Top 10 Bartender Excuses for a Bad Shopper Review.

Bartenders can be quick to take credit when they get praised, yet long on nitpicking and denial when they don't!

Posted: Friday, July 03, 2015

Most veteran bartenders have a tale to tell in which they're cast the hapless victim of a secret shopper witch hunt.   To be fair, some may even be true (report standards vary), but, as any hospitality industry professional who's been around the block will tell you, bartenders are a notoriously wily breed, possessed of an arsenal of ready excuses for every complaint.  As such, when the tale involves any of the following, you may want to take it with a grain of salt...


1.   Please, I knew I was being shopped!

 Manager: Huh? 

Bartender:  Yea, they were so obvious, writing notes and whispering to one another.

Manager: But you scored a 68%; that's practically flunking.

Bartender: I gave them bad service on purpose, just to see what would happen.

Debrief: Bartenders like to look cool, not foolish.  They will often tell you they're a step ahead, even if their actions contradict it.


2.   The shopper was drunk.

 Manager: How do you know that?

Bartender:  Well... I make really strong drinks!

Debrief:  Crying "drunk!" is a go to response intended to discredit the shopper and their report.  The vast majority of the time it's not true, as a professional shopper knows how to pace themselves at a shop... to the point of discretely pouring out drinks when they start to feel in the least bit intoxicated.


3.   Why target me?   Who else has been shopped?

 Manager: What does it matter who else was shopped? 

Bartender: If  I'm the only one, I'm being discriminated against!

Debrief:  An actionable report is an actionable report regardless of whether anyone else was shopped... BUT, we do recommend shopping all, or at least most of, the bartenders on staff in order to counter any charges of bias or discrimination, however baseless they may be.


4.   The observations are totally inaccurate!

 Manager:  Give me an example.

Bartender:  I've got red hair, this says light brown-- and I'm 28, not in my thirties!

Debrief:  Descriptions are impacted by all kind of variables such as lighting, noise, crowds, etc, not to mention ingrained patterns of perception.  Regardless, superficial misperceptions don't serve to compromise hard data like, for instance, if a bartender is observed taking several shots with customers, none of which appear to be rung up or paid for.


5.   I pretended to take that shot, really it was water.

Debrief:  We hear this a lot at places where drinking behind the bar is forbidden.  If the policy is no drinking while on duty, bartenders should simply make that clear to customers when offered a drink.   And if it's allowed, bartenders should NEVER drink enough to get intoxicated, as that all too easily leads to mistakes and misbehavior.


6.    I make a lot of change, I have to use the NO SALE key for that!

 Manager: Yeah, but I compared your transaction log with other bartenders and you seem to hit NO SALE about ten times more per shift than anyone else.

Bartender:  That's because I genuinely care about our patrons and encourage them to stay ahead of the parking meters.

Debrief:  Pretending to ring up a drink and hitting NO SALE instead is the oldest ploy in the thieving bartenders book.  If bartenders make conspicuous use of the NO SALE key, there may well be cause for concern.   Further investigation is highly recommended.


7.    I work my ass off for this place.  Remember I worked a double for you last week!

Debrief:  This, of course, is simply an attempt to distract from the negative aspects of the report by guilting management.   The response is to reroute them back to the report, reminding them it's the topic of discussion right now.  Ancillary issues are open for discussion at a later time.


8.   Give me a break, nobody's perfect!

Debrief:   Right, which is why we should all continually strive for improvement; that's what this report and meeting is all about.


9.    These reports are totally negative; that's the way these guys keep their jobs!

Manager:  But your last shopper report was extremely complimentary.

Bartender: Right, so obviously they instructed the next shopper to be totally critical!

Debrief:  Uh, that's not the way it works.  We relay just as much, if not more, positive as negative information, and most reports are of mixed variety.  The most constructive way a bartender can receive a largely negative review is to simply cop to an off night and promise to do better moving forward.


10.   This big brother stuff is BS!  I thought we were like family here!

Manager:   Well, first and foremost we're a business.  And like any business, we need to actually make a profit in order to employ guys like you who, in turn, support their actual families.

Bartender:  If you showed your employees more trust, you'd get more loyalty and respect from them!

Debrief:  Can you imagine, say, a bank teller responding to controls and supervision in the same way?   This reaction comes from a culture of inadequate controls.  Once in place and consistently employed, intelligent controls serve to dissuade employees from wrongdoing, which, in the long run, actually fosters a culture of deeper trust and respect between managers and employees.


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