We're in progress 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 one or more rounds prior. Some bars are extremely generous with their buybacks, others are not. Hence, the Buyback Project.
On the question of how does one secure a buyback, we turn it over to a reader/bartender, who has some suggestions.
--Cash on the bar when you walk in, before you order - no cards!
--Know what you want - no asking for recommendations, no frozen drinks, no (except VERY rarely) cocktail list. If we don't have what you usually drink, that's the time to ask for recommendations.
--If there's more than one of you - buy a round for Chrissake! Separate tabs or paying separately are death to the buyback. If you're that bothered your drinking partners' beverage is $1 more than yours, are you likely to be generous to your server?
--If bar is busy - tip heavy on first and say "in case too drunk to remember later", if sitting at bar, tip at the end but ALWAYS have $ on the bar. It's your bartenders responsibility to keep track of your cash if you're sitting there - but less than $50, I don't want to have to give you that much (and I will) if some scumbag lifts it..
--Be nice! Please and thank you never hurt, and you'd be surprised how often they're not heard.
--Ordering a beer and a water every round isn't great either.. water with a Manhattan or a Martini is sensible, water with beer screams someone who is scared of getting even a little drunk - and drunk people are great tippers.
--If you know your bartenders name - NEVER shout it; catch their eye. If they are any good they're watching, they might be bogged down but they know you need a beer. Shouting names makes us feel like Rover the family pet - i.e not good!
--Okay I think that's it. And yeah some places have sucky policies, especially Midtown - but if your bartender is allowed to do buybacks she/he will at least give you the industry standard - 4th drink free, or whatever more they can. And they will LOVE you and remember your drink of choice (probably not your name, that takes a few visits!) next time you come in. Just imagine meeting 300 people a day - and what percentage are a**holes? We really appreciate the good ones!
· The Buyback Project [~E~]
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.