14 February, 2014
"If I see your face in here again, I'll fucking break it"
I had been heading for the door, but his closing comment caught me off guard. I hadn't expected my complaint to end with my safety being called into question.
More out of astonishment, I turned back, checking there was a safe distance between myself and the surly bar manager. Incredulous, and loud enough to let other patrons hear me, I asked "sorry, what did you say?"
"I said you're barred" he hissed, his face slowly turning beetroot red, "and if I see you again I'LL FUCKING MURDER YOU"
This last was a barely-contained shriek, which sent my friends and me scurrying for the door. We emerged blinking, almost at a run, into the bright, airy light of a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I could turn this into a rant about customer service. The altercation had, after all, kicked off after our bill for brunch had arrived. There were three of us. I had had a pint of coke with my food, Kev had opted for a glass. Nick had been the only one brave enough to face a beer after the preceding night.
Kev's glass was almost a pint, and had a couple of cubes of ice in it. My pint, on the other hand, was filled to the brim with ice, and had barely any coke in it.
That didn't ruffle feathers. What got me complaining was the bill, which pegged his coke at £1.10, mine at £2.90. I suggested to the bar manager — a cross between Moby and Brian Glover, with the temperament of a wasp-stung honeybadger — that a fair price might have been £1.10. I was met with derision, laughter, insults and finally a reduced bill.
Not great customer service (seriously, if your customer feels they have to ask for their money back, give it to them), but the outcome was right.
No, this is a post about me discovering how to insult someone with money.
The reduced bill came to £34.95. I handed over £35.
When presented with the change, I put on my most generous smile and said "don't worry mate: you keep that for yourself".
This turned out to be the wrong thing to say.
I've spoken about this before: the switch that flips in our collective heads when we feel that someone has crossed a line. Suddenly, the normal, reasonable rules of engagement don't apply to them. They were acting out of order, so now it's okay to treat them with utter contempt. It's mob mentality, it's the accidental asshole.
It's the inability to tell the story without sounding like the sneering, bullying bad guy, despite feeling like the justified righter-of-wrongs at the time.
It's turning to the guy who eventually conceded (in his own way) that you were right and he was wrong, and telling him that he's still scum; telling him to go fuck himself.
It's telling them up front that the thing they did for you has no value.
I would actually have shown him more respect by leaving no tip than leaving an insulting one. Because sometimes the right thing to do is be honest about what you can afford to say in this world.