The Null Device

Jackbooted hospitality

Yesterday I met Grant of the Fix and his partner, who were in town, at a café. I ordered a chai, and asked to have some honey to sweeten it, and to have it in a cup rather than a glass (which was what the staff member was getting). I got my drink and sat down.

A few minutes later, another staff member comes over and starts telling me off for requesting a variation in my order, saying (in the patronising tones of a kindergarten teacher telling off a naughty child) that staff members get in trouble if they deviate from the one true way of serving tea. Surely, I replied, it should be no skin off anyone's nose if they do this?

Sometime later, upon running out of honey, I went to the bar to get some more, and was informed by the second waitress (the kindergarten teacher one) that they have decided to ban me from the cafe. I thought she was joking; no sane person would seriously do such a thing, right?

Wrong. A few minutes later, the manager comes down telling me to leave, and informing that I've been banned for life from the establishment for "being rude to the staff"; i.e., my name is now on an unaccountable blacklist of certified troublemakers, because I requested my tea to be served in a cup, with honey on the side (something they have had no problems with in the past). WTF? Have they been taking hospitality lessons from the Department of Homeland Security or something?

Colour me unamused. I'm now thinking of taking action. Any advice?

There are 51 comments on "Jackbooted hospitality":

Posted by: Billy http:// Sat Jan 4 19:51:51 2003

Fuck em. I wouldn't go to a place that didn't serve honey anyways. If I did take action, I would disguise myself as a mime and wait around for the waitress to get off work, and then I would follow her back to her home, and beat her to death with a brick, and dump her body in a river. If a river wasn't nearby, a dumpster would work too. Just make sure you wear gloves...well mimes are supposed to wear gloves. I'd plan it out a little bit tho first. Or if that was a bit too extreme for you, you could get thier mailing address, and send them fucked up shit in the mail. Big purple 2-way dildos, dead animals, death threats, bombs; shit, be creative. I once sent this fat pigdicker a bag containing a cucumber, mayonaise, and picture of a twink in a seductive pose. He was awful mad!

Posted by: John C. http:// Sat Jan 4 21:27:10 2003

At least give the name of the cafe, so others can avoid it. If you really want to give them some bad publicity, create a webpage about how crappy they are and try to get other bloggers to link to it so that it will rise to the top of google when someone searches their name.

Posted by: Sonia http:// Sun Jan 5 00:24:30 2003

John's suggestion of naming the cafe online is good though a web page dedicated to them maybe slanderous. You may also want to try finding out if the cafe is listed in any guide books like Cheap Eats or even the Lonely Planet and writing to the publishers of your experience - they seem to take notice of contributions and delete entries or print bad reviews of places. They might also be listed in Melbourne?s City Search website - though I don?t know that you can review or complain about their entries.

Posted by: Ben Sun Jan 5 00:46:30 2003

Yah, which Cafe was it? I'm assuming Brunswick St here....

Posted by: Ben http:// Sun Jan 5 01:14:39 2003

And of course you should write a letter to the management, expressing how dissatisfied you are to be banned from a cafe for requesting honey to add to your Chai.

Posted by: Bill the Splut Sun Jan 5 01:55:59 2003

Post the name of the cafe and tell everyone to go there and order Chai in a cup with honey on the side...

Posted by: acb Sun Jan 5 03:03:57 2003

I don't think it was the chai, more like the waitress having had a bad day and deciding to take it out on your humble narrator or something. Encouraging people to order (somewhat overpriced) chai from them would just reward them for hiring incompetent staff.

And no, I won't name the place; I do not wish to prejudice anything. (At this moment I'm leaving all options open, including siccing the legal rottweilers onto them. Any bush lawyers in the audience know what my legal options are?)

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Sun Jan 5 06:01:50 2003

You could always just shrug your shoulders and get on with life, realising that your petty grievance against a trendy cafe is actually kinda ludicrous, and you're not going to care about it in a week's time.

Posted by: Ben http:// Sun Jan 5 14:10:52 2003

Unfortuantely you wouldn't seem to have any basis for action. It doesn't come under EO law, you can't really accuse them of discrimination. It' just a manner of complaining to management and perhaps any industry groups they are memebrs of. You might be able to get the woman involved sacked. But you should post the name!

Posted by: acb Sun Jan 5 15:15:23 2003

This is a cafe I have gone to for several years. If I am banned for life from going there, because some waitress had a bad day and decided to take it out on me, I'm not "not going to care" in a week's time.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Sun Jan 5 16:41:59 2003

I'll break this into two posts.

I know it hurts. I understand it's humiliating. But in real terms, the remedies open to you are out of proportion with the damage done to your lifestyle. You're not going to convince anyone that you are bowed under the chains of oppression because you got banned from a cafe. The cafe has a limited right to ban people, and they exercised it thoughtlessly. You have the right to seek redress for the wrong done to you, but that doesn't mean you should be equally thoughtless. Shrugging it off doesn't mean you think they were right.

Posted by: Ritchie Sun Jan 5 16:51:24 2003

Secondly, before you enmesh yourself in legal redress, at the very least go back there and see how serious they are.

"Local man banned from cafe" is not a headline. "Local man orders chai with honey on the side: Police called" is. If you're really on the ball, you'll have a friend discreetly filming everything.

Or you could go with Billy's beating-to-death thing.

Posted by: alex http:// Sun Jan 5 17:44:21 2003

why not simply smear the staff in question as automatons from our friendly neighborhood brainwashing cult? sounds like the kind of shit they'd do. i see them everywhere now ... even where they aren't. how about a location clue ... a melway grid reference?

Posted by: Leroy http:// Sun Jan 5 20:35:57 2003

Screw them man! Don't go back there, encourage people to stay away and ring them to book tables on busy nights (if they take bookings). And send them taxis. Lots of taxis. Pizzas are good too.

Posted by: Rick N Baker http:// Sun Jan 5 21:42:26 2003

A letter of complaint at the very least is warranted. Having worked in hospitality in the past, the basic idea of service is that if a customer wants something in a cup not a glass, then you get them a cup, no big deal... the ramifications of bad service in terms of people telling other people can do a lot of harm to a business. The statistic is that people are ten times more likely to tell other people if they have a bad experience than if they have a good one. So I'd write a letter of complaint and spread the word.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 6 03:20:24 2003

Ritchie: there is also the matter of defamation of my character. Having been falsely branded as an obnoxious asshole counts as such. Cafes are public places and as such, such a ban amounts to public defamation. If someone defames you, and you believe that the claim is false, it is your responsibility to challenge it. (This is why Oscar Wilde had to sue Lord Douglas, incidentally, despite his being unable to win.)

Posted by: Bowie http:// Mon Jan 6 03:22:35 2003

(i've decided Andrew is too generic)...

Of course every cafe I ever go to from now on i'll make sure to order tea in a cup with honey on the side...

Nice society when a friend of mine can be thrown out of a pub twice for throwing up but is always welcomed back with open arms and yet you order something not on the menu you get banned for life. Make me want to set fire to the place really.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Mon Jan 6 06:05:13 2003

I'm no lawyer, but my Year 11 Legal Studies recollection of defamation involves showing that a communication has damaged your reputation. Labelling someone a 'sodomite' in a homophobic Victorian England definitely qualifies, so it's no surprise Wilde sued.

There are real injustices in Australia, but your case isn't one of them. In fact, in seeking a legal redress you end up competing for time with cases more deserving of being heard.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 6 06:38:28 2003

If a group of other people meet at the cafe in question and I am invited and have to say, "sorry I can't come; I'm banned from there", that damages my reputation, wouldn't you say? After all, common sense would hold that people don't get banned for life from cafes for nothing, do they?

And injustices come in all sizes; just because one is not poor, marginalised or part of a designated Persecuted Minority doesn't mean that being unfairly branded as a troublemaker is not unjust.

Posted by: Ben Mon Jan 6 07:32:07 2003

Wilde might have won his suit if it hadn't been for the half--dozen or so rent boys they found to allege he'd one things with them (sexually and otherwise). Technically, however, none of them actually accused him of sodomy however it was enough to get the good Lord an acquital and ultimately lead to Wilde's conviction and disgrace.

Posted by: mark Mon Jan 6 08:28:10 2003

Ritchie, I'd say it's unjust - hence, an injustice. Perhaps not *quite* on the scale of, say, pogroms intended to eliminate Aborigines, but still an injustice.

That said, hardly worth sueing over, IMHO. Write a letter, bitch about it to friends (or total strangers, online) until such times as they all understand why you were banned - y'know, get your story in first.

Maybe even organise a boycott. But for $deity's sake, don't sue. Especially not before you get any response to your letter of complaint (should you send one).

Posted by: japolo Mon Jan 6 10:45:31 2003

i wish the denizens of the US sounded like this crowd.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Mon Jan 6 11:47:57 2003

I agree with Mark; there's no doubt you were treated unfairly. But it's a minor injustice and not worth overreacting to. Maybe I'd feel different if I were in your shoes; all I can tell you is how I see it as a disinterested observer.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 6 12:32:17 2003

Fair enough. If I was in your shoes, I'd probably tell me "life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it" or something.

Anyway, I found out that the person who kicked me out was not an employee but the owner. Guess there's no point writing letters to them then.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 6 12:39:57 2003

Also, I'm not sure if there's any point to asking people to avoid this place. Given the contrarian nature of depersonalised Net communications, some proportion of people reading this would go there just to offset the boycott; others would go out of curiosity, or would forget the context, then recognise the name and go in, and the publicity may do them more good than harm. Fuck 'em, I say.

Posted by: Graham Mon Jan 6 13:28:54 2003

Isn't there a warchalking symbol that says "this place bars net geeks. stay away"? if not, there should be.

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 6 13:38:04 2003

They don't bar net geeks; they've hosted a blogmeet or two and may do so again. It just seems that the owner is one of that small proportion of Pinks who intuitively take a dislike to me.

Posted by: mark Mon Jan 6 13:53:51 2003

Pinks? I assume you aren't referring to the character in Pink Floyd's /The Wall/ album/movie?

Posted by: acb Mon Jan 6 14:39:15 2003

No, to the Book of the SubGenius.

Come to think of it, perhaps they were more glorps than pinks.

Posted by: alex http:// Tue Jan 7 14:11:57 2003

I think this place might be in town, up a flight of stairs ..? PRABOB and get the gun, we're going to Swanston St!

Posted by: Alanis http:// Tue Jan 7 16:42:22 2003

Of course, I only know you through your weblog... but I feel something has changed between us. You've done more damage to your reputation by whining about this supposed damage to your reputation. "It's like rain on your wedding day..." *ducks*

Posted by: acb Tue Jan 7 17:40:39 2003

I was soliciting advice. If you don't like it, you're perfectly welcome to not read it. It's not like I'll starve if you don't click the ad banners or something.

Posted by: Nemo http:// Tue Jan 7 17:54:11 2003

I'm sorry to doubt you, but I just can't believe they kicked you out because of tea & honey. Didn't you say something when they started pestering? Didn't you at some point lose control and just start giving it to them straight? That doesn't mean they're not assholes, but maybe there's more to that story. As for legal action — fugedaboutit. Courts can't do their job properly because they are too full of trivial lawsuits.

Posted by: Graham Wed Jan 8 00:31:31 2003

There's only thing for it; challenge the cafe owner to a duel.

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 8 03:46:04 2003

Nemo: no. I didn't even raise my voice at them. That's the perplexing thing; if I had told them that they were morons because of their asinine tea-serving policies or something, then I at least wouldn't be surprised.

Posted by: paulm http:// Wed Jan 8 04:38:34 2003

You must publish their name! Though only in the context of "I did this and this is how they responded". Let them know you are putting the description of the events and the results up on the net.

Then send them horses heads in the mail! Engage local gangs of ethnic groups to become regulars! Loiter outside looking seedy! Send in the mormons (yes mormons)! Ask for a letter from Archbishhop Pell! Have ten drag queens go there for lunch!

Posted by: paulm http:// Wed Jan 8 04:38:36 2003

You must publish their name! Though only in the context of "I did this and this is how they responded". Let them know you are putting the description of the events and the results up on the net.

Then send them horses heads in the mail! Engage local gangs of ethnic groups to become regulars! Loiter outside looking seedy! Sned in the mormons! Ask for a letter from Archbishhop Pell! Have ten drag queens go there for lunch!

Posted by: billy http:// Wed Jan 8 05:02:41 2003

I wonder how many mormons live in australia...

Posted by: cris http:// Wed Jan 8 14:16:32 2003

yeah. ive wondered the same thing billy...

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 8 14:57:13 2003

As far as the address goes, Alex was right in his guess.

Anyway, Australia seems to have quite a few Mormons (or at least young blokes in school-uniform shirts with "Elder ___" plates stuck to the pocket). Most of them seem to be Americans though.

Posted by: sam Wed Jan 8 15:10:34 2003

I would have thought that the reason Oscar Wilde had to sue Lord Douglas would have been because "the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about" (as he is purported to have said). :-)

I thought I had a pretty good idea. It's one of the few places I could think of that serves chai ;) Fuxx0rs.

Posted by: alex Wed Jan 8 15:40:22 2003

to sum up: "Nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 8 16:25:39 2003

Oh, there are other places, but they're not in the CBD*, and some of them do pseudo-chai (i.e., they make it like normal tea and add milk). Mind you, this place is somewhat overpriced, and the location was one of the few things it had going for it.

* Starbucks and its clones, of course, don't count.

Posted by: Ben http:// Thu Jan 9 12:39:42 2003

There was a long-running feud between Wilde and Lord Douglas, due to Wilde screwing Lord Douglas jnr. Douglas hired gangs of toughs to follow him around and harass him, to the point where he couldn't get a hotel room and had to stay with friends.

Mormons: There is a clench of them in Northcote, they featured on the front page of the Northcote Leader a couple of years back when the parishoners had it out with machetes and steering wheel locks in the church carpark one Sabbath.

Andrew: Good to see you can still get the long threads happening, see you on Sunday!

Posted by: Damien Fri Jan 10 05:01:55 2003

I agree with Bill the Splut and others -- give us the name of the place!

I'd like to go in there and request a cuppa chai in a cup with honey on the side (I get picky about how sweet my chai is, you know). Perhaps, if enough people ask for it, they'll take a customer-driven approach to their menus?

Lentil as Anything in St Kilda make damn fine chai and havea sensible, if somewhat unusual, pricing policy.

Posted by: acb Fri Jan 10 14:35:02 2003

It appears that the next Melbourne blog meet is there too. Count me out then.

<BITCH> (Mind you, city-wide blogmeets are built on the premise that everybody who has a blog in a certain city would find their fellow bloggers endlessly fascinating; whereas, bloggers on average are just as boring as anybody else. For proof, read your typical warblog or knittingblog or britneyblog. As Morrissey said, the world is full of crashing bores.) </BITCH>

Posted by: Graham Fri Jan 10 14:39:00 2003

You just wait. I'm about to start instigating a national blogmeet, to be hosted in Albury of course.

Posted by: marm http:// Tue Sep 16 11:43:38 2003

if it is that certain place on swanston street located upstairs- a friend had an expereince of finding a pubic hair at the bottom of her coffee cup. true story. she was a timid sort so didn't complain but has done her bit to spread the word to others to steer clear of this venue. sick.

Posted by: mel http:// Tue Jan 6 00:15:01 2004

sahara sucks a fat one - I worked there during the aforementioned period and the incident (along with ben butler being kicked out for not buying enough stuff) went down in folklore among all us disgruntled employees. The 'waitress' that banned you was the psycho owner. I quit after being told to make a regular customer sit in a corner rather than their normal window spot because they weren't important enough to deserve such a hallowed spot in the cafe - this happened when he was the only person in the whole place.

Posted by: Graham Tue Jan 6 08:09:11 2004

Wow, this was a year ago...

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