I was 18 years old when my young impressionable self thought there would be nothing cooler than working in a nightclub. Getting paid to go to a nightclub every weekend seemed too good to be true. How wrong I was. It’s been almost a decade since my first shift in a bar and during that time myself and the industry have changed. One thing that hasn’t changed, is the customers.
As Randall Graves memorably said in the movie Clerks, “This job would be great if it wasn’t for the fucking customers”. This statement holds true for the hospitality industry above all others. Customers are a thorn in the side for most bartenders, whether they are too drunk, flat out rude, or just annoying. As rocky as the relationship between bartender and customer may be, the two depend on each other. The customer needs alcohol and the bartender needs money; this dependence means we must come to some kind of agreement on appropriate behaviour in order to ensure future harmony for both parties. Fortunately, fellow bartenders and I are all too knowledgeable on how customers should behave, which I will outline now.
- While waiting at the bar, DO NOT click, whistle, wave money or yell out to bartenders. We are not your pet dog so it won’t work.
- Know what you and your friends want when you approach the bar. Nothing is more frustrating than someone umming and ahhing about what to order for five minutes when the bar is packed.
- Make sure you have money. Don’t try and be a big shot and shout all your friends unless you are certain you have enough money. I can already tell you that you don’t have enough as you scrounge around your pockets for change.
- I don’t care if its your birthday, you’re still paying.
- Don’t tell me you know the owner. I do as well and I still have to pay for drinks.
- Don’t argue or try to fight a bartender. I have 10 or so really big friends called bouncers.
- Don’t tell me to smile more. Try being on your feet for 10 or more hours, covered in alcohol and dealing with rude people while everyone else is having fun. See how much enthusiasm you have for making yet another suggestively named cocktail.
- Tip the bartender. Its not mandatory in Australia, but you will look cooler when you let the bartender keep that 10 cent coin instead of waiting with your hand out like a cheapskate.
- Above all else, use your manners. It doesn’t take much to say please and thank you.
There exists a symbiotic relationship between bartender and customer whether we like it or not, and although the divide may be all too apparent, we can help bridge the gap by following the guidelines listed above. Maybe if we can learn to get along in the dark recesses of a nightclub at three in the morning such goodwill may catch on and the world may just become a better place for us all. One can dream anyway. Finally remember to be patient when waiting for a drink because as the saying goes, “even a toilet can only deal with one asshole at a time”.
Written by Matthew Hart. Photo by Burlap Zack