Trolls, haters, malcontents, ignoramuses, and dummies. They’re out there in InterToobs land in shocking abundance. Do anything on the public Net – like express a viewpoint, post an opinionated article, or “leak” a steamy sex video (not admitting or denying I did that) – and you can easily expect hoards of braincell-deficient zombies to spew a shit-ton vitriolic messages in your general direction. Most often, those appear as “anonymous” article comments.
…which brings us to Service Industry bloggers. In my case, I’ve been bestowed with a significant increase in blog traffic the last few months. In parallel, I’ve also seen an uptick in (1) media requests (2) questions from fellow and aspiring bartenders and lastly, (3) hate mail and utterly stupid comments.
So lets take a moment to set the record straight once and for all.
If you were to spend – I dunno – all of 15 minutes googling and perusing Server and Bartender blogs, you’d probably come away with the misguided conclusion that we’re all massive, career douchebags with a penchant for sarcasm, angst, meanness, and even hate towards our employers and customers. Simply reviewing blog titles like Bitchy Waiter, Waiter Rant, Fuck My Table, Slightly Cranky Waitress, I Got Stiffed, and Server Not Servant, can somewhat expectedly leave non-Service Industry readers with the mistaken impression that us Front-of-the-House staff are nothing bunt bitter losers awaiting the narrowest of opportunities to spit in your food or have Security toss you to the curb. Actually read most of the articles on said blogs (even my own), and ignorant folks – using the blog resource alone – will have easily confirmed that we actually are douchebags on a mission to spread Texas-sized hate, and garner as much [negative] attention as humanly possible.
If you take a few moments to delve further into the Service Industry professional psyche however, or better yet – spend a few months in the biz – you’ll quickly realize that correlation does not equal causation. Reality, in this case social engagement, is sometimes not what it may seem to some outsiders.
We don’t hate our customers
I love my customers – even the ones I hate. Yes, you read correctly. I value all of them. I treasure them. I welcome them. I must admit, that I look at everyone as dollar signs – dollars that can only be unlocked with impeccable service and attitude. My customers all keep the lights on in my house. That attitude of mine routinely translates into (a) higher check averages than my fellow barkeeps (b) higher tip percentages (c) frequent, positive customer/management feedback and (d) repeat business. Furthermore, I’ve just about always been near or at the top of every conceivable sales report in every bar and restaurant I’ve ever worked. None of the above happens by being a condescending, bitter twit.
You can probably imagine that there are repeat guests (and often first-time guests that I routinely pre-judge) who make me cringe with anger/sadness on the inside before they every open their mouths to place an order. That doesn’t mean that I don’t value and respect them, endlessly smile, thank and provide all-around stellar service to those very folks. In fact, I frequently try to “kill them with kindness.” How I actually feel towards certain guests (many of whom often give me completely valid reasons for being severely upset) has very little bearing on my ability, desire, and responsibility to (1) ensure they have a memorable dining/drinking experience (2) sell the shit out of our beverages, food and services and (3) squash any problems.
In my day job, we focus on and practice a three-pronged concept to growing business – something called the Service Profit Chain. What it means is that (a) associates [previously referred to by businesses as "employees"] are provided all the required tools to perform their job, in a [on paper anyway] professional, non-discriminatory, open, opportunity-based environment (b) guests [in the previous decade known as "customers"] are provided exceptional products and services and (c) shareholders [or owners] are rewarded incrementally. Each of those three legs are linked to the other and are supposed to drive value in a circular fashion – thus, the “Chain” part of Service Profit.
Bars, restaurants, lounges, nightclubs, hotels, are no different. As I’ve mentioned before, shit on your employees, and they will shit on your business – driving profit into the ground. Unhappy employees, F.O.H. staff and cash handleers in particular, are the biggest potential liability an owner can face. The sad part is, most of the owners and senior management I’ve worked for over the years are nearly oblivious to the actual goings on in their establishments and the actual morale of most of their employees. Despite abysmal service (above terrible food/drinks), many of these venues manage to stay afloat primarily because of their stellar locations and other types of draws such as “meat markets.” This is truly a sad state of affairs as the Service Profit Chain is sub-par, making for (1) miserable, cheating, stealing, drinking, late associates (2) displeased guests who easily and viraly “spread the word” and (3) reduced revenue and operating income.
Blogging Does Not Equal Serving
Service Industry Corporate By-Laws – in the form of a fully-executed Employee Manual containing common documents such as a Code of Ethics, Steps of Service, Media/Communication Policies, Harassment Policies, etc. – more often than not dictate what associates (F.O.H. in particular) can and can’t do or say to guests, potential guests, the media or the public. What that effectively means is that we are required to be on our best behavior on the job, and when representing the company in any way, shape, or form off the job. That may mean in an official or an unofficial capacity.
Most of the time we are forbidden from detailing specific facts, locations, people, events, photographs, videos, disagreements, interactions, etc. What people had to eat/drink, how much they tipped, if they stiffed/undertipped us, how they harassed us by concocting their own dish – not on the menu, and which celebrity they were blowing in the bathroom is always confidential. That’s a given and understood by just about everyone who was ever stepped foot behind the bar or donned a server’s apron. Break those rules and expect to be fired with cause, promptly escorted out the door, and occasionally blacklisted within the local industry. Despite what some may think, NYC is a small town. Every Restaurant Management Group knows (or has slept with) someone in the rival group, and every career Bartender or Server knows (or has slept with) a Bartender, Server, or Manager at just about every other bar in town.
That brings us to blogging. Rarely, if ever, have you heard of a Front of the House employee (a Server or Bartender) going postal on a guest. Like you or me, most folks that go out to eat/drink do so without incident. They’re pretty tolerant, forgiving, patient and tip decently. As you can probably imagine though, there are often “highly demanding” as well as “problem customers” in this business. Yes, they are a minority but the frequency with which “incidents” take place is pretty alarming. Servers and Bartenders are human. We’re not fucking robots. We have feelings. We feel pride, happiness, generousity, remorse, compassion as well as disgust, anger, lust, greed, vengeance and spite just like the next person. Many of those emotions can never be acted upon, displayed, or communicated to guests lest you enjoy seeking alternate employment opportunities. 99.9% of the time, despite sometimes horrific goings on, Servers and Bartenders must always strive to uphold the Corporate Playbook and continue to be the utmost of professionals in the face of Guests-Gone-Wrong and subsequent Guest Recovery.
So what happens when you open Mr. Jones an Armand de Brignac, he tastes it, nods acceptance, you pour it for his entire party and five minutes later, insists he actually wanted a Krug Grande Cuvée? He then proceeds to throw a vile hissy-fit despite you keeping your smiling composure and engaging an embarrassingly apologetic floor manager. How does one respond when Mr. Jones repeatedly snaps his fingers or dog-whistles to get your attention? How do you feel when he’s had “one too many,” calls you “sugar lips” and grabs your ass a couple of times [yes, this actually happens]? Keep in mind, his table has an unpaid $1,800 tab and you’re banking on a somewhat decent gratuity to cover your uninsured root-canal work the next morning (remember, you still haven’t earned your S.A.G. card nor Equity wages for your stage work). Answer: you blog about it.
How do you think one would feel after enduring years or even decades of these types of shenanigans with no recourse – all the while smiling and continuing to kiss proverbial ass? You can’t really do a damned thing (that you’d actually like to) in the moment. But, you can certainly write an extremely interesting – yet anonymous – blog post I gather. Alternatively-, you can (1) rifle through a couple of boxes of Kleenex and burn through hundreds or thousands of dollars at your friendly neighborhood therapist’s office (2) smoke lots of weed, snort tons of blow, and drink lots of Whiskey or (3) all of the above – as many in this business routinely do.
And there you have the crux about why Servers and Bartenders bitch and moan on the Internet.
What some folks read and seem to interpret as douchebaggery, bitter, career Servers and Bartenders intent on exposing themselves, is really just an outlet for pent up frustration more than anything else. I’m thrilled and thankful to go to work every single shift. There’s little I look forward to more. Bartending for me (more so than serving) is an intensely laborious job, where you get to entertain new and interesting people from all walks of life, but one where you often get paid to participate in the party. My love affair with bartending manifests itself in an absolutely Obsessive Compulsive level of cocktail preparation, food service, cleanliness, and cash/credit card management. Most glaringly, I display a disgustingly monumental level of situational awareness, particularly with paying attention to guests even when highly distracted by conversation or some random Blue-Ribbon ass.
Troll way. I don’t delete stupid comments.