“No problem. It’s just a customer.”
Church St retailer over the phone as he rings in my purchase
Been badly ser-viced lately?
Me too. As a guy who lives in the village and tries to support gay-friendly businesses when I spend, I wonder how some businesses can stay alive given the customer treatment I’ve seen.
The larger mystery is why, as gay people, we seem more likely than straight people to put up with bad service.
Take as Exhibit A my own experiences in the course of a recent week. There was the waiter at the expensive trendy bôite who treated my friends and I like anything but most welcome dinner guests. Elsewhere, over drinks with a pal I watch a stereotypically hot bartender show sullen indifference to an average Joe at the bar. And then there’s me paying $30 cover charge to get into a nightclub, with $2.50 per item at the coat check (I layer: $7.50). Water at the bar costs me $5 plus the $2 tip the bartender kept without asking. The damage came to $45 before I hit the dancefloor.
I call all of this the gay gouge, which takes advantage of the Cult Of Fabulousness many gay men fall prey to.
Like red Ferraris are penis-extenders for straight guys in mid-life crises, the Cult Of Fabulousness lets gay men of all ages be who they wish they were but believe they aren’t.
The Cult requires devotion to an unending search for the fabulous bar, club, restaurant, shop or scene where the fabulous people gather. Visitors to the fabulous world can (fingers crossed) join in, see and be seen. The less fabulous you think you are, the longer you can expect the search to be; what is fabulous now won’t be next week; and what defines fabulous is always based on opinion other than yours – these are key tenets of the Cult.
Exhausting. But worth it to many gay men; the rub that comes with being a member of the Cult can transform them from wallflowers into sexy, attractive, interesting and hip bouquets. At least in their own minds. Just as the virile red Ferrari distracts onlookers from its driver’s tiny penis, the Cult Of Fabulousness shrouds gay men so that others see only a dazzling veneer of living absolutely fabulously, like mini superstars. And it’s something you can buy. Once you’ve accepted that you’re paying for fabulousness, other things, like service and value, don’t count so much. Or at all.
As in any cult, brainwashing is the first order of the day. Repeat after me: Forget that in the relationship of business and customer, there are definite roles that must be played out. Forget the customer’s role as paramount. Got it? Good.
And so now here you are, sitting with your chic friends in the middle of what everyone says is the swellest joint, and all the gay village can see you as they hurry home to far less fabulous lives, green with envy. So what if the waiter with the black cloud above his head (who was rude the last time he served you) is even more surly this evening? So whatif there are four of you at your table and only three have water despite polite repeated requests? So what if the waiter, who clearly hates you, your friends, himself and his job, tosses severe attitude when you point out he’s brought you the wrong martini a second time? So what if your appetizer is so unsatisfactory that you send it back, and so what if there’s no apology or offer to make it better in any way?
It doesn’t matter. You were there. You’ll be back. In a spread out of Wallpaper magazine, you take in the streamlined Danish décor, the clever lighting’s enhancement of tans without highlighting the tube they came from, the DJ (how European) and the Prada all around. It makes you forget the $12 you paid for the two-bite salad.
As for me, I won’t be back. I’ve come to realize that the truly fabulous are fabulous regardless of where they are and who they’re with. It’s something the Cult seems to make gay men forget.
Instead, cult members want to always look fabulous before the tribe. Fabulous is not backing out of a line you’ve waited in for an hour at the big party featuring the big DJ, not even upon discovering that admission has been jacked to $40 from the $25 it cost to buy a ticket in advance. Edit your feelings, contain yourself, pretend you’re not annoyed – anything to hold onto your well-behaved fabulousness. If you break ranks, you can just picture the rolling of eyes and the whispers of “drama queen” by the fabulous strangers around you.
The Cult Of Fabulousness also makes members bow down low to beauty. Sexy fuckers are the higher ranking species, carrying far more currency than anyone with mere personality and intelligence. A recent New Year’s Eve (where parties promise free champagne at midnight – ever receive a glass?) saw a buddy of mine about to pay for three drinks with a $20 bill, until the bright-eyed blond muscle-stud serving him spotted that my buddy actually had two $20s in his hand. Flashing his bleached smile, he offered of breaking the second bill to allow my friend to tip him “properly.” My friend, a member in excellent standing of the Cult, obliged, thrilled at being smiled at and spoken to by a supermodel, wishing all the while his pecs might one day be half as big as the dreamy barman’s who just made $5 for passing three bottles of water.
People in general spend far too much energy worrying about what others think of them, but the Cult turns up the heat. Alongside their fellow homos, they come from a mainstream culture that for decades hasn’t had nice things to say about them. It can cause desperation for constant peer approval. And we’ll take that approval from our restaurants, stores and services if we can get it. And so the Cult members go back.
It makes for a wobbly place to do business and carry on a life. Places that depend on being fabulous and little else always run the risk of not being fabulous anymore. I’ve had dinner lately in some pretty empty, formerly fabulous places.
While I think it’s important for gay people to support our own community and to be in places that welcome us as ourselves, it should be respect, not fabulousness that cements the deal. The business is the bottom, the customer is the top. And the customer has a very big dick.
* Shaun Proulx can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“No problem. It’s just a customer.”