Recently I paid a visit to Dr Guzman complaining of a sore throat and rapid hair loss. He took one look at me and said “young man it looks like you have waitressitis”. “Waitressitis” I said in a questioning tone, what the heck is that. Being a good doctor and not wanting to make a rash diagnosis he answered my question with a question. “You work in the bar right”? Yes doc I do” “and you have been raising your voice a lot particularly at the waitresses”? I thought about this and through overworked vocal cords replied “yes doc all the time”. “Well if that’s the case then it’s my considered medical opinion that you have waitressitis”.
Having been diagnosed with waitressitis I reflected on my times in the bar and it was with wry amusement that I realized just one night previously I had been yelling for a waitress and probably contracted the disease.
There I was sitting at the managers table with a few friends and it was my round so I looked around for a waitress but of course none were visible. I knew we had at least 15 waitresses on duty that night so I was not amused by their lack of appearance. I looked at Shagger and said “these f*&^%$ng waitresses are like taxies always hanging around when you don’t need them but never around when you need them” He looked at me with a knowing smirk and said “go check in the change room, mate”.
Following his suggestion I rose and walked to the change room to be greeted by 8 waitresses, 4 sitting around having a chat and a chow down, 3 waiting for the Bakla to do their makeup and 1 just surveying the whole scene.
Well this was too much for me and as the blood boiled I yelled “hey waitresses what the f*&k are you doing in here.” When they heard me yell they looked at me and the groups spokesperson replied, “daddy we on break time”. Now ordinarily I would have asked why do you all have to take your break time together but being here long I knew better so instead I politely asked “can I please have a waitress at the managers table right now, if it’s not too much trouble”. Instantly one waitress got up and took my order when I returned to the managers table. One hour later it was my round again and I looked for a waitress only to find two sitting just beside the table having a good old chin wag. I politely asked just loud enough to be heard over the music, “waitress” but as usual no one heard me so I had to yell at the top of my voice thus exacerbating my waitressitis.
Just recently I read Pok Pok boys thread called the role of waitresses and upon reading it I decided this would make a good topic for an AE column. Thanks in advance to Pok Pok Boy for the insightful thread which demonstrated his vast experience and inspired me to write down my own thoughts on this subject. Pok Pok boy, rest assured I will unashamedly plagiarize your post and expand upon your thoughts wherever possible.
In this article I will attempt to define the role of a waitress and also examine the reasons why there are so few competent waitresses in the AC bars scene. In so doing I hope I will pass on some useful information and at the same time come to a better understanding of the AC bar waitress myself thus saving my vocal cords and what hair I have left from wiatressitis.
So what exactly is the role of an AC bar waitress? In the normal world I would describe the role of a waitress as a woman or girl who waits on tables in a particular establishment. Put more simply a waitresses role is to serve drinks or food or both to customers patronizing the establishment she is working in.
Well that’s in the normal world but in the AC bars the role becomes somewhat expanded so much so that it requires analysis and sometimes explanations.
So what exactly is the role of waitresses in the AC bars? Well it just so happens that I have definite ideas on this as I have had many a meeting with waitresses and the following is what I tell them.
1: Her role is to serve customers their drinks and in some cases food.
2: Her role is to help the dancers get ladies and serve the dancers ladies drinks.
3: Wherever possible her role is to get ladies drink herself.
4: Since she is often the first point of contact with the customer it is also her job to entertain the customer with light hearted conversation.
5: In many bars the waitresses must look sexy and visually appealing, in fact, they are positively encouraged to go EWR.
Ok so the job description sounds fairly basic and indeed it is, so why then is it so hard to find a waitress that can do her job properly. The answers are varied and detailed but for the purpose of this column I will try to list them and simplify them.
Pok Pok boy tackled this question by stating why waitresses are selected or hired and why girls want to be waitresses instead of dancers. In so doing he bought up some very relevant points as to why in many cases bar waitresses are incompetent at their job. I am not saying they are all incompetent in fact there are some very good waitresses but in my experience these are few and far between.
1: A girl will often become a waitress because she is a “long term employee” and past her prime as a dancer. Since she can no longer make money as a dancer she is “rewarded with a change in job description” and becomes a waitress. Basically when a girl reaches this stage she has very little options in the bar so this is seen as her last step and an easy way to make money.
A classic example of this is Evelyn a waitress in Neros who can supposedly suck a bowling ball through a garden hose. Yes she has well accredited oral skills but is a bit long in the tooth to be a productive dancer so as a result she has decided to ply her trade as a waitress.
2: The girl is a cute cherry girl that can get ladies drinks but doesn’t go out with customers hence she becomes a waitress where there is less emphasis on going EWR.
3: Thirdly there is what I refer to as the standby situation, this is where a customer steady barfines a dancer and for whatever reasons wants her to stay in the bar but not to go out with other men. Often the customer, the bar staff, the mamasan and the girl in question will opt for the better of two evils and rather than be a dancer seek a position as a waitress.
The so called standby situation has disadvantages and advantages. The major disadvantage is that even though she is a waitress and no longer dancing, she will still be exposed to bar life, peer group pressure and other men. In short whilst in the bar she will always have temptation and the modes of behavior she has learnt as a dancer will be reinforced.
The advantages are that the girl can still feel self worth in that she is earning a small income and has what is in her mind a legitimate job. Secondly she still gets to hang out with her friends in an environment she is familiar with and this stops her from feeling bored. Thirdly the besotted customer can now keep an eye on her, or so he thinks.
4: Often amongst Angeles bar girls there is very little comprehension of English and they are not good with slang or accents. Many times I have personally experienced a waitress who will not understand my order either because of her lack of English or because of my accent.
I can distinctly remember one waitress at Nero’s who we aptly named brain surgeon. One night a bunch of us were sitting round the managers table when I ordered a CC ginger for Shagger, a vodka coke for Jason, a Jim Beam diet coke for myself, a Rum Diet coke for Drummer and an SML for Netguard. Shagger looked at me and said “that’s more than one drink I bet you 500 peso she will get the order wrong”.
We waited 5 minutes but no drinks arrived so I looked around and there she was in an animated conversation with the bar tender. I walked up to her and said “let me guess you forgot the order” to which she replied “ooh po, sorry Daddy”. I then repeated the order and made her recite it back to me. Ok now she had it and I was sure the 500 peso was mine.
Another 3 minutes passes when Miss brain surgeon walks up to the table and asks, “on your Bill daddy”? Another 5 minutes passes by and then she saunters back with 3 drinks returns to the bar tender picks up two more and delivers them.
At this point I have a smile on my dial and confidently request that Shagger pay up. He looks at me and says “hang on a second I just have to check this out”. He takes a sip of his CC Ginger and says “there is something wrong with this, it tastes like shit”. I grab his drink and have a sip only to taste J&B with ginger. Close but no cigar and I could see the 500 peso leaving my wallet in a hurry. I looked at Shagger and said “well that doesn’t really count as she did get the whisky part right so let’s call it even” Drummer tasted his only to find whiskey coke, whilst Jason’s was Jack Daniels coke and mine was some strange concoction about as far away from Jim Beam as you could possibly get.
Ok I had to admit she had stuffed up big time so it was time to hand over the 500 to Shagger and then as I did so, amidst various expletives, Netguard looked at me and said “I don’t know what your problem is I got my SML”.
The brain surgeon was a classic situation of if you didn’t laugh you would cry. I remember to this day how Netguard and Jung were sitting at the managers table and Kim was trying to force Tom to drink beer. As such he called the brain surgeon over and ordered a SMB for Tom and an SML for himself. The brain surgeon waddled of and came back placing the SML in front of Tom and the SMB in front of Kim. I was just about to reach over and swap them round when Tom said to me “wait one moment” and called the brain surgeon over. He said to her “You have given us the wrong drinks, I wanted SMB and Kim wanted SML so can you please take these back and bring us what we ordered.” The brain surgeon looks at him vacantly, takes the drinks and gives them back to the bar tender. She then proceeds to tell the bar tender these are the wrong drinks they want SML and SMB not SMB and SML. The bar tender looks at her and suddenly breaks out laughing. At this point brain surgeon scratches her head totally unaware of why the bar tender is laughing looks at drinks and bang it dawns on her. With this she brings the beers back and says to Tom, “funny man you, what do you think to me, stupid?”
The lack of understanding English is a common problem and it is exacerbated by the Filipina habit of just walking away and not admitting that they don’t understand you because to do so would be a loss of face.
5: Lack of training. Lack of training occurs simply because there is no official training for waitresses. They are thrown into the job for the wrong reasons and are expected to learn as they go.
6: Lack of product knowledge. Because there is such strict lines of demarcation and such defined job boundaries the waitresses very rarely progress to bar tenders, as such they have no knowledge of the actual product that is being ordered. For example, many times I have found myself ordering a B52 shaken and unless it’s one of my regular waitresses this request will always be met with a blank stare and the obligatory scratch of the head denoting total bewilderment. Most often it is “ano B52” and the shaken part totally eludes them. If the waitresses had experience behind the bar actually mixing the drinks then they would no doubt have a much easier time understanding the orders, this however will never happen as the bar tender jobs are valued and jealously guarded.
7: They listen but they don’t hear. How often have I heard this said by expats who live here and deal with the Filipinas on a daily basis. So many times I have listened and watched customers ordering drinks only to find the wrong drinks being delivered. I always used to think this was a language problem and the mistakes were coming because the waitresses couldn’t understand English however this misconception was soon to be shattered when I came to work with James.
James is fluent in Tagalog and quite often he will order using this language. I remember one particular night walking into Neros to find him literally pulling his hair out. I asked him “what’s wrong” and he replied watch this. He then called a waitress over and in Tagalog ordered five Jager bombs emphasizing that they were on his bill. The waitress wandered off only to shortly return and ask “Daddy the bar tender wants to know why you order 5 bomba (Tagalog for bomb)”.
James patiently explains the mix of a Jager bomb and emphasizes they are on his bill. Two more minutes pass and an empty handed waitress returns asking “daddy your bill or the customers?”
8: A waitress has a perceptional advantage in that many customers perceive her as being a good girl as opposed to the dancers who are bad girls and high mileage. How many times have I heard customers and girls themselves state, “she worked in the bar as a waitress she was never a dancer”. Straight away the perceived implication is that she was not a whore, aka a dancer, but rather she was a waitress where she is perceived as being a good girl.
In my experience this perception is a false one and in fact the waitresses have often seen more action than the dancers. However the point is not to discuss whether the waitress are good girls or bad but rather to point out that there is a perceptional falsehood at work here and this is not a good reason let alone a necessary qualification for a girl to become a waitress.
Many girls see the position of waitress in the same way as the customers and therefore will strive to become one. Does this mean they will be good waitresses, on the contrary in my experience it means they will be bad waitresses because they do not really understand the duties and they just want to obtain this position because of how it is perceived.
9: Laziness or perhaps the path of least resistance is always a key factor for most waitresses. Let’s face it sitting in the corner, hiding in the dressing room, sleeping on the lounges, chatting up the DJ’s, eating a snack from the lady keeper or outside or having a good old gossip session is common place amongst AC waitresses and as such it has to be an easier job than dancing 8 half hour sets every night. The laziness aspect is exacerbated when they divide the bar into service stations. Often you will see a customer trying to get service from a waitress but she will just sit down and ignore his pleas and when asked why she will tell you “that is not my station”. This is a very handy excuse for one or two waitresses to do all the work whilst others sit and do nothing. There is no concept of teamwork or covering your fellow waitresses back.
10: Pok Pok boy in his post also pointed out that uniform plays a large role in why a girl would want to be a waitress instead of a dancer. Often you will hear them say “No I don’t like bikini” or “I like waitress uniform”. Noticeably when the girl tells you this she is invariably self conscious about a minor defect or flaw and she realizes the waitresses uniform will cover this up.
11: There is often less scrutiny on a waitress and as such she has less pressure to go bar fine, less pressure to secure ladies drinks and she can have more days off without being penalized.
12: The blurring effect. Part of the problem with waitresses is that the actual duties are a little bit blurred. This has occurred because they are encouraged to go barfine so in their mind they are half dancer, (working girl or as the Filipinos would say puta) and half professional waitress. This is clearly emphasized when you see a waitress who is good at waitressing. In the bars the waitresses who are good at waitressing are invariably the older girls who do not concentrate on bar fining. Of course there are a few pretty younger waitresses who manage to juggle the duties of waitressing and of bar fining but these in my experience are few and far between.
Sometimes the importance of the ability to barfine outweighs other considerations such as whether or not she would be good at her job.
One day when I visited the Executive I overheard daddy Bruce having a conversation with his mamasan regarding a new waitress the mamasan had just appointed.
Bruce: Mummy why did you give that dragon a job?
Mamasan : She nice girl daddy and she go bar fine
Bruce: So do the baklas in Santos Street and you don’t see them working here.
Mamasan: But daddy she nice girl and she money maker
Bruce: So are the baklas on Santos, now get rid of her.
13: The low salary. Waitresses traditionally are paid a very low salary and this is because they are considered non productive in terms of raising revenue for the bar, especially in comparison to dancers. Whilst the assumption of low productivity may be true in many cases the low salary is a deterrent for quality service. Bottom line here is that even if they perform their job well it will not gain them any more money. In short they have no incentive to be a good waitress.
What about the tips I hear you asking, well the unfortunate fact is in the majority of clubs the tips are centralized and divided equally amongst all the waitresses working that particular night. As a result the waitresses tips are not an incentive for the girls to work harder or learn their job to a professional standard.
14: The number of waitresses hired. For this point I will directly plagiarize Pok Pok Boy. “Like most Philippines hiring policies its hire 15 and hope 5 show up for work. That’s why some nights you see a number of waitresses sitting in the corner waiting their turn to serve and yet on other nights there aren’t enough to do the job! Go figure!.”
15: The Mamasan connection. Quite often a new troglodyte waitress will surface and when the manager looks in horror and asks who gave her a job, the answer will invariably be “mummy is the one”. I remember when I was working in Mistys and this particularly obese waitress with absolutely no English or comprehension of the job suddenly appeared. I was sitting next to Steve the manager of Nero’s at the time and I spotted her and asked in amazement what the f*%k is that? Steve followed my gaze saw the troglodyte and said “I bet she’s a friend of mummy’s”. I called her over and asked her “when did you start work” and she replied “sa gabi (tonight) daddy”, then I asked her “and who gave you the job” to which she replied, “mummy be the one”. I then asked her “don’t you think you are a bit old for this job” to which she replied “ooh ooh dad but my anak (child) have utang (loan) to mummy so work me now”.
The point here is not to blame her but rather to point out that the criteria for choosing who can be a waitress is often totally irrelevant to the job itself.
So far I have painted a fairly gloomy picture but the truth is there are several bars where the waitresses are efficient, courteous and well trained these include Roadhouse
La Pasha, Carousel, Roadies and to a lesser extent Champagne. Of these the one that stands out for me is Roadhouse. Noticeably the waitresses here do not go bar fine and they have experienced head waitresses who actually teach the newer waitresses how to do their job. Another bar that stands out is La Pasha and not coincidentally the waitresses here are average looking yet highly ranked in terms of service.
In the Blue Nile group they literally have a plethora of waitresses and some of them are very good however once again the good waitresses are the older ones who do not concentrate on bar fines but rather on serving the customers.
The quality of waitresses is often reflected by the owners or managers attitude towards the job itself. In the case of Roadhouse Mark puts an emphasis on quality service as does Neil from Roadies. Just yesterday I was in Roadies having a few beers with a couple of friends when I realized I had run out of cigarettes. I called the waitress over and asked for a packet of Winston lights. She promptly fetched them bought them over together with the bill and proceeded to neatly open the packet for me with one cigarette already slightly out, ready for me to smoke. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised by her courteous and professional demeanor so I left a healthy tip.
As anyone who has been here more than once will attest to, waitresses in AC are a unique breed and it is my sincere hope that this article in some part explains why they are this way and at the same time helps you the customer to understand them and as such deal with them more efficiently. If you have had a few laughs as well as gaining some useful knowledge along the way then I have achieved my objective.