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Can I please buy a friend a drink?

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If you read this column regularly you know that I frequently eat lunch and dinner in restaurants. Being a regular in restaurants is a great thing because you not only get to know many of the fine people who work in restaurants, but you become part of a fraternity of like-minded folks who also eat in restaurants regularly. Many nights a friend or two in a restaurant will buy me a drink and I’ll return the favor.

That happened recently in a restaurant where I was sitting at the bar and a chef/friend came in and sat down at the other end of the bar. He always sends a free appetizer when I’m in his place, so I was eager to buy him a drink, which I expressed to the bartender. From across the bar I watched the barkeep say something to the chef and then minutes later replace his empty glass of Maker’s Mark on the rocks with a fresh one.

Earlier that evening, while walking into the restaurant, I spotted four other friends at a booth celebrating a birthday. My bartender said he would gladly help me buy that table a round of drinks by letting their server know.

As the night wore on, my chef friend left, as did the table of friends, with none of them thanking me for my gesture. In polite society, a simple, “Hey, thanks for the drink,” is simply good manners. The next day it bothered me so much, because it’s unlike these people not to say something. I called the chef to ask: “Did you get that drink I bought you last night?” No, he had not. He was charged for the second Maker’s. So was I.

I then called a friend who was at the birthday celebration and asked if they got the round of drinks I bought. She had no idea what I was talking about. But after checking the receipt, she realized that four of their drinks were not on the bill. They were, in fact, on my bill, which is what I had intended, but the server never mentioned to them that a friend bought them a round of drinks.

So, on a recent Tuesday night, two attempt to buy drinks for friends failed. One group got their drinks, but didn’t realize someone else had paid for them. My chef friend got his second drink, but was charged for it. And I felt pretty stupid for having to call them to ask.

This fraternity of friends I spoke of is important and it’s the reason many people go to restaurants. It’s not just about eating, it’s about camaraderie, sharing and the joys of social interaction. How disappointing when a restaurant interferes with that flow. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only customer who has ever bought other customers a drink at this restaurant, but somehow both the bartender and a server messed up, honestly or not, on a night that wasn’t particularly busy.

I imagine you often get requests from one customer to buy drinks or maybe dessert for another customer. Do you have procedures in place to avoid similar fumbles? As for the bartender, it may have been an honest mistake, but how do you prevent dishonest bartenders from shortchanging you and your customers? Please email me with your thoughts.

Michael Sanson, Editor-in-Chief
email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikeSansonRH

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