The Path of the Bartender: I Need Your HelpJune 23, 2009 By: Gary Regan
As a bartender you know damned well that nobody can teach you how to handle difficult situations with guests, simply because every time you're forced to confront someone, the dynamics are different. Let's look at a simple example: A guy is coming on to a woman at the bar and she gives you a look that tells you she wishes he'd go away. Happens, right?
You know the guy and you have a good idea of how to handle him, but his ex-girlfriend is there and there's a chance that she'll say something if she figures out what's going on. Or maybe not.
Perhaps the woman's ex boyfriend is there and you might be afraid that he'll start a fight is he overhears you confront this guy. Or that might not be the case, either.
Maybe the woman who is looking for your help encouraged the guy in question to come on to her, just so she could get you to come to the rescue, and perhaps get a little attention from you. That happens, too, right?
The situation changes every time, and it's up to you, the bartender, to figure out how to handle it.
I can't tell you how to handle it, and neither can anyone else. I can tell you, though, that using the sentence "I need your help" has gotten me out of a jam more times than Dave Wondrich has gotten away with not standing his round. That's a lot.
Telling someone that you need their help disarms them. They're flattered. They're eager to do whatever you ask. I can't tell you that this will work every single time you use it, but I can tell you that it's come in very handy indeed for me.
You take the guy aside by saying something like, "John, get you ass down the end of the bar, you're not going to believe what happened to me, and I'm dying to tell you." This way everyone thinks he's a good friend of yours, and he doesn't loose any face at the bar.
Once you get him alone, you say, "John, I need your help." Look him dead in the eye when you say it. Now tell him anything you want to tell him that's appropriate to the situation on that particular night. Make something up
if you have to, but don't tell him what to do, ask him if he'd mind helping you by leaving that woman alone.
Try something like this:
"Listen, John, that woman's mother is a friend of my mother, and I know she's a flirt, but I promised her mom that I'd look after her tonight, so could you do me a huge favor and go back there, check your watch in a couple of minutes, and tell her you have to be somewhere? You'd really be helping me out."
I don't guarantee that this will work, but I'm telling you that it's worked for me on more than a few occasions. There's no real confrontation involved, and nobody gets their ego bruised, so it's a win-win ploy, I think.
Until next time, then, keep walking the Path of the Bartender.