We're now officially underway on the Buyback Project, Eater's investigation into the integrity of buyback programs at various NYC bars of note. One sentence primer: a buyback is a free round of drinks offered to a patron after he or she has purchased several rounds prior. Some bars are extremely generous with their buybacks, others are not. Hence, the Buyback Project.
As we survey the city and issue Buyback Ratings, don't think for a second we've forgotten about the bartenders—the warriors on the front lines of all this. They've got something to say, too. Namely that a good bar and a good buyback rating are like apples and oranges:
A good way to avoid establishments where you're unlikely to get a buyback? If the place has a devoted few bartenders who believe in the success of the place, and know that they're just taking money out of their owners' pockets by giving stuff away, they're probably not inclined to give you free drinks.
(I am a bartender, and a very generous tipper.)
Most of my very favorite bars rarely treat me, and this is no coincidence. The kind of bar that I want to go to is the kind of place where the bartenders give a crap, and earn their money by giving excellent service and knowing their stuff -- not just giving out free stuff to increase their tips. There comes a point at which even I expect something for free, and I think that's a bad standard that's been set. After all, the guy at the corner store may treat you great because you've been buying your Sunday Times from him every week for two years, but do you expect every fourth one on the house?
Speaking as a bartender: Please, don't make me seem stingy. I can be fired for getting caught comping too much stuff, or, simply, my owners will have to increase prices or go out of business because their profit margins are too low.· The Buyback Project: Bars Rated 0.0 [~E~]
· Introducing the Buyback Project [~E~]
We're just getting started. Nominations for the Buyback Project being accepted now, via the tipline, svp; additional thoughts on buyback culture earn extra brownie points—and, who knows, maybe a free round.