BY Nina Greenhill

There are many, many reasons to be nice to your hospo worker, whether they are a waiter, beverage attendant, kitchenhand, barista and so on. I’m coming up on ten years in the industry, and I’ve faced the lot. I am well aware that wishing patron behaviour would change in hospitality is a bit like a triangle with no corners – pointless.

Nevertheless, the pre-COVID job was one I enjoyed. I was making a hundreds of cocktails a night, and taking pride in a job well done. A hospo job is certainly a colourful one, with lots of colourful characters, and if they could be nicer, I might just do this till I die with a smile on my face.

Here are some basic reasons you should be a decent human being.

1.    I’m a real boy

Okay, so I’m a girl, but the sentiment is there. We are not wooden puppets on marionette strings. We’re real and complex people with emotions and hopes and dreams and lives that we put on hold to provide someone else a service. People treat us like scum (mainly boomers but everyone else too) and expect us to keep working. The rare few humans who do treat us nicely are splendid. They accept that we can’t bend the rules with god-like power and have patience when something goes wrong that is a mistake or beyond our control. I’ll go above and beyond for that person, transferring bottles from bar to bar, making a drink to exact specifications and making their night magical.

Because that’s how you get great service- by being a decent human and treating us like one. On the flip side, I’ve been talked down to by middle aged males after ensuring their functions ran exactly to their instructions. I have been yelled at working phones for pizza shops about issues beyond my control. I’ve seen the very worst of customers and kicked them out. What makes it worthwhile is the smile on faces when I make a daggy Tooheys joke, the appreciation when I bring out clean branded glasses to the polite customer who ordered a bottle of Chandon S, and the unique hospo humour only my coworkers can participate in. Tips help too.

2.    I’m here to make sure we all have a good time and a long time.

We have very limited powers in the grand scheme of the (bar) world. We are an industry that is propped up by laws that try and keep us all alive and able to go out the next night. That’s the minimum. Basic business sense says the longer you are at my establishment, the more you will spend. We work within laws that say that if you’re drunk, you’re out. So, we do our best to ensure you aren’t intoxicated and potentially making poor judgements like fighting other people, or harassing us. We also like feeling safe in our workplace, so we tend to cut off negative behaviour as early as we can. The law backs us up on this, as do the security guards.

I hear you say ‘Oh, but it’s just one more schooner/shot/glass’ and to that I say, it may be the one that starts you being verbally abusive, actually violent, and downright disrespectful towards me, especially since you have already vocally said how you don’t like my attitude despite the fact that I have a row of fifteen order dockets that I’m trying to make while you just stare at me for 5 minutes.

The point is, I’m not here to spoil your night. Only you have that power.

3.    Idiots Everywhere

The customer isn’t always right, as we find out daily. I can share with you a quick story as an example. I made a lady an espresso martini. This lady walks off and comes back about a minute later after having a sip. “This is awful. I don’t like it.” I am slightly concerned. I know we have a better espresso martini in a different bar, but this recipe is still pretty good. No complaints in the year and a half I’ve been here.

“Why is it awful ma’am?”

“It tastes too much like coffee.”

And I had to deal with this in the most professional way possible and explain to a fully grown adult why an espresso martini tastes like coffee.

We have the patience of saints because of the vast array of humans that order from us. People who haven’t made up their minds, people who order red wines with fancy names because they think they’re white wines, and people who order incorrectly for their round and then think that they can cut in line to fix up their error.

After hours of customers like this, we may get a bit short, because we are human and prone to error. Your being nice to us makes the world of difference when we are on hour 5 of an 8 hour shift that has been a never-ending line of entitled bastards who think rules don’t apply to them. I have colleagues studying to be engineers, lawyers, teachers, and others who have been in the industry for almost 40 years. We deal with people who don’t understand that vodka and tequila are two different liquors, people who can’t count the amount of two drinks per person, and people who can’t comprehend the ’Bar Closed’ sign. I actually explain why rum and coke zero make NO SENSE on a nightly basis. Please consider that this may be your night out, but this is my job and the amount of idiots at it astound me.

4.    COVID has changed hospitality.

No clever title here. Just FAQ’s on what we deal with so you can be nicer to us.

‘I don’t understand why we all have to sit down, why can’t I just stand and drink my draught.’ Because sitting down means you don’t spread your germs all over the place and wander, potentially infecting people.

‘Surely the drinks limit doesn’t apply to me.’ It exists in some venues so we can perform intoxication assessments on the recipients of drinks, so they don’t get too drunk and we don’t get fined because they don’t realise it while they are sitting down.

‘You can’t be serious. I just want to go outside for a smoke.’ Yeah, but we are acting within government defined capacities, and this area is full. If we pack a 50mx10m space with 300 people (the capacity of ANY venue) how quickly could COVID spread, and how would we be providing a safe environment to those adhere to the regulations and abide by the venue’s rules?

‘Do you take cash?’ Yes, we do. But a question for you: Why are you going out and withdrawing cash with the specific use to pay for things instead of using your card? Why is your specific preference of using physical money more important than my trying to avoid transfer of germs?

I wash my hands as often as I can. But that doesn’t mean YOU do. Thanks for the two weeks of iso where I potentially infect my family or you receive change from an unknown that potentially infects your family. Hope using cash was worth it.

We are the people trying to keep places open so that we can earn money and pay food and rent. Frontline workers are admirable and have been doing it longer this pandemic, but hospo workers also have families they would like to get home to and viruses they would like to avoid as well, so we stick to hygiene regulations and whatever legislation is out that week as well as the work policies designed to keep the place open.

TL:DR – Pay with card, put your plates and glasses on the end of the table furthest away from you, and keep 1.5 metres away from me. You’ve had since March to learn the distance.

I’m of the personal belief that you should never anger/annoy/disrespect your hospo worker because they are providing you a service. Being mean to the person you expect something from is never a good idea. You are metaphorically and sometimes literally biting the hand that is feeding you. I personally would NEVER dream of spitting in your food (especially during COVID) but tricks I’ve learnt in my ten years are small and unnoticed by the customer. I hope you enjoy your drink either way and don’t ask me to smile. I don’t exist for your viewing pleasure.

Being any worker that has to interact with people during this time is stressful and makes some of us want to break down on shift because people don’t realise we are at work so they can have a good time.

Be nice and maybe we won’t go home crying because you called us a worthless waitress.

Be nice because maybe we are working back to back closes and opens and the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t come until Tuesday, our only day off.

Be nice because quite possibly, we are a person just like you and your behaviour can affect us.

We work through fear each shift because new jobs are a bit hard to come by nowadays and we can’t just quit this one.

I leave you with an changed message from our heroes Bill and Ted:

Be excellent to each other… But don’t party on.

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