Friday, 12 August 2011

Time at the bar: how not to treat the regulars

Generally, I choose the house I live in based entirely on the local. In London we lived a few doors down from a boozer that served Pimm’s by the bucket load and knocked out a wonderful BBQ every summer. This was followed by the lovely ramshackle gastropub just around the corner from our house in Oxford; it served amazing mulled wine and I had a very happy winter indeed.

The village that we have moved to has a wonderful pub made of stone, with roaring log fires and wooden floorboards akimbo. It is suitably ‘ye olde worlde’ and I fell in love with it. I had visions of numerous hours spent sitting next to the fire with a good Merlot whilst chatting to villagers about badgers, hedgerows and cricket. That was until the landlord arrived.

It all started so well. We moved in the snow and took refuge in the warmth of the pub whilst being bestowed with free mulled wine by the most amazing barman I have ever encountered. We spent many evenings enjoying the company of villagers and just as I was about to learn all about badgers, hedgerows and cricket, the new landlord took over.

If there is one thing I cannot abide, it is bad customer service. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, customer service is not hard to get right. A village pub should be an easy gig surely? Miles from the nearest town, we are all sitting ducks and (speaking for myself here) we are all so bloody bored that we are practically hammering the door down with our empty vessels. Yet despite this, the new landlord got it oh so terribly wrong.

We pitched up with a couple of friends for dinner at 8.25pm on a Saturday night, the pub was only half full and we settled ourselves down in a cosy corner near both fire and bar. Then the shouting began. “We aren’t serving dinner. You can sit there and drink but we have closed the kitchen”. We looked at one another in astonishment, we checked our watches – nope, not 11.30pm but 8.30pm. Why this man felt the need to shout across the room I have no idea. I enquired as to whether there might be the chance to have a sarnie or something simple, “No, the kitchen closes at 8.30”.

So we got up and left. As we were driving to the next village in the hope of sustenance we sat in stunned silence. I decided that we would boycott and go on every online review site to leave diatribes of indignation (yes, that really is how vindictive I am). Still, a few evenings later we sloped off to the pub in search of an answer, after all perhaps he had been having a bad night?

We ordered our bevvies and settled down next to the fire. It wasn’t before too long that I realised I could no longer see the boyfriend let alone draw breath as the fire had begun to unleash its smoke into the room. Did the landlord come and sort it out? No, instead some choking diners ran around opening all doors and windows. Eyes streaming, we went home.

The weeks passed and I cycled by the pub on numerous occasions with a tear in my eye as I mourned the halcyon days of dining after dawn and drinking in a hotbox free zone. I decided that I would give it one last try.

I participated in a scheme that gave free books out to people and I decided that I would keep a small number back from my hospital tour to give out to villagers in the pub. In I went with said books and as I tried to explain that it was a national scheme that was giving free books to members of the public, I was met with a barrage of arsehole-like behaviour. And I quote:

“Well, I don’t want to be responsible for anything.”
“Erm” I answered, “You won’t be, they are just free books, it doesn’t matter if they don’t get taken, it’s a nice thing to do”,
“Right because I’m not going to sign up for anything.”
“I am not asking you to.”
“Because I don’t want to be responsible for anything...”

And on it went. Eventually I left, having given a paltry few to the bar staff who all looked rather haggard.The chips were down so I went home and poured myself a glass of something strengthening as I proceeded to find numerous online review sites....

I don’t know if it was my ‘reviewing prowess’ (considering levels of squiffyness whilst writing, I doubt it) or karma but shortly afterwards he left and so I am happily installed in the boozer once more. The moral of the story? Don’t piss off the locals. Read more by Naomi.