Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Inauguration Day 2017.
My gut says he’ll never last. Despite his cunning and manipulative ways, I believe he’s too dirty and incompetent to survive a full term. How can he in an intelligent, civil society with so many checks and balances? Unfortunately, ‘we’ are not as smart and civil as we once perceived ‘us’ to be, and we’re in big trouble. Maybe we were better off before social media and the persistent reminders that hate and ignorance are pervasive and rampant in America. What disgusts me the most is that America used to represent so much more. There was a time when leaders or public figures committing a small fraction of the atrocities that Trump is guilty of, would be shamed, forced to apologize, and resign immediately. Today, we worship them as deities and elect them president…
After confirming the news on November 9th, and reading and watching some ‘patriotic’ cheerleading, I posted the following on Facebook:
Post Election Day. Enough of the “rah rah” America, clichéd rhetoric. Hate won, and as a country, we lose. We’re not “smarter than this.” The ignorance that is pervasive in America is stunning. The lack of critical, independent thinking is horrifying, especially when it is evident from our own family members and people we used to respect. They can’t even comprehend “critical thinking” because they don’t have the desire, nor the capacity, to understand what it means. The fact that they’ve been manipulated and brainwashed by a demagogue who has played them is beyond disturbing. “The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” – H. L. Mencken. “They don’t even know what they don’t know” confuses the hell out of them, and confirms that they are amongst the ‘idiots’ Mencken mocks. Self-preservation is a strong motivator. Many extremists are done learning, and instead, have built a wall around their established, shallow ‘ideals.’ Evangelical ‘Christians,’ and white, blue-collar workers (I was one for several years), who Trump routinely and repeatedly screwed, walked off the cliff like lemmings in support of him. He’s a vile, arrogant, disgraceful, demeaning, lying, corrosive, corrupt, racist, entitled, obnoxious, divisive, homophobic, selfish, sexist, manipulative, xenophobic, bullying, belligerent, sociopathic scumbag who has no regard for anyone beyond himself, “Me, Myself, and I.” If you voted for him, he used you, and he’s now your president, idiots.
Since the election, one therapeutic outlet has been reading as many viewpoints as possible-yes, including those of Trump supporters in an attempt to understand their motivation. There are many people who are much smarter than I am and who write more eloquently than I ever will, thus the quotes below. The following are excerpts from the Facebook thread and links I compiled within the comments following my original post on November 9th.
(PM) are my quotes, all other initials are commenters on the public facebook thread:
- “Imagine making fun of someone with a disability and thinking it’s ok? It’s unconscionable, and would have been enough to derail anyone years ago. Based on everything we have seen (true colors over time), there is nothing decent about this guy.” (PM)
- “It amazes me that these people have no recollection of the state we were in at the end of Bush’s 8 years!!!!???? Trump has not said one thing that he will do, not disclosed his tax returns, is a complete asshole, and people follow him like a God??? I don’t get it?????” (EG)
- “This election was also a victory due to the huge apathy in our country. At least 100 million eligible voters failed to vote in this election. If even 5% of those eligible voters had voted for Clinton, the election results would have been drastically different. When almost 1/2 the country failed to vote, I’m willing to bet that a number of the people who are now protesting failed to actually vote. America had an opportunity to fight back against ignorance, racism, sexism, etc, but failed to do so, largely due to apathy.” (RA)
- America Elects a Bigot-NYT 11/10/16: “Mr. Trump will become this country’s 45th president. For me, it is a truly shocking fact, a bitter pill to swallow. I remain convinced that this is one of the worst possible people who could be elected president. I remain convinced that Trump has a fundamentally flawed character and is literally dangerous for world stability and injurious to America’s standing in that world.” ”It is hard to know specifically how to position yourself in a country that can elect a man with such staggering ineptitude and open animus. It makes you doubt whatever faith you had in the country itself.”"Also, let me be clear: Businessman Donald Trump was a bigot. Candidate Donald Trump was a bigot. Republican nominee Donald Trump was a bigot. And I can only assume that President Donald Trump will be a bigot.” “I must settle this in myself in this way: I respect the presidency; I do not respect this president-elect. I cannot. Count me among the resistance.”
- “Trump ran his campaign by appealing to people’s reptile brains. Fear, greed, tribalism.” (AT)
- “In the deep south of Louisiana, a high school diploma is considered to be a good education. And, our public schools are horrible, so it isn’t even a good high school education. Working class people, who are working class due to their lack of education, are easily persuaded by someone like Trump, due to their “hero worship” of the rich and famous. Down here, the only thing worse than a black man is an “uppity” woman. “Uppity” women are disrespected by working class men and working class women alike. That I have always understood. What continually amazes me is that educated men down here hate “uppity” women too. Only one of my male law partners voted against Trump. There is no question in my mind that if Hillary were a man, at least half of these good men would have voted against Trump. It’s ok for a man to be a crook (Trump) but its not ok for a woman with a bad haircut, ugly pantsuits, and sensible shoes (Hillary) to be a crook. The only reason that I am a partner in this sexist law firm is that they have no choice due to my client base. They know I can walk. Still, I am paid less than the men, and that won’t change unless I walk North. Way North. So why do I stay? This is my home, and my family and friends are here. While I am not talking to anyone in my family now because they all voted for Trump (and they are not poor white trash, so I am confused), that wound will heal with time. It’s 1954 in South Louisiana. And it always will be.” (JS)
- “If one were to take a massive group of Americans (tens of millions?) and rank them based on their knowledge, temperament and preparedness to be president of the US, where would this guy rank? Top 100? Top 1,000? How about somewhere between the 9,500,000th and 10,000,000th most qualified? It is truly mind-boggling how we got to this point.”(EK)
- “I did not and could not vote for him. I disagree with your assertion that all people who voted for him are idiots, however. Among the people that did: my aunt and uncle who are multi-millionaires and lifelong Democrats, my dog’s veterinarian, and my husband, an Army brat whose Colonel father is currently consulting with Nigeria on national security for their country. In my humble opinion, one big factor as to why this reality show creep is now in the most powerful position in the world, is because Americans are sick to death of career politicians. Politicians are supposed to be public servants, but have somehow evolved into self-servants. They have had no incentives to cross aisles and compromise for the good of the country. And in spite of the fact that I woke up on Wednesday feeling like I’m now living in the Twilight Zone, I take some pleasure in the thought that politicians are feeling very, very uneasy.” (DGS)
- “Patrick, he did what they call in a cult control of the minds ,he sought out what people wanted to hear and over and over he said the words that defined what was appealing to most and the words came out harsh as they could over and over , until people heard it . Research has shown if u drill ideas into a person mind over in over again u can accomplish a better outcome to what u want to happen, as u listen to his words , same every time he spoke in fact it was in the same sentences and fashion at every really . It’s the most common task some cults use.” (LD)
- “Extremists will defend their deity to the death because that defines/validates their existence. And they are in denial of anything or anyone who ‘threatens’/challenges how they rationalize their place in the world. (Even intelligent people with genuine, good intentions trying to help them.) They’ll never know the truth because they are done learning. Self-preservation is a strong motivator. It’s frightening to watch people who have paid exorbitant fees, shout out approval, and emphatically nod their heads in approval of the bullshit spewing from the alter on middle-of-the-night TV. Tens of thousands of people pack those arenas, desperately clinging to the words of bullshit artists, like Trump, who are lining their pockets on the desperation and naiveté of their flock. The Kool-Aid may initially look and sound appealing, but if you drink it before questioning and verifying, it may kill you. Remember Jonestown.” (PM)
- “I am stunned and sickened by this. Ten steps forward and 50 backwards. Unbelievable.” (EM)
- If you voted for Trump because he’s ‘anti-establishment,’ guess what: You got conned Washington Post 11/11/16: “…But one thing it will not be is a threat to the establishment, or the system, or whatever you want to call it. The wealthy and powerful will have more wealth and power when he’s done, not less. There’s a lot that Trump will upend, but if you’re a little guy who thinks Trump was going to upend things on your behalf or in order to serve your interests, guess what: you got suckered.”
- “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” H.L. Menken The Baltimore Evening Sun-July 26, 1920
- A Time for Refusal-New York Times Magazine 11/11/16: At the end of “Rhinoceros,” Daisy finds the call of the herd irresistible. Her skin goes green, she develops a horn, she’s gone. Berenger, imperfect, all alone, is racked by doubts. He is determined to keep his humanity, but looking in the mirror, he suddenly finds himself quite strange. He feels like a monster for being so out of step with the consensus. He is afraid of what this independence will cost him. But he keeps his resolve, and refuses to accept the horrible new normalcy. He’ll put up a fight, he says. “I’m not capitulating!” (Reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
- “The worst part of all of this for me is that my family put Trump in office. I have forgiven my 83 year old father, for a number of reasons. But after the words I exchanged with my sister and her wicked racist in laws on facebook, I doubt that I will ever see her again. And I doubt that I will ever see her kids again. My feeling of despair at this moment is unspeakable.” (JS)
- “If Trump had an ounce of decency, he would make a thoughtful, powerful speech vehemently denouncing the people who have used his win to spread hatred, bigotry, and violence, and call for an immediate end to it. A brutally obvious move for a leader sincere about “unifying” our country. And if he’s not aware/smart enough to do it on his own, where the fuck are his advisors insisting that he does?!? WTF?” (PM)
- “Can I come to someone’s house for Thanksgiving?” (JS)
- By normalizing hatred, we’ve already normalized Trump- Boston Globe November 15, 2016: “Yet for all his unrepentant xenophobia and misogyny, Trump invented none of the social afflictions that propelled him to the White House. All he needed to do was bellow them out loud on the largest possible stage, and tap into the toxicity of a nation that has long been too tolerant of intolerance.”
- This list of facts and allegations is stunning.
- Why I Left White Nationalism-New York Times November 26, 2016: ”There are millions of Americans who don’t understand why anyone might worry about the effects of this election. They see it as “feelings” versus their own real concerns. Those of us on the other side need to be clear that Mr. Trump’s callous disregard for people outside his demographic is intolerable, and will be destructive to the entire nation.”
- Dan Rather November 27, 2016: Could someone who has Donald Trump’s ear please take away his phone and tell him that he now has a very big job to do that requires paying attention to reality? There are no training wheels for being president. You go from a common citizen to the most powerful person on the planet. And that is not a joke.
“He’s got the whole world in his hands” is an old spiritual that has become a favorite of camping trips and sing-a-longs about the power of the Almighty. But when it comes to the affairs of humankind and the planet, you could make the case that you could almost say the same thing about the powers of the president of the United States.
War and peace. Justice and the economy. Even now with the looming catastrophe of climate change, the very health of our Earth. All are in the hands of the president. But here we have Donald Trump, who will soon be sitting behind the desk of the Oval Office tasked with decisions that will shape millions of lives and our world, tweeting lies – lies – about illegal votes.
The very job description of the presidency is you can’t afford to be petty. Richard Nixon was and it destroyed him. But I can’t think of anyone else who was so obsessed with apparent slights and minutiae. Donald Trump has won the presidency. I know there is a movement to recount votes in a few key states, but barring a plot twist worthy of the Twilight Zone I can’t see all of this changing much. For Trump it should be a minor distraction to task a junior aid to keep in touch with not what dominates his mind to such a degree that he issues multiple public statements about it – statements far adrift from any reported fact.
22. ‘I will give you everything.’ Here are 282 of Donald Trump’s campaign promises. Washington Post November 28, 2016: In Donald Trump’s final days on the campaign trail, he promised his supporters that “every dream you ever dreamed for your country” will come true if he becomes president — one of dozens of sweeping promises he made and is now expected to fulfill. In January, I compiled a list of 76 campaign promises Trump had made. Since then, the list has grown to 282, collected from Trump’s speeches, public comments, tweets and campaign and transition websites.
23. The Guardian-Political correctness: how the right invented a phantom enemy. For 25 years, invoking this vague and ever-shifting nemesis has been a favourite tactic of the right – and Donald Trump’s victory is its greatest triumph. by Moira Weigel: Trump drew upon a classic element of anti-political-correctness by implying that while his opponents were operating according to a political agenda, he simply wanted to do what was sensible. He made numerous controversial policy proposals: deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, banning Muslims from entering the US, introducing stop-and-frisk policies that have been ruled unconstitutional. But by responding to critics with the accusation that they were simply being politically correct, Trump attempted to place these proposals beyond the realm of politics altogether. Something political is something that reasonable people might disagree about. By using the adjective as a put-down, Trump pretended that he was acting on truths so obvious that they lay beyond dispute. “That’s just common sense.”
24. How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them? Washington Post November 23, 2016: “So what happens in two years when there’s a congressional election and two years after that when Trump runs for a second term? Those voters may look around and say, Hey wait a minute. That paradise of infinite winning Trump promised? It didn’t happen. My community still faces the same problems it did before. There’s no new factory in town with thousands of jobs paying great salaries. Everybody doesn’t have great health insurance with no cost-sharing for incredibly low premiums. I still hear people speaking Spanish from time to time. Women and minorities are still demanding that I treat them with respect. Music and movies and TV still make me feel like I’m being left behind. When Trump told me he’d wipe all that away, he was conning me. In fact, in many ways he was the fullest expression of the caricature of politicians (everything they say is a lie, they’re only out for themselves) I thought I was striking back against when I supported him.”
25. “If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest.” – John Glenn. So much class. RIP (PM)
26. Rolling Stone-December 8, 2016: Trump’s Presidency Is Shaping Up to Be an American Tragedy. His administration is likely to be just as bad as you think – and possibly worse: “At the very least, we’re being led by an unqualified man-boy who doesn’t grasp even the most basic tenets of governance. At worst, we’re headed down an extraordinarily dark road where the things that make America America simply cease to exist. A president who won on a campaign of anti-immigrant furor, who believes in casting aside freedom like litter, who craves constant validation and can’t abide criticism or satire – that’s a tyrant in the making.”
27. Huffington Post December 12, 2016-An Open Letter To ‘Mr.’ Trump: WTF Is Wrong With You!? “…Next, the conflicts of interests are not just mind-numbingly unethical, but perhaps illegal and impeachable. You’ve refused to release your tax returns and have bailed on your big press conference this week to explain how you’re going to separate yourself and your family from your business… leaving the American people with zero transparency for the first time in modern presidential history. Between your foreign investments and debt, and your domestic properties (DC hotel, for example), your conflicts are staggering. You’re blatantly putting your personal financial interests before the safety and security of the nation. Oh, and because of you I now have to add the word “emoluments” to my vocabulary.”
28. New York Times December 19, 2016-How Republics End: “Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare. But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.”
29. Boston Globe December 19, 2016-Yes, there is shame in not knowing: “There’s no shame in not knowing; there’s shame in not wanting to know. For years I’ve said this to my college students as a way of telling them that learning should never stop. But I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that, at a certain point, there should be shame in not knowing.”
“The emerging narrative of this election is that Donald Trump was elected by people who are sick of being looked down on by liberal elites. The question the people pushing this narrative have not asked is this: Were the elites, based on the facts, demonstrably right?”
“And still this imperviousness to fact pales next to the racism and xenophobia and misogyny — in other words, the moral ignorance — that Trump’s supporters wallowed in. All of the condescension of which liberals have been accused can’t begin to match the condescension of the current storyline that Trump voters are too disenfranchised or despised or dismissed to be held morally responsible for their choices. It’s an insult to these salt-of-the-earth types, we’re told, to think they acted out of racism. You must understand, the pundits say: They resent being told they are dinosaurs, they fear their lifestyle is passing away.”
30. Bill Moyers.com November 10,2016-Farewell, America: This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us. We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist.
If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t.
31. Anthony Bourdain-Eater December 21, 2016: ”I’m a New Yorker, Donald Trump is a New Yorker. And the New Yorkers I know, we’ve lived with this guy for 30 years. I’ve seen Donald Trump say things one day, and then I saw what he did the next. I’ve seen up close how he does business. Just like if you lived in a small town, you’d get to know the sheriff, the guy who runs the hardware store, the guy who runs the filling station — Trump comes from that era of guys you followed, guys you knew about every day: Trump, Giuliani, Al Sharpton, Curtis Sliwa. I’d see him at Studio 54, for fuck’s sake. I’m not saying I know the guy personally, not like I’d hug him, but I’m saying that as a New Yorker, we pretty much are neighbors. And my many years of living in his orbit have not left me with a favorable impression, let’s put it that way. There’s so many reasons to find the guy troubling.”
“…But if I can convince people to look around, and see who’s actually doing a lot of the work in this country — picking vegetables, it’s all immigrant labor — and then ask themselves, truly, whether they under any circumstances would take that job? You know, to look in the eyes of the cook who makes their eggs-over every day…”
“…I’m sticking it out, I’m not gonna run away to Canada. I’m gonna pay my fuckin’ taxes, I’m gonna vote, I’m gonna do all of that. But I’m not going to be taking it to the streets any time soon — well, we’ll see. I think we’re going to be feeling the effects of this for a long time. I’m just not optimistic. I worry about my daughter, of course.”
32. Vanity Fair-Graydon Carter December 21/2016: “Until the November upset that will send the most ill-equipped president in history to the White House, political correctness had reached a fever pitch over the past three decades that left all but the dampest of liberals feeling out of step with the times. The pendulum had swung so far left that it was only a matter of time before it swung back right. The horror is that it has swung right so hard and so fast. In the time it takes to build a house, a nation that was forged on inclusiveness has begun to accept the most extreme forms of the unacceptable as a new normal. In word and deed, the president-elect has turned on a tap of hate—and it will be a while before we can turn it off.”
33. Moby on Facebook December 19,2016: And now that the electoral college has certified the results we will watch @realdonaldtrump be inaugurated in January and sworn in as our next president. A reminder: 45% of women voted for a man who bragged openly about getting away with sexual assault. 40% of Latinos voted for a man who routinely maligned Latinos. 70% of Christians voted for a man who has been divorced 3 times and brags about committing infidelity. 70% of blue collar workers voted for a a trust fund baby who routinely didn’t pay his workers and who produced his merchandise overseas. And now we have a president elect who has time to tweet and hang out with Kanye but can’t be bothered to attend security briefings. America you’ve lost your mind and made a truly colossal mistake. And on top of this he got 3,000,000 fewer votes than his opponent. Dark days.
34. Huffington Post Here’s Why We Grieve Today November 10, 2016: ”And it is not only that these things have been ratified by our nation that grieve us; all this hatred, fear, racism, bigotry, and intolerance—it’s knowing that these things have been amen-ed by our neighbors, our families, our friends,…That is the most horrific thing of all. We now know how close this is. It feels like living in enemy territory being here now, and there’s no way around that. We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize. We are grieving the loss of a place we used to love but no longer do. This may be America today but it is not the America we believe in or recognize or want.”
35. Mother Jones December 19, 2016 Special report: I spent 5 years with some of Trump’s biggest fans. Here’s what they won’t tell you.
…The most widespread of these suspicions, of course — shared by 66 percent of Trump supporters — is that Obama is Muslim.
What the people I interviewed were drawn to was not necessarily the particulars of these theories. It was the deep story underlying them — an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this: You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black — beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.
36. Daily Banter January 5, 2017-Donald Trump Avoids Intelligence Briefings Because He’s an Idiot: “For most of his life Trump has tried to hide his compromised brain capacity through false bravado, insults, verbal and emotional abuse of others and the marketing of his name. Trump has mastered the art of deflection of his business incompetence, along with his personal insecurities and fears. He took this model and ran for president, winning by convincing enough Americans to find fellowship in the dark message of his own narcissism.”
37. Boston Globe January 9/2017-The presidency as psychodrama: Consider these characteristics: An exaggerated sense of self-importance. An unjustified belief in your own superiority and brilliance. A preoccupation with fantasies of your own success and power. A craving for constant admiration. A consuming sense of entitlement. An expectation of special favors and unquestioning compliance.
Or these: A penchant for exploiting or disparaging others. An inability to tolerate criticism or critics. An unreasoning fury at people you perceive as not supporting your wishes or desires. A tendency to judge people in terms of whether they flatter you — see, e.g., Vladimir Putin. A belief that you already know all there is to know.
Or these: The need always to be right. A lack of empathy for others. An array of inconsistent statements and behaviors driven by your needs in the moment. A tendency to lie so frequently and routinely that objective truth loses all meaning.
In sum, an incapacity to separate the world from your own psychodrama.
This is bad enough in selecting a spouse or friend. But in a president, it is flat out dangerous. And it presents a unique challenge for the journalists trying to cover the Trump presidency in a meaningful way, and for Americans seeking to assess the man we have made the most powerful person in the world.
38. CNN January 16, 2017-Donald Trump is ‘gaslighting’ all of us: The techniques include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.
39. New York Magazine January 13, 2017-Kahneman: Your Cognitive Biases Act Like Optical Illusions: “Where does confirmation bias come from? Confirmation bias comes from when you have an interpretation, and you adopt it, and then, top down, you force everything to fit that interpretation,” Kahneman says. “That’s a process that we know occurs in perception that resolves ambiguity, and it’s highly plausible that a similar process occurs in thinking.” Which is precisely why you — or a president — shouldn’t trust everything you think. Unfortunately, the more powerful you are, the more you believe your own thoughts.
40. Democracy Now-January 17,2017-Insane Clown President: Matt Taibbi Chronicles Election of “Billionaire Hedonist” Donald Trump: “I would never compare myself to Hunter Thompson. I think that’s an unflattering comparison for any writer, but I think I do a little bit understand what he was going through with Nixon. I kind of feel a little bit the same way about Trump. He’s a—you know, it was kind of hate at first sight, actually, when I first saw him on the campaign trail. He’s a fascinating, repellent, awful, epically horrible character. And in a way, it makes for this incredibly engrossing story to follow him. So, you know, I think that, to me, is what really stood out about this last year, is Trump himself, he is just such a unique figure in our time. He’s kind of the perfect foil to reflect everything that’s excessive and vulgar and disgusting and tasteless and cheap and greedy about American culture. He is the perfect mirror to reflect everything about our society.”
41. New York Times-January 19,2017 Are You Not Alarmed?: “I continue to be astonished that not enough Americans are sufficiently alarmed and abashed by the dangerous idiocies that continue to usher forth from the mouth of the man who will on Friday be inaugurated as president of the United States.
Toss ideology out of the window. This is about democracy and fascism, war and peace, life and death. I wish that I could write those words with the callous commercialism with which some will no doubt read them, as overheated rhetoric simply designed to stir agitation, provoke controversy and garner clicks. But alas, they are not. These words are the sincere dispatches of an observer, writer and citizen who continues to see worrisome signs of a slide toward the exceedingly unimaginable by a man who is utterly unprepared.”
42. Politico Magazine January 18,2017: ‘He Has This Deep Fear That He Is Not a Legitimate President’: “From his pick of nominees for posts in his cabinet to his belligerent use of Twitter to his unwillingness to cut ties with his business to avoid conflicts of interest, they see the same person they’ve always seen—the consummate classroom troublemaker; a vain, insecure bully; and an anti-institutional schemer, as adept at “gaming the system” as he is unashamed. As they look ahead to his inauguration speech and to his administration beyond, they feel confident predicting that he will run the country much as he has run his company. For himself.”
43. The Guardian, Jessica Valenti November 19, 2016: Trump voters sure are sensitive lately. They’re upset that the cast of the hit play Hamilton made a statement to Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, and that the audience booed him. They’re displeased that their vote is costing them relationships with family and friends. And for some reason not entirely clear to me, they’re unhappy with Starbucks and decided to demonstrate as much by … buying lots of coffee at Starbucks.
The same people who wear shirts that read “fuck your feelings” and rail against “political correctness” seem to believe that there should be no social consequences for their vote. I keep hearing calls for empathy and healing, civility and polite discourse. As if supporting a man who would fill his administration with white nationalists and misogynists is something to simply agree to disagree on.
Absolutely not. You don’t get to vote for a person who brags about sexual assault and expect that the women in your life will just shrug their shoulders. You don’t get to play the victim when people unfriend you on Facebook, as if being disliked for supporting a bigot is somehow worse than the suffering that marginalized people will endure under Trump. And you certainly do not get to enjoy a performance by people of color and those in the LGBT community without remark or protest when you enact policies and stoke hatred that put those very people’s lives in danger.
Being socially ostracized for supporting Trump is not an infringement of your rights, it’s a reasonable response by those of us who are disgusted, anxious, and afraid. I was recently accused by a writer of “vote shaming” – but there’s nothing wrong with being made to feel ashamed for doing something shameful.
Donald Trump’s ascendance to the Presidency of the United States represents a low point for America. He has undermined so many American ideals by replacing hope with hate. We have so much work to do–fighting to preserve the progress we’ve made, and to find new, inspired leadership to change the current direction we’re heading in to move forward again. Imagine if our leaders spent the same time, effort, energy and money fighting to advance the critical issues that really matter to our people, our country, and the world as they do on the vitriolic, hateful fighting promoting their own agendas and grabbing power for their political party? #WeStandUnited
Thanks to @amandablount2 on twitter for this post:
Boston, MA Restaurant Group ‘Hospitality Admin Fee’ Successfully Narrowing FOH/BOH Wage Gap: 1-Year Update
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
As is often the case, they endured vitriolic comments from online trolling dissenters. Similar to the way some Yelpers ‘review’ restaurants without visiting or dining in them, some folks are more interested in denouncing creative solutions than making an honest effort to study and understand them.
When an ownership group of 3 Boston restaurants introduced an innovative idea to combat a very complex problem, they were called greedy, sanctimonious and insincere, and told that “they must have lost their minds. The greed of these guys is pathetically transparent and offensive.” They were accused of “cloaking their business decision in this mantle of righteousness,” promised boycotts, and their innovative Hospitality Administrative Fee (HAF) has been called a “gimmick,” “yuppie tax” and ”socialist bullshit.” Several other thoughtful, engaged commenters applauded their enterprising initiative.
They engaged many of the online commenters in great detail with respect, restraint, facts, and a promise to report their findings.
Co-owner, Keith Harmon responding to Facebook commenters, “I understand the resentment. We tried many, many other approaches. This is an idea that generates a lot of internet hate but in practice people who come into the restaurant are very supportive. It’s the toughest issue facing restaurants today, which is why you see so many places experimenting with solutions. If there is an effective solution that has zero visibility to the guest than we will absolutely change our policy.”
“We’re going to work our tails off to see it successfully implemented, but it’s definitely a big risk and we’re hoping we can get enough support for the new business model to make it effective and sustainable.” -Keith Harmon Eater Boston 12/1/15
Megan Woolhouse in the Boston Globe on 3/5/16 called the Hospitality Administrative Fee, “…a risky strategy in a competitive industry fearful of alienating customers, but it also may be the way of the future.”
Keith Harmon, David Doyle, and Maricely Perez-Alers, co-owners of Tres Gatos, Centre Street Cafe, and Casa Verde restaurants in Jamaica Plain, MA were well aware that changing their business model was a risk when they pioneered the bold, progressive measure of adding a (pre-tax) 3% Hospitality Administrative Fee (HAF) to guest’s checks on 12/1/15 in order to pay their back of house (BOH) kitchen staff higher wages, closer to what their front of house (FOH) servers and bartenders were making.
In a Boston Magazine piece titled, The Great Cooks Shortage, Corby Kummer stated, “If other owners don’t rip off the Band-Aid and eliminate tipping to pay kitchen workers more, or adopt Harmon’s sensible plan, anyone who cares about restaurants and the culture of the city will be forced to say that Boston is in dire straits.”
In their ”Open Letter to the Restaurant Community,” on the websites and on an entire side of the menus at their restaurants, the trio stated, “We acknowledge that this is a risk, one that might not work, and if it doesn’t we’re willing to chart another course.”
I vividly remember the restaurant environment when the HAF was being implemented. It absolutely was a risk, but in retrospect, a very carefully calculated risk. Before implementation, research and considerations included:
- ‘Traditional’ restaurant business models, equations, percentages, and formulas for opening, operating, and sustaining restaurants were not working, and immediate, corrective action was required to survive and sustain. The existing model was breaking under price pressures and the FOH/BOH wage gap.
- Operational costs had steadily increased while profit margins had been allowed to decrease in order to increase BOH compensation.
- The belief that restaurateurs need to adjust expectations and implement new models for current and future independent operators.
- The time, effort, energy, and cost required to implement, explain, and defend a ‘non-traditional’ business model. (Including additional accounting/bookkeeping hours to track and fairly distribute new fees and pay taxes on those fees.)
- Flat pay with profit sharing.
- Creating a culture of mutual respect and trust where employees feel valued, safe, and compensated fairly. Individual and team morale and quality of life are extremely important.
- Inspiration from Zingerman’s inclusive, progressive business model and philosophies.
- Staff retention and recruitment. Minimizing the time, effort, energy, and cost of hiring and training new employees was a very important goal.
- Eradicating ’traditional’ resentment and tension between FOH and BOH over compensation. HAF allows FOH and BOH to rise and ‘fall’ in unison.
- The potential impact of using mega-vendor food suppliers to drive down expenses would compromise quality and was inconsistent with their mission statement of directly supporting small, local, suppliers and agriculture.
- Cutting costs by reducing support to local charities, non-profits, and neighborhood community organizations that are critical to the mission of the restaurants was not an option.
- “Customer accepted” menu price points vs. “non-traditional” approach, requiring explanation and education of diners in the restaurant and prospective guests researching their restaurants online.
- A solution that didn’t include eliminating tipping and alienating/losing quality servers and bartenders. They also didn’t want to take the discretion and control of tipping away from guests and did not believe that guests or the industry were ready to let go of tipping. Tipping was too widely embraced by their servers and guests.
- A “No Tipping” policy is extremely difficult to transition to as an established restaurant. (They respected Juliet and Tasting Counter for implementing a “No Tipping” policy as new restaurants.)
- BOH staff was being paid at competitive, “industry standard” rates or above, but the owners felt that was unacceptable, especially for entry-level cooks. They also wanted to allow for a more sustainable schedule and a reasonable number of total hours worked weekly for BOH staff.
- The desire to create a competitive advantage to address the BOH staffing shortage in Boston area restaurants, and create a model to make small, independent restaurants more sustainable.
- Raising BOH wages without hospitality admin fee. This would reduce mid-single digit profit margins further, putting the viability of the restaurant at risk of surviving, especially a catastrophic event (‘temporary’ closure of business due to weather, equipment failure, an accident, flooding, building damage, etc.) Restaurants are often one significant event away from closing for good, and then everyone loses. Doing nothing was not an option.
- The common perception that restaurants are highly profitable, and ”wealthy owners” should simply reduce their own compensation to pay BOH staff more. (Harmon and Doyle explained to online commenters that this perception was incorrect, and that repaying loans to investors, meeting payroll, and other priorities always take precedence over owner compensation, and have.)
- Pending legislation regarding salary minimums, OT, sick days, benefits, etc. (Minimum wage increases were not a concern unless the tipped minimum wage increased substantially.)
- Forecasts/estimates for inflation, costs of all goods and services, insurance, etc.
- Public perception of change and trying something “unconventional.” Not everyone will take the time to read or try to understand what’s happening and why. Some people just won’t like it, no matter what.
- Legal, accounting, and all local and national Government rules and regulations. (Massachusetts law makes it illegal for BOH staff to be included in restaurant tip pools.)
- The requirement to operate a business they were proud of rather than stagnate.
Keith Harmon-Personal Facebook post 12/2/15: Well, here we go – For most of the past 5 years I have been working on the problem of back of house (read kitchen) vs. front of house (read servers and bartenders) wage gaps. For the past several years, I have had an ongoing dialogue with my business partners as to how we could potentially close the gap and have been developing an approach. With Danny Meyer’s announcement in regards to the same issue in his restaurants, and numerous other factors, we decided early last month to put the finishing touches on our best solution and implement. It’s a big risk, but I’m super excited and motivated to share not only the vision, but the mechanics, the underlying data, and the results hard and soft as they come in. I love the restaurant Industry and am coming up on almost 30 years working in it. Parts of it won’t function properly for much longer, and this is a key piece. The “status quo” is headed “the way of the dodo” in the next 5-10 years, and I am so proud and excited to get started early on behalf of and side by side with our teams. Time to get busy living or get busy dying.
Beginning December 1st, 2015, a flat 3% hospitality administrative fee will appear on your bill. This goes directly to our kitchen crew, in the form of increased wages and more sustainable hours.
Parties of 6 dining adults or more will see a 15% service charge and a 7% hospitality admin fee. All service charges and gratuities will go to your server; all hospitality admin fees go to the kitchen.
Please see the back of this menu or our website for more details. We thank you in advance for your support and look forward to answering any questions you may have as we endeavor to create a more fair and sustainable restaurant.
An Open Letter to the Restaurant Community: Why we are changing our business model, and why you will see an administrative fee on your bill.
We have decided to change the business model of Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe in Jamaica Plain in order to be able to pay our back of house (BOH) kitchen staff better in relation to the rest of our team. The disparity between front of house (FOH) and BOH compensation has been growing for many years. What was a gap 25 years ago has become an abyss, and it will only continue to widen. We think that within 5 years the majority of restaurants will have adopted some measure to address this critical issue. We are choosing to do so now for the benefit of our BOH teams, and because we would like to be agents of change and share our results with other restaurants. We are writing this letter for three reasons:
1. To be completely transparent to all of our stakeholders (team, community, guests, vendors, investors/lenders) about what we are doing.
2. To explain why we are doing it and why it is so important to us and our industry. And,
3. To ask for support as we try a new approach.
There are some well-known statistics regarding wage growth among tipped employees vs. non-tipped employees. In our restaurants, tipped/FOH team members make 2.2 to 2.6 times as much as non-tipped/BOH employees. The fundamental issue underlying this widening gap, as we have come to see it, is that tipped employees are tied to top-line revenue, whereas back of house employees are tied to bottom line results.
Every time we increase menu prices to cover inflation somewhere in the expense structure, we cover the expense but we widen the wage gap. While we’ve largely been spared the hiring crisis many restaurants have faced, we feel the wage problem can no longer be ignored. How can we as owners tolerate a scenario whereby half of our team’s compensation is about 60% lower than the other half’s? We’re tired of feeling like our kitchen staff are second class citizens. We’re tired of knowing that they would be financially better off bussing tables or working at a chain restaurant. We need to hitch (at least part of) their star to top line revenue if we want to correct the disparity.
The impasse we’ve reached presents us with a host of difficult choices. Do we live with the status quo and accept stagnant wages in the kitchen? Or, in an effort to pay our kitchen staff more, should we cut total hours and streamline how we operate: stop making our own pasta, bread, and pastry, and buy those things even though we know they’re better if we make them? Should we stop doing our own fish and animal butchery? Should we work with mega-vendors and stop supporting local agriculture? Should we give less to charity and support fewer local events and organizations? Or, finally, should we ask guests to pay more in order to directly benefit the kitchen?
Beginning December 1, 2015 we are making two substantial changes to how we charge at Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe: First, all group, prix fixe, and event dining will have a 15% service charge and a 7% hospitality administrative fee added to the bill. Second, all other diners will have a flat 3% hospitality administrative fee added to their bill, and guests may still tip as they see fit.
All of the charged hospitality administrative fees will be used for raises, benefits, and more sustainable work hours for our BOH team. We know many people will ask, “Why don’t you just raise your prices? This is your problem.” Our response is that it is our problem, and that in fact we are raising prices, albeit in a slightly different way that specifically aims to close the quality of life gap between front and back of house.
The FOH/BOH wage gap issue pervades the U.S. restaurant industry. Success and evolution in this industry is our life’s work, and we believe our restaurants – and small, independent restaurants in general – will not be sustainable for much longer without a correction. Quality restaurants cannot function, much less thrive, without quality chefs and cooks. We hope that making this small change will have a sufficiently large effect. Our goal is not only to improve the lives of our BOH employees, but to serve as a test model from which other small restaurants can gain valuable insight. We acknowledge that this is a risk, one that might not work, and if it doesn’t we’re willing to chart another course. But we need to take our best shot at fixing a problem that is growing increasingly difficult and intolerable, and we need your understanding and support.
For small restaurants that don’t want to sacrifice craft or integrity in order to serve the communities they love, we believe this is a fair, effective, and sustainable approach. We will open Casa Verde with this model as well. Our hope is that by making the compensation more equitable at each restaurant, our teams will be able to achieve more, not less, for many years to come. We thank you in advance for your understanding and support as we attempt to correct this core issue.
We Live to Serve,
Successful implementation of the HAF required thoughtful, thorough communication, internal and external. The owners held a staff-wide meeting to explain the plan, solicit input, and to ensure that the entire team understood and supported the plan. Mutual trust and shared vision were crucial to the success of the plan.
As one of the first restaurant groups to implement this business model locally, and the first to communicate in such detail, many people were watching. Restaurateurs locally and nationally reached out, empathizing and offering support. The story was reported locally on WCVB TV, BNN News, Eater Boston, Jamaica Plain News, Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Universal Hub, Boston.com, The HAF was also a very lively, engaging topic on Reddit and Hungry Onion.
As Keith and David mentioned on BNN News, it was important that they carefully communicated what they were doing and why. They were very proud of what they were doing and did not want to appear that they were hiding it in fine print in a “footnote on the menu.” If it was going to work, they felt they had to broadcast it far and wide.
Execution Details (How does it work?):
Keith Harmon: It’s a revenue sharing pool that is fed by the 3% administrative fees. We pay kitchen staff $1/hr extra in every paycheck, then we distribute any excess collected according to total hours worked at the close of each month. Since the money is distributed evenly by hours worked it’s more effective at the lower end of the payscale, which is part of the design. The HAF does not come from FOH tips, it is added to the pretax total of the bill and guest tips as they see fit on that total. So if you and a friend come in and order $100 in food, we charge a $3 admin fee that goes exclusively to the kitchen. We could have just raised prices, but that is a one-time fix. This is systemic. Now as total sales go up or prices rise in the future due to inflation, the servers and kitchen will each make more in lockstep. Adding the HAF to a guest’s check was the simplest, best solution we could find to a very complicated problem.
#1-Early Returns, one month in:
I am happy to report that the hospitality admin fees for December 2015, when distributed 100% and equally among the kitchen staff (only) according to hours worked, resulted in an average pay bump for kitchen staff of $2.29 per hour at Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe. We saw no negative impact on sales, tips for servers were actually slightly higher than usual, and we had about 6500 guests in December across the two restaurants WITHOUT A SINGLE COMPLAINT. The only impact on our bottom line was the resulting payroll FICA taxes we incurred due to the extra wages paid. Long way to go, this is a good start.
#2-One Year in, 11/30/2016:
- Average wage increase for kitchen hourly workers was $2.87 per hour. (Varies by restaurant and by month, but that’s the average.)
- BOH (kitchen) salaried workers are on average making approximately $5,948 more per year than before HAF implementation.
- Hospitality Admin Fees have increased gross kitchen wages by $100,700.
- Despite the initial concern about reducing FOH tips, servers actually saw an increase in their tips by 2.5%.
- There is now a direct correlation between restaurant volume/revenue/success and the compensation of all workers. There is an investment, motivation and incentive to improve every aspect of operations. Team engagement has improved significantly. The program has been good for everyone.
- The 3 restaurants have served approximately 85k guests since 12/1/15, with about 12-15 negative comments, none of which were severe. Since inception, no guests have refused to pay the HAF. (Because it is prominently displayed on the menus and websites, it is legally enforceable.)
- As noted earlier, addition of the HAF actually costs the restaurants money because payroll FICA taxes are required on the additional wages paid. (Ancillary, positive gains offset the cost.)
- Positive HAF impact has led to excellent staff retention and improved recruitment dramatically. There has been slight improvement on more sustainable BOH scheduling, (total, individual hours worked) but not dramatic.
Keith Harmon: This was scary, but it is the best business decision we’ve ever made. The goal was to do our homework and implement the best plan we could. We’re overwhelmed with gratitude to our staff, our guests, community, industry peers, and everyone who has supported us. Ninety percent of our hopes were met. This is only a start. We’re resolute about continuing to improve, paying close attention to the ethics, culture and social justice aspects of our mission, while simultaneously operating a financially viable business.
David Doyle: Despite initial concerns about how FOH staff might be affected by the fee, we quickly discovered that their tips were not adversely affected, and to their credit, they quickly embraced the HAF as a gesture of respect to their BOH co-workers. Overall, the experience of responding to questions from guests about the HAF has resulted in our teams being more aware of how hard our BOH teams work, for relatively modest pay, and I believe this has strengthened our teams.
In terms of our guests, particularly our regulars, we have been warmed and gratified by the level of support they’ve shown us for this modest attempt to narrow the wage gap. JP is in, in general, a neighborhood that prides itself on being progressive, supporting indie businesses, taking care of each other. We felt that if any neighborhood in the city (or the country) would support our effort, JP would. Our faith in the neighborhood has been confirmed.
I asked Keith, whose financial consulting practice focuses exclusively on the hospitality, to comment on the investment of time for implementation, logistics of execution, and bookkeeping and accounting requirements. What can other restaurant operators expect?
Keith: “We worked on the problem for 4 years to arrive at the HAF concept. To implement all aspects, I’d estimate 40 hours initially, with an additional 3-4 hours per month to administer. The architecture was specifically designed to make it easy on myself as bookkeeper and lines up with payroll and restaurant reporting norms.”
Ongoing considerations of tweaking the HAF program include the possibility of adapting performance metrics (rewards, incentives, and penalties.) And future consideration about whether or not to increase the HAF percentages will center around restaurant industry legislative changes and increases in the cost of goods and services to maintain and operate the businesses.
Some of the variables determining whether or not creative, progressive solutions will or won’t work in specific restaurants include :
- Neighborhood, town, city, state, country.
- Size, demographic, culture, environment, and laws of all of the above.
- History and reputation of the operators and the business itself.
- Size, seating, and capacity of the restaurant. (The 3 Boston restaurants featured in this piece have combined seating of 132.)
- Style/type (casual, counter service/formal, full service, etc.).
- Demographic of clientele (tourists, locals, regulars, etc.).
- Menu price points.
- Local, tipped minimum wage.
- FOH (tipped) staff buy-in and support of what’s best for the team, despite potential decrease in tips.
- Revenue, profit margins, budget, cash-flow, and all related finances.
- Ownership/management willingness to investment the time, effort, energy and costs associated with implementation, and the knowledge and desire to execute, maintain, and communicate all HAF-related issues with staff and guests.
Jamaica Plain, MA where the 3 restaurants successfully implemented the HAF is a prime location for success.
David Doyle on BBN News: “We have a long history in the neighborhood, being involved with non-profits, being involved with art organizations, and I think what’s exciting for us, again, going back to wanting to share this message, we’re proud of it. We think it fits in really well with the kind of ethical background of the neighborhood, and we think it represents the best of JP (Jamaica Plain) which is taking care of our residents and trying to approach our business in the most ethical way that we can.”
On a personal note, my first restaurant job was in the dish pit in college where I eventually managed the dining hall at lunch. During senior year of college I worked my first bartending gig at Polly’s restaurant, then a 2nd stint at John B’s Cafe on Ferry Street in Middletown, CT (great dive bar) serving ‘real’ Fireballs, Cinnamon Schnapps and Cherry Brandy. There have been long stretches where my only involvement with the industry was as a customer, but having worked in the industry, I’ve always been intrigued by all of the FOH and BOH dynamics and inner workings of restaurants.
My only ownership experience was building and operating a small seafood shack for one season on Cape Cod in 2011. (I sold my 50% share to my business partner because the business wasn’t profitable enough to sustain.) Jobs from the dish pit (1978), bartending, management, to ownership, and currently restaurant consulting, have run the gamut. It’s an extremely hard, very stressful way to make a living. Regardless of how organized and prepared you are, there are always unpredictable challenges (some devastating) for independent operators to overcome. There is a huge misconception that restaurant ownership automatically equals wealth. I remember the perpetual anxiety, fear, and sleepless nights very well, despite wearing the ‘game face’ every day. Many, very talented people have been forced to close very good restaurants for a wide variety of reasons. I applaud the innovation and creativity being employed by many owner/operators in an attempt to take care of their people and have some semblance of quality of life and peace of mind. ”Living the dream” can be a nightmare…
Please support your local, independent, neighborhood restaurants, and the change agents leading the way to sustain them. And please consider sharing this post and adding your insights in the comments below. Thank you.
Footnote(1): George Couros, The Principal of Change: 5 Characteristics of a Change Agent
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Too damn inspiring and important not to share.
Reprinted from The Washington Post.
By Petula Dvorak Columnist
October 13, 2016
Every night, they had the same routine.
The Georgetown University business student would settle in for his cram session — soda, chips, books lined up. And the janitor would come in to start his night shift — polishing each of the windows in the study room, moving amid all those books and chips and sodas. Invisible.
“There was this space, like ice separating us,” said Oneil Batchelor, an immigrant from Jamaica. The janitor worked around the students — many of them in their 20s like him, many with entrepreneurial ambitions like him — for nearly a decade before one of them finally broke that ice last year.
A nod one night. A hello the next.
Georgetown University business major Febin Bellamy, left, talks with janitor Oneil Batchelor, who wants to open chicken joint. Students raised $2,500 and got him catering gigs. (Andy Hogg/Unsung Heroes)
And within weeks, Batchelor and the student, Febin Bellamy, were having long talks about being immigrants, about wanting to be entrepreneurs, about politics and history and music. Bellamy even went to Batchelor’s church and met his 6-year-old daughter.
After he formed that bond with the once-invisible worker, Bellamy couldn’t stop noticing the others.
“Once you see it, you can’t unsee it,” the 22-year-old said.
The minimum-wage cafeteria workers dishing up food, the locker-room attendant scrubbing the stinkiest places, the maintenance man doing backbreaking work in the garden while students maneuver around him, heads bowed to their phones.
It’s not just affluence, age and pedigree that create this yawning gap at a school where tuition and room and board run more than $65,000 a year.
“Everybody’s in their own world,” Bellamy said. “A lot of students have good hearts and were raised right. It’s just not always easy for them to get to know people around them.”
Georgetown students raised more than $5,000 for Umberto “Suru” Ripai, a cashier at Leo O’Donovan dining hall. He will be able to visit his family in South Sudan for the first time in 45 years. (Andy Hogg/Unsung Heroes)
Each of those workers has a story. Many of them are immigrants, and their collective histories of war and flight and families left behind offer a master class in geopolitics. No tuition needed.
Bellamy understands because these are his people. His family immigrated to the United States from India when he was 5. When they got to New York, his mother worked as a nursing assistant and his father as a customer service rep while they were going to college at night and raising a family in the few hours left over.
Bellamy started at a community college and then transferred to Georgetown as a junior. He knows the scrap and fight the folks fixing pipes and cleaning bathrooms have inside them.
So he had a brainstorm. What if he found a way to introduce the workers to the students? And that idea went from a class project in April to a fundraiser making real change today.
Students learned that the guy who cleans the business school windows, Batchelor, left a place of little opportunity in Jamaica 20 years ago and dreams of opening his own jerk-chicken joint someday.
They learned that one of the cooks at the Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall, José Manzanares, saw family members killed in El Salvador’s civil war and escaped when he was a teenager.
They realized that every time Memuna Tackie, the woman vacuuming the carpet at the stately Riggs Library, asked a question about an English word, they were helping the immigrant from Ghana study for her citizenship test.
The guy who runs the cash register at the dining hall? Umberto “Suru” Ripai hasn’t seen his family in what is now South Sudan for 45 years.
And that crossing guard who smiles at all the students, even when they don’t smile back? Anthony “Tracey” Smith’s dad was killed in a crosswalk. Smith decided he wanted to protect pedestrians, and that’s why he took the job at Georgetown.
The stories got shared. And liked. And loved.
“I walk through campus now, and people are waving at me, saying hi all the time,” Batchelor said.
It gets even better.
The students also learned about some of the hopes percolating, as windows are washed and floors are scrubbed. And they’re helping.
Turns out that Batchelor really is a gifted cook. Students who read about him encouraged him to hold fundraisers serving his now-famous-on-campus chicken. They raised $2,500, got him catering gigs and helped him put up his own web page, Oneil’s Famous Jerk.
“It’s like the door has cracked open in front of me,” he said. “And I can smell the air coming through. The inspiration.”
That cafeteria cashier at Leo’s? The same students who once silently handed their meal cards to Ripai just raised more than $5,500 on a GoFundMe page for him to go to South Sudan to visit. That’s enough money for two round-trip tickets. He’s planning his journey now.
I call it awesome.
Talk about an antidote to the divisiveness and bile of this election season.
Say all you want about tax returns and emails and locker rooms. This is what makes America great, Americans.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Two previous Server Not Servant blog posts, 64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers, and 64 Suggestions for Bar Customers, resulted in the some of largest volume of traffic to this site. The posts were in response to Bruce Buschel’s list of 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do published in the New York Times, You’re the Boss Blog (The Art of Running a Small Business). Bruce was building his first restaurant, Southfork Kitchen in the Hamptons when he published the posts, before hiring any servers.
These “Suggestions for Bartenders” are intended to add some balance, insight, perspective and fuel to the ongoing conversations between workers and guests.
Inspiration for the following list came from responses to the posts mentioned above, and dining out at bars countless times over 4 decades. Some are obvious, but I omitted often repeated, no-brainers like “Don’t steal or get shitfaced,” and others that have been beaten into submission on every listicle ever created for bartenders.
I realize the job can be extremely hectic, and that “when time permits” could be added before many of the items listed. And yes, I know there are some redundancies. (The magic number is 64…)
Many of the suggestions for bartenders below were gleaned from from my experience behind the bar and other restaurant work, questionnaire responses from 200+ bartenders/servers for Server Not Servant, and countless conversations with customers and restaurant industry professionals. Thank you to everyone who contributed, especially SNS Facebook Group members.
The final, forthcoming lists in this series are, “64 Suggestions for Restaurant Servers,” and “64 Suggestions for Restaurant Owners and Managers.” Please email me your suggestions.
64 Suggestions for Bartenders
- Don’t call yourself a mixologist.
- Greet and welcome every guest in a timely fashion, even if you’re slammed and can’t serve them immediately. “I’ll be right with you,” or at least eye contact and a nod, buys you time with reasonable people, and let’s them know you’re aware and hustling.
- Strike a balance between having fun with your friends/regulars/co-workers and welcoming and tending to first-time guests. No one wants to feel like an outsider in your house. Pay attention to the “odd person out.” Include everyone in the party–they’re all watching, listening, and noticing.
- Use “Welcome” frequently when greeting guests, especially with new people you haven’t seen before. (I included this no-brainer because “No one made us feel welcome” is one of the most frequent complaints from customers.)
- Introduce yourself if it feels right and time allows. Many guests will appreciate being able to refer to you by name instead of, “Excuse me.” (Yes, some will incessantly exploit knowing it.)
- Engage. Convert customers from guests to ambassadors. If you don’t recognize a guest, break the ice w/something in your own style to welcome them. “Welcome, have you been in/joined us before?”, and “How did you hear about us?” work well. I’ll never forget Ted Kilpatrick at No. 9 Park in Boston asking me, “Did you bring inspiration tonight, or would you like to see a cocktail list?” I knew exactly what I wanted, and appreciated cutting to the chase. (Credit: Jeff Toister-”The 5 Question Technique”)
- Offer a taste of a beer, wine, or spirit when someone is unfamiliar with a product, or on the fence about committing.
- Don’t pass the buck, if you make a mistake own up and resolve the situation, don’t blame the chef, barback, owner, food runner, or anyone else. Most customers will understand if you explain what went wrong and how you’re going to make it right. (Credit: Bruce Buschel)
- Use ‘We’ not ‘They’ when discussing policies of your restaurant/bar. Don’t deflect responsibility and throw your team or ownership under the bus, own it. (Credit: Jeff Toister)
- Don’t drag your team down, the job is hard enough without excessive negativity. Leave your drama and baggage at the door. Your co-workers and customers don’t want to hear your whining and negativity.
- Set up personal accounts and follow all social media platforms of your restaurant. Before each shift, review your restaurant’s social media posts since your last shift. There’s no excuse for not being informed about social media posts from your restaurant, professional reviews and news, especially when guests broach the topics.
- Occasionally retweet your restaurant’s tweets, share Facebook posts, and repost or comment on IG posts, and add a personal endorsement inviting friends in when inspired and comfortable doing so. Today’s technology makes building and cultivating a following much easier than it used to be.
- Don’t be an asshole on your personal social media platforms. You could be fired. (Amazing how many people rant about how they hate their job, co-workers, customers, etc. on public platforms.)
- Subscribe to your restaurant’s newsletter.
- “Keep alert, scan your guests, and anticipate their needs. For example, offer or give them things before they ask, whether it be a refill on their low water, or delivering a sharper knife when they are having problems cutting with the regular one. Listen and overhear what they are talking to their dining or drinking companions about to know whether you can be of assistance or suggest something in that realm — people are always surprised when you are picking up on their needs before they directly ask you.” (Credit: Fred Yarm @cocktailvirgin)
- Control what you can control. Be prepared. The job is hard enough dealing with the inevitable shitshow coming your way. Be sure you have back-ups of everything, and if you don’t, know ahead of time so you don’t leave a slammed bar looking for a bottle of wine, booze, beer, or anything you don’t have.
- Checklists for opening and closing are critical. And everyone needs to use them and sign-off on them before and after every shift. “Prior, proper planning prevents…”
- If your guests congratulate you on a positive, professional review or media mention, respond with humility and gratitude. Sincerely acknowledge how fortunate the restaurant is, and share the credit with those who contributed to your success; your team, guests, purveyors, etc.
- Clean the bar with sanitizer mix between guests leaving and new guests arriving. On approach, new guests can see rings on the bar and greasy schmutz from the previous guest that a bartender often can’t see. A quick, dry wipe doesn’t instill any confidence in a new guest that the bar is clean.
- Don’t try to hide issues that could blow up on you. If you serve someone you find out later has been day-drinking for 6 hours, (and hid it well before you served them), communicate with your team so you’re all on the same page about shutting them off, making sure they’re not driving, and that they have an escort and/or a way to get home safely. Too many bartenders have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and just want to get “over-served” people out the door. You and the bar/restaurant are liable for their consumption and safety.
- Read amateur reviews of your restaurant/bar even if management doesn’t bring them to your attention. You can always pick up on recurring themes or learn something specific that can be improved upon, especially if the sample size is large enough.
- Understand the significant difference between service and hospitality. Indifferent ‘service’ is one of the most frequent complaints from restaurant/bar customers. Great service is execution. Great hospitality is about meaningful and memorable connections with guests.
- “Don’t be condescending if someone asks for a ‘lower-level’ cocktail or beer. For example, if they ask for a Bud and you don’t have it, don’t give them a smug look and/or ridicule them on social media.” (Credit: Marc Hurwitz, Founder, Boston’s Hidden Restaurants)
- Try like hell not to smoke during your shift, even on your own time if you get a break. No matter how much you wash your hands, gargle, brush, suck on mints, or chew gum, guests can smell the residual effect. Most won’t say anything, but many will notice and hate it.
- Don’t chew gum, unless Nicorette is the only way to keep you from smoking…. (RIP, Maryanne Hooley-Olives Restaurant-Charlestown, MA)
- Show up in advance of your shift. Allow enough time to change, eat, use the facilities, read the employee bulletin board, study new menu and drink specials, and prepare for your shift. When you ask/expect preferential scheduling/treatment you’ll get it because you’ve acknowledged that respect is a 2-way street, and earned.
- Write down the details of lengthy orders with multiple modifications if you’re not entering them into the POS while a guest is ordering. No one wants to be interrupted (especially multiple times) to clarify something you forgot because you didn’t write it down.
- Think like an owner. Be proactive about recommending improvements to your bar manager, GM, or owner. Bitching to your colleagues (about colleagues) not following procedures over shift drinks at 4am is not going to fix the problem. Make specific recommendations about how your team and restaurant can improve, and volunteer to make change happen. If your repeated recommendations to improve the quality of life for you and your co-workers, save money for the company, and/or improve business falls on deaf ears, move on.
- Every shift is similar to the curtain being drawn before a play. You have a choice about how (most of) the performance is going to go. If you’re prepared, positive, friendly, and focused, your co-workers and guests will feed off the energy you put out. “Have fun while you are back there and realize that you are the emcee of a show. You have the power to make people very happy…use it.” (Credit: Roy Binbuffalony-Pearl Street Grill & Brewery-Buffalo, New York)
- Serve red wine by-the-glass at an appropriate temperature. Hot, red wine essentially says, “We’re not trying.” (I realize you might not have enough designated reach-ins for reds, but there’s almost always a creative solution.)
- Don’t appease a small group of pushy, obnoxious people (turning up the TV volume during a sporting event) at the expense of other guests or the mission/culture of your restaurant.
- Be confident and firm with assholes. Don’t let them ruin your night or ruin the experience of your other guests. Address loud, obnoxious people who are ruining the experience of guests around them. Resolve a potential problem before the situation escalates. (This includes oblivious, detestable, loud cellphone humans.) Most offended guests are reluctant to speak up but will fault you and your team for tolerating boorish behavior at their expense.
- Read/sense your guest’s desired level of engagement. Be attentive without being intrusive. If they ask questions about the restaurant, the neighborhood, etc., provide them with an experience that demonstrates that you genuinely care. Recommend other restaurants/bars, and whatever else people are looking for, especially out-of-town guests.
- “Focus on the guests and less on distractions like cell phones, the servers at the pass, the television, etc. This includes drinking on the job. While I am not offended by witnessing a little camaraderie especially later at night, there is no way that a bartender can do as good of a job after a drink or two. Sure, the bartender can probably pour beers just as well, but the awareness of the guests and the financial transactions can drop to the point that serious mistakes are made.” (Credit: Fred Yarm @cocktailvirgin)
- It’s not all about you. There’s a big difference between confidence and arrogance. No one likes a know-it-all. “You don’t know everything. Check your ego at the door.” (Credit: @Lissa3243)
- Stay on top of water refills. (This is one of the things that amateur ‘reviewers’ have been complaining about the most on Yelp and amateur sites for years.) If a guest just finished a road race and is chugging a glass of water every few minutes, leave them a pitcher. It’s more efficient for you, and serves the guest better.
- Maintain a wait list/queue for barstools if possible. Civilized humans appreciate avoiding the scrum when barstools open up.
- “Keep clean and tidy. Everything from the bar space to the bartender’s hygiene matters when it comes to food and drink that will be ingested into the guest’s body. Sticky bar tops, straws and napkins on the mats below the bartender’s feet, and unpolished glassware matter just as much as whether the bartender is touching their face or hair, grabbing glassware by the lip, and not washing their hands. Perception of space and delivery does indeed affect the enjoyment of food and drink.” (Credit: Fred Yarm @cocktailvirgin)
- Use “We” not “They” when dealing with a potential negative with a guest. “We don’t carry ‘The Captain’ (Morgan), but we do have Sailor Jerry, which I like better,” is more effective than, “They don’t have that here.” (Credit: Jeff Toister)
- When a guest asks for extra or a side of something (sauce, guacamole, condiments), let them know if there’s a charge before you bring it. (Especially in a casual, less-expensive restaurant.)
- Know the menu and inform guests about unique characteristics of the food and drink that aren’t described on the menu. Some details are purposefully omitted because there’s not enough room on the menu or to encourage verbal descriptions and engagement. Forgetting to explain the detail (Spice/heat level, temperature, portion size, etc.) can be costly and erode trust with a guest.
- “Never bitch about ‘only making $150 tonight’ within earshot of the kitchen crew.” (Credit: Roy Binbuffalony)
- If your shift ends when you’re in the middle of serving a guest, explain that you’re leaving, and introduce them to your replacement when possible. Leaving without acknowledging the transition is inhospitable.
- Be consistent with hospitality. You never know who is sitting at your bar. Every guest has the potential to be a regular, professional reviewer, or word-of-mouth ambassador. Many life-changing personal and business relationships begin in, or over, a bar.
- Be a great resource for your co-workers. If time allows, offer to speak to your server’s guests if they’re interested in agave and you’re the resident expert. And call on your colleagues for help if they know more about beer than you do. Guests will appreciate the teamwork and depth of knowledge you collectively share.
- Pitch in to help on the floor or wherever needed when it’s slow and you’re caught up, especially when another bartender is on. Deliver drinks that are sitting at the service bar, run bus buckets, replenish service station, etc. (Yes, servers should offer to help you when you’re slammed and they’re slow.)
- Be aware that guests can often hear your conversations with co-workers at the service end of the bar. (The barstool closest to the service station is often a wealth of information.)
- Don’t eat in front of guests.
- Be a connector. Great bartenders are resourceful and introduce guests to each other when appropriate.
- “A great bartender remembers where a guest left off last time they were in. Anything from what drinks they prefer to following up on asking about their travel plans. Showing a guest that despite dealings with hundreds more that they are indeed important and valued. Especially when the last visit was more than a year ago.” (Credit: Fred Yarm @cocktailvirgin)
- “Absolutely,” “My pleasure,” or “You’re welcome” are more effective than,”No problem.” (Credit:Bruce Buschel)
- When you shut someone off and serve them water, serve it to them in a plastic cup, especially if they’re combative. (Hurled plastic hurts less than glass…)
- Be mindful of interrupting conversations. Be patient and use eye contact to get the attention of your guests.
- Get out from behind the bar and circulate when time allows. Check in w/guests at a table who had a drink at the bar before dinner. Check in with your FOH and BOH teams. View the bar and restaurant from a guest’s perspective, and be sure the bar looks good to new guests approaching it.
- When you “check back” with a guest after a few bites or sips, listen carefully to their response after asking how they’re enjoying something. Don’t do a drive-by, nodding in approval while stating, “It’s good right?!?” Let them tell you if it’s good, and if it’s not, make it right.
- If you’re an intense craft cocktail, beer, or wine geek, awesome, but be sure your guests want to hear the sermon before preaching…
- Always be hustling.
- “Leave your bar (after shift) the way you would expect to walk into the next shift.” (Credit: Marvin Cohen-SNS Facebook Group)
- Be thoughtful, polite, respectful, and kind to your “work family.” We often spend more time with, and are closer to, those we work with than our biological families.
- “Be proud of your work. You, as a server, hostess, chef, bartender, busser are an important and integral part of your customers’ life. You can make or break their day with the simplest of gestures. As someone that can easily count how many times she’s cooked in the last 8-12 month, my life literally revolves around this industry and meals and cocktails and the people presenting them to me can brighten up a stressful day. Value yourself for having such an impact.” (Credit: Blogger and pro customer, Markeya Williams)
- Vet the owners, management, and culture of a bar/restaurant before accepting a job. Smart employers do their homework on prospects, so should you. Speak with current and former employees, review the restaurant’s website, the history of all social media platforms, all pro and amateur reviews, and every story/feature on the place.
- Don’t be a job hopper to the newest/hottest restaurant/bar every few months. (The “greener grass” is often the same set of issues with a different cast of characters.) You’ll damage your reputation and make future, prospective employers wary of hiring you.
- Demonstrate genuine gratitude/appreciation (in your own style) before guests leave. And invite them back. “…they will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Take care of yourself. Don’t get caught up in the after-hours vortex too often, it can kill you.
Ok, your turn. Please add your personal ”Do’s” and “Don’ts” for bartenders in the comments. Comments are screened before being approved. Feel free to give a shout-out to some of your favorite bartenders, the watering holes they work at, and what you love about how they operate. And please consider sharing this post. Thank you.
PS- There is a new tab on the right side of this blog under the “Server Snapshots” to support this project and expedite publication of the Server Not Servant book. As always, feel free to reach me privately at Patrick@servernotservant.com. Thank you-Patrick
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
So many times we walk or drive by. We may empathize and sometimes get involved, but many of us don’t often do enough.
This simple story is too important not to share, and so refreshing in light of all the negativity we’ve been barraged with. The picture and accompanying story were shared on the Massachusetts State Police Facebook Page on 5/17/16.
A Selfless Meal, and Conversation, for Two
We were shown this picture from a third-party who had not taken the photo, nor knew anything about it, other than they thought it was taken in Fall River. After a little digging, we were able to locate the citizen who had taken the photo. The citizen said the well-dressed Trooper in a suit appeared to be having lunch with a panhandler on Davol Street in Fall River. The citizen was struck by what he saw, snapped the photo, and posted it to a Facebook group in Fall River, captioned “And they say chivalry is dead…….Much respect.” We are grateful to that person, who thought to take the photo and share it.
After a little more digging, we found out the trooper is Luke Bonin, who is assigned to the State Police Dartmouth Barracks. After reaching out to Trooper Bonin, he was a bit surprised that someone had taken his photo, stating that he wasn’t seeking or expecting any publicity for it. But we pressed him, and he very reluctantly told us how he ended up sitting on his cruiser’s bumper that day sharing lunch with a stranger.
Trooper Bonin had just left court when he drove by the woman, who appeared down on her luck. She was holding a sign and asking for help from anyone who would pay attention. Trooper Bonin continued to drive on – directly to a local establishment, where he ordered two meals. He returned to the woman, pulled up, and exited his cruiser. Thinking he was there to remove her from the side of the road, she immediately stated to him that she would leave, that she knew she shouldn’t be there with her sign. But Trooper Bonin told her, “I’m not here to kick you out.” He then extended the two meals and told her to pick one.
They then sat, shared a meal, and a conversation.
Yes, Trooper Bonin, we know you do not want or expect publicity. We know you didn’t want to be noticed, but you were, and the job is proud of you. We commend you for your selfless act, and for “doing the right thing” for someone less fortunate than most people.
We have extraordinary troopers on the Massachusetts State Police who conduct themselves honorably, and perform selfless acts, every day. Most times, it goes unnoticed. But not this day.
[All text below picture courtesy of Massachusetts State Police Facebook Page.]