Memoirs of a frustrated Barman

I work behind a bar on weekends and I enjoy it thoroughly. The money is decent, my colleagues are great fun to work with and most of the customers are fun to be around as well. You may have noticed the use of the word ‘most’ in that last sentence, well I hope you did because if I’ve lost your interest already I’ll likely never get it back. The word was used because there are a few customers that really seem to know how to push my buttons. Those buttons are big, round and red because they push them and they push them hard.

Due to the fact that I work primarily on weekends all of my shifts are incredibly busy. It is not uncommon for as many as 450-500 people to descend on the place at one time, meaning that speed and accuracy are important in order to keep proceedings peaceful and make sure that the punters get those 3 for £6 Jägerbombs that they’ve worked hard all week for.  Due to a combination of inebriation, cheap-skate mentality and in some cases a genuine belief that some punters have about the world revolving around them such speed and accuracy is sometimes difficult to achieve. What follows is a list, taken from first-hand experience, about the worst types of customers for a barman such as myself. Please let me state that such examples are taken from people of a very small minority, I fully respect and appreciate the custom of everybody at my place of work because you ultimately keep me employed.

“Oh, serve me next!” – Picture if you will, its around 12.30am on Sunday morning and like a nervous Elf on the wall of Helms Deep I am starring down the barrel of what seems like an undefeatable force. I am of course referring to the 400+ punters scrambling to the bar for drinks that they seem to want so badly that you would think they hold the key to eternal life, sorry kids it’s only a hangover you’ll get out of me.

As I’m rattling off orders at a rate that Legolas shoots arrows my attention can’t help but be unwillingly diverted to a noise coming from the end of the bar. “Oh mate/lad/love/Bozz serve me/us next!” Due to this loud, consistent and annoying noise my concentration naturally becomes divided and before long I’m getting orders wrong, which leads to orders taking longer and customers getting frustrated. As the frustration mounts, the crowd gets rowdy and the chance of any democracy is all but gone as the line has become a mushroom and nothing short of a free for all.

To the people who participate in what I like to call the ‘serve me next’ game, please think this through. You are stood on the side of the bar, making you all but invisible to me or any other member of staff for that matter. Due to you being out of my field of vision or jurisdiction if you will, serving you would require me to move away from my till to your location, take your order, prepare your order, give you said order, take your money for said order and then return your change, all while ignoring the punters right in front of me at the front of the line. Hopefully that awful case of comma splicing illustrates the fact that during a peak period of trade such an action is just not possible. Also yelling at me like I’m a disobedient puppy is not only a waste of time but also a little annoying. 

I simply ask that you cue for the front of the bar like everybody else; most of the other customers won’t bite. Nobody is avoiding you intentionally but by hanging around the side of the bar like a bad smell you make the process extremely difficult for everyone involved, not least yourselves.

“How much is this…?” – Fast becoming the most common offenders on my list the “How much is this…?” crowd are frequently the metaphorical spear-in-the-side of most smooth operations. Again I ask you to picture the scene, the place is about as busy as it is going to get and the customers are storming the bar with all the eloquence of a Pig farm in a famine. I ask a customer what he would like and he responds with “How much is a bottle of VK?” I check on the till and inform him that a VK will cost £3.15. He responds with “How much is a pint of Fosters?” I breathe a light sigh of frustration and again check the tills; this drink will cost him £3.20. Keep in mind that there is an army of other punters behind him getting inpatient and he will now proceed to ask me the same question about two more beverages before making his mind up. All of the drinks in question have a price difference of around 10p and a further 2 minutes are spent waiting for him to get the correct change together.

The process of buying a drink shouldn’t be like doing your taxes especially when the price differences are so small that you couldn’t thread a needle between them. I don’t know the prices off by heart as remembering them is like catching every available Pokémon, unless you are just that damn good it is not going to happen.  I simply ask that you know what you want before you place your order and if you can please have the money ready.

“What have you got?” – I find this next group of offenders nothing short of unbelievable and before encountering them myself I probably wouldn’t have believed that such people could exist. A few weeks ago a lady walked into my peripherals and I proceeded to ask her the standard question “What can I get you?” The lady’s response; “What have you got?” I nearly swallowed my tongue in disbelief; did she say it to be irritating or perhaps funny? Was it the drink talking? All I knew was that I had encountered a rare breed and would be wise to proceed with caution.

I decided to repeat the question and it was met with the same response. This lady had walked into a bar, after 12am and was asking a member of staff during peak trading time what he served. It seemed as though she was implying that she wanted me to drop everything and give her an entire run-down of our entire list of drinks. The lady wasn’t exactly Sharon Stone, more like 20 stone so my patients was running low. “We serve alcohol, you know drinks!” I shouted this at her in a combination of frustration and utter disbelief to which she responds with “Yeah, what can you give me?” Believe me I could think of a number of things by this point.

After rattling off what must have been around 5 drink deals, the lady, who looked like what would happen if a Sea Lion bred with Adele finally chose something and was on her way. The sheer irritating stupidity of the situation still baffles me and it has actually happened on a few occasions. The average person wouldn’t walk into a take-away and ask them what they have, or when getting a taxi home at the end of the night answer the drivers question of “Where are you going” with “Where can you take me?” This is the same principle, I work at a bar and we serve drinks. We have menus, a visible display fridge and an assumption that every living human old enough to get in has at least a slither of common sense. I just simply ask that you enjoy yourselves but don’t leave your brain at the door because I don’t want to leave my sanity at the bar.

“Why won’t you serve me!?” – This one is pretty self-explanatory but it does come in a number of forms. Almost every night that I am working I have to refuse somebody service due to the fact that they are drunk to the point of regurgitating the last meal they ate or because they look like Justin Biebers long lost love child but still neglected to take ID out with them to prove otherwise.

If this situation does arise I just ask that you take it on the chin. Speaking of chins a punter once tried to re-arrange mine over an ID incident. The person in question wore the standard V-neck jumper, smelt like a D&G display cabinet and had the kind of gap in his front teeth that you could drive a tank through. After being declined service on account of having no ID by one of my colleagues he decided to take a chance and claimed to be a friend of mine, stating that I could vouch for him. Due to being partial to the idea of regular employment and a clean police record I informed my colleague that I had never spoken to the punter in my life and I thought that was the end of it, no such luck.

The punter began to hurl insults at me and even ‘offered me out’. I informed him that he could offer all he wanted but that I was busy. Around a minute later I finish serving a customer, turn to my left and standing out like an Eskimo in a Dessert there is the punter from earlier. It took a second or two for me to comprehend that he had now stepped over the threshold, so to speak, and was behind the bar a few inches away from me. This would have been the perfect time for him to make his move because my mind was around a hundred light-years away and I wouldn’t have seen an atomic bomb coming let alone his left fist. The insults and threats continued but before long his window of opportunity had vanished and two bouncers were throwing him out of the building.

The lesson is if you are unlucky enough to be declined service please do not react aggressively. The establishment’s decision is final and nothing is going to change theirs or my mind. It’s not a power trip we are just doing our jobs but at the end of it all if you do decide to become aggressive the only difference between us is five fully qualified bouncers, all of which are on my side.

In closing I will say again that I thoroughly enjoy bar work and have found it to be an extremely positive experience. It’s a sociable and generally light hearted job that keeps you on your toes and the staff are friendly and were very welcoming to me. However, if you do or think you may fall under any of the above categories or any that I’ve failed to mention please spare a thought for the people pouring you the drinks. As the saying goes, ‘where here to serve but where not your servants’.

Any thoughts, opinions or similar stories? Please feel free to comment and leave feedback. Many thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “Memoirs of a frustrated Barman

  1. Oh, man, I work with the public behind a counter (and occassionally dealing with an inebriated clientele, as well) and this really hit home. Serving the public should be manadatory in every country so everyone knows exactly what it’s like to have to be on the other side of the counter. Great post.

  2. Excellent post mate. I’ve never done it and never will, but I’m always patient and courteous with the staff, it’s the other customers who are pillocks, Have a decko at this, I’m sure you’ll find something familiar about it.

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