Check the Attitude, Not the CoatsFebruary 3, 2011 By: Sean Evans
“Sir, I’m not going to ask you again. You gotta check your jacket,” the burly bouncer screamed in my ear, so forcefully flecks of his spit landed on my cheek. This was the fourth time he’d asked in the six minutes I’d been inside this heinous “club” on the Lower East Side of NYC, citing venue policy. Ironically, he wore two coats, but I decided not to point that out. I brushed him off again, claiming I was leaving in less than five minutes. He looked at his watch, gave me the stink eye and said, “You’re on the clock” before striding across the room, where he proceeded to stare daggers in my direction.
I have a tremendous problem with mandatory coat check, because of encounters such as this one. They’re more often the norm than not. Take this horrendous venue where I found myself standing (I only went for a friend’s birthday.) Around the fairly empty room, less than two dozen denizens milled about, the bulk of which were at the table where I was seated. The only table that had purchased a bottle. The only people spending real money. Now the bouncer has just admitted he’s going to make sure I’m gone within five minutes. Really? Isn’t the goal to keep me inside as long as possible? I’ll spend way more than the $3 you’re charging for checking my jacket. Why the standoffish approach to coat check?
Fundamentally, I understand the principles behind the service. It can generate some revenue; it can help prevent theft issues; it can help keep a smaller venue’s banquettes from being laden with jackets, freeing up seats and making the room look cleaner. But it should be optional, never mandatory, and it should be presented as a service to the guest, a way of delivering extra attention and making their time in the club more comfortable. Venues typically pride themselves on service, attention to detail and ensuring clients’ needs and wants are consistently and pleasantly met. Why would you want to completely go against those mantras and aggravate, annoy and pester clients who are spending?
Admittedly, I never have these issues in larger, renowned venues. They offer on your way in, but if you want to wear a floor length, fur-covered trench coat all evening, no one says a word. Want to drape it on the back of your bench? Go for it. Some places even have the foresight to design benches with hidden spaces inside for clients to place bags and jackets. Those establishments understand keeping a jacket on or nearby is not the end of the world. Why can’t second- and third-tier spots grasp the same concept?
The reasons for keeping a jacket are plentiful. Maybe the patron wants to go outside and smoke and it’s frigid. Maybe he or she doesn’t want to wait in line forever at closing time while a likely underpaid girl slowly searches through a thousand tickets. Maybe the jacket simply completes the outfit. The rationale shouldn’t matter. There’s no need for an abrasive reaction from a staff member for choosing to keep it. The only outcome of these mini-battles, in my book, is instant loathing of the venue and a mental note to never return. Even in the summer when I’m jacketless.