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Ask the Happy Hour Expert

From bartenders to doctors, experts answer the need-to-know happy hour questions
Illustrations by Ashleigh Corrin

Ask a Bartender

Shelby Atkinson, 24, Bartender at Sycamore Den

What’s the worst happy hour behavior you’ve seen?

People say: “I see happy hour ends in 10 minutes. Can I pay for 10 drinks now and come get them whenever I want?” After a while it’s hard not to feel irritated. I try to be nice and tell them, “We can’t do that, but I can get you a drink now.”

I had a guy reach over into the fruit bowl, take a grapefruit, then take a bite out of it, and put it back in. Nice, you contaminated the entire fruit bowl! He was asked to leave.

A woman who was already a bit drunk decided she was a big fan of mine and said, “Wow, you’re pretty. I want to be friends with you.” She climbed on top of the bar and her foot went in the ice well and she almost wiped out. When I picked her up, she put her tongue in my ear. It freaked me out. We asked her to leave. That was the weirdest thing.

Should I wave my credit card to get your attention?

No one likes that. Someone was ordering eight different beers, then someone right next to us kept saying: “Excuse me! Excuse me! I have a question!” I’m in the middle of talking, I’ll be right with you. Make eye contact. That’s the polite first step. The next step is to raise a hand up. Holding money up doesn’t do anything for anybody. I know you have money.

Do customers hit on you?

All the time. Sometimes they can be pretty pushy, and that’s not comfortable for anyone. You have to try to be polite. I go with “I’m not interested.” A lot of female bartenders feel like they have to say they have a boyfriend, but the better thing is to say no, because otherwise they’ll just say, “Well he’s not here right now.” Also, “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer! I don’t owe an explanation. There’s no arguing after that.

Ask a Musician

Sam Bybee plays about one happy hour per week at places like Vintana, Hooley’s Irish Pub, Nick & G’s, or brunch at Beaumont’s

Should I tip?

People who tip don’t clap, and people who clap don’t tip. When I ask for song requests, I make a joke like, “Write it down on a $20 bill, and I’ll get right to it.” Normally, people tip about $5 to $10 if they request a song. If they don’t make a request, they usually give a dollar or two. But if you’re going to request a song, I expect a tip. I look up songs on my iPad, and if I don’t think I can play it, I tell them I’d be doing it a disservice. But really, no song is off the table. I’ll play Sesame Street—it blindsides people, especially at a bar. But everyone loves it on a deep level. Especially if I see kids. I like to do the unexpected. I was once asked to play the Mossy Nissan commercial jingle.

Ask a Marketing Professor

Wendy Liu, associate professor of marketing, UC San Diego Rady School of Management

Why am I so attracted to deals?

Wanting to take advantage of a discount is a deeply entrenched behavior. There’s no reason you should feel compelled to. Your money is your money. But people are not good at judging absolute prices and have a hard time knowing how much they should be spending on anything. So if there’s a 50 percent discount at a very high-end restaurant, it could still be very expensive, but people are much more responsive to these relative changes than to the absolute amount.

People think, “I don’t know how much this drink should cost, but if it’s on sale, at least that sale part makes me happy. I saved money.” They perceive a very certain gain—and people can’t stay away from that.

There’s a transaction utility, or how much of a good deal you’re getting, that’s separate from consumption utility, or how much you enjoy the food. Happy hour could make your transaction utility high, making you feel like the whole package has more utility than just the food itself.

Ask a Doctor

Angel Ochoa, Osteopathic family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Escondido

Ask the Happy Hour Expert

Ask the Happy Hour Expert

Can you get sick from eating communal bar nuts?

I’m kind of surprised places still do that! I wouldn’t eat out of a communal bowl without knowing who’s touched it first. There’s a chance someone hasn’t washed their hands. Food is a classic way to transmit a virus, especially upper respiratory tract infections. The biggest concern now is with the hepatitis A outbreak. It’s transmitted through the fecal-oral route, and so are other forms of hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and other more serious bacteria from people who haven’t properly washed their hands. You can never be too sure about those bowls.

Ask the Happy Hour Expert

Illustrations by Ashleigh Corrin

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