well, and dare I say it, they like me too. The bartenders know and understand I just want to be left alone and not be touched. But I don’t want to diminish their tips just because I had to tell some people to get out of my personal space.I have tried sitting one seat away from the service stat but the situation always ends up worse. (stool right by service station is pushed right up flat right against me, and one guy sits and brushes up against me while the others hover in the service station…)

Does any of this make sense? If so, please advise, because I don’t understand how people can take tips away from their bartender when they’re knowingly and intentionally invading my space


Dear Francis:

Customers view dining out holistically. You may be the best waiter in the world and give flawless service but if any one part of a customer’s dining experience gets screwed up, even if it’s beyond your control, you could still receive a poor gratuity. Whether it’s a rude hostess, clumsy bus boy, poorly made drink, wilted radicchio, chilly dining room, or lumpy mashed potatoes – any one of these things can spoil a patron’s night.

How a restaurant’s clientèle behaves is also a big part of the customer satisfaction equation. When people go out to dinner they want to have a good time. When their good time is spoiled by another patron’s behavior they’ll often signal their displeasure by leaving a bad tip. That seems to be what is happening in your case.

It is inevitable that people will brush against each other in a restaurant or a bar. It’s usually harmless and unintentional. While “excuse me” is an acceptable response, saying “Don’t touch me!” when the situation doesn’t warrant that level of reaction can make the customers around you uncomfortable. If they feel their “good time” has been damaged they may express their frustration by lowering the bartender or waiter’s tip. That’s unfair but that’s the way it is. I can’t tell you how many times a drunk customer or a fighting couple torpedoed my tip percentage. It seems you’ve been alerted that your behavior is negatively affecting the bartender’s revenue stream. If this situation persists it’s inevitable that they will stop liking you. The problem is not with the customers or the bartenders – it is with you.

There’s really no advice I can give you. You’re suffering from a serious set of anxiety disorders that require treatment. You seem to be trying to self treat your disorder by venturing into quasi-social settings in an effort to lessen your anxiety around people. That takes a certain amount of courage and you should be commended. Going it alone, however, will only lead to more situations like the one you described at the bar. People eventually won’t want you around them. That reaction will only serve to further your isolation and make you a more anxious and angry person. It’s a vicious circle. In everyday social situations you cannot expect people to be patient with your behavior or tolerate unrealistic demands for “space.” That’s why it’s important to see a therapist or doctor trained in the treatment of anxiety disorders. They get paid to be patient! If you don’t want get help you’re only making things harder on yourself and the bartenders and waitstaff at the establishments you patronize. I wish you luck. Also, watch the drinking, That can make matters worse.

Since I’m a big fan of exploiting life’s negatives, however, I would urge you, since you don’t want help, to try turning your pathology into ability. Did you ever see the movie “The Cooler?” In the film William H. Macy plays a man with such bad luck that he transmits it to every gambler in his physical vicinity and causes them to lose. An devious casino boss hires Macy’s character to stand next to casino patrons on a winning streak and change their luck for the worse. You could be the “Tip Cooler!” Unscrupulous restaurateurs could hire you to patronize a competitor’s restaurant and lower the waiters’ tips – causing rapid staff turnover, poor service, customer dissatisfaction, a bad review in The New York Times, and eventual bankruptcy. Set up an ad on the internet. Trust me, a legion of Manhattan restaurant owners would be eager to hire you.

Now you can see why I’m no longer work in the mental health field

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!