Minimum Coverage

15 Aug

I shoved my way towards the bar and claimed a piece of the counter as my own, planting my right elbow down like a flag on the liquid-spotted wood.  I waited the obligatory amount of time before garnering the bartender’s attention and then, upon getting the slight raise of chin punctuated with attitude signaling me to order, I placed my request.

“Whisky ginger ale?”

She whisked herself away, filled the glass with ice, poured from high above the amber alcohol, and then hosed the drink down with the soda, placing a lime wedge on the rim before flinging the drink my way, all the while acting like she had much better things to do.  She most likely mumbled the price, but the music was loud and the shouting from the crowd was louder, so I simply cocked my wrist, credit card in hand, waiting for her to take the plastic and make the transaction.

“Open or closed?”  My bartender asked in one of the best April Ludgate impersonations I’ve ever witnessed.


“There’s a $20 minimum.”  Spot on April again…has she been practicing?

And thus began the all too familiar dance that occurs millions of times at millions of bars every night in New York City and across the United States.  Young singletons waltz into a bar without cash, place down a drink order and a card, and deal with the minimums and costs involved.  When the bartender inevitably tells us there’s a minimum, we oblige by keeping the card open or offering to buy the first round for a friend or two.  This ends not only in our losing much hard-earned money on overpriced drinks made with cheap liquor, but also losing our sobriety and getting much drunker than planned.  There’s nothing we can do about this, of course, and so we sign our bank accounts away and drink down our paychecks.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t feel like wasting my money on an extra drink I didn’t want and a hangover I could’ve prevented.  It was already after 2 AM, and I only wanted one drink, thank you very much.  Fortunately for me, however, I had recently read that it is actually illegal (yes, ILLEGAL) for any establishment in New York City to put a minimum on a credit card.  I am 95% sure that 95% of people living in New York City do not know this, and I am also 99% sure that 100% of bars take full advantage of our ignorance of this little-known law.  Unfortunately for the snotty bartender holding my credit card, I was in the 5% that wasn’t going to let her get away with this bullshit any longer.

“It’s actually illegal in New York City to have a minimum on credit cards,” I informed her.

“Umm, yeah, there’s an ATM outside.”  Now she was really starting to piss me off.

“Fine, whatever, keep it open.  But this is illegal and I can report you to the Better Business Bureau,” I retorted.  Thank God I already had my drink, or I would definitely have been drinking a whiskey ginger ale with a splash of loogie or dishwater.  Obviously I wasn’t going to call any Bureau of Better Business, but if she was going to win in getting me to keep my card open, I was at least going to have a good comeback.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, a good comeback works.  When in doubt, just act confident and call the bluff with a solid comeback.  Quick delivery is key as well.  Before I knew what was happening, she swiped my card, printed the receipt for my one under-$20 drink, and silently handed me back my card along with a pen before fleeing the scene and attending – I use that word loosely in her case – to another patron.  I reveled in my small triumph over bars on behalf of broke 20-somethings everywhere, and then still added in an undeserved gratuity for my challenger.  I always try to be the better person in these situations.

I spent the rest of the night elated and proud of myself, dancing the night away in celebration of my victory.  Sure, if that bitch ever sees me again I probably won’t want to drink whatever she’s serving, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.  After all, there are millions of watering holes in Manhattan, and I’m fairly certain she doesn’t have the means or the mental capacity to spread the word about me fast enough.  So watch out bartenders of New York City: I’m using my credit card, and there’s nothing you can do about it!


2 Responses to “Minimum Coverage”

  1. Felicia August 15, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Right on. I love a good “Stick it to The Man” story.

    • Allyson August 15, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

      Thanks! I do what I can.

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