The days of having fun are getting fewer and farther apart with too many fun police around. We always like to put on a nice Christmas Party in all our businesses to show appreciation of the hard work our people put in through the year. As an employer, having Christmas parties nowadays is a risky endeavour, as it’s construed as a workplace, which means the employer is partly responsible for the behaviour and safety of its employees. For one of our businesses, this year’s event took an unexpected turn. Whilst we are pretty good at getting ourselves into trouble and back out again all on our own, this time the issues were caused by the venue itself.
As always, our celebration was organised months in advance, and had been the talk of the smoko for some time. It included partners as well as children and was for lunch at a new brewery with an outlaw sounding name. RSVP’s had been submitted, deposits paid, everything pre-arranged. Some guests arrived earlier than others and started on a few quiet drinks. Canape’s were well under way. All persons had been greeted by the venue upon arrival and shown to our area.
After an hour and a half, one of our employees was approached whilst on his own in the smoking area (not far from the rest of the group) and asked to leave. He’d been to the bar a few times and been served drinks without an issue. The reason for his eviction had nothing to do with his behaviour, but that he had a small tattoo protruding above his t-shirt line.
We then discover that a second colleague was also missing. He too had been escorted out by security for visible tattoos. His tattoos are of cartoon characters and cover nearly as much of his body as Spiderman’s suit, but his build is about as intimidating as Peter Parker and he’s just as softly spoken. I’ve mellowed a bit on the topic over the years, but those who know me are aware of my dislike of tattoo’s. Something I picked up as a teenager whilst working with an ex-sailor who explained to me his regrets as he grew older, combined with the fact that I don’t think you can improve on the natural beauty of the human body by making it a squiggly tapestry of art by injecting a foreign substance. I know and admire a great number of fantastic people with tattoo’s and respect their freedom of choice to express themselves in this manner.
But I digress. Along the lines of “never judge a book by its cover”. we never discriminate against employees or customers based on what they look like. The main issue here has nothing to do with looks, and everything to do with PC issues gone wrong:
- The venue hadn’t notified us prior of any dress or conduct rules, nor were there any signs at the venue advising of such.
- Our colleagues were peacefully enjoying an event with their families present and hadn’t exhibited any unacceptable behaviour.
- They were accepted at the venue upon entry and had been getting served for quite some time.
- The name of the venue might be playing on lawlessness, but the two evicted persons neither look intimidating nor threatening, and no complaint had been made.
- The person who asked them to leave was a young waitress who herself had a very visible arm tattoo. Our Manager at the event asked to speak to the venue manager and was confronted by a man with tattoo’s up to just under his chin line. About half the staff were in contradiction to their own supposed dress code.
Now, under anti-discrimination laws an employer can’t discriminate against persons because of their looks. I firmly believe in the right of businesses to be able to chose who they allow to use their products or services. For example, an all-women’s gym should be allowed to only allow women in, the same as a vegan restaurant can’t be made to serve steaks. That’s their business models. Had we known of the rules, we would have chosen another venue. But they need to communicate that to their customers to avoid embarrassment and let customers make their own minds up before first being served and suddenly denied service.
It’s the hypocrisy that astounded us. Not all publicity is good publicity, and the talk of our Christmas party was now not about the awesomeness of the venue. Whilst we like to support small local businesses and can put up with overpriced beers, service levels need to be acceptable and consistent standards applied. In an increasingly litigious and overly sensitive world, this venue probably doesn’t realise just how close it is to a successful discrimination case being brought against it, as they breach their own standards.
Neither our business nor the persons asked to leave are vindictive in that manner. However, when their Manager couldn’t see the irony in their actions and was asked to allow them re-entry, our Manager made the right decision that was supported by all his colleagues. We paid for the drinks and food we’d consumed so far, and quietly the whole Christmas party walked with our wallets out of the venue and up the road to a bowls club that appreciated our custom, even though it left them run off their feet with an unexpectedly large and hungry crowd.
There are more and more signs that the saying “go woke, go broke” is proving correct. Businesses taking a holier-than-thou stance but lack the nous to walk-the-talk are set to continue to offend their real customers. And as such, hopefully we’ll see more natural selection as the truly inclusive part of our society reaps the rewards of catering to the silent majority over the vocal minority.
As yet another year draws to a close, we wish to genuinely thank all our customers, loyal as well as new, for your support during the year. We hope you have a well deserved break over the Christmas and New Year period to re-charge for what we hope will be a busy and prosperous year for all of us. We hope you entrust us to look after your needs and help you get better value in 2020 also.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As always, onwards and upwards!