05 April 2010

Boerum Hill Bar Boat Sez "Buddy, We Don't Want Your Dime"

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.


Nathan said...

Wow. Just wow. (And I can tell how pissed you were since your posts rarely have typos.)

Hope today is better.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Really, Nathan? Everyone's always on my case about my types. Thanks.

On an edge said...

I'd like to know if the owner's a dumbass Texan. Sounds like some of the crap I have to put up with down here. 14 more days until I'm up there!

JakeGould said...

Everyone told me how great "Boat" was when I moved back to Brooklyn 10 years ago. Truth be told, every time I have been there the bartender has always had some really a-hole quirk to them for no reason. The best was one 4th of July when they barely had any customers, I walked in, looked around and decided the place was too depressing for my one drink needs. The bartender proceeded to shout me out.

Oh, also the jukebox was awesome 10 years ago. And if that isn't bad enough, I've seen the bartender unplug the jukebox ignoring the $$$ people put in just so they could play their own music. Really dicky.

You know what I miss on Smith Street? "Vegas" and "Roxy"; those were two great/cheap hangout bars with great staff and decent atmosphere.

FWIW, the owners of "Boat" also own "Great Lakes" on 5th Avenue in Park Slope. So heed the warnings.

Walt Terrell said...

Gripping stuff. I'm looking forward to the next installment of Lost City, when Brooks of Sheffield carries his penny jar down to the local pizza parlor, only to blow a gasket when he finds out that they won't let him pay for two slices with 550 pennies.

If you have a problem with a store or its policies, speak to the manager or the owner, or don't shop there. Don't take your dissatisfaction out on the staff. Reaming out some low-paid staffer who's scraping by on minimum wage or tips is the ultimate low-class move. As is leaving a ten-cent tip. This episode makes you look like such a complete dick that I'm surprised you even posted it.

So, she was supposed to break the rules for you? Why? What makes you so special? Were you a regular at this place? A generous tipper? No. You were some dope who came in dragging your plastic satchels and spilling your pocket change all over the bar like a bag lady. Do you think they care that you're never going back there? I'm sure they'll be glad never to have you darken their door again.

By the way, a $3 ATM fee if you take out, say, $100, amounts to three cents on the dollar. Which would bring the price of that beer up to $3.09. Big whoop-de-doo. Definitely worth making an ass out of yourself over nine cents, though.

Oh, and if you're that strapped for cash in these difficult times, maybe you should be drinking your beer at home. Or not at all.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

What makes me so special, Walt? I was a customer. That's all. And that's enough.

What an awful shopowner you'd be. Don't like people with the wrong king of money. Don't like people with bags. Don't like poor people.

Elizabeth said...

It's illegal to refuse legal tender for services already rendered. Which is why establishments will have signs stating that they don't accept personal checks, American Express, etc. So unless this store had a sign inside or outside stating that they "don't accept dimes, nickels, or quarters," you were basically dealing with a full-of-shit can't-be-bothered bartendress.

Unknown said...

That's ridiculous and seems illegal. How 'bout this one: I asked my husband to pick up something at a children's store in Soho. The total was $16 and change. He handed the cashier a $20. She asked, "Are you expecting change?" Huh???? Do people tip cashiers now or something?