Sir Bob Jones
Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: Respect waiters, even if you're ugly


Public outrage the bright side of nondescript MP's career being in tatters for bullying a low-income toiler.

Aaron Gilmore. Photo / Getty Images
Aaron Gilmore. Photo / Getty Images

Feel some pity for hitherto obscure MP Aaron Gilmore whose hopes and dreams lie in ashes, albeit through self-immolation.

From what we now know, it's easy to imagine him back in 2011 when he first entered Parliament, lying awake in the small hours, fantasising about one day becoming Prime Minister. That wouldonly be human. Furthermore, he actually wrote that expectation on his Facebook page. Like all ambitious MPs, he doubtless craved attention but lacked the imagination to originate anything innovative.

Now he has that desired publicity, but in the form of widespread ridicule and revilement. His background, having been delved into, unsurprisingly reveals he is disliked by his parliamentary colleagues, held in low regard by his party (evident by his tail-end ranking), has a previous career path of short-lived jobs and has misled about his credentials and the events that led to his downfall.

The picture that emerges is of an unattractive personality and isn't helped by his equally unattractive pudgy appearance.

Becoming tiddly and raucous in a public place is no great offence and Gilmore's hardly the first MP to do so. But the blowharding and threats to the barman were appalling. One can but shudder at what might have occurred had it been a pretty waitress serving him rather than a young lad. As the Service and Food Workers Union chief, Chas Muir, rightly said, "Our hospitality workers work hard on low wages to deliver a professional service to patrons and are entitled to respect". And so they damn well are.

Many years ago, journalist and former MP Deborah Coddington wrote about her experiences when she owned a restaurant in the Bay of Islands and in busy times, lent a hand waitressing. "Unfortunately, I made the mistake of presuming that if I smiled and gave good service, I would be treated in the same manner as I had treated waitresses in my past - with respect, civility and a certain amount of warmth", and she recounted how some boorish diners treated waitresses as if they were "moonlighting call-girls, free to be groped and propositioned".

Deborah is no militant feminist, imagining offence in every innocuous remark; indeed, she once wrote of her fatalistic regret at becoming older and realising there were no longer wolf-whistles when walking past building sites.

Getting around and about as has been my life, I've probably averaged three restaurant meals a week over the past 50 years. One big change in Auckland is the demise of the professional waiter. Nowadays it's rare to encounter a Kiwi waitress, most being foreign girls, often newly graduated from university and working their way around the world. I always ask where they're from and what they studied and as I've probably been to their country, especially if it's a bit off the track, their faces light up to chat about their homeland and career ambitions.

Some people feel strongly against tipping but I'm in favour for low-paid workers, such as restaurant staff and taxi drivers. Objectors may say pay them more, but it's simply not that easy. The average life of a restaurant in New Zealand is less than two years; it's immensely hard work and few make a profit.

Waitresses these days are often pretty, for which there's a very good reason. In the late 1970s, a Texas university's behavioural department conducted an experiment with the co-operation of a popular restaurant, although how they persuaded the pretend waitresses to participate is certainly remarkable.

In a section of the restaurant they provided three waitresses - all students. One was obese but charming and efficient. Another was plain, acted aloof but provided satisfactory service. The third girl was a raving knockout who played her prescribed role to be sulkily rude, mess up the orders, even deliberately spilling one diner's meal on his lap; all this without apology.

The charming and highly efficient fat girl received minuscule tips, the middling-looking one, standard gratuities, and the ill-mannered, incompetent beauty, over-the-top largesse. Such is life. Thank God, unlike Aaron Gilmore, I'm strikingly good-looking.

Still, as I said at the beginning, spare a thought for him. He didn't rape a nun, murder a child or rob a bank. He's an early middle-aged family man whose political career lies in tatters. Thoughts of any public life are now gone while finding employment, given his pariah status, will be difficult. It will be a test of his mettle to climb off the canvas and start again, perhaps even in Australia. We all make mistakes and should wish him luck, for he's taken a helluva pounding.

Let's also look on the bright side of this incident, the public outrage possibly lying less in a nondescript MP's bad behaviour but instead that the bullying victim was a low-income toiler deserving respect and courtesy like everyone else.

- NZ Herald

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