The UK does not want 'Hooters'. It is a retrograde step for a country dedicated to gender equality

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Applying for a job as Hooters' Girl - part three: busted.

Alex greeted me warmly, asked my name, shook my hand, asked what post I was applying for (and told me they were only interviewing hostesses today), and led me over to a “comfy chair” in the corner for our interview.

We chatted for maybe 30-40 minutes, during which I learned he had worked for TGI Friday for eight years, was the kitchen manager of the Bristol Hooters, and his girlfriend disapproved of him working there (as do her friends). Fortunately he had a lot of statistics to quote about the amount of money Hooters Girls raise for charity (especially breast cancer charities – despite him saying Breast Cancer Research did not want to be linked to them) to appease her. Although when I asked exactly what sort of activities the girls did to raise money he was rather vague, and said something about comedy night. “Do the girls tell jokes?” I asked. He looked at me like I was stupid, “No”. Oh.

Anyway, he wasn’t that interested in my relevant experience. I said I’d worked in bars for eight years. He didn’t ask what I did at those bars, what the bars were called, where they were (I just said “London” and had made up two names on the application form), how I dealt with drunks and trouble makers etc. Apparently not relevant.

He did say, “Do you mind if I ask your age?”, obviously realising I wasn’t 18. On the verge of lying, I admitted I was 32 and asked apologetically, “Is that too old?” He was quick to say they didn’t discriminate by age, and that it was sometimes helpful to have an “older” person (I repeat, 32 – “older”) to supervise the other hostesses who were mostly a lot younger and “less experienced”. In short, at 32 I was a matronly figure. Flattering.

I said I used to live in Nottingham and had gone to the Hooters there regularly. He was quick to stress the Bristol one would be more “classy”. The Nottingham one is more of a bar, this is more of a restaurant. No stand-up drinking, no over-crowding… when asked, he started to say no t-shirt competitions or no cheerleader chance routines, but then in the next minute he backtracked and said there would be some singing and dancing from the girls, and probably some beauty competitions on special occasions.

He said the Bristol bar was keen to get away from the stag night and footy crowd reputation of the Nottingham one, and that is why they were situated where they were (ie, close to meat market club Oceana, and within spitting distance of what the police call the most violent area of Bristol). I learned customers would be allowed two drinks each, and then hostesses would have to ask management approval to serve customers with more drinks. He did not say what would happen if a customer had got drunk somewhere else beforehand and then arrived at Hooters, beyond something vague about the door staff only allowing people in at their discretion.

When I asked what happened if a customer got a bit too ‘friendly’ with any of the hostesses, I was told (and this is hilarious) that they had good relations with the police (a ha ha ha ha ha ha), that they could call the police if need be (because an attacker is sure to wait 10 mins for the police to arrive before assaulting a woman), and there were men in the kitchen who could come out and calm a situation if required. How reassuring. No offence to Alex as he seemed as na├»ve as a newborn baby, but he’s one of the kitchen staff and he looked barely taller than me (5ft 5), and it didn’t look like he worked out much. I wouldn’t fancy my chances of him rescuing me from an attacker.

He told me a lot of guff about charity work, which was boring, and I didn’t listen properly as it sounded like PR wank. I was also getting tired of hearing the word “girls” bandied about with such patronising abandon.

When some other women came in to apply, and then walked out shouting “Sexist” loudly during my interview, Alex looked very embarrassed and said to me, “I’m sorry you had to hear that.” Oh bless him. I took the opportunity to ask what he thought about the negative reaction Hooters had been getting from some groups. He said it was all overblown, people had misunderstood the brand, and it was a very family-friendly place. (He’s a liar, it seems).



He said they’d let me know in seven days, and gave me a special Hooters pen to take home and treasure. I’ve put it in a safe place. The bin.

POSTCRIPT
- Sadly, after I got home an hour and a half later, a person called Annette Ainsworth (recruitment@hooters.co.uk) had sent a rather blunt email saying:

“Thank you for completing an application form today for the position of Host, our records show that you left without speaking to a member of management re this opportunity.”

Which confused me, as after our interview, Alex had shaken my hand and walked me to the lift to say goodbye. I will email back to let them know that my email address does not accept messages from sexist scum.

8 comments:

  1. interesting that they obviously know that the correct response to inappropriate touching is to call the police. not knowing that cost a lap dancing club in durham its license.

    but yeah - good relations with the police who formally objected to you opening! ha!

    i'm not sure on the legality of asking someone their age during an interview tho. i know it is against discrimination law to ask on an application form.

    i was one of the women shouting 'sexist' hurrah!

    what's a special occasion i wonder?

    and i can't imagine customers are going to be very happy that management have to give them permission to drink more than one drink. I imagine permission will almost always be granted, as otherwise they are going to go out of business very quickly - why on earth would you go somewhere that didn't let you drink as much as you want?

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  2. Guys, you know I love you but why didn't you get someone with actual bar experience to do this? Rather than make up a completely fictional work history, you could have has an actual bar tender apply for work and refused a job on grounds of their appearance, rather than go through a charade just to prove a point. I have genuinely worked in city centre premises dealing with a wide range of customer groups, including stag and hen parties, supervised a gastro pub for two years, then worked in CAMRA's pub of the year in Leeds for a year and a half included lone working. I have done both barista and cellar training, have my food hygiene certificate and if I went for another interview I wouldn't wait to be asked about my experiences, I don't think any competent bar worker would. I wouldn't be employed by Hooters because I am fat and not heteronormatively attractive. This does not stop me being a good waitress, and would better prove that Hooters employment policy is discrimatory. Going to an interview with false information, not pushing your experience in bar situations and not ringing them back the next day for interview feedback, as you would do I presume if you were applying for a ‘normal’ job, proves nothing but that they ask illegal age related questions at interview.
    Also, when it comes to relations with the police, this is the same policy as most bars, Hooters will probably also have security staff from a separate private firm on evenings, but security costs a lot to business. Them presuming that male kitchen staff would 'look after' female waiting staff is sexist I'll grant you, but so is your notion that at 5'5" the male interviewer would be too weak to do so, as this normalises the patriarchal notion that men must be physically strong. When working alone in a bar or restaurant you are vulnerable to attack at any time, this is an issue that the bar industry in general (that has no dedicated union, so receives no support from any one outside the industry) is trying to deal with, not just Hooters. The reason that you should be opposing this situation with Hooters is not that it makes women unsafe, but that is normalises the sexualising of people who work in the service industry. It is the same argument as Reclaim the Night, women are not there to be ‘protected’; they should not be attacked in the first place.
    I support this campaign because of the reasons I've already outlined, but making empty gestures help no one and makes you look self-publicising and inflammatory. I appreciate what you are doing, but the bar industry is one that is still trying to be taken seriously as a career choice for men and women and intersex peoples, and going to an interview only to take the mick doesn't help this.
    Sorry if that’s a bit harsh.

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  3. Thanks for your comments, BookElf. I'm the one who went for the interview, so am happy to answer your comments.

    I accept your points. The fact is - we knew about the interview 24 hours before it started, and most people were away or unavailable at short notice, so only a couple of people were able to commit to going. Yes, if someone with more suitable bar experience had been able to go, that would have been better, but that wasn't the case. Your bar experience sounds fantastic - it's a pity you couldn't make it on Saturday.

    As it is, I've been a journalist for 15 years, and so used those skills to try and get information from Alex, which I think I did to some extent.

    Defending myself - my posts were written in a hurry on Saturday, as I have a life and didn't want to devote my entire weekend to Hooters. So I didn't put a huge amount of time into them. Hooters had taken up most of my day as it was.

    My purpose was not to degrade the bar industry, but merely to find out a bit more information about how Hooters planned to run its Bristol bar - and I feel I got some information. As you point out, I don't know much about working in a bar (although I HAVE worked in a bar in the past), but you have misconstrued my blog posts if you have interpreted my comments about their bar management skills as the main points.

    As you say, and I agree, the main problem with Hooters is the so-say normalisation of treating women as sex objects. This is what I object to most strongly, and I think it is what you object to most strongly, judging from your post.

    I take offence at you saying this was an 'empty gesture'. This was a fact-finding mission and facts were found. It was not a gesture of any kind as far as Hooters were concerned, as I did not at any point mention that I was a mole, and I don't think Alex would have talked to me so openly for 30 minutes if he suspected I was not genuine.

    Applications for jobs are still open on the website. Perhaps it would be better for you to apply, as you have so much excellent and relevant experience, and report back on what you discover? I am not saying that with sarcasm, I am genuinely thinking it would be a helpful exercise.

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  4. Hi there,

    sorry I was really really angry this morning so slightly went off on one.
    I understand you had very little time to plan for this, and so for you to do it anyway was a good thing. I'd be more than happy to apply for a position, however I live at the other end of the country on a minimum wage so would find it very hard to travel down for interview. I understand that Leeds is also in the pipeline for a Hooters in the future, and Leeds Feminist Network are already planning a mass-application if it is given permission to expand to my city.
    I think what you are doing in Bristol is great, and I'm sorry if I caused you offence.
    I completly get that their looking for competant bar workers was not the main point of the blog post, but it just really narks me of when people apply to bar positions without taking seriously that for many people this is their career, just because its badly paid does not make it any less a valid interview process that any other job, I'm sorry for going off on one. Many many thousands of people in this country are desperate for even an interview right now, and bar work gets such a bad rap, like its somehow 'second best' because we don't get paid a living wage. It just wound me up.
    Sorry again.

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  5. Hi Bookelf
    This is another one of the admins here. I'm sure the person who went for the interview will accept your apology - thanks for that!

    I just wanted to say that it was incredibly short notice and we were trying to get as many people to go down there and apply as possible. It was really brave (I wouldn't want to have done it!) of the person above to have gone through the interview. I don't think my nerves nor my imagination would have held up for 30-40 minutes of questioning.

    What she did wasn't a comment on bar work at all. In fact, Hooters is actually pretty bad for women and bar work as they reduce the workers in there to a pair of breasts which, as you know, is why we're all so against the place. So someone with more experience probably would get passed over for a Jordan lookalike with no bar experience.

    The person above has worked really hard on the campaign and we need all the support we can get! Please don't see anything that was written as a slur on bar work as it wasn't meant that way at all.

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  6. No worries, BookElf, it's good to get discussions going (or a 'dialogue', as our friend Cllr Guy Poultney would smarm)!

    If Leeds is unfortunate enough to be blighted with a Hooters (and I keep everything crossed that doesn't happen), then it would be great for you and LFN to bombard them with job applications and waste as much of their time as possible!! But hopefully you will get wind of the license application sooner than we in Bristol did, and perhaps you will have better luck than us in stopping them. ('Gallus' is the watchword).

    PS - Just to clarify, I don't diss bar work at all. True, it's poorly paid, but I had great fun when I was a barmaid, and now have full respect for bar staff as it's very hard work.

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  7. Have you considered getting a man to apply for the bartender vacancy? Because if they decline to interview a man, or refuse to employ a suitable candidate for having too many testicles, they could be found to be in breach of employment legislation
    Regards
    Jack

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  8. Thanks for checking in, Jack. Yes, we did think of asking a man, but couldn't find a willing man in time. However, it's not too late for you to apply to be a Hooters Host if you so wish. We'd be glad for you to do so! Although, some men in the States have tried this tactic, and it's always been settled out of court, so Hooters are probably wise to it, sadly.

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