The Gooch: Drinks, Chutes and Leaves

The Gooch answers the age old question – how much shit should I put up with from my customers?

It's funny because it's true

Who would have thought quitting your job could make you an overnight celebrity? It seems in this day and age it is that simple – I guess it is all about how you quit (and being American obviously helps).

The person in question? Steven Slater. The job he quit? Flight Attendant. How he quit? Told a passenger ‘Fuck you’, grabbed his bag, two beers, popped the emergency chute, slid down and buggered off home to his boyfriend (I know a gay male flight attendant – who would have thought it?)

I must admit, when I first read this story I was impressed. I was slightly less impressed however when I realised the plane was on the ground when he slid down the chute, still… a good way to go nonetheless. What surprised me was the furore this created.

There is now a Facebook page with 174,000 fans (to put this into perspective Pamela Anderson’s has 88,000 fans AND includes bikini pics), interviews with major papers, TV stations and no doubt an Oprah special coming ‘in the fall’.

Then the various bartending and service industry blogs quickly jumped on the bandwagon (I am fully aware that this is a blog and I am mentioning it but bear with me).

Half seemed to tout him as an hero for sticking it up the rude punter, and others saying that rude punters are all part of the job of the service pro so suck it up.

This has brought to the surface an age-old discussion which has been running ever since Eve asked the snake if he had any Golden Delicious instead – how much shit should we, as service people, put up with?

Well the simple truth folks is – as much as you can before you pop the chute and slide down it.

To work behind a bar you have to have a lot of skills, and probably the most underestimated and most overlooked are a damned thick skin and a really good sense of humour.

You see we sell booze, a drug which brings out the best and worst in people and sometimes the worst is rude, obnoxious, violent, condescending arseholeness (you will be more familiar with this if your bar stocks Stella).

The best of course is praise, phone numbers, tips and appreciation. With the rough comes the smooth, it is the same in any job, it is all about how you deal with it and how much you can deal with as a result.

Do we deserve it? No of course not but it isn’t a new trend either – we all knew what we were getting into.

I personally have always been able to laugh at the idiots that have frequented any bar I’ve worked in (not usually to their faces if I can help it) and yes, I have bad nights where it all gets a bit much, but they are easily cancelled out by the great nights.

Angus Winchester seemingly follows this line of thinking as he posted a blog on asking people for their ‘Top Five things Customers do to annoy Bartenders’. The response showed just what a hot topic this is, and also showed the fantastic attitude bartenders have towards idiot customers. Here are a couple of my favourites:

“Whistling. I hope Lassie is in the area with a rum and coke for you buddy, ’cause you sure as hell aren’t getting served that way.”

“Waving Money In The Air. The best way to deal with this is ignore him for a while and get your fellow bartenders to do likewise. After a while, they normally get frustrated and start calling on you, at this point, it gives me great delight to inform them that the reason I was ignoring them was because I assumed he thought he was at an auction.”

Customers incapable of small talk to lighten the moment. This gets to me every time:

Bartender: *smiling* “Hi there, how ya doing?”
Customer: “Gin and tonic”

You see we know punters are going to whistle, wave money, be rude and forget their pin number at just the wrong time, these are givens, embrace them, love them, laugh at them and suddenly that escape chute isn’t so necessary.

In summary the hospitality industry isn’t for everyone and we all have breaking points. Some are better at taking it than others and we all deal with it in different ways.

Make up your own caption... there's someone at the door. Probably a Jehovah's Witness as I never get visitors.

When I get to the point where I am finding more nights unpleasant than pleasant I book a few days off and grab a mini holiday and return refreshed and ready for action. If you do decide to jack it all in then Steven showed us that you may as well do it properly.

In the meantime what to do about those who really try their best to ruin your evening?

Well you could do what my ‘friend’ used to do – keep a little bottle of very strong laxative medicine behind the bar and when the offending customer comes to settle his bill offer him a shot on the house with of course a drop or two placed in the shot glass beforehand.

His theory – ‘If they are going to give me the run around all night I am going to make sure the rest of their night is based around the runs!’

In honour of the man that sparked this debate I have come up with a drink.

The Steven Slater Cocktail

The next time a customer really, really gets on your tits go to serve them and stand there as if you are listening. Whilst they waffle on grab a glass chuck something nice in it, hold it up, hold a finger in the air to shut them up, utter ‘Fuck You’, down the drink and serve the person next to them!