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“I always appreciate it more than when people ask in person for my number.”

Maria Yagoda
August 22, 2017

Every night they work, bartenders watch dates transpire—awkward ones, playful ones, clearly-Tinder ones and more. Given their extensive work in the field, bartenders can offer us expert dating advice, including a personal favorite, “Don’t take different dates to the same bar every night.”

Yet sometimes bartenders aren’t just impartial observers. More often than you’d think, patrons scribble their phone numbers on receipts, asking out the person who’s been serving them drinks. Here’s how bartenders feel about it.

It’s almost impossible to trace the phone number to a person, so the move usually doesn’t work.

“Most of the time this happens, it’ll just be people leaving a phone number with no other context,” said one Brooklyn bartender. “If you work at a bar with another bartender, and it's busy, you kind of just pull receipts off the bar and throw them in a pile before someone spills a drink on it. It’s like, ‘OK, now I have to try to identify the owner of this phone number based solely on your credit card number and signature?’”

Tracing phone numbers is tricky at restaurants, as well. “One time I was waiting on a table of seven guys, and they all paid on separate cards, and one of them left me a number,” she said. “Maybe three of them were hot, but I'm not a risk-taker, and I don't like those odds.”

But when it works, it works.

“I always appreciate it more than when people ask in person for my number,” a Philadelphia bartender said. “I'm much more likely to reach out—if I like them—when they leave their number and a good note.”

It’s extra annoying when the person asking you out leaves a mediocre tip.

“It always blows my mind when they leave a note and number and a bad tip,” one bartender said. “It happens probably 75% of the time! I had to wait on you and tolerate this crap and you don't even tip well?”

The note-leavers are often delusional.

One former Philadelphia bartender noticed that her customer, who’d ordered two shots of Hennessy, put a fake $100 note on his bill. She called him out, asking if he could pay with anything else, and he threw a $20 at her, saying, “Is that real?!”

But that’s not even the romantic part. “The $20 was real, so I thanked him and asked him to leave,” she said. “He had written on the receipt, ‘Hey shorty give me a call so I can wine and dine you.’”

Sometimes, the notes are super sweet.

“We think you look like Tom Everett Scott; we both loved him in That Thing You Do,” read one receipt a Brooklyn bartender found at his table. “Sadly he is married, but it looks like you are not, so if you are a single Pringle, my perfect gorgeous friend is available. Here’s her number.”

Sometimes, the notes are baffling.

 One bartender received a receipt that said, “Call Josh if you’re a) Jewish, b) Moroccan or c) a stay-at-home mom,” but the man had left no number.

“I could not possibly begin to unravel the meaning behind that,” she said.