The Bar Man, November 6, 2014

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This year saw my 13th visit to see Wycombe Wanderers play Bury, the fixture that I have seen most often, so it was no surprise to spot the sign at the entrance to the hillside car park informing us to expect a 45-minute wait to exit at the end of the game.

Indeed, with only one road out of the industrial estate on which Adams Park is located, past experience suggested even 45 minutes might be a bit optimistic.

How to pass the time? Waiting in the car has lost its appeal since the radio decided that the only stations it will pick up are Radio 4 and Classic FM, neither famous for their quality of football match reports.

Instead we tried the supporters club and were pleased to see hand pumps selling Morland’s Original.

Unsurprisingly, we were not the only supporters with this idea, but I eventually reached the front of the queue and ordered a pint from the young lady behind the bar. She gave me a worried look and as she placed the glass on the drip tray under the pump and looked around despairingly for a button to press.

Soon she gave up and asked the barman what to do. Busy himself, he told her to pull the handle, which she did. Once. This was clearly insufficient, and the barman had to break off from serving his own customer to demonstrate how to complete the task. Still the problems were not over. The next challenge was working the till, and once again the barman had to demonstrate which buttons to press before I could depart, glass in hand, and enjoy some friendly banter with the home fans.

It would be easy to poke fun at the girl for not being able to pull a pint, but I don’t think that is where the fault lies.

The management put her in a difficult position, expecting her to be able to cope with a mad rush at the end of the game with no training on how to do the job.

I don’t think that this is an isolated incident.

I have, for example, written in the past about waitresses delivering barely half full pints to tables in pub dining rooms.

It seems that in this country bar work and waitressing is seen as an unskilled job best filled by students, itinerant antipodeans or those just starting out on their journey through the world of work. I guess most are on the minimum wage.

Nor is it a situation that is confined to bars.

The British, it seems to me, are forever complaining about poor service, but as a nation we do not reward those who provide it.

On the Continent it is seen as much more of a career and those who serve are held in higher esteem.

Maybe we need a type of agreement. We want better service, but in turn we will offer decent wages, proper training and acknowledgement for a job well done. To be fair, some of the coffee shops style their staff as baristas and are trying to introduce the perception that it is a skilled job rather than a menial task, and even the much-derided McDonald’s has a star system for its staff and they run a Hamburger University which is a global centre of excellence for training.

So let’s see youngsters encouraged to make bar service a career choice so we get a great pint, and they get a career to be proud of.