Saturday, 25 January 2014

What no one tells you about working behind a bar.

This is something I've wanted to write for a while, as everyone can benefit from my experience. Those pesky social media policies, even when you are careful you get told to take down posts. Back in September, I wrote a post which was pretty much a How To Guide for new bar staff, but written based on my own observations. I got in a sticky situation with it, even though I used disclaimers to protect myself and I was no way affiliated with the company on any social media platform. However, on that day I was told, "When you don't work here you can write whatever you like." The moral of the story, is that chances are you will get into trouble if you write about your life. So be careful, kids.

Before we start, let's get the basics out of the way- I am not mentioning where I worked, and I will not name and shame, but I will share my experiences because who doesn't like to chuckle at my expense? I certainly do.

This isn't going to be a tell-all about the devastating negativity that I personally experienced, and this is isn't going to go into detail about the questionable ethics and clever loopholes. This is purely the day to day details that people forget to mention when you take a job behind the bar.

Every bar has it's own corrupt dark side, hidden in the back corridors and office whispers. For such a fun looking industry, it has its own seedy truths. All of that aside, it is a treat and we could all do with the humbling experience of dealing with half cut middle aged ogres and wrapping cutlery.

Dollar, Dollar
Your monthly wages will almost never be right. There will always be a slip up somewhere, but some of it comes down to the simplest of miscommunication. The point is, keep track of every hour you work and every time you get sent home. You will have to fight tooth and nail to prove your wages are wrong, so take pictures of the rota. Even now, I haven't been paid what I am owed in holidays despite being taken off the system before the pay deadline. The shame.

After hours
Being a newbie at a bar is delightful, you get lured in with promises of lengthy breaks and sweets on the bar. Maybe this is perfect for you- the perfect job, right? Unfortunately, you will work a lot of hours and will forget what daylight looks like. You will not get paid overtime and you will sometimes only get an hour break for a 9-close. I'm sorry.

Favourite things

Beautiful airheads and tills full of thousands, top taking bar staff and minimum wages. These are a few of their favourite things. Take the most money on a Saturday night, get the most customer satisfaction forms, don't disagree with anything (even selling blackcurrent stained Sambuca as Pink Sambuca). This is your recipe to becoming the most loved member of the bar, or so I hear. You're welcome, kiddies.

Injuries? Bandage it up and work 16 hours anyway! Take off your support, you silly girl.

Rachel, Friends, GIF
This is a bit of a grey area. What do we define as an injury? When I hurt my back during the Six Nations last Spring, I was sent home several times. When I fell down the stairs in December in front of staff and customers (or as I like to call them, compliant witnesses) then it was just comical. It was watched 4 times by management on the CCTV, and although we all appreciate candid comedy, I couldn't walk. Speculation would then also arise that I had been "pushed down by a poltergeist" and it was never put in the Accident Book. I worked 2 whole split shifts followed by your standard 8 hour shift, and got told I shouldn't wear the support. I even know the dummies guide to first aid, and the standard advice for a black ankle is support, elevate and rest. Good old Hop-along right here, she knows her stuff.

Crimes punishable by death

Penny, Big Bang Theory, GIF
This is also known as "no hours so you can't even afford Tesco value loaves of bread". It is strictly forbidden to drink any stock, unless paid for or counts as wastage. Good thing lemonade looks like soda water, then. Do not talk at the end of the bar with a muddy instant latte, do not come back off break five minutes late and for the love of God don't free pour the Peroni.

You've been framed

New Girl, GIF
Although cameras are a fundamental necessity in all bars, restaurants and pubs for security purposes it is not unheard of for authoritative figures to sit in the office watching and rewinding cameras to monitor employee productivity. I did a post about this back in the summer, which you might want to check out if you think you are being unfairly watched- there's all sorts of rules don't you know? Pretty sure if we watched you playing Football Manager in the office that we'd be in a bit of trouble. Smile for the camera, this is your turn to be on reality television- be careful you don't get evicted.


Also a grey area. This comes down to a lot of things, such as people investigating others to save their own job. Sometimes there's discrimination and actions that go against the Sex Discrimination Act, so if you have big boobs and the top dogs are in you will have to switch your shift. People are always going to cover themselves, and looking out for number one is definitely a smart move. It usually results in mass casualties though, including loss of jobs and a loss in morale.

Rachel Green, GIF, Shoes
Writing on the wall

Pay attention the messages past staff have left on back corridors or toilet doors. It will take you a while to decode these encrypted messages but you'll figure them all out in the middle of throwing a tantrum. The words of advice I found and kept coming back to was "This is where dreams come to die and nightmares become reality" Who knew bar staff could be so profound?

A 2 year old is cleaner than the staff.

I used to clean the staff room so this is a fact. I've cleaned up tuna from doors and floors, broken Pringles, tampon applicators and week old lamb shanks. You are all a bunch of filthy animals, were you raised in a barn?

Joey Tribianni
You will eat nothing but chips and chocolate buttons.
Maybe some Haribo, and the word "apple" will no longer hold meaning.

Meredith Grey
People leave, a lot.
Which makes making friends impossible. You soon find you're one of the oldest of the clan and that you don't understand kids these days. Why do they think they're so funny, and what's with all this newfangled jargon?

The worst moment of your life will come when you're all out of what is commonly known as vital sustenance.

Tip: Keep a supply of everything in your locker, for emergency purposes. Although you will probably find someone has discovered your stash. First world problems, indeed.

The customer is not always right, and is usually never right.

And you can shout at them if it's past closing time. I always enjoyed this part of the shift. Get out of my pub, morons.  Generally bar staff have to deal with people waving their money across the bar for attention, putting change in puddles of spilled beer and vomit on the carpet. There's a silver lining to every job, this was mine.

For all of us that have escaped a hospitality job, we are never going back. For those still there, we've got your backs.

DISCLAIMER: All opinions my own and based on observation.
To those who make assumptions about this post, it is speculation based on your own knowledge of these details to be true.