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Many women feel that the decision to wear—or remove—their wedding rings during work hours affects how much they make in tips.

Maria Yagoda
August 28, 2017

Working as a female bartender poses some unique challenges. Many women in the industry feel that their tips are affected by what they’re wearing, the intensity of their smiles and—for married bartenders—whether or not there are wedding rings on their fingers.

One bartender said that removing wedding rings before work is common practice for all bartenders, not just women. “Both male and female bartenders don't really talk about their significant others, either,” she said. But the pressure to present as single can hit women harder—she and her female coworkers feel that acting flirtatiously and dressing well translates into better tips. Another bartender agreed, but said she’s stopped caring about tiny differences in tips. “Honestly, I'm at the point where the money doesn't matter,” she said. “I have gotten harassed and pestered at work so much that I don't care if a man is willing to give me less for my service just because I didn't act in a manner to his liking.” Tracy Ardoin-Jenkins, who works at Nicky’s Coal Fired in Nashville, said, “If someone is going to tip me less because I'm married and therefore not a candidate for hooking up with later, then so be it.”

Women, of course, are targets of harassment regardless of what they’re wearing on their fingers. Yet many women I spoke with said that wearing a wedding ring—and signally unavailability—has ended up making them more money and generating more attention than taking it off. “Men love a challenge, which is why I got tipped more when I wore my ring,” said Morgan Jones, who works at Tilted Kilt in El Paso, Texas. “If they see you're taken, not only do they flirt with you, but it's almost as if they make it their goal to get you to like them.”

A woman who works as a bartender in Nashville agreed. “I think men want to think that they're bigger and a better deal, and the ring is just a challenge,” she said. “They think the more they tip, the better chance they have. If anything, wearing my ring helped me make more money.”

Lauren Parton, a bartender at Vol. 39 in Chicago, doesn’t think that wedding rings have any impact on tips, even though some male customers interpret them as a game. “Men flirt with the bartender because it's safe and a challenge,” said Parton, noting that she used to take off her wedding ring only because of all the noise it made. “I think the ring only increases the challenge in their eyes.”

Perhaps the most common trend among the female bartenders I spoke with wasn’t any preoccupation with displaying or hiding marital status, but rather consciously avoiding any behavior that might be perceived as flirtatious, even though this might earn them less.

“I feel like I have to act differently towards men because while I love to be kind and offer the best service I can, I’m conscious of how much I'm smiling and my body language, to not give the wrong impression,” an Irish bartender said. “I feel like women who come in with their boyfriends or husbands can feel a type of way about the woman behind the bar, so in those cases I am sure to be paying special attention to the woman, so she doesn't have to feel like I'm trying to hit on her man.”

Parton believes that her wedding ring helps with this. “The ring is a symbol to other women that I am not trying to steal their man,” she said. “I am just doing my job.”