Sunday, 15 May 2016

Well hellooo!

In recent years, it has become common for staff in supermarkets and other shops to be required to wear badges showing their first name. I don’t really see a problem with this, as it encourages a connection between the shopper and the person serving them. And, after all, this is likely to just be a one-off encounter.

However, it has now spread into the world of pubs, appearing in many managed house chains, in particular Wetherspoon’s. The situation in pubs is rather different, as customers will have a more prolonged interaction with the serving staff, and they might be more inclined to abuse it, especially after having consumed a few drinks.


The Pride’s drinking well tonight!

Regular readers of the CAMRA Forum will be familiar with the egregious Richard English, the retired travel industry trainer who is happy to pontificate on all beer and pub-related issues from a position of profound ignorance. He seems to think that addressing bar staff by their first names, even if you’ve never met them before, represents a friendly attitude that builds up a good relationship. Others, however, have differed, so I thought I would create a poll on the subject.

The results are pretty conclusive, with 79% reckoning it’s over-familiar. Imagine, in a pub situation, a young female member of staff is on sole duty behind the bar. An elderly, white-bearded gent comes in, peers myopically at her left breast, where her name badge is pinned, and says “Good evening, Kirsty. Is the Pride drinking well tonight?” Friendly? More like creepy. She will keep schtumm at the time, because she knows not to upset the customers, but later on will have a good moan to her colleagues about “that lechy old guy”. Inevitably, in pubs, it is likely to encourage uncomfortable encounters between older customers and young staff of either sex.

I would never dream of addressing a member of bar staff by their first name purely on the basis of it being displayed on a badge. To my mind, it comes across as rude and over-familiar. There are plenty of bar staff and licensees who I do call by their first name, but only because I’ve come to know them over multiple visits.

To be honest, it’s redolent of the old master-servant relationship. In Downton Abbey, the senior staff were always spoken to as Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes, but the juniors were Alfred and Daisy. It isn’t friendly, it’s patronising, and demonstrates a sense of superiority and entitlement. I was always brought up to treat people serving me in shops and pubs as equals, not lackeys. But maybe that’s because I don’t come from the servant-keeping class.

28 comments:

  1. Out of interest, How would you address the bar person in Spoons or Sam Smiths, presumably not at all as you wouldn't know their surname and you wouldn't call them mate, (like I would being common).

    ReplyDelete
  2. You don't need to address a bar person by name at all (unless you know them), all you have to do is order your drink(s) politely, maybe even smile and utilise "please" & "Thank you" (or variations thereof).

    ReplyDelete
  3. And no man worth his salt needs the excuse of a name tag to alienate female bar staff by addressing their tits rather than their face.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You and Dickie having a falling out?

    I vote Dickie the next CAMRA boss!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Syd Differential16 May 2016 at 08:12

    The only time I've ever been refused service in a pub was when I said to the landlord " Good afternoon stout-hearted yeoman. "
    Mind you I was pissed at the time but there was no need for him to say " Fuck off you're barred."
    This post reminds me of a Benny Hill sketch which ends with him looking at a shop assistant's name tag on her breasts which said "Pat."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Richard English is correct. I always refer to waiting staff by there first name and so should you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bit harsh, posting his picture alongside the character assassination. He's a well-meaning enough chap, just a bit old-fashioned, that's all.

    and of course, the correct term of greeting for any bar staff of either gender is either "dookeh" or "bab".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think he is just a harmless old buffer - he comes across as a humourless, intolerant, self-righteous bully. He has also made offensive and untrue allegations that people are paid shills, which he has refused to withdraw despite a total lack of evidence.

      It gives a very poor impression of the CAMRA forums when the major contributor is someone who has never held an active position in the organisation, has little understanding of its history, and seems to scarcely go in pubs apart from a few Wetherspoons. On the other hand, that PeterE bloke talks a lot of sense, as do curMUDGEon (no relation), munrobasher and Moonraker.

      Delete
  8. Interesting. I find that, generally, first names are only used in the establishments where name badges aren't used. There the regulars will get to know the staff but the infrequent customers won't.

    I often wonder what the local Spoons manager thinks as she is addressed constantly by her first name by drunks who she doesn't know and wouldn't want to know.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dickie McDickieface16 May 2016 at 11:02

    I see the ignorami have come out of the woodwork

    ReplyDelete
  10. Huh? I thought it was a law that all barman, in London anyways and nowhere else matters, were called 'John'?

    ReplyDelete
  11. My local doesn't have name badges, but if a new staff member starts, I'll introduce myself, giving my name, and asking theirs. An exchange of first names does not suggest the 'master-servant' relationship that you correctly identify. Unfortunately, a minority of customers treat employees of shops, pubs, restaurants and other businesses that deal with the public as servants, and name badges can reinforce this. My former employer (the DSS) introduced name badges under the Major regime, but we were allowed to use a different name if we didn't want to disclose our own; we simply had to let everyone in the office know what our official work name was. While I don't really see the need for name badges in pubs and accept your criticisms, if Spoons had a similar policy, it would preserve a degree of privacy. It also might put potential stalkers off the scent, which I should think is a potential danger for female staff.

    ReplyDelete
  12. In the workers paradise we will create of nationalized pubs the workers will decide for themselves whether they want name badges. Up the workers!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I absolutely love the comment above about DSS workers under "the Major regime" (!) being able to use fake names on their badges for no apparent reason. Talk about Bolshy! People like that deserve to be in the queue on the other side of the dole office counter.

    Seeing a reasonable request of an employer as something to be fought against is the mark of the loser.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a wonderful display of total ignorance, Mayking! The point of a name badge is so that the member of the public can say, "I was speaking to X", so that - if necessary - it could be ascertained who the person was talking to. Whether that's the person's actual name or not doesn't matter in the identification process. For the record, nearly all staff used their real names, but as a reassurance to anyone who didn't want to, for whatever personal reason, they could choose an office name. Why is that a problem?

      It's an interesting view of politics to view a measure introduced by a Tory government as 'Bolshy'. But don't let your ignorance get in the way of making silly comments.

      By the way: how pretentious to call yourself the May King!

      Delete
    2. I remember back in '78 when we used to sing the Red Flag at CAMRA meetings. We stopped to be more inclusive thinking Tory Fascists type wankers would also want to drink ale. Well. They can get cocked. Bring the Red Flag back!

      Delete
    3. I'm reliably informed that Mayking is employed as a catamite and believes any and all requests from his employer to be reasonable by definition.

      Don't be like Mayking - The knees of his trousers are perennially worn through.

      Delete
  14. My son works in retail and it is company policy for all employees to wear a badge, showing their first name. He really hates it, especially when customers address him by his name. His argument is they don’t know him from Adam; so why make this pretence that they do.

    Addressing people you don’t know by their first name IS being over-familiar, and whilst I can understand the reasons employers do this, there is no reason for customers to take advantage of staff who have to wear a name badge because of company policy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Works in retail eh? Never mind, not every one you churn out of your ball sack can be a winner. Every bag of chips has some duff ones. Better luck with your other kids.

      Delete
    2. You are certainly aptly named, CAMRA Bell End; and the fact that after making derogatory comments about someone you have never met, you choose to hide your identity by a link in to the official CAMRA website, proves what a spineless individual you really are.

      If and when you have something of value to bring to the debate, then by all means add it. Until then I suggest you carry out your obnoxious trolling elsewhere.

      Delete
    3. @Paul Bailey well said mate.

      Delete
  15. I'd say it's considerably more objectionable in pubs than shops, as the length of contact time is much greater and there's more potentia for abuse from cusomters who have had a few drinks. On balance, it's probably better to know that the oik who's trying to sell me a telly in Currys is called Nathan. But I wouldn't actually address him as Nathan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the other hand, the oik in Currys will always refer to you as 'mate' so perhaps there's an argument for them to hand out labels to their customers.

      Delete
  16. It's a great idea... if you like identifying staff in TripAdvisor assassinations. Name tags are fine for the person behind the desk at, say, an estate agent or bank whose name, which you probably need to remember, went in one ear and out the other, but it's just wrong in pubs and restaurants. It's nearly as bad as the forced 'Hi, my name is xxxx, and I'll be your server tonight' which actually happened to me in Newcastle last week.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Agree with post. Bar staff, especially the young and female, need protecting by the landlord from the customers. Making them wear a name badge is not helpful at all.

    ReplyDelete

Comments, especially on older posts, may be subject to prior approval. Bear with me – I may be in the pub.

Please be polite and remember to play the ball, not the man.

Any offensive or blatantly off-topic comments will be deleted.

See this post for some thoughts on my approach to blog comments.