True story: I went out to a bar this weekend, a place where I have, on many occasions, received perfect service—attentive but not hovering, good-natured but not falsely chummy, prompt but never in a way that made me feel rushed.

Not this night. The place was a total mess—food order took forever, the server was terse and distracted. Three people in my party ordered drinks with a tomato-juice base, and when she brought those the server tipped her tray and spilled all three: on the table, all over the booth, and on my friend across the table. Before said friend could even look down to assess just exactly how much tomato juice had seeped in the small cavern between his sock and sneaker, our server had huffed away: no sorry, no nothing. She didn’t even come back with a napkin. She eventually replaced the drinks with a seething “I cannot get it together tonight,” and a few minutes after that wiped off the table (but not the drenched floor or splattered booth.) She never apologized.

This is a good server, I’ve seen her in action. She just had an off night. Everyone has them. But when you have customers that are willing to meet you half way—we didn’t care that she spilled the drinks, we just wanted her to bring a napkin or something—I think you have to at least offer an apology…something. If not for them, for your employer.

Because bad service is memorable.

So memorable that I bet the next time my friend considers going back to that bar—a bar he likes a lot—he’ll think about tomato juice caked to his sock and the scary expression on the server’s face, and probably chose one of the dozen other bars within two blocks of that establishment.

Good service, however, is all too often forgotten. But it shouldn’t be. So I’m calling out the staff of the Bookstore Bar for their great work. Bookstore is a bar with such consistently sweet service that whenever my mom is in town, I suggest we meet her and any coworkers/friends coming along for a glass of wine. Because I know the staff will be nice to us in the understated way of people who care about doing good work every day. Most people don’t expect a show, or to be treated like royalty when they go to the bar, they just want to feel welcome and comfortable. And Bookstore gets that. And I appreciate it.

Any bars where you’ve felt particularly well taken care of? Would love to hear about them.

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