Language and Etiquette

Seeing as today begins one of the craziest weekends of nightclub work in my hometown, I thought it only fitting to discuss two of the most overlooked aspects of the working security: how you talk and how you act towards Patrons. Much of the discussion that we have here does focus on customer service, but these Language and Etiquette hold their own special place in the bouncer skill set. Do you talk to a Biker the same way you talk to a Business Owner? For whom would you open a door in a nightclub? And who leads the way down a hallway? Let’s find out, shall we?

Though it sounds like lip service, every customer in any type of nightclub/bar establishment deserves the same level of respect. Whether biker, banker, or bum, the language that you use for each individual should not vary. While smiles and nods can go a long way, what you say when you smile and nod can mean the difference between a physical ejection and an intoxicated Patron leaving of their own accord. The reason is very simple: people react positively when they are talked to in a positive manner. And we are ALWAYS looking for the positive reaction in this line of work.

So, before we dive into the meat of the matter, here are some appetizers:

1)    BE POLITE – A smile and a word of greeting can do wonders! Keep your tone friendly at all times. IF necessary to be firm, be firm but POLITE.

2)    THINK FIRST, THEN TALK – A rushed answer can often cause more problems. Make sure you know the correct answer before giving it.

3)    BE HONEST – If a Patron has a question you cannot answer, LET THEM KNOW. You can then try to get the right answer or find the right solution to their problem.

4) FIRST IMPRESSIONS CREATE LASTING IMPRESSIONS – A positive attitude should be the first and last thing a Patron encounters.


  • Women are to be addressed as “Miss. IF you are positive that a woman is OVER 50, you may address her as “Ma’am”. It is better to have a female Patron joke about no longer being a “Miss” than it is to have her upset about being called “Ma’am”.
  • Men are to be addressed as “Sir”. It doesn’t matter how they are dressed, who they are with, or what you think their background is, men are always “Sirs”. If possible, addressing a man by surname is preferable, “Mr. Jones, could I speak to you for a moment?”
  • Groups of women are to be addressed as “Ladies”. NEVER address a group of women (or men for that matter) as “Guys”. It is rude, sexist, and depending on your environment can be insulting. “We” and “Everyone” are acceptable substitutes, as in “How are we all doing tonight?” or “How is everyone doing tonight?”. You may be able to get away with “Folks”, depending on the nightclub/bar environment.

The key is always to make the individual(s) being addressed feel respected and noticed. Again, smiles and nods can go a long way. I know some of you are saying, “Dude, I work in a college/biker/dive bar. That’s just stupid. The customers don’t care what I call them.” Wrong. You show them respect and they will hopefully return it. If they don’t return it, continue to show them respect. And if they continue to disrespect you? Well, that’s for another post.

Everyone likes to feel welcome. Remember Norm from Cheers (or am I just dating myself)? There is nothing like a warm greeting to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Or at least get your attention. I’ll let you in on a secret: a proper greeting serves not only as a welcome but as great gauge of a Patron’s demeanor. If you give someone a warm hello and they blow you off, throw you a dirty look, or are just plain rude, it’s a red flag that this particular Patron may be someone to watch or at least note as they walk through the bar.


Here are some Golden Oldies from the Etiquette World, and yes they are still valid in this day and age!

  • Good evening
  • Good night
  • How may I be of assistance/How can I help
  • Thank you
  • You’re welcome
  • Excuse me
  • Pardon me
  • Please

Doorman, Floormen, and Roamers should take care to speak in an even tone of voice and refrain from cursing (that means don’t curse at all). Keep it classy.


Clubs can be crowded places, often with narrow hallways and doorways that seem to small to fit the average human. That is why it is important for you as a security staffer to know how to work your way through the environment. Knocking over a drink (or a Patron) can lead to so many different nightmare scenarios that it is easier to just describe how NOT TO:

  • Need to get through the crowd? Don’t muscle, lead with a hand. If you have to move chairs or stools, lead with a hand or your butt, NOT THE CHAIR. Better yet, have someone clear and light the way with a flashlight while you move the chair.
  • Hold doors open for Patrons when necessary. That means opening the door and standing to one side.
  • Never block hallway or doorway access. Stand to one side or far enough in front of the doorway that people have clearance to get past you.
  • Stand aside for customers who are entering or exiting doorways or are in the hallway. I see this A LOT in newer security staffers. They always move into the path of an incoming Patron and try to move past them. STOP! Let the Patron pass you.
  • Unless you are leading a Patron to a location (i.e. bathroom, cabana, booth), let them lead the way while you follow. Unless you are leading a Patron to a location, they always have the right of way.

You want to be as unobstrusive as possible while remaining visible. This is the Patron’s nightclub to enjoy and you running into them with chairs or blundering down the hall is not going to make their visit a pleasant one.


You can’t like everyone, and not everyone likes you. But when working as a security team, it is important to let petty differences or annoyances aside and work together. The guy you hate may save you from getting stabbed…hopefully. So treat your co-workers with respect, don’t try to one up each other (especially on the job, it’s just embarassing), and watch each other’s backs. Some more things to remember:

  • Remember the “no cursing” thing? In the same vein, not all topics of are suitable for discussion, especially in a low volume club where Patrons can hear you. Don’t embarrass yourself or your colleagues by discussing inappropriate or personal topics and resist the temptation to gossip about other members of staff.
  • Put down the cellphone. You are not a brain surgeon on call or a financial investor that needs to check  the opening numbers on the Singapore stock exchange. Keep your work life and private life separate as much as possible, and this includes limiting your personal calls. Besides which, if you’re talking, you’re not watching the bar.
  • Support your workmates and they will do the same for you. If you can see someone is particularly busy or stressed there may be some way you can help without affecting your own workload too much. That means helping the Doorman clear the sidewalk, picking up glasses the Roamers missed, and bringing the Static Posts some water!
  • Give your c0-workers credit where credit is  due. NEVER take credit for something that wasn’t your idea. Sooner or later you’ll get called out and then you’ll just look stupid.
  • Put some time into your relationships with colleagues. Sure, we all work nights and have crazy schedules but that doesn’t mean you can’t give up an evening for some drinks or go out for lunch together once in a while. This kind of networking will not only build friendships, but could help you find work someday!
  • Treat all co-workers with courtesy, irrespective of hierarchy. Low man on the totem won’t be there forever.


You might hate him or love him, but either way he’s cutting the checks. Navigating Boss Land can be difficult and touchy, but if you remember the basics, you should be fine. Know your boundaries. Your boss is always your boss, no matter how well you get along or how much they value your opinion.

  • ALWAYS remain professional and remember that they are in a position of seniority to you. Even the bar managers and owners I know on a first name basis, I try to address my their surname. It’s a respect thing They want yours (even if you feel they don’t deserve it) and you will get theirs by acting right and doing your job.
  • Make it personal. Ask about their lives once in a while. It’s o.k., they’re human. Just keep it within polite parameters.
  • Try not to be a smart ass. A snarky comment could be taken as witty repartee or it could get you taken off the schedule. Approach joking and sarcasm with caution.
  • If a crisis occurs, stay calm and ride it out. Then share it with the boss. You were  hired to provide solutions, so prove that you can.

A ton of stuff for this post, but I have a busy weekend ahead. To all my local staffers, be careful, stay hydrated, be patient, and above all else: BE SAFE!

Everyone else…we’ll see ya next time!

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