Apologizing for acting cruel to bar staff
March 20, 2012 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I was extremely mean to the staff of a bar. Should I try to apologize?

I went to a bar I had never been to before. I tried to get served but they said they closed early and staff were the only people there. I tried to bargain with them for a minute but got up to leave after the third or fourth time they told me they were closed. I said something about turning down money. As I was walking out I heard some laughter. That isn't any excuse, and I hate myself for it, but I turned around and flipped them off. I don't remember if I also cursed at them. Then I shoved the doors open forcefully and as I walked down the street, someone came out and told me to never come back. I said something like "I don't care."

Should I try to apologize? On the phone or in person? Should I just lay in the bed I made?

This was in a large town I live near but do not visit often. I did not come in physical contact with anyone. I am of legal drinking age but look like I'm too young.

On a selfish note, I'm concerned about running into one of the staff and getting beat up. I'm concerned about my reputation. I'm concerned about legal ramifications.

And yes, I am seeking help for my issues.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have never regretted apologizing for any assholic behavior I've engaged in, even long after the fact. When you're wrong, you're wrong. Sure, you feel like a turd when you're owning up to it, but afterwards everyone is better off.

Call them tomorrow and apologize for how you acted. You don't need to go into some big spiel as to why, just say something along the lines of, "it was totally uncalled for, inappropriate, and I'm sorry."
posted by phunniemee at 9:40 PM on March 20, 2012 [12 favorites]

Just drop it & don't be a dick in the future.
posted by studioaudience at 9:40 PM on March 20, 2012 [19 favorites]

You went in to a closed bar and tried to get a drink and they said no. So in the future, if someone says "oh we're closed," just say "oh damn, oh well have a good one" and leave.

You will not be attacked and there will be no legal ramifications.

Move on, don't be so weird next time.
posted by kavasa at 9:41 PM on March 20, 2012 [45 favorites]

I would just leave it alone.

Even if you go back, it may not be the same people working. If you happen to run into one of them, maybe then mention it, but there's a high likelihood that they may not even remember.

You don't have the monopoly on 'being a jerk in a bar', you know. ;)
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:42 PM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also please do remember that an establishment can refuse you service pretty much whenever. If they choose to do so, then find somewhere else. I mean after all, if a place has insulted you in some way, do you really want to give them money?
posted by kavasa at 9:43 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, don't bother. They won't even remember it. If that is the worst they have to deal with then they are doing pretty well.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:47 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

anonymous posted">> On a selfish note, I'm concerned about running into one of the staff and getting beat up. I'm concerned about my reputation. I'm concerned about legal ramifications.

Your reputation with those particular staff is the only thing at risk here. If this was within the last day or so and you have an opportunity to sheepishly apologize, sure, why not.

Go in, say "hey, um, a couple of nights ago I was a total dick to the staff, and it's been eating me up. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry, and that I hope it's okay if I stop in for a drink sometime." And then leave.
posted by desuetude at 9:49 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Call and do a brief apology. I'm sure the staff have been gossiping about it and, having worked in the service industry, if a rude customer apologized it would go a long way in restoring my faith in humanity.

You have nothing to lose by apologizing and you could potentially make someone's day brighter.
posted by HMSSM at 9:50 PM on March 20, 2012 [21 favorites]

You sound weird about this. 'Mean' and 'cruel'? I was expecting to hear that you'd told a girl she was fat and ugly and then kicked her. You were a jerk and rude, but I think the words you've chosen are strange.

Nothing wrong with calling to apologize (it will probably make you feel better), but be prepared for them to either not accept the apology (maybe with a response like 'yea you were an asshole and you still can't ever come back here you assface!'), or to not have a clue who you are. I wouldn't go to the bar to apologize in person.
posted by jacalata at 9:53 PM on March 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

A good thing to remember is that people care way less about your behavior than you do. They deal with hundreds of people who did stupid shit, while you only know about your own behaviour .Every time I've been embarrassed about what I did in a bar, nobody gave a crap. If it makes you feel better, call, but there is no guarantee you will get the same people or they will even remember you.

If you see them in the street, and they ask you about it, apologize. They deal with drunk people for a living, as long as there was no blood shed it is no big deal. I doubt even that will happen.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:01 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a bartender, I can attest to the fact that this behavior is very common. It's likely that the staff will completely forget about it in a few days. Honestly, we deal with much worse, and I think that any rational person wouldn't take this personally.
posted by oxfordcomma at 10:04 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's a bar! I worked at restaurants and clubs for years...

Let me promise you these people won't even remember accurately what you look like tomorrow - if it is still tonight this happened, they're probably currently out having staff drinks!

Leave it alone. But don't EVER do this again. Being told the bar was closed once should have been enough. Make that true from now on!
posted by jbenben at 10:04 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to make amends, put up a nice fictional review of the bar on YELP or whatever is relevant to where you live. Do not mention this incident in your review, just say the drinks there are great, and the staff is awesome:)
posted by jbenben at 10:07 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Apologize over the phone, and come back in like 2 weeks. Say something like "I'm that guy that flipped you off and slammed the door after you guys said you were closed. I wasn't having a great day, so please tell whoever was working yesterday that I'm sorry for taking it out on you guys verbally."

Order a drink. If the drink sucks, find a new "new bar".
posted by oceanjesse at 10:07 PM on March 20, 2012

They told you not to come back. Don't go back.
posted by twblalock at 10:08 PM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yeah, people who work in bars deal with all kinds of shit. You didn't hurt anyone's feelings -- you're just another everyday asshole. (But yes, the next time someone says they're closed, believe them.)
posted by neroli at 10:08 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly I think apologizing would just make things far more awkward. If it's a large town and you don't visit often, what are the odds you're going to see these people again anyway, or that they'll recognize/remember you if you do? I would just avoid that bar and learn your lesson.
posted by vanitas at 10:09 PM on March 20, 2012

Lots of people in bars are assholes!

Learn your lesson, move on.
posted by mleigh at 10:26 PM on March 20, 2012

i am extremely pro-apology. if you can go there in humility and with a willingness to take whatever outcome the way it comes, then head over. bring flowers if youre up for it. seriously.

what your are making possible is for you to remember that time you were an asshole fondly rather than with shame, and guess what - that will make it less likely that you'll do it again, whereas remembering it with shame will make it much more likely that you *will* do it again. people don't understand learning at all, i've found. doing bad things makes you want to do bad things, and doing good things makes you want to do good things, it's a simple as that. you have a rare opportunity of turning a bad thing into a good thing.

ps - dont worry about being told not to come back. he didnt mean it any more than you meant the bird you gave them.
posted by facetious at 10:54 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

You use a lot of pronouns and plural references. I don't think you could point to any particular person as being in need of an apology, let alone recognize them on the street. You can't really apologize to "a bar" and nobody wants you to apologize, so I think it's okay to let it go.
posted by michaelh at 11:25 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I side with the apologizers. I was with a buddy once at our go-to breakfast joint and a dude tried to skip the line. This guy acted kind of how you did when we called him out on it: he yelled some profanity, nearly picked a fight with my buddy, and then flipped off the entire restaurant as he stormed out the door. About twenty minutes later, he called and apologized. The staff seemed genuinely thankful that he did. If it'll settle your conscience, do it!
posted by denriguez at 11:44 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have spent the better part of my adult life working in bars and restaurants. I have had almost every job in the industry--from bouncer, to bartender, to the guy who runs the lights in a dance club. As a part of my job, I remember the faces of people who stand out--I make it a point to remember the good customers, the good tippers, and the customers who are interesting or fun. I also remember the people who stand out for negative reasons.

But, it's important to remember that, in a bar, it's pretty tough to stand out for being a douchebag. As staff, we are sober. Almost everybody that we deal with is drunk. As a result, an awful lot of our customers come across as douche-y.

If you attempt to hit me, or hit my staff, I promise you that I will remember you. If you walk out on a tab, I will remember you. If you try to pass me a counterfeit bill, I will remember you. There are a few other things that will cause me to remember you for a negative reason. But yelling and cursing? Nope. Honestly, I probably wouldn't even be able to pick you out of a lineup.

They probably laughed about what a dick you were for thirty seconds, and then went right back to talking about who was fucking which waitress. There's a good chance they literally do not even recall the incident.

If you ever want to go back, and you think that their request that you never return was serious, go ahead and apologize. But I promise that you're not the worst thing that they saw that night.
posted by LDL707 at 12:06 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you should apologize. Short and sweet. It will help condition you against future outbursts and it may restore some spark of faith in human nature in those who receive the apology.

And here is the thing about apologizing--say that what you did was wrong, show that you understand it was wrong, and then shut up.

For so many people what begins as an apology ends as a justification. "I'm so sorry, blah blah blah, but you know I was really frustrated because--" Stop right there! You just took back your apology, you tool. Apologize, don't justify.
posted by LarryC at 12:28 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your desire for an apology sounds like it's more about you, than them. If your reasons are selfish - and frankly it sounds kinda selfish to me - don't waste your time apologising.

Selfish doesn't just mean concerned about your reputation, scared of getting beaten up (seriously, if bar staff made a habit of beating people who flipped them off, they wouldn't have any knuckles left), it also means apologising because the idea of being a person who abuses people just trying to do their jobs clashes with your vision of yourself. You're a "nice guy" (or gal). Well, maybe you are. But from what you've written here - all I have to go on - you aren't concerned about the staff, their feelings, or the outcome of the apology except insofar as it effects you - that's selfish in my book.

There isn't anything wrong with wanting a clear conscience, but it really shouldn't be the only motivator. You acted like a dick: own it, regret, and move on with your life. The bar staff have I promise you.
posted by smoke at 2:09 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was rude to a cashier once. I went back a few days later and apologized. "I was here a few days ago and was really rude to you and I want to apologize."

She said something like "honey, I don't even remember you." I said "well, I was rude and I'm sorry."

I felt so much better.

You could call and ask for a manager, but showing up in person and asking for a manager is better, since you're worried about being recognized at some point.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:25 AM on March 21, 2012

Leave it. What if you go back and try to apologise to some guy behind the bar and he just shrugs and says " So we told you to fuck off? You know what to do then, don't you?" and then as you're leaving you hear laughter...
posted by Segundus at 4:44 AM on March 21, 2012

as far as getting beat up...if you were going to get your ass kicked, it would have happened that night.
posted by horsemuth at 4:55 AM on March 21, 2012

The apology part is not that relevant. It can't hurt, but why? Your real issue here is your drinking problem. If you are flipping people off and cursing them out because they told you they were closed and would not sell you a drink, then you need to reassess your lifestyle. Especially if this happened last night, on a Tuesday night.

If I were you, I would do my apologizing as part of my 12 step plan. I think there is a step where you make amends for past bs like this.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:59 AM on March 21, 2012

Your mistake was believing that you were so friggin' important that you deserved to be served when the bar was technically closed and not serving other customers. Do not compound this by believing you are so friggin' important that they'll remember you or care whether or not you apologize. Just learn the lesson and move on.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:24 AM on March 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think there may be a solution that doesn't involve either going back in person or forgetting all about it.

What about a letter to their local paper's editor? You don't have to explain the whole situation, but a nice letter like, "The staff at X Bar are good and hardworking folk -- they probably don't get paid enough to deal with jerks (like me)." Or something.

Maybe they'll see it, maybe they won't. Maybe it won't even get published -- but it sounds like what you really are looking for is a way to take responsibility for your actions and that's a way to do it, by humbly admitting to others that you were in the wrong.
posted by mibo at 5:24 AM on March 21, 2012

Um, sorry, but, really?

Writing apology letters, sending them to editorial pages of the paper?

You are just one person in a myriad of characters these people deal with. I don't know the whole situation, but, hey - if someone says they're closed, they're closed. there are other bars. Don't know why you persisted so much.

But why worry about it now? Sounds like you don't need to go back there, so don't and forget about it.
posted by rich at 5:50 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Apologize. For your benefit, not theirs. Then don't go back again.
posted by box at 5:56 AM on March 21, 2012

Extremely mean? Cruel? Um, no. You acted like a snotty brat and flipped them off. Why are you building this up in your head? Why do you think they are prepared to beat you up? Get over yourself. And what "issues" are you seeking help for?

But yes, apologize. I mean, you don't have to ever see these people again, and they're probably used to shit like this, so it's not the end of the world if you don't. But it's also not the end of the world if you do, and you were a douche and the right thing to do is apologize.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2012

Drop it.

There's a very wise little saying "Less said, sooner mended." I've found this cliché to be true over and over again.

FWIW, I used to work in food service and had plenty of rude customers come back and just shrugged it off. If they, in context, said "Oh yeah, sorry about last week - I was having a bad day" that was cool. I would be seriously weirded out though if they came in specifically to apologize and it would raise all kinds of "WARNING: CRAZY PERSON" flags for me.
posted by sonika at 6:24 AM on March 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I definitely agree with the advice to apologize. Personally, I'd do it by phone, and to the manager (or owner, if it is a really small place), not just to the random person who answers the phone. Early in the day, not late at night when they are busy. I wouldn't make a big thing out of it, just a "hey, I was over the line last night and was rude to the staff and wanted to express my sincere apologies."

If the person blows you off, well, at least you tried to do the right thing. If they seem really cool with it, you can ask them at what point you would be welcomed back. I've never been kicked out of a bar (yet...), but lots of my friends have, and for fairly minor stuff (eg being a drunk idiot, but not hitting someone) you are generally welcome back eventually as long as you don't repeat the offense.
posted by Forktine at 6:26 AM on March 21, 2012

Your mistake was believing that you were so friggin' important that you deserved to be served when the bar was technically closed and not serving other customers. Do not compound this by believing you are so friggin' important that they'll remember you or care whether or not you apologize.

Seconding this, and elaborating that this is what I meant by "CRAZY PERSON" flags. The kind of customer who is so self-important as to believe that my interactions with him/her are governing the rest of my day is not someone I have the energy to deal with and is the sort of person who I associate with a potential stalking risk.

I've never been seriously stalked by a customer, but I've absolutely had the type who came around and acted way too pushy/personal who just put me on edge and who I would specifically pretend not to recognize when seeing them outside of the work "I have to serve you whether I like it or not" context. I even had a few that I would pretend not to recognize at work though that was way harder to pull off.

This wasn't in a bar, so they didn't even have the excuse of being drunk. Though since they didn't have the excuse of being drunk... I also couldn't shrug off their behavior as "Oh, he was just drunk" so there's that too.
posted by sonika at 6:34 AM on March 21, 2012

I think you should call and apologize for two reasons: 1) I find it cathartic for myself , and 2) Having been on the receiving end of such phone calls, it's always nice to know the person isn't a total asshole and was having a bad day.

It helps reinforce my worldview that people aren't dicks naturally.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:38 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

In general, it's a good idea to apologize for rudeness. But I think this case might be one of the exceptions.

As an ex-barman, your behaviour wasn't particularly terrible: no physical violence or bodily fluids or long time-wasting or theft. You're not going to get beaten up by one of the bar staff in revenge, they don't want to be charged with assault over something so petty.

If you go back, you're going to be taking up their time and energy figuring out how to deal with you. The minor nuisance of that could be more than the original minor nuisance of the offence. They probably don't want to be embroiled in drama with a stranger anyway.

So if you want to apologize, I think it would be better to phone than do it in person. It might be better still to write them a letter or card including a small bill for the tip jar or something.

But in this case I think it would be OK to just chalk it up to experience and resolve not to do this kind of thing again.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:51 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everybody has bad days where they act like an ass. I've flipped off people who don't deserve it, and most of the time, I'm Polly-freaking-anna. Here's my idea, if this is tearing you up: send a note apologizing. Stick a $20 in it. Least said, soonest mended, sure, but sometimes an unexpected tip is nice, too.
posted by mmmbacon at 7:48 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If this is a place you have no desire to return to just let it go and try not to behave that way in future. These people will not attack you. They put up with far worse behaviour most nights of of the week. They'll have forgotten about you five minutes after you left.
posted by Decani at 9:32 AM on March 21, 2012

Don't apologize to them.

Forgive yourself.
posted by softlord at 9:32 AM on March 21, 2012

If you really, really want to suck up, send them a bouquet of flowers with an apology card. They will welcome you back with open arms.
posted by sybarite09 at 9:37 AM on March 21, 2012

Is there something up with you that you freaked out like that? Alcohol, as JohnnyGunn suggests, or an anger problem, or both? Whatever, I'd concentrate on fixing whatever it was that made this happen.
posted by BibiRose at 10:04 AM on March 21, 2012

Oh, sorry. I notice you said you were seeking help. Carry on. And try to be nice to people in service situations.
posted by BibiRose at 10:05 AM on March 21, 2012

Call, ask to talk to a manager, and say "I was in there last night and was a jerk. I'm sorry about that." Then leave it alone. Don't go back, don't worry about them remembering you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:58 AM on March 21, 2012

Having worked in a bar myself, if we went around beating up every customer who acted like an asshole when we wouldn't serve them after closing time, we'd never have time to do anything else. You were just one in a parade of assholes as far as they're concerned, and they've already forgotten about it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:18 AM on March 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you to everyone for the outpouring of advice. I got something from every answer. I would like to recognize smoke for making me come to terms with the harsh truth. I definitely do not consider myself a nice person after this, but hope to become one someday.

I wanted to add that I do have a habit of overreacting to situations (obviously), but part of my weirdness was based on the staff’s response. I should have mentioned it, but they were much angrier than I made them out to be. And I didn’t just flip them a nonchalant finger, I stood there for a moment with both arms extended and, thinking back, definitely did say “f**k you” firmly. There was a lot of yelling as I left the bar, and when I was told not to come back, it was screamed. Maybe I was just one too many assholes that night. About the legal concerns, I was worried they could report me for disorderly conduct/public intoxication.

Segundus, I wanted to recognize you also; I’m not sure you intended it, and maybe this says more about my character than anything I did that night, but your comment made me laugh about this situation (and at myself) for the first time, so thank you for that.

I decided to send an apology letter with money, perhaps that is selfish and arrogant still, but I am thinking a lot now about whether any apology can be completely selfless, and whether or not that makes it wrong.

My issues are alcoholism and anger if that is not clear. Thanks again.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:30 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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