Over the past six months, a number of nice people have recommended that I visit Boat, a bar on Smith Street in Boerum Hill. So I tucked the information in the back of my head, and waited for an opportune time.
One recent day, as I exited the subway onto Smith, I remembered the repeated endorsements. I had just returned from running errands in Manhattan. I was laden with bags and thirsty. The day was warm. So I decided to walk a few blocks out of my way and patronize Boat. Before I did, I checked my wallet. I had only a buck or two; I had bought groceries at several stores, leaving my pockets full of change. I hate going to ATMs unnecessarily (every visit runs you a fee), so I counted out the change—more than enough to buy a beer.
Boat is a hole in the wall with a bright red facade. It doesn't look like much more than a frat boy dive inside, but it supposedly has a great juke box, and the beer selection is decent. It was early evening. I was alone except for a young female bartender. It was Happy Hour, I was informed. Drafts were $3. Great. I ordered a beer. I laid my last dollar on the bar, and then turned to my pocket of change. Remembering I had a load of wash to dry, I reserved the quarters and started counting out the dimes, of which I had many.
The bartendress eyed my progress. "We don't take dimes," she said.
I'm used to jocular bar personnel. A good bartender keeps the conversation light and funny. And Lord knows, a man counting out dimes is a funny sight in itself. I smiled. "You're kidding," I replied, rhetorically. I didn't expect a reply. I was sure she was kidding. It would be too absurd if she were serious.
She was serious. "No," she said, serious as a deacon. "The owner won't accept dimes." I pictured, momentarily, the owner as a raving lunatic eccentric. Only dimes? "He won't accept anything smaller than a quarter." Really? "Yes." Why? "He just won't. It clogs up the register." I now pictured the owner as an unmitigated asshole.
I've never encountered a bar that didn't accept cash money. I was stunned. And pissed. "Well," I said, "let's see if I can pay for this beer." The bartendress, unhelpful and humorless about the situation, said, "There's an ATM across the street."
An ATM? You mean the one that will charge me $3 in fees if I use it, making my $3 beer suddenly a $6 beer? That ATM? I now counted the bartendress in the same league as the owner. That the owner and his policy were asinine were clear. But everyone deals with jerk bosses and does their best to shield the innocent from their capricious nonsense. We were alone in the bar. The owner was nowhere to be seen. She couldn't have laughed off the stupid policy and accepted the coins. But she didn't. She stood by the ridiculous rule.
Now, I don't pay for beers with coins often. But I have on occasion. It's a good way to get rid of change. And every bartender I've paid in silver has been grateful for the exchange. Cash registers are perpetually low on change. They thank me for the coins. But that's all beside the point. If you run a business or bar or restaurant, whatever your customer has in his pocket when he enters is gold to you. Gold. I don't care what form the money takes. It's cash your patron wants to spend on your establishment and you accept it readily, happy and respectfully. The only time the expression "You money is no good here" makes business sense is if it means the drinks are on the house.
Furthermore, to not take dimes or nickels or whatever because it inconveniences you, or you don't like them, or "it clogs up the register" (last time I checked, cash registers have slots for nickels, dimes and quarters), is not only idiotic, but, in times of recession, also insulting, and just plain mean. People all over the city are pinching pennies to make ends meet. So am I. Those pennies add up and they mean something. When we part with them, we expect them to mean something to the merchant we give them to, too. But in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Boat not only won't spare you a dime, they don't want the dime you're willing to give them.
If Boat can do without my change, they can do without my dollars, too. I won't ever be back. But I do hate to stiff a bartender, however rude. So I did leave a tip. A dime.