Hoboken: February 2007 Archives

Bartending in Hoboken

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I'm relatively new to Hoboken (I've been here since last June). Things have pretty much settled down with my job and all, and I see that I have some free time a couple nights a week. Also, being completely self-sufficient in Hoboken at age 23 isn't financially easy. Couple those with the fact that I love bars, and I thought it'd be a good idea to pick up a couple of bartending shifts per week, not only for the cash but because it's something I enjoy (I've worked down the shore for years as a barback/bartender).

Obviously, this was much easier in my head than in practice. It's impossible to get a bartending job around here! How did you do it? Do you know someone, or did you get lucky, or what? I'd love to know, since this search is driving me nuts. Also, any suggestions would be much appreciated.

I got that letter in my gmail account, and figured that it would be a good thing to discuss on here, especially for other readers who were interested.

Even with experience, I think it is very hard to get a job bartending in Hoboken. I got my job due to my friend Joe. Dipper's was a new bar and Joe was going to manage the place and needed "guys that he could trust behind the bar".

That's the first rule of this service industry. Trust. The problem is that in our industry it is very easy for people to steal from the owners. Stealing by giving out too many free drinks, stealing money that should be going into the register by putting it in your tip jar (also known as "tipping the tills") and other nefarious ways. So if the owner or the manager sees a guy walking in off the street, and asking to bartend...that doesn't happen very often.

Also you have to consider that guys are a dime a dozen in bartending. The draw for most guys in a bar is their ability to keep the customer happy with good service or with good communication skills. They aren't there for their good looks.

Lots of women, on the other hand, are also very much judged on that special "third factor" - their looks. Quite simply, it helps the bars business to have a good looking woman behind the bar. A good looking female bartender will keep guys sitting at a bar for hours. Trust me, I have seen this first hand. I have seen guys walk in the bar, say, "Where's Susan?" and then spin around and leave when they find out that she isn't working that night. I know that the guy wasn't Susan's personal friend, he was a guy who simply liked to watch Susan work while he sipped his beer.

To get a job, i'd follow my old rules about Hoboken. Find a "local". A "local" is a local pub that you frequent at least once a week. My current local would probably be Court Street, since I go there for dinner about once a week. Moran's is also a local, but that was something I established years ago, and don't go there every week, but the bartenders all know me and we get along well enough. Mulligan's can be considered a local for me, because of my Eagles club.

Find a bar where you get to know the bartenders. Pubs are easier than some of those lounges in town. Find a bar where they don't have an entrenched staff - like people who have been working there for 10 years. Lots of "new" bars are opening up like "Four L's", for example. If I were in your shoes, i'd go there every Friday. Make yourself a regular. Get to know the owner and the staff. Tip well. Get a feel for who is working there. Is it the owner? Who are the bartenders? Maybe they need a barback or a waiter.

Get your foot in the door. Doesn't matter what you are doing. Just get the foot in there, and mention to the owner that you have bartending experience and would be happy to "fill in". "Fill in" is just as it sounds, you fill in if a bartender calls out sick or something. The owner knows he can call you last minute. Also i'd get a bar card, just in case. They cost $100 and last for 2 years. Then the owner will know that you can legally serve, too.

I simply got lucky over my job. I was fortunate enough to be a regular at Farside, and knew my friend Joe through the bartenders there. Joe and I became friends, and when the chance happened at Dipper's, I got my shot and never looked back. When Dipper's changed hands to Mikie's, the new owners re-interviewed everyone on the staff, including people off the street. I was the only person hired from the old employees at Dipper's. That's when the chances happen, if a new bar opens they interview staff. Established places already have their people and only luck or if you know someone will be the chance you get a job there.

Find a place as a local, preferably a newer place. At Mikie's we only have 2 people working there from the original 10 that started last year. I'm one of them. Turnover happens. People quit or get fired. The guys I have seen move into the ranks of bartending were either recommended by someone who worked there, and in some cases we took waiters & barbacks and turned them into bartenders.

Now that's my advice for guys. Women, a whole new rule set applies to them. Read on, if you dare...

Spa H 2: This time it's personal

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At Club H, I took a spinning class on Wednesday. I didn't mean to take the class. I was at the gym, like normal, working out. I wanted to run for about 25 minutes, as part of my workout. But most of the treadmills were occupied. So, I decided to go into the spin room and just ride the bikes for a bit. After 10 minutes, a few people started to enter, including some very cute girls. I asked a guy next to me if a class was starting, and he told me that one was starting. He also said if this was my first time I better get a large bottle of water and a large towel from the locker room. He said that I will dehydrate really fast and sweat a lot.

I was cheerful about it, so I ran out and grabbed a water and a towel. I got back inside and more cute girls were in there and I was very aloof about the whole thing. I figured I had been working out for the last 3 years and wasn't terribly scared about the class. I figured it was going to be hard, but I would be able to keep up.

Did I mention i'm 35? Did I mention that I had fairly major leg surgery 2 years ago? Did I mention that my highschool yearbook pegged me as "Most likely to die from laziness"? I kid about the yearbook.

My friends, let me enlighten you. Spin class was first designed in 1818, by the Germans and lead by the aerobic instructor Karl von Drais. He was no pansy, folks. The dude knew how to whip those krauts into shape. Its true! I swear!

Not much has changed since then, and the class is basically sado-machoism on a stationary bike. They play music, the instructor I had was Robert from Club H. Has anyone seen the movie The Fifth Element? Remember the character played by Chris Tucker, "Ruby Rhod"? Ok, imagine a more fit, muscular version of him leading this class. I told Robert in the beginning of the class that I was new. I think he translated that into, "Fuck with the new guy".

I tried to keep up with them, but couldn't. I had to take a few breaks and I downed the entire liter of water. After the class I wasn't too bad, but wondering how sore I would be the next day.

My groin was killing me. My thighs were very tight. My lower back was a bit sore, but not too bad. My friend Tina laughed at me over email and told me that I was basically an idiot for taking the class and if I expected to take more, that I should get a gel seat cover for the bikes. It helps.

Thursday was a tough day at work. I was very sore. I tried stretching a few times, to the amusement of my co-workers. It really didn't help.

I had a gift certificate to Spa H. It was given to me by a friend for my birthday, and it was for an hour long massage. Perfect day to use it, I thought. I called the spa, and scheduled an appointment for Thursday night.

I have been to Spa H before, but it was 18 months ago. I really haven't been back, because of their prices. I usually go to Body Balance because it is cheaper, here's a comparison of prices with also the higher cost sports massage from Spa H, also:
30 minutes: Spa H: $60 (sport $65) / BB: $45
60 minutes: Spa H: $90 (sport $100) / BB: $75
90 minutes: Spa H: $125 (sport $130) / BB: $100
2 hours: Spa H: n/a / BB: $130

Even with my 10% discount from Club H, Body Balance is still cheaper. I reviewed Marma Day Spa, also. Marma was about the same price as Club H. Interestingly enough, and what I didn't know, is that Spa H charges more for deep tissue (sport) massages.

I get to Spa H, and it was just as I remembered. They did change a few things. Gone was the shower & changing room. Before, they had me change into a robe and go into the room. This time, I did my changing in the massage room. I found that rather clumsy, for such a steep price. I liked having a private changing room, rather than just dumping my clothes on a chair in the massage room.

The massage was really good. The massage therapist, Samantha, was a petite woman with a very good touch. I really enjoyed the massage and found myself dozing off a few times during the hour.

Once it was done, they didn't have (or offer) the shower to use. I missed that. So I put my clothes back on, and tipped Samantha $20 for the massage. She offered me a glass of water, and I drank it while I went outside to give them my gift card.

The receptionist rang up the card, and asked how I felt. I felt great.

The interest in my massage quickly turned to interest in my payment. The person at the desk informed me that there was a problem. She said that the person who bought the card for me paid for a 1 hour long swedish massage, not sports massage. The second problem was that the person was charged $81, not $90, based on the idea that since I was a member of Club H that she could get me a discount. According to the receptionist, this wasn't right.

So, I owed $20.

$9 extra for the difference of the 10% discount that was voided. And $10 more because it was a sports massage. Also taxes made the cost $107, but she was a bit frustrated with the whole thing and was like, "Oh just give me $20."

Now I didn't go to Spa H in the last 18 months because of the price. An hour long massage I saved $12.50 with Body Balance, which doesn't seem like a lot, but to me it is the principle. Now here I was, at Spa H again. Up until that point I was really impressed with everything (albeit slightly disappointed I couldn't have the post-massage shower, and walk home with moisturizer sticking to my clothes).

I wrote before that you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. This was my second time at Spa H. Their first impression was good, but not great. The prices were a bit of a put-off. I was back again, and after my experience with the receptionist (she could have been the owner), I don't think I will be back there anytime soon.

I think Spa H needs to do two things:

1. Lower their prices.
2. Learn the essential art of making a customer feel welcome.

I think they fail on both counts. In my humble opinion what she should have done was just say that a mistake was made, but not have me pay for it. The gift card was a BIRTHDAY GIFT. I certainly don't expect them to know that, but normally when someone is given a GIFT CARD, it was for something special. Like a birthday, an anniversary, for a job well done - or to get over something (like an accident, a breakup, a funeral).

Both jobs I have in my life, my Manhattan job and my bartending job, customer service is our #1 priority. Nothing gets under my skin more when I hear someone had a bad experience with a coworker of mine at either job. I take pride in my work. I take pride in where in work, also. I want people to either get off the phone with me or walk out of the bar with a good experience.

In the bar, I can give buybacks. If a customer didn't like their wine, i'll pop open a new bottle and of course not charge them for the first glass of wine they had. If a customer doesn't like the food, its going to be off their check. That's customer service. That is a lost art in today's day and age.

When I was leaving I asked them if they ever read my first review of their establishment, and they didn't know who I was or that I ever wrote anything about them. When i'm done with this, i'm going to email them both of my reviews. I figure that they should know what someone out here thinks of their spa.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Hoboken category from February 2007.

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