I’ve been bartending on Capitol Hill for two years. My customers, for the most part, are awesome. But Capitol Hill is a busy place on the weekend, attracting people from all over the Seattle area. Lots of us joke about the hipsters on the Hill, but the fact is, we (they) live here, and so if they want to continue sceneing it up on the weekend they know to display at least basic courtesy. Ask, pay, drink, tip, repeat!
I’ve got a lot of beef with the most recent social media vengeance story currently making the Internet rounds. On Friday night, according to Cha Cha/Bimbo’s waitress Victoria Liss, a customer ordered $28.98 worth of food and beverages, didn’t tip, and scrawled “you could stand to lose a few pounds,” on the bottom of the credit card receipt.
First and foremost, my sympathy lies with Liss, a woman working to earn her keep at a busy and crowded Capitol Hill establishment who undoubtedly deals with a slew of moderately-to-severely annoying customers daily. Over the past two years, at my own bar, I’ve been stiffed, mocked, smirked at, and ignored—but her insult was extremely personal, and regardless the quality of her service to this couple, it was cruel and unwarranted. Furthermore, it was a sexist slight, perpetrated by a man who lives in a society in which women are scrutinized in every aspect of their lives by how they look.
Which leads me to this point—and my fellow bartender AJ put it best—her social media tirade should not be seen as a lesson in how to tip properly, but a genuine call to reality that in the age of social media, you can and will be held accountable for your actions. Liss shared that image on her Facebook on Saturday and by Monday the national Gawker blog Jezebel was calling out Seattle’s own culture commenter Dan Savage to “enter the fray.” He did, along with at least a dozen other local and national blogs.
When Sarah Palin’s daughter Willow made homophobic remarks on Facebook, the world took notice. In August of this year, an accused rapist saw his bail increased by $200,000 when incriminating Facebook comments were discovered by the victim’s father and brought in as evidence. Even before the damning repercussions of offensive Facebook comments, Clay Shirkey wrote about a woman who retrieved her stolen T-Mobile Sidekick by utilizing early social media to track down the thieves. In short, if you have a social media presence at all, anywhere on the Internet, and you decide to be a jerk (or worse), your odds of being caught are increased. This is generally a good thing.
The Bimbo’s case brings up some ethical issues involving social media, however. Some of the comments on Dan Savage’s Slog post (SLOG is the blog of the Seattle weekly The Stranger) question whether this was a case of the bullied becoming the bully. Is using his credit card to search for his public profile a breach of privacy? And, frankly, with a name like Andrew Meyer, how many perfectly well-behaved Andrew Meyers out there are suffering from the severe ire of an enormous Internet and neighborhood community out for blood? Where do we draw the line between “community action” and mob mentality?
Regardless, we can all learn a lesson from this instance—treat your bartenders, servers, and fellow human beings with courtesy, kindness, and respect, both in person and online, and you will probably escape the wrath of the Internet. Except if your name is Andrew Meyer, in which case, on behalf of many happy bartenders, I apologize, unless you are the person who left that note, in which I say, for your own sake, keep off the Hill.