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How to Tip on Free Drinks

In the NYC metro area, there is this idea that if you go to a bar and have a few drinks that your 3rd or 4th drink should be on the house. This drink is called a buy back. This idea is predicated on various factors depending on who you ask. For example, if you’re a regular at the bar and if you’ve been tipping well on the previous drinks...etc. I can really only speak from my experience and tell you that when it does happen, it’s pretty awesome. But though it has happened, it certainly doesn’t happen as a general rule nor do I expect it to. Though I’ve enjoyed a tipple at a few choice places in JC, I would hardly consider myself a “regular” in any of them. Being a “regular” takes a bigger purse than I possess. But a lady can aspire, no?

In any case, the whole idea of a buy back did get me thinking about how much one should tip when you get a free drink. With the number of articles out there on tipping in general, I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of questions and opinions on it. For me, it comes down to how much I would have tipped if I had bought all my drinks. It’s a simple rule, really. Why would I make it hard on myself? For example, if I would’ve given $10 for 4 drinks and it turned out that 1 of those cocktails happen to be “bought back,” I’d still give the $10. I acknowledge that the tip amount itself can get tricky sometimes (i.e., effort, complexity, establishment, blah, blah, blah) but hey, to each tipper their own tipping standards. This post is strictly to address one of those ambiguous tipping situations. comes down to how much I would have tipped if I had bought all my drinks.

On that note, if I don’t know how much a free drink is, it’s bleary eyed shot in the dark. I’m left best guessing at the cost, give ‘em a big smile, and I’m off to my next drink adventure. Until the next time.

And there’s always a next time.