In American culture, the workplace environment of the average worker can vary dramatically from person to person within different occupations. Different occupations represent different cultural values within society. In a case study on myself, I found out that bartenders are exposed to many diverse kinds of cultural values. I am a bartender here in Oswego at a local college bar and I have found myself exposed to a vast variety of different societal cultural values.
There are many workplace values that I have found in being a bartender. The first thing I think about before I go to work is what I am going to wear. In bar tending, what you wear can be very important because it can be the difference from a good paying night in tips and a bad one. A bartender's main form of income is from his tips so this is why it is very important to think about. What to where is determined by what type of night it is.
You would dress differently for a weekend night then you would a weekday night because weekends are primarily party nights and draw different crowds. The next thing I do is drive to work. This is when you think about what the night will bring and what kind of interesting people you will meet. There are also a lot of thoughts and questions running through my head like will someone get sick, will someone be arrested or will I get a number or two tonight.
The next thing I do is pull into the parking lot. You can tell a lot about what the evening will be like just by looking at the parking lot. For example, you can come up with an estimate on how busy the bar will be when you start working, and if there is a lot full of cars, you begin to worry about people driving home drunk because of the NYS dram shop laws (which makes the bartender responsible for the people you serve). The next thing I do is walk into the bar. This is when the cultural values of being a bartender really hit you. The first thing I notice every time I walk into work for the first time is the smell of the bar.
It is a strong beer-like smell mixed with the colognes and perfumes of the people in the bar. It is a smell that you only smell in a bar, and when I smell it I know that I am at work. The next thing you notice is the noise level. The noise level can tell you a lot about what the night has brought or will bring. A loud crowd usually means you " re in for a busy night and most likely a nice pile of tips. This also means you will most likely work hard and go home tired at the end of the night.
You also know it will be hard to actually meet and interact with the crowd because you will be moving at to fast of a pace to socialize. On a quieter night, you know that you will most likely get to socialize and talk to people. You probably will not get a lot of tips but you also will not work all that hard and go home tired. The next thing I do is talk to the bouncer real quick to get a recap on how the night has been because he will know best. I then visually scan the bar and become familiar with the different social groups and diversity amongst the crowd. This will help me determine how I have to act and talk towards different people so that I can maximize my tips from them.
I try to get to work at least 15 minutes early every time so I can wash glasses, stock racks and clean upper shelf liquor bottles. After that I begin to work for the evening. My boss doesn't have an official clock-in or clock-out system. You are expected to be on time and work, and if you don't he will not think twice about replacing you because bar tending is a very competitive occupation on a college campus. Our boss usually isn't at the bar when we work.
He is there when the bar opens and when we close to close out all the draws and give us our pay for the evening. He is a very professional man and isn't interested in being your friend. My boss is strictly about business. He treats his employees with respect and expects the same in return.
This is when I start to work. I will always remember the first 3 or 5 drinks I make at the end of the night because it is when you are most anxious to get work done. After making the first couple drinks, you realize you are just at work again on a different night. This is the time where it is hardest in being a bartender.
It is hard because you have to somewhat keep track of who you serve and how much you have served him. NYS state says that you are responsible for him even after he leaves the bar so it is something that you have to do. So if someone keeps ordering drinks from you, you can avoid problems in the future by making his drinks less and less alcoholic hoping they run out of money soon. Another method is just telling the person that you cannot serve him anymore flat out. The bottom line is that you have to create a good balance between maximizing your tips and customers and keeping yourself safe. It is also important that you socialize with the crowd as much as you can.
The more you talk to people, the better they are going to like you and the more drinks they will order from you. This will increase the tips you receive. Bartending all revolves around making the most tips. Serving drinks to people and slowly watching them become drunk also can tell you a lot about somebody. What often happens to me is that if there is a guy or a girl that I am talking with during the night, he or she will start getting more and more personal as they drink more and more. I find this very intriguing because I often hear very interesting stories that I will think about even after I go home.
These stories can stir up all kinds of emotions. You can find yourself talking to someone who just broke up with someone and is really sad, which can reflect on situations that have happened to you in the past and can make you sad. You can find yourself talking to a really annoying drunk who does nothing gloat about himself which can piss you off for the night. You can also find yourself talking to the happiest and funniest drunk in the world which can make your night happy and go by really fast. Most of the time your night is a mix between all these different types of people and you go home with a knot in your head because of all the confusing stories. In bar tending, interaction between co-workers can vary greatly from night to night.
On a real busy night, interaction between bartenders seldom happens besides co-operating with cleanup and restocking. You are there to do your job and make the most money possible within a real competitive occupation, so it is not necessary to socially interact with your co-workers. However, on slow nights, if there is more than one bartender working you will most likely socially interact to help pass the time. The one thing about bar tending is that I believe that you should keep your relationship with your co-workers on a professional basis rather than a friend basis due to the competition for the occupation. I have found that people within the bar tending occupation will do anything to get and hold a job, it is that competitive.
With accepting the occupation of bar tending, there are certain social constraints that will affect your life outside the workplace. For instance, bar tending is generally an occupation that will most likely take up your night life, thus directly affecting your day life as well. I generally work on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 pm to 3 am. These hours inhibit me from hanging out with friends, doing school work or attending any possible late classes. These hours also make any morning classes on the weekdays after I work hard to attend because of the late hours I work the night before. This creates a Time Bind within the cultural values of bar tending.
Being that I am currently a student, which means that I have work and reading to do daily, plus the hours I have to work weekly within my job, it creates a Time Bind and greatly affects how I will choose to allocate my free time. It is important to be able to keep an even median between working, your education and your personal time. It is difficult at times to be able to do this because being a bartender; work hours really aren't that flexible, which makes me have to be able to work everything around my work hours. Within other occupations such as Wal-Mart sales clerks or Deli workers, you are able to work your work hours around your other commitments. Those kinds of occupations are more flexible because of the low job demand.
This particular type of Time Bind within bar tending can make it a very stressful and hard job to keep. I think this is the major issue that should be looked at in whether or not you are deciding to be a bartender or not. You have far more expectations at work when you choose this occupation over one of the less competitive occupations such as Wal-Mart. I believe that the rewards for undergoing this occupation succeed the disadvantages. You are able to make more money and it helps you develop your social skills. I am majoring in secondary education, so developing my social skills will be important to me in the future.
Because of all the cultural values that are within the occupation of bar tending, I believe that it is one of the most unique occupations available on the job market today.