The Tipping Economy

Tipping: The Art of the Money-Flirt

“It’s the coolest thing ever.” Photo: Jean Jullien

Extra Fancy is the kind of bar where you show up for one drink on a Monday night, and end up taking shots of Curaçao and staying out until 4 a.m. It’s because of the cast of charming, handsome bartenders who look and act like the best version of your college frat-boy crush. Aaron Blakely, the captain of Extra Fancy’s “street team,” leads the pack: He works the coveted weekend shifts, earns about $25 to $35 per hour in cash tips, and knows how to coyly seduce customers without coming off sleazy. He’s mastered the art of the money-flirt, and here are his tips of the trade.

Establish a signature move.
I do this thing that the guys call “Blakelying” It’s a hashtag on Instagram. Essentially, it’s a yearbook pose: I drop an elbow down on the bar, with my fists under my chin, and give a big smile. It works especially well if a customer’s in a bad mood: I’ll get down low on their level and say, “Hey, how are you?” with a soft voice and a big smile. There are lots of photos of me doing it.

Embrace the selfie.
Girls will often ask us to take photos of them, and I’ll grab the phone and take a photo of myself instead. If we’re having a good time behind the bar, regardless of what anyone else in the room is doing, it shows. Bartending isn’t this slow, sad, pretentious thing. We’re not just cocktail-making machines!

Use props.
Sometimes, we’ll make it rain with cocktail napkins all over the bar. We have a bell, and when a regular walks in, we’ll throw one ding, and everyone will turn around. Two dings means all the bartenders come down to whoever rang it, and we take a shot. Three rings means it’s someone’s birthday.

Deflect advances.
You ask girls their names, where they live, and what they do — exchanging information just like you would if you met them at a bar. But remember that — guys or girls, all around — your job is to warm them up for someone else. Plus: If a girl’s coming onto me, and I’m not interested, I have an out. There’s always someone else down the bar that needs a drink, and you can use that as an escape without having to look like jerk. You can never be a jerk.

Don’t take the booze too seriously.
We always have a bottle of Blue Curaçao behind the bar. We throw down blue shots, and it’s a nice, fun joke. On a girl’s birthday, we’ll say, “Now we blew you on your birthday.” Or I give away something fruity off the cocktail list, and then say, “You should’ve been drinking this all night.”

It’s about reading each individual and giving the person exactly what he or she wants. Some of the best tips happen after you go up to someone, you find out that they’re just not interested in having a conversation, and you give them the space that they need.

Be nice.
I’m selling a luxury item, all of the time. People are coming in to spend their hard-earned money with me, so I make sure to give everyone what they want, no matter what that is. And if you’re a nice, confident person, then people are attracted to that. That’s why the term money-flirt is tough. It’s a performance, but that’s not to say it’s not genuine. No one doesn’t like to flirt, or be flirted with. It’s the coolest thing ever.

Related: Is It Time to Topple Tipping? Adam Platt Tries (and Fails) to Go Gratuity-Free

This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the November 3, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.

The Art of the Money-Flirt