Saturday 31 January 2015

Bad manners

I recently spotted an article listing the 16 Most Annoying Customer Types in pubs. I’ve never personally worked behind a bar, but I’ve talked to plenty of people who have, and I can see the truth in most of them. However, I freely admit to #3 – if it’s not immediately obvious, I’ll always hold my pint up to the light to confirm its clarity.

In my experience, most bar staff are polite, welcoming and competent. Even in Wetherspoons, which always seem short-staffed, the actual customer interface is usually good. But, to put the boot on the other foot, there are a few who bring them into disrepute. So I compiled a quick list of 16 Annoying Bar Staff Behaviours, covering those who...

  1. greet you with “Are you alright there?” rather than “What can I get you?”

  2. can always find something to do behind the bar like slicing lemons or rearranging glasses rather than actually serving customers

  3. totally mishear a clearly-spoken order – “Pint of Harvey’s Best, please” – goes to Foster’s tap...

  4. ask “what?” when you order one of the regular cask beers

  5. treat you with supercilious disdain as though you’re something that the cat dragged in

  6. happily gossip with customers when there are people waiting to be served

  7. have no idea in which order customers should be served

  8. hand you a blatantly short pint and then walk off

  9. have to check the till before they can tell you the price of the most popular draught beer in the pub

  10. insist on asking “Is there anything else?” when it’s clear from your order that there isn’t

  11. have no idea how to use a handpump, so you either get a totally flat pint or a glass of foam

  12. give you a pint with obvious airspace between the beer and the rim

  13. blatantly favour regulars sitting or standing at the bar

  14. ask “have you tasted it?” when you return a pint looking like raw sewage

  15. refuse to change music or heating levels despite most customers asking for it

  16. expect you to point out the dish you are ordering on the menu
Most of these fall into the two categories of poor training and rank bad manners.

Any more suggestions will be gratefully received.

I asked for ideas on Twitter, and one person replied with “lacks product knowledge”. I can see that being a problem in a specialist beer bar, but in the average pub it’s enough to expect that they’re actually familiar with which products are on sale.


  1. Serves beer in glass straight from washer.
    Attempt to add ice to cider glass

  2. The most annoying, and increasingly common, behaviour by bar staff is simply not bring behind the bar. The number of times I have been into a pub to find that there are no staff present would fill a large mug.

    Next is when you order a pint and the barman says "That's off" and instantly varnishes into the cellar to change the barrel. The opportunity to buy an alternative beer would be quite welcome.

  3. What on earth is wrong with putting money on the bar? No decent barman would allow the bar to remain sticky

  4. @DCB - yes, it's becoming increasingly common in these days of declining sales and cutbacks, that you go in a pub and find nobody behind the bar. Not sure I've ever walked out for that reason, but once it gets to two or three minutes it becomes really annoying. We need to bring back the old-fashioned service bell!

  5. Exactly, Mudge. A bell just like other retail establishments where the proprietor has to leave the counter for whatever reason. But so many in the pub trade really seem to believe that they are doing you a favour by taking your money.

    It is most annoying when you have quarter of an hour wait for a bus or train and would like a swift half.

    I think the most extreme case was at the Bluebell in Tissington last year where I waited 25 minutes for a bus and never saw any bar staff.

  6. @DCB - I was actually in a local pub this lunchtime (one I generally like) where this happened. Eventually a regular shouted for the barmaid.

    If you're only going to have one barperson on at quieter times, at least provide an obvious service bell. As you say, shops would do it, but why not pubs? Despite all the decline in trade, they still seem to have a sense of entitlement.

  7. My local has a bell and all the bar staff moan if anyone uses it.

  8. 'Are you alright there?'

    'I'm fine thanks, why else would I be standing at the bar with money in my hand looking attempting to catch your attention? Could it be for the sheer hell of it?'

  9. It's the early 21st century and still Britain hasn't cottoned on to what the rest of the world knows. It's nicer to be waited on.

  10. It is nice to be waited on Cookie, but in Germany for example I've had inordinately long periods of waiting for the Kellner or Kellnerin to appear to take my order. They equally seem to vanish just when I’m ready for another beer, and also when it’s time to pay the bill!

    There’s a lot to be said for ordering and paying for ones drinks at the bar.

  11. 10. The non-customer
    "This is the one who comes in only to use the toilet and completely blanks you on their way in and out of the pub."

    I'm sure I can't be the only one who's done that - especially in Wetherspoons or crowded pubs, or in suburban areas where or late at night where there's nowhere else to go?

    I suppose they'd prefer people relieve themselves on the street or down a nearby alleyway instead when no other public conveniences (or McDonalds) are open?

    I prefer the German system where you can pay 50 cents to use the facilities on most restaurants and bars without having the sneak around.

  12. 10. "insist on asking “Is there anything else?” when it’s clear from your order that there isn’t"

    It is odd that this is more or less the only "training" that seems to have stuck in their heads.

  13. I hate being waited on. no matter how attentive the server, you always spend twice as long waiting for the next drink to arrive than you do actually drinking.

    plus I want to see what's on the bar, plus I enjoy the walk through the pub to the bar and back, its a chance to look around and interact with people.

    So no thanks to table service. I think you're on your own with that one cookie.

  14. Oh the sheer joy I get from re-arranging glasses or slicing lemons, when I know that plenty of paying customers are waiting to give me money. Now I'm not standing up for lazy or plain bad staff members, but as we all know, serving any drink in a warm glass is a shocking thing to do. And glasses take a while to cool down, so a good barman always has to look forwards a little especially when it's busy. So yes, I DO have to sort these glasses out now, even if three of you are waiting and have been waiting for over a minute so far. Because if I don't, then the next customers are going to have to wait even longer then yourselves. Point 13. People sitting at the bar often unfortunately have to wait longer than customers from tables because it can be harder to discern how long their glass has been empty, and the customer approaching from a table certainly has no idea of that. An yes, if my back is turned for 20 seconds and three people approach the bar in the time, then I have NO idea who is next. Asking is always a good shout, but of course sometimes people don't tell the truth. When bar staff have been serving a very busy bar for hours on end with no break, funny things can happen to your brain, such as temporarily forgetting basic maths. Ask someone who has just done a ten hour straight shift in a bust nightclub to add five and six, and their mind will be a blank. That is what happens. And we say is there anything else in order to prevent the situations where idiots watch you making a gin and tonic and present it them and then ask for another one. And yes, this does happen a lot. I have a customer who regularly asks for C/O crisps, and after I have given them to him asks me for some S/V ones also. That's infuriating. I can remember more than one thing at once. Anyhow, sorry for the rant. :)

  15. @Saga - in my experience, people whose livelihood depends on it such as yourself tend to give much better service than short-term temporary staff in chain pubs.

  16. Mudge, I fully agree, but additionally, the staff in independant pubs tend to be much better than the ones in their corporate counterparts, even if they are also temporary. Of course this doesn't always apply if the pub is trendy or hipster. At a new local 'cool' spot recently, the staff and manager were far to hip to actually bother serving us. I was third in line, and I waited 3 - 4 minutes without any obvious progress or acknowledgement at all, and progressed elsewhere where they know how to treat potential customers.


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