A Supposedly Fun Club I'll Never Patronize, Ctd

by Conor Friedersdorf

A reader writes:

Since you're asking for feedback from people who have worked in bottle service and restaurants, yeah, your comments were totally bullshit in a bag. I mean really, people who work in these places are the problem? And what does it matter if it's a pretentious place? The people who work there are just working stiffs trying to make a living. You should try an honest job for a few years and see what it feels like. I mean, that would actually be the "conservative" thing to do to establish your cred, rather than being an underblogger for Andrew. But no, you got to piss and shit all over people who don't have your advantages in life, or your naivete.

Christ, get real dude. At least realize what a pretentious douche you are and stop projecting it onto people who serve you drinks and have to pretend to like it while you sneer at them and say they're the problem. Face it, in this case you're the problem. The sooner you figure that out and take some responsibility for being such a douche, the sooner you'll grow up and develop some sense of proportion about the imbalances of this world. And I say this not to blow off steam, but to offer some harsh but I hope helpful advice. I get that you don't see this about yourself, that you think you're one of the good guys. I've worked in enough bars and restaurants to know the type. But believe me, you are that asshole, the one who thinks he's not an asshole. Fortunately, you're still young enough to have some hope. But unless you change up, time will run out, and then you'll just be that middle-aged asshole who doesn't think he's an asshole, and that's just pathetic.

This gets a lot wrong, and very much misunderstands the argument I was making in my initial post. So a few words, and then I'll try again. First off, I never sneer at servers or bartenders. And I've gone so far as to end a date who didn't share my feelings on the matter. Second, I have worked answering the customer service line at Mazda where I got yelled at for hours on end by people whose cars were broken, and at a mortgage company where I got yelled at for hours on end by people whose refinance had been messed up by my bosses. Also, I get emails like yours a lot! So I know what it is to be abused by the customer (and you know what it is to abuse the people providing you a service, complete with profane insults and sweeping but uninformed judgments of their character).

Finally, perhaps I expressed it poorly, but I wasn't ever trying to blame bartenders or servers generally for the bad behavior of customers. The point I wanted to make was a lot more subtle, and a lot more narrow. Leave most people in the industry out of this. I am talking about a very specific kind of NYC bottle service establishment. Even there, the staff isn't responsible for the assholish behavior of the clients.

But a "bottle service girl," the occupation of the writer I criticized – and club managers and owners – do their best to cultivate, on a daily basis, the feeling among their clientelle that their surroundings are exclusive, and the illusion that the human interactions that take place on site are more than business. When a club owner goes into the bathroom to do coke with a regular patron, it is an act calculated to create in that person the idea that they're getting special treatment, that they have a unique relationship.

And hey, it's a living. But it seems absurd to make your living in a place with a velvet rope and VIP rooms and special rates for bottle delivery to your private table... and to mock your patrons for being so crass as to crave exclusivity, or so naive as to think there are even more exclusive rooms in the basement. Club owners deliberately create the illusion that their establishments are cooler and more exclusive than they are. Likewise, it seems wrong to understand full well that patrons are courted with the illusion of friendship, or at least friendliness that suggests more than a mere transactional relationship... and then to mock those same people for invoking their special status as friends of the owner.

It's the feeling of having that very status that the club labored to create.

Nevertheless, I sympathize with employees at these clubs when customers are jerks, or misunderstand what's going on. But I stand by the point I was trying to make: the particular dillema of customers with these specific pathologies? These establishments and the people that work there are helping to create it, so it seems unseemly to me when they lash out at the customers as if it makes them terrible people. It's wrong to have contempt for your servers... and wrong when they have contempt for the sort of customers their establishment and on the job behavior is designed to attract.