Saturday, July 5, 2008

Don't: Bad Bar Service

Last night, I had really bad bar service. I am not going to name names or point fingers. I am not in the business of bad mouthing. The service (or I should say lack of) should reflect more on the individual than the establishment so I will just leave it at that. I just wanted to note the experience here as a major "Don't". For those of you who already work in the industry or have ever had any sort of customer service type of job, common sense would tell you that this sort of experience should never happen to any customer in any sort of business. Period.

A group of five of us walked into the bar and were deciding on what to drink. Everyone in our group worked in the industry at some level (server, bartender, barback and a dj). We are all pretty well versed in the bar scene and have a pretty good idea on the cocktails we like to drink. Our bartender came up to us and wanted to take our order right away. He acknowledged our presence and was efficient in wanting to take our drink order. There were a couple of us in the group who hadn't quite decided what we wanted to drink yet. The bartender became irritated and quickly moved on to someone else in the group who was ready to order. I can understand this sort of behavior in a busy atmosphere, but at this point, we were the only patrons at the bar so I didn't understand the rush.

I ordered a beer because I didn't feel like I even had a chance to scan the specialty cocktail menu. Plus, I didn't want to irritate our bartender anymore than I needed to. Mental note-the customer should NEVER have to worry about irritating the bartender. That's bad customer service. My boyfriend on the other hand hadn't decided what he wanted to drink at that point. The bartender fetched my beer and immediately asked my boyfriend again what he wanted to drink. He still hadn't really had a chance to decide on what he wanted to drink. I told the bartender to give us a few minutes so he could decide. The bartender told me he couldn't leave until I paid for my beer. What? Was he seriously afraid of me walking out and not paying for the beer I ordered? I looked at him and asked, "Really?" He looked at me square in the face and said, "Well, that's how it works. You order and you pay." I told him I was a bartender and I understood how it worked. He thought I was agreeing with him, but I wasn't. Obviously he has never worked in a busy enough atmosphere where he has had to take multiple orders before. All I wanted was to give my boyfriend some time to think about what he wanted to drink and then pay for our drinks together, all at once. Seeing that this wasn't going to happen, I paid for my beer and reluctantly left him a dollar tip.

When my boyfriend finally decided on what he wanted to drink, the bartender questioned his order. He asked something like, "Are you sure you want ginger ale in that?" What!?! I just wanted to tell him to shut up and make the damn drink. We even thought about just getting up and leaving at that point, but I kept my cool. I have taken some abnormal drink orders in my day, but never have I had asked a customer, "Are you sure you want that?". No matter how weird or outlandish an order might seem, you take the order, you make it and then you charge the customer appropriately. Bartenders are not in the business to judge someone's drink and question their orders. They are in the business to provide good customer service, make delicious drinks and make them in a timely manner.

After we ordered our drinks, the bartender kept coming over our way with a scowl on his face. I felt like we were inconveniencing him in some way just by being there. I didn't feel welcomed at his bar by any means. I even watched as another customer came up and requested something in her drink. It looked like she said it didn't taste right and wanted a little more of something added to it. The bartender added whatever she asked and then replied in a snotty tone, "Your Welcome!". I was shocked. I had seen the whole transaction take place. The customer was polite and had even said thank you. I could tell from the look on her face, she was just as shocked with his service as I was. What was this guy's deal?

Later on in the night, we watched as another bartender and the crappy bartender had gotten into it with each other behind the bar. We couldn't hear what they were saying, but their body language spoke loud and clear. It was obvious that we weren't the only ones who thought this guy had a major attitude problem. The crappy bartender ended up either getting sent home early or had gotten fired because we didn't see him for the rest of the night.

I want to believe that this guy didn't give crappy customer service on purpose. I want to believe that maybe he was just nervous and through his ignorance, just didn't understand the natural follow of things behind the bar which ultimately lead to his poor customer service. I know we all have our bad days and off nights. We are human and it happens, but when it comes to a service industry job such as bartending, you have to leave the crap at the door and put your game face on for your entire shift. The customer may not always be right (especially when there is alcohol involved), but all customers deserve a certain level of friendliness and respect.

Without customers, you have no need for bartenders. Period.

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