a creepy customer complained my employees aren’t friendly enough

A reader writes:

I am a hospitality director for a winery. A valued guest — “ Bartholomew” — called, saying that he hated to do it because he loves our wines, but that he would like to quit his membership. He said that the last time he visited, one of the employees was quite rude to him and in prior visits he wasn’t treated that well, either. I was dubious because I have excellent staff who go above and beyond for all of our guests. Typically, staff in a tasting room are well educated and in the business because it’s a love, and certainly not to make the big bucks (wineries are notorious for low wages). It’s rare to get a legitimate complaint of this manner; in the two years I’ve managed this staff, we’ve had two complaints, in both of which the customers were way out of line, which often happens when alcohol is involved.

Bartholomew named a specific employee. She said that while standing at the counter, he moved his mask down because his glasses were fogging up and the employee shouted at him that he had to put the mask back on. He felt that there were nicer ways to say that. He was told where he could sit and then had to wait a long time for the wine tasting to be brought to the table, virtually nothing was said about the wines, and the employee never came back until he and his guest stood up to leave. He said that on prior visits he’s been treated indifferently and did not feel welcomed at all, and felt that he was more of a burden.

While not making excuses for the employee, I told him that I did want him to understand that mask wearing is a constant battle and that niceties left ages ago. However, the employee should not have shouted at him. And unfortunately, the specific hour he visited is the witching hour for our business and sometimes tastings go awry. Again, the employee should not have ignored him. I offered to personally do a private tasting for him the next time he visited (typically a high-value experience). The conversation was jovial and ended on a positive note.

An hour later, Bartholomew called back and said that he wanted to re-instate his membership, though he did not speak to me. Just as I was congratulating myself on my superior customer service skills, one of my employees says, “Just so you know, this guy is super creepy.” When asked why, the employee (young, cute, married) said that another employee (young, cute, unmarried) refuses to be alone with him. In an informal, impromptu meeting, I asked all of the women about him, without giving a reason why. One employee said she started wearing a (fake) engagement ring so he’d leave her alone. One time, an employee walked into the tasting room to find him with half his shirt off, showing off a scar to another unrelated female guest. Another employee (50+, attractive, married) said it wasn’t so much what he said, but that there were always tones of sexual overtures. As we’re having this meeting, a brand new employee (first day with us) walked in, heard a snippet and said, “Oh, are you talking about Creepy Bartholomew? We had problems with him at my last winery.”

What the hell do I do now? I absolutely cannot ask the staff to serve someone who makes them that uncomfortable; I’m not worried for myself because I know how to shut that behavior down pretty quickly. Given all this information from the staff, I now see why he didn’t feel welcomed when he visited, so I’m not sure how to discipline or even if I should. A male colleague, who I had previously respected, said, “They’re professionals. They need to put that aside and serve him” and that I should chat with the customer to let him know he needs to behave around these women. I inherently disagree with this assessment. We do not have any male employees who I could otherwise assign to the customer. We have a male owner, but he doesn’t really do tastings (although certainly can). The customer is 55-60, unmarried, and former military (hence the scar display).

How lovely that your male colleague — who almost certainly doesn’t deal with being sexually harassed on the reg or with the power dynamics that come from being a woman in the service industry serving older men who feel entitled to creep on them — is so certain that his female colleagues should “just deal with it.” And let’s take a moment to ponder what led him to think putting up with sexual harassment is part of being “a professional.”

Personally, I’d recommend calling Bartholomew back and saying you spoke with your employees about his complaints and in doing so learned that he has made multiple women on your staff uncomfortable and so unfortunately you cannot reinstate his membership.

If you don’t have the authority to do that, can you talk with your boss (the owner?) and work out what you can do in situations like this one (not just for Bartholomew but with any other customer it comes up with in the future)? Ideally you want the owner to give you the authority to ban customers like this. If he’s worried about bad word-of-mouth, point out that you’re risking bad word-of-mouth either way — you can risk it from the guy harassing the women on your staff or you can risk it from customers who see your staff subjected to that. Point out, too, that you have a legal responsibility to prevent employees from being sexually harassed by customers; now that you know about it, you can’t tell them to just deal with it.

(Speaking of which, it sounds like you need to educate that other male colleague — the “just deal with it” guy — about sexual harassment law too. Doubly so if he manages anyone.)

If your boss doesn’t want to authorize you to decline to serve creeps … well, push back. He probably wouldn’t be willing to say there’s nothing a customer could do that should get them banned (or at least refused service on that visit), so try to pin him down on where the line is. This doesn’t need to be a big, confrontational thing — you can approach it like any other work problem that you’re trying to solve collaboratively since you need to be clear on where those lines are to do your job well.

If your boss still won’t budge, one option is to make sure everyone knows that if this customer visits again, you will be the one assigned to his table (although you’ll need a separate plan for times when you’re off). This isn’t an ideal solution, but if it’s the only one you’ve got, it’s there.

You asked whether anyone needs to be disciplined for this guy for making this guy feel unwelcome in the past and the answer to that is an unequivocal no. You want to support your staff when they’re being harassed, not penalize them for keeping a distance from a harasser. But you do need to train them on what to do if this happens in the future. It sounds like they thought they just had to deal with it as best they could, while keeping a distance, which means you’ll need to create a better system for them to handle it if it comes up again (which could be anything from telling him they won’t be able to serve him if the behavior continues to alerting you to kicking him out, depending on what you decide).

{ 693 comments… read them below }

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Yup. And the second full paragraph from the OP confirmed it.

      And beyond the external creeper, the guy who said this needs to change, right away: “They’re professionals. They need to put that aside and serve him”

      I recommend some formal sexual harassment training for everyone – particularly men and managers.

      1. Womanaroundtown*

        You know, I worked in social services once in a setting where the women employees would be harassed pretty regularly. One of my coworkers was once accosted by a client she trusted who then said something horrific and sexual to her such that she had a panic attack. She also did not want to tell our boss, because it would result in the client getting banned from our services, which could be pretty debilitating for him. A few days later in a team meeting, I casually brought up that I thought sexual harassment training would be important, especially to help the women on staff deal with some of the things said to us regularly. Every man in the meeting laughed at me, and one said “if you can’t take a few comments, you shouldn’t be working here.” To my knowledge, no one ever did anything about it. I’m still angry about that whole situation. Not for me, but for my coworker, who had disgusting and invasive things said to her at her place at work and then had to hear all her male coworkers say that she was weak and a poor employee for not being comfortable taking that abuse.

        1. Tyche*

          We don’t go to work to be harassed or to be made to feel uncomfortable. Shame on the male coworkers enabling harassers. It should never be an expectation or badge of honor to take abuse.

        2. Le Sigh*

          And sadly it just probably reinforced for your coworker she was better off not reporting the situation. It just made it clear how little support she’d have if she did — and these are the exact kind of calculations we make when deciding whether to tell.

          This is a big reason that people don’t speak up about this stuff! And then when the dam bursts (well, if it does) and it all comes pouring out, there’s this chorus of, “but why didn’t you say anything?!”

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Been there, done that, got the shirt, will happily skip the encore performance.

            Sometimes it scares me how little the enablers understand about what they are enabling. More often that not I’m just sad for how they have apparently reduced me to a cardboard cutout of a person, because the only women who are people to them are blood family members.

            1. Retired Prof*

              Very well said. “I have daughters, and if anyone did this to them…” How about your co-worker is a human being who deserves respect whether you have daughters or not?

            2. else*

              I think they do understand. Their instinct is to put themselves in the position of the harasser/abuser, so they react defensively to anything that points out that that behavior is wrong.

        3. Violette*

          Oh, goody! I love it when men I work with give me permission to sexually harass them!!

        4. CountryLass*

          I had a colleague in a different department once make comments about why he thought I looked like a lesbian and why he thought I would be into BDSM (I am neither). Being 20, I was unsure exactly how to deal with it, and as I was weeping the floor, I poked him with the broom and told him to go and get on with his job as I was busy. After telling my dad about it when I got home, he went nuts and said if I didn’t report it to my boss, he would deal with it himself.

          I wrote a statement down and took it into my boss (didn’t know the bloke he was chatting to was the owner!) Perv got a telling off and a note on his file, and the owner told him to apologise to me. My boss pulled him to one side and warned him not to go near me, even to apologise, and then told me he had told the guy to stay away from me. I was also told that if I had been a permanent employee and not a seasonal worker then he would have been let go, but as he was a permanent employee he was told that this was his only warning, and another complaint from anyone, staff or customer would mean his job.

          1. Dragon_Dreamer*

            He should have been let go no matter what, but I guess 1 strike is better than unlimited?

      2. Lego Leia*

        Professional customer service worker = / = enabling abusive behaviour from customers. Ever. Professional customer service = enforced boundaries making a safe work place and pleasant place to work and visit.

      3. Amaranth*

        I’d definitely want to know if that employee is the reason the others didn’t feel like they could speak up.

        1. OhNo*

          My thought exactly – sounds like nearly every woman working there knew about it, but never shared it with the folks at LW’s level. Why? Who taught them that such info couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be shared with management? Who made them think that nothing would be done if it was shared?

        2. Chinook*

          There is another, kinder, read on his reaction, though. He may also be the subject of sexual advances from female customers but, due to being male, does not feel threatened in the same way the women do. And, because he has not been told that this is inappropriate or that he can remove a handsy guest, he can see it as a legit part of his job.

          I saw it with the welders I worked with. There was one female welder who acted and said things that the guys would later tell me would have gotten them fired if they had done the same. I had to point out to them that she could/should be fired for acting like that but they needed to report it to their boss before anything could be done. They were reluctant, though, because it was “unmanly” to complain and they were going to keep their heads down until I pointed out to each of them that they weren’t the only one to complain about her actions to me (and I couldn’t report it because I didn’t personally see it).

          So, while many people are going to pounce on the male employee for saying “They’re professionals. They need to put that aside and serve him,” it might be worth it for the OP to ask him if he feels that he can speak up if he is put into an uncomfortable situation.

          And a good sexual harrassment training program should point out that harrassment victims do not only come from one gender.

          1. somanyquestions*

            Really? You think he’s being harassed? Not that he’s insensitive and a sexist jerk, which seems the incredibly obvious answer.

          2. Kella*

            This is certainly not impossible, but given that just about every woman who has ever talked about being sexually harassed with men present will receive at LEAST one comment to the effect of “it’s not that big of a deal, you shouldn’t complain about this” it seems much more likely that this guy’s motive is rooted in the more common manifestation for this behavior.

            Also, even if he *is* being harassed but doesn’t feel threatened because of the different power dynamic, that doesn’t make his dismissal not sexist or not potentially harmful to other employees’ understanding of what options they have. Regardless of his reason, if he’s telling coworkers not to complain about being harassed, that needs to be addressed and fixed.

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            If someone behaves like a sexist jerk it might of course be because he has interiorized these values after being on the receiving end of harassment. But it might not. And in the first instance it doesn’t matter – it should have been addressed right away, because whatever the underlying story, he’s perpetuating a norm of putting up with harassment. (Your approach is fine – so are others.)

            Also, while yes, sure, misogyny harms men too and women are just as capable as men of being assholes, it *also* holds true that the likelihood of a come-on from a customer raising alarm and safety concerns is not equal if you compare men and women who are exposed to them. Let’s not vastly overshoot the target with thoughtless both-sideism.

        3. MCMonkeybean*

          I may be wrong but I was assuming given the comment about not having any men they could assign to work with Bartholomew that the “male colleague” was someone who works in the industry who OP discussed the situation with, but not a coworker at this winery.

          1. Paulina*

            I expect he’s a coworker at the winery, but not someone who serves members. Which yes would mean he wouldn’t be speaking from his own experience.

      4. Database Developer Dude*

        What, so being “professional” means you have to take abuse? Anyone saying that to me would get a very unprofessional response.

      5. Single Noun*

        Any chance that guy could get pulled off whatever he’s doing to serve Creepy Bartholomew when he shows up?

    2. Grace*

      This might be just me, but I’m bothered by the descriptions OP includes of employees. Young, cute married; young cute unmarried; 50+ attractive….. Does it really matter how the employee looks and their marital status?

      I can’t help noticing cute is the word reserved for ‘young’ and attractive reserved for the older woman. There is some weird light sexism in this letter.

      1. IWentHojo*

        That was my exact read on this as well. There’s clearly some sexist undercurrents pervading the whole workplace.

      2. Observer*

        Normally I would agree, but in this particular context it DOES matter. Because it helps explain what this guy is doing. And it also helps to show that he knows EXACTLY what he is doing.

        Based on these descriptions, it’s clear that he is consciously taking advantage of the power dynamic but doesn’t want to “intrude” on another guys “turf”.

        All of which makes his behavior more gross.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I thought that too, especially given that one employee started wearing a fake engagement ring to stop the harassment. It seems like these qualities about employees are factors in how Bartholomew chooses his targets.

        1. pancakes*

          How exactly are the employees’ looks relevant here? Or how do you believe their looks should determine management’s response to this guy’s behavior?

          1. Observer*

            That’s a non-sequitur.

            Management’s response needs to be “Bartholomew is henceforth banned from the premises”, regardless of why he’s abusing staff. But their looks are relevant in understanding what is happening, and perhaps why it is that the OP never saw the problematic behavior.

              1. Sandiera*

                Because he’s obviously picking the attractive ones with no obvious signs of being married/engaged to prey upon.

      3. Lils*

        @Grace I thought the same thing. The marital status of employees really has no bearing on this. I suppose it is possible, if certain women were firm about being in a monogamous relationship, that Bartholomew might harass them less. However, I have often been in this situation and I can guarantee Bartholomew has crossed the boundaries of appropriateness with all the women employees, regardless of their relationship status. Because Bartholomews don’t care, which is why fake wedding rings don’t work–been there, done that. Based on the story above, the one boundary he might respect somewhat is positional power–that’s why the OP hasn’t experienced harassment from him herself.

        I also bet that Bartholomew has pushed boundaries with the male employees too–perhaps not sexually, but in other ways. If I were the OP, I’d ask around: has Bartholomew disputed charges, caused problems with other customers, broken other rules of the membership, asked for egregious special treatment, etc? It might give her more ammo to request his membership be revoked.

        1. Observer*

          The marital status of employees really has no bearing on this.

          Yes it does. This particular creep is less creepy when he knows (or thinks he knows) that his potential victim is “taken”.

          1. MissInTheNo*

            I think it’s more about a power dynamic and seeing a single woman as in a position of weakness and therefore an easier target. It’s easier to try to find a way “in” with a single woman by setting up straw men aka assumed needs that you can then offer to meet. Ex. I
            saw you getting out of that Honda out front, your tire looks low, I’ll be glad to take a look at that.

          2. Lils*

            I am positive this guy is being a creepy boundary-pusher with all the employees, and is being a SEXUAL creepy boundary-pusher with all/most of the women employees. By including her assessment of the employee’s level of attractiveness, age, or her understanding of their relationship status, the OP is echoing misogynistic stereotypes about who gets harassed and why. The OP states that many of the female employees have been harassed by this man, which should not be tolerated at all, so what’s the point of mentioning any of this?

            1. JG Obscura*

              I agree with the attractiveness and age, but I think marital status does bear mentioning since it *does* affect Bartholemew’s behavior. OP mentioned that one employee started wearing a fake engagement ring to get him to back off.
              This matters because (as others have mentioned) it shows that Bartholomew isn’t being the same level of creepy across the board. He knows on some level what he’s doing is Not Okay because he won’t do it to married/engaged women

              1. Lils*

                We *don’t* know that Bartholomew’s behavior is affected by marital status. According to the details in the letter, Bartholomew is an equal-opportunity creep who doesn’t discriminate on age or marital status. He may be targeting more conventionally attractive people but we can’t be sure based on the details.
                • Female, attractive, young, married: Bartholomew is creepy
                • Female, attractive, young, unmarried: refuses to be alone with Bartholomew because he is creepy.
                • Female, unknown attractiveness, unknown age, unknown marital status: Bartholomew sexually pestered her so she wore a ring. We don’t know if this technique deterred Bartholomew from harassing her.
                • Female, unknown attractiveness, unknown age, unknown marital status: witnessed him remove his shirt partially.
                • Female, attractive, middle-aged, married: reported sexual overtures
                • Employee of unknown gender, unknown attractiveness, unknown age, unknown marital status: reports creepiness problems with Bartholomew at another job.

                Also, whether Bartholomew is aware his behavior is bad is, um, not a concern to me. I’d bounce his ass out yesterday.

                1. Eefs*

                  Thank you for writing this @Lils! If (the LW’s assessment of) the attractiveness of the employees mattered, she would’ve described all their appearances, or said Bartholomew seems to particularly target single/more attractive/younger/older etc women, but he doesn’t. It just feels icky to read “employee (50+, attractive, married) in the story out of nowhere.

                2. tamarack and fireweed*

                  Yeah, the gist I got from the way the LW phrased it is: a vast range of different female employees reported the customer as creepy when asked. Only one spontaneously reported it.

                  I think the LW’s text would have read less sexist if they had just summarized the diversity of the employees exposed to the creepiness in a sentence, but I’m ok with just noting it as a suggestion about how to write about this sort of thing (and we’re not a writing critique circle) without change to what I’m getting from the letter.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            But it doesn’t matter in the least. It only explains why some women and not others. The fact that he is harassing ANY staff is all that matters.

            I don’t get a sexist vibe from OP. I understand her to be describing her staff as Bart obviously sees them.
            And anyway, it doesn’t matter either. We have all been conditioned to be sexist, just as we have all been conditioned to be racist, so little things ooze out here and there. But OP is making the effort to stick up for her staff, to the point of writing in for advice, and is thus to be commended, and given the tools to act.

      4. lisah*

        Not just you, Grace, and I wouldn’t characterize it as “light” sexism, either. Those descriptors were pretty disturbing and speak to how deeply embedded sexism is in all of us.

      5. MissInTheNo*

        I hate hate hate the word cute. It is infantilizing and dismissive. Unfortunately, those descriptors are relevant in this type of situation.

      6. Beth*

        To me, this fall in a gray zone of “OP is describing sexist behavior and acknowledging the sexist context that is driving that behavior.” Of course it sounds sexist; there’s no way to talk about how a serial sexual harasser is choosing his targets without getting into some of that. It’s a gray area in that it’s very difficult to tell if OP is just reporting what seems to be driving Bartholemew’s behavior, to the best of their ability, or if they also buy into that mindset to some degree. If they do, they definitely have some self-interrogation and growth to do!

        1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

          Exactly. How are we supposed to solve the problem of this harasser targeting the young, pretty, unmarried women if we don’t call out the MO? There’s this weird insistence that all women are equally targeted by this sort of this and IME that just isn’t true. The effect is that women end up calling “beauty privilege” and shaming the victims into silence.

          1. Rach*

            Not only young, attractive women are sexually harassed, is the point and bringing up that the ones OP knows about are conventionally attractive doesn’t add to the narrative. Also, often women who are in this type of job are conventionally attractive.

            1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

              If you don’t think that the types of men who are prone to this type of harassment aren’t often viewing women through a very conventional lens, then I don’t know what to tell you.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Even if this were true, OP has written in to try to rectify this situation, and should be commended and supported for doing so. Nitpicking the language of her plea for help isn’t going to help her here.

      7. Hey*

        OP may have included such details because commenters tend to speculate so much when details aren’t provided.

      8. female peter gibbons*

        Thank you Grace. I don’t need to know how attractive this women are to the OP. It’s not relevant. Same with marital status!

      9. Ajaner*

        Yeah, it made me VERY uncomfortable, especially given what I know about sexism, ageism, weight discrimination, and judgment around “attractiveness” occurring in the service industry. I have personally experienced some of these things, have witnessed all of them, and there is data to support my anecdotal evidence.

        It does not matter what an employee looks like. No one should be treated in this way. Someone being “attractive” or “cute” doesn’t somehow make it worse when for them when they are harassed; it’s a lousy experience for anyone.

    3. WFW*

      I’m wondering why she worked so hard to retain an impossible to please, complains about everything, won’t keep the mask on, member to begin with.

      1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        The high end wine world is very small and you have to be incredibly rich to participate in it. You risk a lot by booting a member.

        1. pancakes*

          The letter doesn’t address whether this particular tasting room is high-end, or whether the wines are so expensive as to only be only within reach of “incredibly rich” people. Many, many wineries don’t fit that description. Even if this one does, is it your contention that anyone buying wine there is also buying the right to harass the staff?

        2. Anon for Today*

          Throwing workers under the bus to please customers is not restricted to high end businesses. I used to work PT at a grocery store and people were thrown under the bus all the time in order for management to avoid a complaint to corporate.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes, that too. This same pattern plays out in grocery stores, ordinary bars, dive bars, chain restaurants, family restaurants, etc. etc.

          2. Solana*

            Oooh, yeah. Bookstores tend to bring out the creeps, too. My managers at the used book store had our back, but the ones at B&N didn’t care (except for Awesome Manager). And as bad as we women got it at the registers, the young women in the cafe had it far worse.

      2. Autumnheart*

        No kidding. Why exactly is this guy “valued”? Is he a millionaire, singlehandedly keeping the place afloat? That’s a lot of wine tasting.

    4. anonhere*

      So I actually work in a tasting room, although for hard liquor, my GM has five daughters and if we told him this was happening, he would shut this guy down REAL fast. I think he would probably discreetly observe the guy at first and make sure we were protected, but if the guy crossed the line, he would tell the guy to his face that he was creeping out his staff and knock it off or tell him he wasn’t welcome back, high value loyal customer or not. He would absolutely have our back and always has. We pride ourselves on hospitality and being friendly and welcoming, and part of being a bartender (particularly when alcohol is involved) is knowing how to shut the jerks and creeps down. But if subtle doesn’t work, it sure helps to have reinforcement. Our GM is big and burly and the nicest and most gracious guy ever, except he can be intimidating when he wants to be. I don’t know – I’m sure there is a corporate-y way to handle, but I work for a family business (not mine) in the south, and the truth is I would just sic my manager on him and feel pretty good about that. And if any male employee said to us that we should put up with it, my GM would set him straight too. I feel like 98% of the men I work with are amazing and look out for us. Say what you want about small family businesses, and nothing is perfect, but they tend to hire people they know, like, and trust and then have your back without having to go through the usual corporate/HR/bureaucratic route. And if the customer left us a bad review for that, I know the GM would respond right back under his own name saying exactly why he was not welcome at our establishment.

      1. Anon for Today*

        I’m glad you feel supported by your GM, but it’s really sad that men need to have daughters of their own to see that harassment of women is wrong.

        1. anonhere*

          I get what you are saying and fully agree with that. I do have some other male managers without children who would also stand up for any of us and have. It’s been a rough year in the hospitality industry. We also have female owners that I know would have our backs. And we also have some pretty kickass female uniformed officers on site that could take him down. There’s just something about a big, burly, offensive lineman kind of guy that the Barts actually listen to more than anyone else, as sad as that is.

      2. CountryLass*

        I used to be a bartender at 19yrs old, and had to come back in one night as I think I was blocked in or something? Can’t remember that far back in the mists of time…

        Anyway, one of the regulars was a bit drunk, and kept crowding me, even when I backed off and ended up cornered. I kept telling him to back off, and pushed against his chest, but he wouldn’t move. My manager stood there and watched… So I punched the regular in the throat, stepped over him on the floor and walked out. Came back the next day to hand in my notice. Not usually the type to violence, but when the person who is supposed to protect me doesn’t I will do what I have to to protect myself. My dad came in the next shift, still in his police uniform (off-duty obviously) and sat in my area…

    5. John Smith*

      Where it went wrong for me is taking what the customer has said as given:

      “The employee should not have shouted at him”.

      Apologies if I’ve got this wrong, but you’re assuming that what this customer has said is true. You’ve automatically decided that you’re employees are not giving good customer service. You’ve automatically decided that “the customer is always right” is literally true (I shopped at your place last week and had a million dollars stolen off me by your staff. Hand it back, please).

      Mr Customer should have been shown the door and told never to cross it again.
      And a few glasses of those wines (or alternatives) given to your employees for having to put up with him.

      1. Anon for Today*

        It’s possible the employee wasn’t even shouting. I speak loudly when I’m wearing a mask because I’m sick to death of repeating myself.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I don’t agree with this. Outside the rest of the mess happening in this letter, if a customer calls and says he’s mad because employees shouted at him then agreeing no one should shout at him is pretty much just baseline customer service. I mean you don’t even have to believe it’s true to say a small placating sentence like that. What comes next would differ after you talk to your staff and get their side of the story–which is exactly what OP did. I think that phone call was handled very well, but now that OP has gotten the rest of the details filled in she can retract the invitation to reinstate his membership (if her boss will back her up on it).

      3. Paulina*

        I wondered about this too — did he threaten to resign his membership and play up his descriptions of how the staff has been treating him in order to get OP to tell the staff to be nicer to him? Sadly it wouldn’t be an unusual abuse of power by a creep.

  1. Kaiko*

    Definitely. Ban the creep, and educate that make colleague. Service industry folks deal with this way too much.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      “I have no problem with the customer who never sexually harasses me but who does sexually harass my female colleagues.”

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        In related news, my local paper recently had a local op-ed by an older white guy who couldn’t understand why Blacks seemed to always have trouble with cops, who were always polite to him.

        1. Alice*

          I was talking with some female colleagues about being asked if we had children or planned to have children (illegal but some companies here will do that because they don’t want to pay for maternity leave), and a male colleague felt the need to chime in and say it couldn’t possibly happen because no interviewer had ever asked *him*…

          1. TiffIf*

            A few years ago now my company published some gender wage gap data internally (promising more information and follow-up which I have never seen) in which it showed that women were fairly systematically being underpaid. One of the guys in my department commented saying that can’t be right, his starting salary was right in the middle of that range, it wasn’t low at all. ::face-palm::

          2. BubbleTea*

            I was once in a discussion about birth control where the only person present who did not have a uterus was absolutely adamant that doctors conducted thorough medical examinations before prescribing the pill. He would. not. listen to the dozen people who had actually been prescribed the pill telling him that he was wrong.

            1. Queer Earthling*

              Online pharmacies who can prescribe the pill without ever meeting the individual in question must absolutely blow this guy’s mind.

              1. KayDeeAye*

                A friend of mine once got into a discussion with a particularly hidebound male coworker about whether health insurance should pay for birth control. As part of this national (and riDICulous) debate, a woman had testified in Congress or someplace about how much her birth control pills cost her. And it was a lot because for various perfectly legitimate medical reasons she needed to use a fairly expensive product.

                So in the discussion that my friend had with Mr. Let’sRollBackTheMoralityTo1897, he kept saying, over and over again, “If she spends that much on birth control, she must have a lot of sex!” He seemed to think this argument was some sort of clincher. It never apparently occurred to him that when you take birth control pills, you have to take them whether you have sex once/year or once/hour.

                And he therefore presumably didn’t realize that what this argument actually did was make him sound like a smug, sanctimonious, ignorant twit.

                1. Lecturer*

                  In England we have the NHS. Some idiots were moaning about contraception being free and the rest of us pointed out how much it would cost the state to provide for a baby up until adulthood! Some people are just plain dumb.

            2. Nic*

              My doctor didn’t even bother to talk to me about the fact that the pill can cause weight gain (via mucking around with your brain’s “full” signal) and isn’t recommended as a first option for people who’ve previously had weight/food issues (which I’d had). I was heading for university so obviously I needed to be on contraception, even though I’d gone to talk to her about dysmenorrhea and there are other options for that. Doctors sometimes have…interesting priorities.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                One of the reasons my doctor switched me to the IED (which didn’t work, so I ended up going back on the progestin pill anyways) was that the medication I take to control my endometriosis doesn’t function as effectively as other forms of contraception. Never mind that the medication was working well on me without severe side-effects and was a reasonably safe choice for my medical history.

                1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

                  I mean an IED would DEFINITELY prevent implantation! Thanks for the chuckle. :)

              2. AnonEMoose*

                Yes, yes, they do. All of this, and the way that they will try to preserve a woman’s ability to bear children over almost every other consideration – her health, her quality of life, etc., and no matter what the woman herself says about it, because “What if you/your husband want children/more children???!!!”

                They refuse hysterectomies even to women who are experiencing severe problems that a hysterectomy would fix. They refuse to prescribe medication that could really help because of a risk of birth defects or miscarriage. They refuse sterilization if the woman asking doesn’t meet whatever criteria they’ve made up in their heads. And one of their so-called arguments seems, too often, to be: “But what if you meet the right man, and he wants children?” (Then he’s not the right man, genius!)

                It’s absolutely infuriating!

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  I still clearly remember the 20 different forms that I had to sign to get my tubal ligation during C-Section two. It was over a period of three months, my dr deeply agreed with me that this was the best medical option for me with regards to birth control (I’ve failed both IUD’s and hormonal pills). All that paperwork is because of the state that I lived in at the time, and the ridiculous legislators who wanted me to be “fully and completely informed about the consequences of the medical decision I was making.”

                  (No hubby wasn’t put thru all that rigamarole during his one consult with the male dr to consult about a vasectomy before we realized I was going to be a repeat c-section.)

                2. Anon for Today*

                  My mom was refused a hysterectomy because of severe fibroids because she may still want children. She was 55 years old.

                3. Magenta*

                  I have a chronic condition that flares up and leaves me in agony, run down and pretty much unable to function. Since I hit my 20s various doctors have refused to prescribe a drug I know works because it can cause birth defects if you conceive within a year of ending it. It didn’t matter how much I pushed, assured them I had no plans for a child and could wait a year if I did they refused because my status as a potential incubator was more important than my wellbeing.

                  Funnily enough I was offered it last year when I was 38, I refused because I had plans to try for a baby. I’m currently pregnant with my first baby. Its almost as if I know my own mind and am capable of making plans and weighing up the options.

                4. aka Fred*

                  Fertility. Ugh. Just trying to get my tubes tied so I could go off BC with side effects at 28 was a nightmare. I had an 8 y/o and was ABSOLUTELY sure I was not going to be starting over from scratch. Many convos had to happen before I got what I wanted.

              3. Autumnheart*

                I didn’t realize for years how insanely, crazily hungry a certain formulation of BC made me. I didn’t have that issue with Ortho-Cyclen (monophasic) but a generic of Tri-Leven just sent it off the charts. I seriously thought about food every minute of the day. It wasn’t until I went off BC and onto a regular HRT (PremPro) that the hunger went away like turning off a switch. But I still had–have–to unlearn years of eating habits that I picked up on the Pill.

                I figured it was just me being a glutton and needing to bone up on my willpower. Nope. It was the drug. I don’t think it’s even due to a particular brand or formulation. It was simply how that formulation affected my body chemistry.

          3. Siege*

            I was in a Twitter thread over the weekend where women were sharing their experiences of being harassed in public as children, and a number of men were surprised to learn that there is a totally normal experience out there that they don’t have. They were also surprised to learn that to a woman, reporting either did nothing at all or caused harassment from the person they reported to, so we don’t bother reporting this kind of thing. They have never been harassed, nor harassed by cops, so clearly it doesn’t happen.

            1. Mimi Me*

              OMG yes! I was actually present for the first time a grown man flirted with my then 10 year old daughter. The man was older than me and actually tried to put his arm around my child. I didn’t make a full on scene (though I was tempted) but I did put the guy in his place real quick and got my kid out of there. That night I was telling my husband and he was horrified that this was a thing that happened. “That shouldn’t happen. She’s so little” was his response over and over. I was like, Yeah, it shouldn’t happen, but it does. All the damn time.

              1. Campfire Raccoon*

                Or random old men who want to hug/get a kiss from my 6 yo. Barf.

                We’re working on her understanding body autonomy, because yuck.

            2. No Longer Looking*

              “nor harassed by cops” – Really? I thought everyone got harassed by cops. I’m white/male and was semi-regularly harassed by cops from the time I got my license at 16 until sometime in my late 20s. Maybe it’s just a Chicago thing.

              1. Allison K*

                Some of it is absolutely Chicago! As a hot 19-yo in college in Chicago I was completely astonished at how angry and hostile the police were compared to the many other places I’d received speeding and parking tickets.

              2. Blackcat*

                The only city that I (pasty white petite woman) have ever been treated poorly by cops in is Chicago. A cop yelled at me while I was crossing the street with a walk signal to “hurry your pretty a** along or I’ll have to spank you.” He laughed loudly as I ran away.
                I am lucky that that is the only time a cop has ever threatened me. It was in broad daylight. I knew it was a “joke.” But holy f*** it was terrifying.
                People I’ve told about this either A) don’t believe me and have never been to Chicago or B) come back with their own story of being threatened by a Chicago cop.
                White privilege goes a long way, but Chicago cops are a whole other beast. I have zero doubt they are far worse to people–particularly women–of color than they are to white people.
                But yes, I will say that my normal white lady experience is generally being treated well/kindly by cops.

          4. meyer lemon*

            I went to a “women in engineering” meeting at a previous job (where all of the women working in the 500+ person building could fit around one small table–but I digress). Most of the meeting was taken up with fruitless attempts to educate one male manager who kept insisting that he would never show bias against a female job candidate, and didn’t believe that anyone else would either.

            1. Nesprin*

              Ah yes. I’ve worked with like that guy like 7 times as well.

              Am currently telling anyone who will listen that has gone to as many women as men named Thomas. And yet, our (white, cishet male) director of diversity in engineering celebrates how well we’re doing.

              1. Nesprin*

                edit due to bits in angled brackets being deleted

                Am currently telling anyone who will listen that (exciting opportunity) has gone to as many women as men named Thomas. And yet, our (white, cishet male) director of diversity in engineering celebrates how well we’re doing.

            2. Stephanie*

              Oh, yes. My daughter went to a “Women in Physics” conference a couple of years ago as a college physics major. She was one of maybe a handful of women in the program at her school, but her friends–all men, of course–asked her why there needed to be a conference for women in physics.
              She waited a beat and said “Look around you. I’m the only woman here.” (They were studying together at the time.)
              Sigh. Male pattern blindness, I like to call it.

              1. PhysicsProf*

                Yay for WiP conferences! In grad school, my department sent me to several to recruit for our program. One year they sent me and my baby. On one hand, I was able to say all the ways they were supportive of me (I had a truly wonderful time in grad school). On the other hand, I was very obviously not on maternity leave with a quite young infant… (they did work hard to get me on flexible funding the semester I had my kid, the university did not allow funded maternity leave so their hands were tied).
                Anyways, I loved it! For so many undergrads, they were the only female physics major in their cohort at their colleges and it was their first time being around many other female physics students. I was really lucky to have a wonderful community of female peers in my undergrad physics major, and it makes me sad how many young women don’t have it. Those conferences are also great for talking about how to deal with many things, including “male pattern blindness.”

            3. londonedit*

              Oh yeah, I did a Leadership in Running Fitness course a few years ago (which qualifies/insures you to lead group running fitness sessions via UK Athletics) and one of the group discussions was around the barriers different groups may face to taking part in a running session, particularly the fact that women feel far less confident exercising in public than men do. One guy was adamant there weren’t any barriers at all, and if women wanted to run they should just go out and do it. The rest of the group were trying to explain the impact of things like street harassment/difficulties with childcare/body shaming/religious constraints/needing to feel part of an inclusive group, but no, this bloke was all ‘That’s stupid. If I want to go for a run, I just put my shoes on and go for a run. Simple as that’.

          5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            That is so blissfully unaware… I bet that guy sleeps well at night, since he sees nothing wrong with the world!

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          It’s not a problem for ME so, ipso facto whatevero, it’s not a problem for anyone else.

        3. lawschoolreject*

          I understand the sentiment of your response to this post, however, the use of the term “Blacks” is outdated and offensive. Maybe in the future opt for “Black People.”

          1. Rachel*

            I took it as the editorial-writer used that language, not the poster here – but good call on the alternate phrasing.

          2. Gimble*

            I got the impression the commenter was using that term because the newspaper-letter-writer used it, to help illustrate how out of touch he was.

      2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Sadly, in my experience, it often really boils down to “I have no problem with customer who doesn’t sexually harass me, but does sexually harass my colleagues.”

        I see female coworkers say “he’s harmless” or “he never bothers me” far too often when other female coworkers are complaining to them, and the (admittedly far fewer) times when I’ve dealt with sexual harassment directed at me as a male-presenting professional, I’ve also been told “oh, well, you have to smile and deal with it” or “you should be flattered.”

        If we could all be a bit better about listening and acting on what our colleagues tell us, and a bit less ready to dismiss things because they don’t impact us personally, it would go a long way to making a better world.

        1. Tuckerman*

          Yes, good point. And sometimes people experience the same treatment, but see it as a professional accomplishment to be able to tolerate it “better” than a co-worker.

          1. Mimi Me*

            My mother is one of those people. She’s an old school “the customer is always right” and the employee just needs to deal with it and smile kind of person. She’ll put up with all kinds of abuse as an employee and dishes out all kinds of abuse as a customer. It’s awful.

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        Guys who believe that working women should have to put up with harassment as part of the ‘price’ of their career don’t actually believe women should work. Much in the same way, guys who believe that women should have to put up with catcalling for walking down the street don’t actually believe that women should be able to walk down the street without a chaperone.

        1. Another health care worker*

          Very true. A male chaperone, specifically. You need a father or husband to signal that it’s not open season.

        2. Starbuck*

          That, or they’re just lazy and don’t want to put the effort in (or deal with the guilt of not acting) to solve a problem. If you can just blame the victim or deny the issue exists, there’s nothing that you need to do differently or care about.

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            Exactly this. Very similar to how too many white people blame Black people for getting harassed by police, because it’s too much emotional labor to re-examine one’s beliefs about race and policing.

      4. Chinook*

        But he didn’t say that. The male colleague said it was part of the job (“They’re professionals. They need to put that aside and serve him”), which makes me think that he too has had to put up with harrassment, only the ones doing it to him are less physically threatening even if they do make him just as uncomfortable. In fact, I would not be surprised if he has been drunkenly groped by a customer or two and has felt like he had to put up with it.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Over on the Tales From Your Server reddit, every time a post goes up lamenting a recent harassy encounter, there’s at least one poor bloke in the comments who has only just realised that a) it’s happened to him, b) it was wrong and should never have happened to him and/or c) he shouldn’t have to put up with it any more than women should. Usually with the accompanying sense that they were very uncomfortable with it all along but thought they had to suck it up.
          Usually these men are very sympathetic to women’s stories though, so I think he’d have to be at least somewhat bitter to be having that reaction if this was the case…

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes definitely. It’s amazing how easy it is to feel safe and be blissfully ignorant if you’re not the demographic being targeted. One of my former colleagues (Joe) worked with a chap who was convicted of a series of murders. Joe didn’t have a clue until the chap was nicked because he didn’t fit the victim profile. The office just thought the killer was a bit taciturn, somewhat annoying and kept to himself but it was only when he got nicked that they found out what he got up to at weekends. Nobody he worked with could believe what was emerging.

        It’s easy to tell yourself something isn’t happening because it’s not affecting you.

    2. A Library Person*

      And also consider giving employees (especially those who do front-line customer service) the ability to kick customers out or a very clear and open reporting line for immediate remediation, as well as a publicly posted statement that your winery will NOT tolerate this type of behavior from customers.

      IIRC we had a letter or comment here recently about a medical office that allowed the receptionists to “fire” patients who violated their rules of conduct.

    3. Quinalla*

      Service industry employees do have to deal with this BS way, way too much. Do whatever you can here to support them and definitely educate the male employee. There are still a lot of people who have this attitude even post #metoo that harassment is no big deal. It is a big deal and should be treated as such.

      It has gotten better overall on this issue in the almost 20 years I’ve been working, it really has, but it is still an issue and generally still much worse for service employees.

    4. Hey Nonnie*

      Also: when banning, don’t JUST say “you made the staff uncomfortable.” Say “you behaved inappropriately and made the staff uncomfortable.”

      One allows him to tell himself (and you, and anyone who will listen) that your staff are just “too emotional” and it is therefore their problem, not his. (cf. your male colleague.)

      The second makes it explicit that you know it is a HIM problem. It will be harder (not that he won’t try) for him to argue that it’s not his fault. And when reputation matters, you want the story to be “we stood up for our staff against inappropriate guests,” not “our staff was rude to a customer and got away with it.”

    1. AndersonDarling*

      And when Mr. Creep says that he would rather have one of the pretty ladies serving him, then it’s a great opportunity to tell him that the women have chosen not to be near him due to his past behavior.

      1. irene adler*

        Except that won’t have the impact it should. Unfortunately.
        He’d insist that THEY misunderstood his words/actions, or he’s not “like that” or whatever.

        1. londonedit*

          ‘Oh come on! Can’t they take a compliment? It’s just a bit of a laugh, they shouldn’t be so stuck-up!’

          Eye roll.

          1. irene adler*

            Yep! You nailed it exactly!
            That should be reason enough to immediately escort the guy to the door. And ban him from ever returning. And if it wasn’t so costly, empty a bottle over his head!

            1. Rosa Diaz*

              ‘Oh come on! Can’t you take a compliment? It’s just a bit of a laugh, you shouldn’t be so stuck-up!’ is exactly what my ex-husband (of 10 years) said to me after I told him to stop saying inappropriate things to me. Some guys really think they’re god’s gift.

          2. Carol the happy elf*

            It amazes me how the creeper who bothered me 23 years ago (moved back last year due to Covid, and lives in his late grandmother’s home) leaves me alone now. Hooray for crows feet! But he bothers my 30-yr-old colleague who looks like a highschooler….
            And she thanked me (and the great women and men we work with) last month for having her back. Go figure.
            You’d think that with all the security cameras around these days, the creeper brain might develop a bit if crushing fear, since it’s not evolved enough for respect or moral intelligence.

          3. Rainy*

            Being sexually harassed at work is so bad. Everyone tells you to suck it up, some of it is grotesquely, horribly traumatizing, and if you don’t smile and take it you’ll be fired. Imagine a world where there are creeps who just can’t go…anywhere anymore. Wouldn’t that be glorious?

        2. Collarbone High*

          I’d also take “she shouted at me” with a Costco-sized bottle of grains of salt. For guys like this, “shouted at” often means “said a thing I didn’t want to hear” and/or “spoke to me as an equal when I wanted flirty and fawning.”

          1. ella*

            Came here to say this. If one of the floor staff had literally shouted at Bartholemew, OP would have heard about it before the guy called, because employees shouting at customers (especially in an environment like a winery, which I imagine is generally fairly low-key and calm?) is a big effing deal.

            Inserting “he felt” can be useful. “He felt like she shouted at him.” “She felt attacked by the employee’s refusal to accept the merchandise for return.” It gives the customers the benefit of the doubt that they’re stating what for them is an emotional truth, even if it is not an accurate representation of what happened.

            1. Sharrbe*

              When I was working retail long ago, I had to deny a customer a return because the item was clearly used. She then complained later to my manager that I was laughing at her as she was leaving the store. I absolutely didn’t and wouldn’t. The only thing I might have done is smile at the next customer who I was helping and she misinterpreted that as me laughing at her. Some people are going to see what they want to see.

              1. Mad Harry Crewe*

                Yup. A woman left a negative yelp review about me when I worked as a retail clerk. She knocked some display over and I helped pick it up. Her complaint? That when I was checking her out and said “Anything else I can help you with today?” (my bog standard checking-out-customers line) that I was being sarcastic and pissy about the mess.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I’m guessing “she shouted at me” means “she asked me politely and professionally approximately 37 times and I ignored her, so she had to become more insistent.”

        3. Coyote Tango*

          Guys like this always make sure that they have credible cover stories. They never say anything that can be interpreted as outright harassment, absent of context, so that they can always show themselves to be innocent. It’s the most infuriating thing.

          1. Lecturer*

            At first. Then once they get away with it they escalate. Look at Bart, he had a reputation at another winery and it seems they banned him. He just moved onto the next one. If we think about someone like this they could have been doing this their whole lives. They could easily have over 100 victims.

            1. ginger ale for all*

              Seems like the wineries need to get a group together and see if they have any other common problems like Bart. Advance notice of problems and knowing what solutions have worked for others may prove to be helpful.

              1. Lecturer*

                The fact that they don’t have a sexual harassment policy in place is disgusting. Nearly every single woman will be sexually harassed. It shouldn’t come as a shock for a workplace.

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Yeah, if I was OP, I’d be *very* interested in what happened at the other winery.

        4. TiredMama*

          This is so true. From the description, it reads like he knows exactly what he is doing – nothing so overt as hands on ass but enough sexual innuendo and looks that you feel like he did. Yet because it was not so clear cut he can feign ignorance or “her” mistaking his intent. I hate this so much.

        5. JM60*

          He probably thinks that being subjected to his sexual overtures is part of their job.

      2. Ground Control*

        I’d avoid doing anything that would make him angry at the women or feel like he needs to explain himself to them!

    2. Myrin*

      OP says “We do not have any male employees who I could otherwise assign to the customer.” – I assumed that meant that Ignorant Coworker doesn’t work on the floor/with customers at all but rather is someone like an accountant or similar.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I think I’d find a way to cross train him. (My alarm bell for nonsense is set very low today, sorry everyone!)

        1. Myrin*

          I feel like if that were an option, OP wouldn’t have specifically mentioned the lack of male coworkers she could have serve Bartholomew.
          (And I’m also now considering Person from the Resume’s point below that indeed, this colleague might be a “colleague” in the wider sense of his simply also being someone in the wine industry who isn’t even working directly with OP.)

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. No matter what this guy’s normal job is, I’d train him to do a tasting. And every time Bart showed up, I’d tell this dude that since he’s the only one professional enough, he gets to do a tasting.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            “I’m the only one in this room professional enough to handle this!”

            *shoots self in foot*

            (Anybody else remember that from back in the day?)

        3. PollyQ*

          If you were hired to be say, an accountant, and your employer insisted that you be cross-trained on customer service and then be expected to take on that task from time to time, how long would you stay? It sounds like everyone needs to be educated on what sexual harassment is and what to do when they experience from customers, but forcing someone to take on a different job role because they lack understanding is no kind of solution.

          1. Nia*

            If it causes him to quit they can replace him with someone who isn’t a terrible person. Honestly it’s the best case scenario if they aren’t willing to fire him.

            1. PollyQ*

              You want to fire someone for having a bad opinion/wrong knowledge, even though he did nothing at all wrong himself? Note that the women employees basically shared this understanding, and that OP wrote in for help because she wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was either. This is not a case for any kind of punishment, it’s on opportunity for education.

              1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

                I wouldn’t fire him without giving him the chance to learn and correct his behavior, but yeah, he did do something wrong: saying that sexual harassment from customers is an acceptable part of doing business, and that it’s somehow unprofessional to wish to not be harassed, is wrong and harmful.

            2. Jenny*

              That’s a really unfair statement to make.

              His job is to be an accountant (or whatever it is) – I’m sure there’s been countless letter written in already about how people were upset due to their position/job description being vastly different/straying away from what they were originally had signed up for. Would I step in whenever possible to help them? Absolutely. But being labeled a “terrible person” because I want to also remember my own personal safety and why I’m working there.

              However, I will say that I’m a little shocked that this was common knowledge between the staff and none of them clued in the director about this before this phone call happened. Let’s not gloss over the fact that they also allowed this behavior to continue towards a guest.

              1. Queer Earthling*

                However, I will say that I’m a little shocked that this was common knowledge between the staff and none of them clued in the director about this before this phone call happened. Let’s not gloss over the fact that they also allowed this behavior to continue towards a guest.

                Sexual harassment and abuse messes with your head and makes you feel isolated, and it is not easy to break out of that and to report it to whoever. And, there’s a good chance that if they had mentioned it, they’d have heard, “Well, you need to be professional”–you know, like the dude in the post seemed to think was an appropriate answer? Claiming that people who were being victimized “allowed” it to happen is unkind at best. Yes, it would have been good if someone had spoken up, but it’s understandable that they didn’t, and compassion is, you know, a thing.

                1. Ms Frizzle*

                  It’s so easy to start second-guessing yourself, especially when it’s this kind of low-level creepy behavior. I haven’t encountered it at work—not a high risk in elementary schools, fortunately—but I’m in a social dance community where most men are great and some are creepy. It’s amazing how hard it is to tell when behavior is over the line vs you “overreacting.” There are a few things that I look back on and wish that I had reported, but at the time it was easy to convince myself that it wasn’t really harassment. I don’t blame any of the employees for being reluctant to report this kind of subtly creepy behavior, I don’t think I would either.

                2. Distracted Librarian*

                  Most of us learn young that complaining to authorities about sexual harassment (or even sexual assault) does no good and may harm us. So all of us in positions of authority are obligated to foster an environment where those we manage can feel safe raising these kinds of issues with us. And if they still don’t raise those issues, it’s not their fault. Years of conditioning are hard to undo.

                3. anonhere*

                  Also, when you are working in a tasting room, your hourly wage is extremely low and you are making your salary in tips. It’s your livelihood. So there is a tendency to put the smile on, be charming, ignore the creeps, and keep it moving.

              2. Le Sigh*

                I don’t think anyone was calling him terrible if he wasn’t willing to cross-train. I think they were saying if they decided to quit after being pushed to cross-train, it wouldn’t be a big loss, because their terrible attitude is contributing to this problem.

                I’m also not the least bit shocked that it was common knowledge but not reported. Every time I’ve encountered something like this, esp. in customer service, it was because a) management had demonstrated (through action, subtle cues, clear statements, whatever) that if they reported it, they’d be told to deal with it, they wouldn’t be supported, or they’d even be retaliated against or b) management hadn’t done enough to make clear the procedures to handle this, and to empower the team to address/report it.

                It sounds maybe like the latter is going on with OP. I’d be wiling to bet this staff has worked in other wineries or customer service jobs where people were punished or left without support when this happened and maybe they just assumed that was the case here. If you want people to report it, you need to be proactive and make clear as manager that you’re here for them and will back them up — otherwise, they’ll probably assume based on experience and a need for job security they just have to put up with it like they have in so many other jobs.

                1. jenny*

                  If I am in accounting, I don’t want to cross-train to do wine tasting. (Would never tell someone to ‘just deal with’ sexual harassment)

                2. Le Sigh*

                  I’m sure the male colleague isn’t up for the cross-training and that’s fine, because it’s not really the point of any of this or the reason he’s terrible. But commenters aren’t feeling super charitable toward him, because people like the male colleague have been enabling the Barts of the world since the dawn of time and frankly, I’m over it! The manager needs to deal with him, train him, whatever is required as a manager to set him right — but as a commenter I don’t have a lot of grace to extend him in this situation.

          2. EmKay*

            Male colleague definitely knows what sexual harassment is. He DGAF because he’s not the one harassed.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Yeah; there’s no men to serve the creep so that’s not an option.

        I got the impression that male colleague is/was a trusted friend in the wine industry at another winery and not even working at the same place as the LW.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        He isn’t Ignorant Coworker. He is Ignorant Colleague. My guess is that he has a similar role to the OP’s, but with a different outfit.

    3. pancakes*

      He’s almost certainly not visiting the winery with indifference to whether he’s served by men or women, but because he enjoys drinking in the company of women who can’t just leave when he starts pestering them.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Is it normal for a winery to only have women in this role? Or is that specifically why he comes here – because all of the staff who have to interact with him are women?

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t know whether it’s common or not, but it certainly sounds like the public-facing staff at this winery is mostly women. “We do not have any male employees who I could otherwise assign to the customer.”

        2. Autistic AF*

          Women are more likely to work in hospitality in general, so it doesn’t seem unlikely that servers at a winery would be female.

        3. willow for now*

          I’ve been to wine tastings at about 10 wineries and have been served by men as well as women.

        4. EmKay*

          This position is:
          1. Public facing
          2. In the service industry

          Naturally it’s full of women. I’d be surprised if it weren’t, tbh.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Don’t do this: Bartholomew will butter the guy up and then he really won’t have his female coworkers’ backs. He already thinks this isn’t a big deal–don’t make it a Just Between Us Guys situation.

    5. Esmeralda*

      Sounds like male colleague doesn’t work at the same winery — OP says ” We do not have any male employees who I could otherwise assign to the customer.”

      1. Nea*

        Speaking of not the same winery, I’d love to know what New Worker’s last winery did about ol’ Bart. Because if he has a history of being banned, that gives OP a stronger argument to say he needs to be banned here too.

        1. ginger ale for all*

          A library in our region had a problem patron whose behavior was so egregious (involved the police several times) that they sent out an e-mail to the other area libraries that listed the newly banned patrons name, behavior, security footage, and mugshot to give everyone a heads up about what they might encounter. Sure enough, the guy was a problem in other libraries.

            1. Liane*

              Apparently, library employees are often targets. I’ve read comments by librarians on this site, and Not Always Right, about patrons being creepy to library staff. I also know that at library branches in my old city, the entire closing staff (professionals, pages, volunteers) ALL leave together, and was explicitly told by some employees that this was done because a group was less likely to be confronted by a creep or criminal.

              1. SweetFancyPancakes*

                Yep, that’s exactly why that’s the procedure in every library I’ve worked. There is a certain contingent that apparently thinks librarians come to work specifically to hang out with them, and not that we are really only there every day because it’s our job.

            2. Library Lady*

              You’d be surprised at the frequency that library employees encounter egregious behavior from patrons. Sadly, I am not surprised in the slightest by ginger ale for all’s story – I’ve worked in front-facing public library positions for almost 10 years, and I have so many personal incidents of patrons being creepy that I can’t even remember them all. I’m honestly more surprised that the library banned the patron and contacted other libraries to warn them, because there are still so many library administrators that believe putting up with this type of behavior is just one of the hazards you’re expected to deal with if you interact with the public.

          1. Melody Gloucester Pegasus*

            When I saw the title of this letter I immediately thought of a library patron in my area who went before the town board a few years back to complain about staff at one of the branches disrespecting him (i.e. not treating him with the fawning deference to which he was apparently entitled). I don’t think he got the reaction he was hoping for. When the pandemic hit, he became an anti-masker and was so verbally abusive over the phone that an email went out warning people not to pick up if they saw his name on caller ID.

        2. JustaTech*

          Exactly. This sounds like an excellent time to drop by a couple of other wineries in the area for a “casual chat” to see if other places (and specifically the women at the other places) have had problems with Bart.

          I would hope that places that serve alcohol have better ability to remove problem customers than, say, your average retail establishment, but from personal experience, wineries seem to have a harder time getting that one person to leave than your average city bar. (My dad has had to play pseudo-bouncer at his favorite vineyard, and he’s just a customer!)

    6. ooono*

      This is what I would do. He’ll quit coming on his own without the possible social media blowback of firing his sorry ass.

    7. KittenLittle*

      Seems like he was harassing a female guest, too. No one wants to frequent an establishment with a creepy customer!

      1. HappySnoopy*

        Yes, I caught this too. The employees’ harassment is outrageous enough. Then showing another guest his “scars” in a place that an employee was startled to find them?!

    8. pleaset cheap rolls*

      But the male colleague will be treated fine, and use that as evidence that the women are overreacting. And it undermines the women’s overall job performance.

    9. meyer lemon*

      My read was that this guy has a similar role to the LW but at a different winery, and she was asking him if he had dealt with a similar problem before.

    10. A Library Person*

      I don’t think this would actually help. Assuming this is plausible (which it may not be, see many comments below re: ignorant dude’s job/relationship to the winery), Bartholomew gets Special Treatment and ignorant dude gets to laugh with him about how the women are just sooooo sensitive, because Bartholomew is always so good to him. And the female employees are still going to be in the space and still could be subjected to his behavior/remarks.

      Bartholomew has shown a repeated pattern of behavior; he is the problem, and the only solution is for him to go.

  2. Le Sigh*

    Honestly the person I hate most here is the male colleague. The Bartholomews of the world are enabled by people like him and it makes this problem so much worse.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Agreed. Male Colleague needs some learning and Creepy Bartholomew needs to be banned, and from more than one winery.

    2. Elbe*

      I don’t know if I dislike the male colleague the most, exactly, but I agree with your main point.

      It really shows a lack of empathy that this guy can’t understand how being treated this way at work would cross a line. It’s not simply “annoying” or “uncomfortable” like other aspects of customer service.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Men like this see it as part of the package that having a pleasant wine-tasting experience includes pretty women with whom they can flirt (read: inappropriately sexualize) without consequence.

        Naturally, men like this think that consequences for flirting (inappropriately sexualizing) are unreasonable and unfair.

    3. Boof*

      I understand what you are saying but I think we should keep the brunt of the blame on the person who is actually doing the bad thing. Too easy to get into enabling and victim blaming “but you could have done ____” when the fault is first and foremost on the aggressor.

      1. Idril Celebrindal*

        But it’s not victim blaming because the male colleague isn’t a victim. He is an enabler. He is doing a bad thing by defending Creepy Bartholomew and he is doing a bad thing by blaming the victims (i.e. his female colleagues).

        Enablers and defenders of abuse are how abusers get away with their behavior, he is a direct example of the attitude and social pressure that gives abusers their power, and he is part of the problem.

        1. Foof*

          I didn’t say he was a victim i said displacing the blunt of blame away from the actual offender to people leads to such toxic behavior. Not trying to imply male colleague isn’t handling it wrong (he is) just that he isn’t “worse than” the actual creeper.

          1. Le Sigh*

            “I didn’t say he was a victim i said displacing the blunt of blame away from the actual offender to people leads to such toxic behavior.”

            What does this mean?

          2. Idril Celebrindal*

            There are two actual offenders here, and you can decide one is worse than the other, but that doesn’t make the opposite position wrong. Enablers are just as guilty for perpetuating this system as the harassers, just in different ways.

            If that makes you uncomfortable, it might be a good idea to sit with the idea and figure out where the discomfort comes from, because discomfort with the truth doesn’t make it less true, it just makes it harder for you to see it.

    4. Pickled Limes*

      Yeah, the male colleague here reminds me of the letter from the guy whose friend got fired for relentlessly sexually harassing a coworker and was mad that the harassment survivor was relieved about it.

      The Bartholomews of the world don’t feel like they need to change their behavior because of bros like this guy who will never hold them responsible.

  3. MechE*

    What the heck does being former military have to do with any of his behavior or displaying his scar?

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Context as to why the scar would have come up in conversation, I’d imagine? (It does NOT give him a reason to be showing it off, that’s just….a lot. Nor does it give permission to be an arsehole, which he’s being.)

    2. Laun*

      It doesn’t. It’s not normal or acceptable to harass women or show people parts of your body that are ordinarily covered in polite company. Being a veteran doesn’t change that calculus. Please don’t (1) make excuses for veterans or (2) attribute this behavior to veteran status.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It was context – “I served in ‘Nam, look at this scar!” – but it’s ultimately no different than if he were showing off a stab wound from a bar fight or a surgical scar. It’s not an excuse and it’s not acceptable, it’s simply context.

        1. Amaranth*

          I took it to mean he was showing it as a way to boast about being in the military and ‘seeing action’ rather than it being a conversation where he was showing a surgical scar to someone who was worried about their own upcoming procedure. Not essential to the OP’s story but underscores Bartholemew’s lack of boundaries.

      2. Myrin*

        I’m pretty sure OP only added that part because otherwise, commenters would be all “Huh? Why would he show anyone a scar?” and she wanted to prevent that. I don’t know that it was necessary to actually add this part because now we’ll just have a lot of derailing comments about this information instead but I’m fairly certain that’s where OP came from.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Also it shows that his behavior is directed not just to staff but to other patrons of the business. So the winery could lose money due to his behavior. (Which should be shut down no matter what, but the owner might be more swayed by the bottom line than just by human decency.)

          1. Amaranth*

            Good point, I don’t expect someone to flash skin at me at a wine tasting. It would be startling and off-putting, and depending on the person it can leave a subtle feeling of threat, which isn’t at all conducive to a relaxing experience. I don’t know that I’d ask staff to step in but I’d feel so much better about the winery if they did appear to notice and speak to him, or remove him completely.

            1. JustaTech*

              I’ve had or overheard some very strange conversations in tasting rooms (the kind where everyone gets in the car and goes “WTF was that?”), but no one has ever taken their clothes off.

              Something that can add to the awkwardness of this is that often wineries are in remote areas (even an area with a lot of wineries is usually out in the country) which can make it harder for customers to just get up and leave if someone is being a creep. And I’d bet dollars to donuts that ol’ Bart knows that and is taking advantage of it.

    3. JSPA*

      There are people who choose to mistake, “I got this while fighting in the military of my country” for, “I got this on your behalf, and you should therefore want to see it, if I want to show it to you.”

      In case it comes up: even if he sustained wounds that affected his ability to process social norms organically (and this is a thing that can happen), if he’s functional enough to do the other things described by the letter writer, he can also learn (by rote, if need be) the list of accepted social behaviors. And if he says he can’t, then he’s still persona non grata.

      I’d lean hard, in talking to the owner, of Creepy Bart being disinvited from other wineries. There’s a real risk to slowly becoming “about the only place that tolerates creeps.” You don’t want to be that place.

    4. EPLawyer*

      He was SHOWING ANOTHER GUEST – femlae — his scar. Which means bad worth of mouth is already getting around. Don’t go to Winery X, Creepy Bartholomew is now hanging out there. He tried to show Muriel his “scar.”

      Ask your new employee if her old winery banned him. Could by why he moved on to a new one. Or he hits all the wineries hoping to hit on the ladies. But he’s clearly well known in the industry. Time to protect yourselves. he can’t be THAT valuable a client that keeping him is worth losing staff.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I took it to be potential context about why the behavior has been excused or why the owner might be unwilling to ban him.

    6. GS*

      Accurate or not, I’d have a harder time saying a clear no to a former military person because I’d assume there’s more chance of violence if they didn’t like the no. A dude who actively talks about that sort of thing while harassing women hits a specific type in my mind (vs someone who mentions it casually while being respectful).

    7. Lils*

      The statement about Bartholomew’s veteran status, plus the comment about how the employee shouldn’t have shouted, plus how OP is factoring the women’s ages/looks/marital status into her assessment of the situation–this all makes me feel weird. I think OP needs to do some soul-searching about her own assumptions about people who are young, or pretty, or married, or military. It…almost reads as if she’s trying to excuse Bartholomew’s behavior. That can’t be true, and yet–I am not sure I’d feel safe working there.

  4. MechanicalPencil*

    You also have to consider how the women patrons feel. Perhaps that woman was just humoring the scar showing to avoid other issues rather than truly wanting to see it, etc. Barty may be an even bigger problem than you’re aware.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I wouldn’t come back if that happened to me or even if I witnessed it from across the room. I wouldn’t even be thinking about the winery letting that behavior happen or anything like that. There are other places to be entertained, and I’d subconsciously seek out somewhere where I felt safe.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Not only would I never come back, I’d immediately write a 2-star Yelp review critiquing the business for allowing patrons and staff to be harassed in that manner.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Ditto. If I see behaviour like that, that isn’t followed by the perpetrator being tossed out on his ear, then I’m not going to ever enter that place again.

      3. Well...*

        It’s a sad state of affairs when I’d feel safer at a club with actual bouncers than at an upscale winery.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I’ve defiantly stopped going places that had a creep haunting. I didn’t necessarily blame the business, but their fault or not I stopped going because they stopped being a pleasant place to be at.

    3. Save the Hellbender*

      Right! It’s not just bad WOM from harassing staff; he’s harassing customers! Any awful male colleagues who might play “the customer is always right” might be persuaded to ban him by pointing that out

    4. Grey Coder*

      Exactly, while he might prefer to creep on employees who have limited capability to push back, I don’t believe for one instant that he hasn’t been creeping on other customers. Maybe OP can sound out female customers for their experiences? If the boss won’t protect the staff just because it’s the right thing to do, then he might accept “this guy is driving away other customers” as an alternative argument. (I hate that we have to have a backup plan for the boss being a jerk.)

    5. Momma Bear*

      He seems to be a serial creeper since one employee mentioned that he was a problem elsewhere, too. If that is past tense, I have to wonder if the other winery finally got fed up and he reinstated his membership b/c he lost one?

    6. pugsnbourbon*

      A local brewery immediately kicked out and banned a customer after he made a gross comment to a bartender. The guy got snitty on the internet and the story got picked up by the paper. There was an immense outpouring of support for the brewery.

    7. Elbe*

      This is a great point. If his behavior is so well known in the area’s wine community, it’s probably well known among the other patrons as well.

      Guys like this do tend to focus their attentions on people who they know can’t get away or tell them off, like service workers, but I have no doubt that he’s making other people uncomfortable, too.

      1. A Library Person*

        As an AFAB person who is usually perceived as female, I cannot count the number of times I’ve humored creepy dudes with conversation, etc., because I wasn’t sure what would happen if I didn’t, because I didn’t have a good way out, or simply because I felt like I needed to “be nice”.

        1. Scotlib*

          I’m ‘lucky’ in that, aged 17, while waitressing at a wedding, a man slid his hand up my skirt while I was serving vegetables around. I didn’t know what to do, so I ignored it, then mentioned it to other staff in the serving area. A waitress in her 40s said ‘next time, you either say “get yer hand aff ma leg” really loudly, or you drop the food in his lap and say “oh sorry, your hand on my leg made me drop the food” really loudly’. All the other staff laughed and agreed. Upscale hotel in small Scottish town – no sh#t was going to be taken. I felt that I could stand up for myself and say, ‘no, that’s not acceptable ‘, I was given permission by that gallus woman to stand up for myself. I think that if I hadn’t had that modelled to me, then I would not feel so comfortable with shutting down stuff (and I’m a lot more polite and tactful than that lovely woman 30 years ago)

    8. Lacey*

      Absolutely! My husband and I witnessed a woman being hit on in a grocery store. It was clearly unwelcome, but the manager witnessing it waved it off and said, “You just have to excuse with old Mr. Creepums, he’s always doing that”. When we got to the front of the line we said, “Um, we saw what happened and no, no one just has to excuse Mr. Creepums just because he’s ALWAYS been awful” The manager got very defensive and we just said, “If that’s who you want to cater to, we will not be back” – and that’s just a grocery store. I can’t imagine if I was paying for a wine tasting and witnessed something like that.

    9. Ooh La La*

      Yes. LW should bring up this incident to the owner, too. If the sexual harassment of employees somehow isn’t enough to get Bartholomew banned (it should be, but people suck), then behaving inappropriately and potentially driving away customers definitely merits it from a business perspective.

  5. nonbinary writer*

    The world will be a better place when creeps face consequences for their actions. Please protect your staff; the stings of sexual harassment build over the years and can really mess with a person. The fact that this guy is ex-military adds an extra component of fear and intimidation.

  6. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    When I worked in retail, I made a fake code for people to use over the radio if they were being harassed or made uncomfortable by random dudes. Basically, they’d insert “purple” into an innocuous radio request. “hey, did you find those PURPLE shirts?” with an emphasis on purple. I’d come over and shoo the creep away (or kick them out, if required). It sucked that we had to do that, but unfortunately necessary.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Similarly. We weren’t allowed to “ban customers” ourselves, but a quick “excuse me, I need a card machine” call made to Loss Prevention (who would not be who we called if we actually needed a manual card machine!) had a big scary loss prevention associate at our cash-wrap within seconds to monitor things because it was code for “yeah, I’ve got a problem customer over here”. This was over 25 years ago, for reference. We didn’t have to have any other reason than “I’m not comfortable with this situation and I want someone here who has my back and has the authority to intervene. Their office was actually in the middle of the Ladies department of the store, because the staff in that area got the brunt of harassment and abuse as we were younger (lots of HS students) and female.

      Abuse and harassment are not part of the job description for retail associates, food service employees, and so many others, it needs to be called out and slammed down.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That is a wonderful store you worked for. We hear horror stories hear about retail but that is one place that had your back.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Honestly, it taught me the benefits of good and proper management at an early age. Years of hindsight later, I’m still tickled that though we were expected to be “adults” and “professional”, there were adults there who quietly kept a guiding hand on our shoulders, so to speak. I think we one time figured out that the average age of our department was 25-ish…but there were half a dozen adult full timers, and then close to a dozen teenagers. It was the entire management team, too.

    2. New Here*

      When I was a bartender we had signs in the women’s restroom to order an ‘angel shot’ if the patron wanted one of our bouncers or male bartenders to get rid of a creep / walk them to their car, or worst case, call the police. That’s how bad creeps are….a large national chain literally had a policy about it.

      1. New Here*

        We’d use the word ‘angel’ amongst ourselves as a code to watch out for or help us get away from creeps as well.

      2. londonedit*

        Yes, here in the UK I’ve seen signs in the ladies’ loos saying to ‘Ask for Angela’ if you’re being creeped on or harassed, the idea being that you can go up to the bar and say ‘Is Angela working tonight?’ or similar, and the bar staff will know that you need some help dealing with a situation.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I recently saw a similar sign, except instead of the issue being harassment, it was needing free sanitary products. I don’t recall what the name was, but it made me wonder what happens if there is an actual member of staff with that name. On the other hand, the sanitary products one was “I need to collect a parcel for [name]” so that probably helped avoid confusion.

        2. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

          I’ve seen those signs (‘Ask for Angela’) everywhere – I absolutely applaud the initiative but with a couple of reservations:

          1. My local pub has an Angela working there at weekends, so someone could ACTUALLY be asking for Angela (though, in fairness, most people call her Ange or Angie)

          2. It’s now become so well known, I’d worry that abusers or harassers would know what she’s doing and work to prevent it or punish for it.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      My very first job was as a page at a local library. Most patrons were wonderful. But we were all teens & mainly female. There were some patrons who would only ever be served by a clerk (all adults), because they were too creepy around teenage girls. I always appreciated how protective the staff was of the pages.

      When the library board instituted a dress code, our boss fought them on requiring dresses/skirts for the girls (this was a few decades back), pointing out not just that shelving books can be hot, dirty work, but that we had to climb ladders & there were male patrons who would definitely use that as an opportunity for trying to look up dresses.

    4. Delta Delta*

      I had a similar thing. I worked in a very large outdoor place where we had radios. If it was apparent a customer was taking far too much time or being creepy, we’d be able to radio to the front (or they’d radio to us) that we needed to check on an order for Mrs. Seiko, or the front would ask if we could come in to take a call from Mrs. Seiko, like the timepieces. While this was often more for when someone was taking way too much time (which happens in retail sometimes), it was also for creepers.

      I didn’t make this up, someone else did, but it seemed to work well. We had a whole character and backstory for Mrs. Seiko, in case anyone asked. Nobody did.

    5. pugsnbourbon*

      I have worked in several customer-facing roles and been sexually harassed by customers, to different degrees, at every one. 99% of women colleagues and probably 50% of men were as well. It is a uniquely awful feeling to be degraded by someone and have to keep that smile on your face.

      OP, you need to do everything in your power to ban this guy, and take a hard look at how your winery has handled this.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        My friend worked as a waitress for years. She describes slapping on the smile to deal with jerks as “her soul leaving her body”.

  7. LadyByTheLake*

    The fact that an employee mentioned that another winery had problems with this guy shows that he’s not going to change, that his problems are well known and that he’s probably been banned elsewhere. Protect your employees (and your company) from this creep and ban him. And for heaven’s sake, do some harassment training. The fact that you are the Hospitality Director and were unaware of this customer’s well-known creepy behavior and that Male Colleague made such an inappropriate comment shows that something is broken.

    1. Clorinda*

      Yes, absolutely, the female employees who were being harassed didn’t feel that their complaint was worth making to their supervisor, so what else have they been dealing with, and who has taught them to suck it up, buttercup? The whole crew needs training and OP needs to follow through on complaints to show the staff that she has their back. Banning Bartholomew, or at least making sure nobody he has creeped on has to work with him, would be a big step in that direction.

    2. Tisiphone*

      I noticed that, too. Perhaps he got banned from that winery. Certainly refuse to reinstate Bartholomew’s membership if you can.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yep. You need to do something to get them to trust that they can tell you about Creepy Guys in the future, because clearly they felt it was pointless (or maybe even harmful) to do so.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I’m speaking from prior experience: I wonder if Barty has an age range, and that the hospitality manager is above it. I found once I reached a certain age I didn’t have to deal with anywhere near as much crud from the “Barty’s” of the world.

      1. Observer*

        Not likely – the 50 yo was getting similar vibes from him. Also, notice that he creeped on the unmarried women, and stopped harassing one woman who slapped on a fake ring.

        In other words, he does this to people who he thinks he has some power over and who don’t “belong” to a guy.

        1. pancakes*

          We don’t know whether the fake wedding ring did in fact discourage him. All we know is that one of the women started wearing it in an effort to discourage him.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      Agreed. This sort of behaviour from customers is extremely common within the hospitality industry – I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s worked in it has dealt with many a Creepy Bartholomew. He is likely not the first one that has been through the doors of this winery and he is not going to be the last. It’s SO important that beyond dealing with this one guy, OP establishes better systems so that things do not have to escalate to this level before she hears about them or this is just going to keep happening.

      OP, I second the suggestions that you set up some kind of “call for backup” code word. You also really need to make it clear to your staff throughout the training process that they do not need to put up with this kind of behaviour and that you will back them up if it occurs. Do you have check-ins with your staff where they can bring up things like this?

      It may also help to give them an idea of specific things they can say to customers that are behaving inappropriately – often people just freeze up in these situations because we’ve been trained to be polite and are scared of getting into trouble if we say the “wrong” thing to a customer (in hospitality it’s literally part of our job to be nice to people so it can be hard to shake!) and just don’t know how to respond. It might help them feel more confident if they have a script of sorts to fall back on.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      This also means this customer is WELL AWARE that his behaviour is unacceptable, and yet continues to behave inappropriately and to try to justify his behaviour.

      Personally, I’d accept his resignation of membership and let him know why. What’s he going to do? Complain that he was cut off for sexually harassing people? HE resigned the membership.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    In the mid-1990s, I worked at a restaurant as a teenager. Management sided with the customers (who skewed older and male) almost 100% of the time.

    One of our customers recognized me outside of work and demanded I talk to him in the same way he regularly did during my shift. He freaked me out so I avoided him. The next time I started my shift, my manager threatened to write me up for poor customer service because this customer complained about me even though I was off the clock and not at work.

    I didn’t have the standing or adult insight to push back at the time, but I sure as shit do now. I should have quit on the spot.

    No, the customer is not always right, and your male employee sucks. Be an ally!

    1. The Rural Juror*

      It’s so tough when you’re in that position as a young person and may not have the wherewithal to push back. I worked in a sports bar/grill when I was 19 and was reprimanded by my manager for dropping a tray of drinks. He swooped in, yelled at me, then headed off to do something else before I could tell him an older, male customer had grabbed my backside as I was walking by the table. I walked back over to the table afterward and told that man never to touch servers. He wasn’t in my section, and luckily he paid and left quickly, but I wish I had a manger who might have CARED that his servers were sexually harassed pretty regularly. We all in our late teens/early 20s working through college and we faced it regularly, but without any support from management. I quit there to go work for a bar because I could put 2 feet of space between me and customers.

      OP, stand up for your staff. Do what you can to make sure this man isn’t welcome back! If he faces no consequences, he’ll keep up with the horrible behavior. On top of that, your employees might resent you :(

      1. Rhonda*

        I’m sorry that you went through that, people are the worst. Especially people who have the power to do something about harassment and instead choose to ignore it.

        My mom tells a story about working at a cocktail bar in the early 80’s; one night she was setting drinks down at a table and one of the customers just straight grabbed her boob. She said her first instinct was to punch the guy so that’s what she did. Just took a big ole swing at him. Then she picked up her tray and went back to the bar and waited for somebody to reprimand her but “somehow” none of the other staff or patrons saw anything and the guy finished his drink, paid, and left. She told me this as a kid and the moral of the story was essentially “if anyone ever touches you without your permission just punch them”.

        People suck and nobody should have to resort to violence to get their point across but also I felt so empowered, especially as a teenager, knowing that if I punched somebody for touching me that my mom would have my back.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think that is a bit harsh. He could be a stellar employee but just doesn’t get it because he hasn’t had that experience. For him it might be “Oh this is just a crappy customer and I have to still be professional and be nice”

      And it’s not clear from the letter but I don’t even know if the colleague works in customer service, so he might not even understand anything about what happens with customers.

      I think some sexual harassment training is in order

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        I have to agree. I can think of a hundred reasons why he might simply be oblivious.

        Let him undergo training, and give him a chance to prove that he can learn. If he can’t…well, then, that’s a different matter.
        =

      2. Nia*

        I don’t believe sexual harassment training works. But even if it did I in no way shape or form want to work or interact with anybody who needed it.

        1. KeyokeDiacherus*

          It’s important to remember that he may have never been given the chance to learn what’s wrong. That’s the purpose of the training – to remove that ignorance. Now, if he maintains his views after that, or worse it comes out that his views caused someone else harm, by all means drop the hammer on him.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          I tend to agree that sexual harassment training doesn’t stop most sexual harassers. But there can be other reasons to do it – in the training in my large, bureaucratic agency we learned about the documentation and reporting procedures, for example, and appropriate ways to intervene for managers and/or witnesses to inappropriate behavior. Training in a circumstance like this letter could be about what to report, to whom, and when and what employees are allowed to do when customers act inappropriately. Adding training can be part of creating a workplace culture where sexual harassment of employees is not tolerated.

        3. Velawciraptor*

          This seems unfair to me. Most people need some form of sexual harassment training at some point. Whether it’s a reminder to employees of what their rights are, bystander intervention training, training on how harassment isn’t just the obvious ugly stuff but also includes microaggressions (and exactly what those are and how they can hurt people), or training for management on their legal responsibilities, not all of this stuff is easy and instinctive. Moreover, regular, consistent training can help 1) reinforce expectations for staff and management and 2) give staff the comfort level that their employer takes the issue seriously enough that it’s worth it for them to come forward with complaints.

        4. JJ*

          Agreed, in my experience, sexual harassment training was really obvious like “don’t grope and ogle each other,” it covered none of the everyday, small comments/microaggressions that sooo many men at work think nothing of.

          1. Observer*

            There are different types of training. What the colleague needs is not training on how not to harass, but what it’s like for the victim and what the obligations of the victim and management are.

            Well done, that can be useful especially the obligations part.

        5. tamarack and fireweed*

          Well, look what sexual harassment training could achieve in this situation: It could set a signal that the management has the workers’ back and lower the threshold to report both for targets and bystanders. It could signal to the privileged guys that no, “putting up with it” is not expected here and, indeed, not the culture that is being fostered. And it would at least put a “you are on thin ice” sign somewhere in the view of potential harassers, whether they choose to notice it or not.

          There is a paradox in that trying to change someone’s behavior pretty much doesn’t work, but nonetheless behaviors do change – just in a messier way. I’m all for keeping up with chipping away at the bad norms.

        6. allathian*

          The male employee is enabling harassment, sure, but he’s not, judging by the letter, harassing anyone himself. I agree that sexual harassment training is probably not very useful if someone’s actually harassing people, but sexual harassment awareness training is a different matter. If he persist in shrugging harassment off as just a part of doing business in that environment, then firing him is the answer.

      3. 867-5309*

        I agree, cats.

        There must be a path to redemption and education. Not for everyone – and I agree with rescinding the customer’s membership – but our default every time cannot be put them up at the stake with no hope of getting down. (Again, not talking about egregious cases like the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world.)

        1. Nia*

          The problem is no one is being put up on a stake, not sexual harassers and certainly not their enablers. Sexual harassment training has existed for decades so why does this employee still need education and why do you think it will work this time? How many chances does he get to go through this education? How many times do you say maybe this time the training will work and he’ll finally get it?

            1. Susana*

              How is it possible he needs to be trained to learn that women experience sexual harassment – and that it’s not only not OK, but often illegal? Sorry, don’t buy it. Remind me of my male colleagues who hated having to take sexual harassment training and declared themselves victims because “I can;t even tell a woman she has a nice dress on, anymore.” Nope. You can say “nice dress.” You cannot say “nice t**s.* And that’s what they’re upset about – that they have to take the 20 seconds to str and figure out if it’s appropriate to say out loud what they might be thinking.

            2. Homophone Hattie*

              I’ve been in the workforce for over two decades and I’ve only ever had sexual harassment training once. It’s just not a thing in all industries everywhere. Additionally, it sounds (from reading this blog) like a lot of sexual harassment training is pretty terrible and as blunt and unrealistic as a ‘just say no’ anti-drug campaign. Not excusing the guy or saying he’s blameless, but he’s not the gross harasser. He’s more than likely just a guy who’s probably never had to think much about it his entire life, doesn’t really get it, and to be honest that’s exactly the kind of person who has a hope of improving if given a chance at education. I’ve met many men like that.

          1. Observer*

            Bartholomew? Sure, we know he’s had chances. So, fire him as a customer.

            However, the colleague is a different story. We have no evidence that the colleague has had appropriate training (actual management side training, which is what this guy needs) is not something that’s actually been widespread for “decades”.

          2. Foof*

            I agree with one strike policy for overt harassment or assault. Not being a proper ally is a whole other kettle of fish and deserves a crack at education. The best harassment and discrimination training i’ve had drilled down in how to handle things as a bystander etc

      4. Mister T*

        Also, he works at a winery, so putting up with obnoxious rich drunks is a big part of the gig. He could certainly use some explanation about why mr. creepers brand of obnoxious drunk has a different impact than the type of obnoxious drunk he deals with, but i wouldn’t necessarily fire him.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      I disagree. The male colleague really won’t ever be able to truly empathize or understand unless he experiences it first hand. Even my husband didn’t **really** understand the sexism and harassment I’d faced over 20 years working in the construction industry (and left jobs over) until I started working at his company. He can hear every conversation I have with vendors and customers, and was floored. FLOORED. People he’d known for a decade, people he liked and respected, treated me like absolute dogshit because I was a woman without any perceived power. They’d call back demanding to speak to him, “That girl that answers the phone told me no. I don’t think she knows anything about teapot construction.”

      He’s made shutting them down an art and calls people out for that crap. But until he saw it first hand? Day in and day out? He THOUGHT he sympathized, but he didn’t KNOW.

      1. hbc*

        “The male colleague really won’t ever be able to truly empathize or understand unless he experiences it first hand.”

        He doesn’t have to feel it on a cellular level or anything to understand enough to not have such a dumb opinion as “It’s just part of being a professional to put up with harassment.” I won’t fault people for being at “I’m sorry, that sounds like it sucks” and then moving to “Holy crap, that’s even worse than I thought” with experience, but we should never let people off the hook for starting at “Whatever, I don’t believe you when you say it’s bad.”

        I mean, if you don’t have enough experience to empathize, than you certainly don’t have enough experience to weigh in on a situation as if you have knowledge or authority.

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          I’m not letting him off the hook, but I am disagreeing that sexual harassment training is a waste of time. He’s probably never had any experience with this at all and until he knows what to look for, how can he be an ally?

          1. hbc*

            I agree with you about training being worth it and sometimes effective, but I strongly disagree that you need to experience something and have training in it to be an ally. All it takes is believing people who describe their own experiences.

            I mean, I’ve lived near sea level for most of my life, and I did not disbelieve that it was harder to breathe at higher elevations just because I hadn’t experienced it. When I traveled to Colorado Springs, I sure understood it at a more fundamental level, but I didn’t spend the week beforehand going, “Those people who get tired in the thin air are whiners, all you have to do is work your lungs.”

            There is no excuse for hearing that your colleagues all find some dude intolerable and deciding, “I’ve never been the target of behavior like this, but they are all wrong and he is tolerable.” The only reason you have harassment training for this kind of person is so that he has no excuse when he does something else disrespectful.

        2. Susana*

          Totally. I’m white, and therefore do not have to put up with the systemic racism, physical threats, police brutality and hate that Black people do. But for God’s sake – it’s not like I don’t think it happens, just because it doesn’t happen to *me*!

      2. SarahKay*

        Agreed. Mostly men don’t see it, so they just don’t get it.

        When #MeToo started becoming a think I had some male colleagues comment along the lines of ‘how bad can it be, really?’ I gave them a couple of examples of things that had happened to me over the years and they were very taken aback that men behave that way.
        Then I added that from my (female) point of view, these things were actually so minor it wouldn’t even occur to me to add these as #MeToo. That was the point where they really started to look shocked.

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          This has become a big topic in my house, now that my sons are getting man-sized. I had a friend who was running and a man in a truck honked at her, circled the block, and followed her for a while. I explained it to my 15 yo and he asked, “How do you know he was honking at her? Maybe he was just lost.”

          Like most women, my friend has a lifetime of experience with this crap. A literal lifetime. She felt unsafe and she should trust her instincts. What if it had been one of his friends? Would he discount her fears just because, or would he come pick her up if she asked? Men tend to think #meetoo is just the big things – but it’s really a lifetime of dealing with inappropriate creeper behavior.

          1. SoloKid*

            Thank you for talking about it with your son. How did you answer his question?

            I implore other parents of sons to make this second nature before they reach “man sized”, since many girls have to deal with this before they reach “woman size”.

            1. Campfire Raccoon*

              I keep trying to write a response but the work phone is interrupting my slacking.

              RE: How did you answer his question? It was a variation of what I said above. My son is very logic-oriented, so we examined my friend’s story and the incident itself. I asked him what made him think my friend was over-reacting. Was any part of her story dramatized? Did she use any language that was hyperbole or overly-emotional? Had his (limited) experience with my friend led him to believe she was anxious or prone to exaggeration? What was the man honking at, if there were no cars and she was on the sidewalk? Why didn’t he roll down his window and ask a question when she looked at him, after the honk? If the man was lost, why did he drive behind a slow jogger, when the idle speed for most cars is still faster than runner? Wouldn’t he have to tap the breaks to go that slow? Why was he going that slow on a residential street with no cross streets? Why didn’t he pull over and get his bearings if he was lost? Isn’t it likely a middle-aged man in a big expensive truck would have a phone and thus GPS? The truck probably has GPS built in. Why only follow her until she came to a busy street?

              We talked about it for a while and it came down to “Like most women, my friend has a lifetime of experience of dealing with creepers. I have had this same experience, more than once. If she said he was following her, he was.” My son still seemed skeptical, but when another weirdly sexist incident happened to us (me) a few weeks later he kinda understood. Not all the way, but… more than before. I don’t want him to be That Guy. I want him to see these behaviors and shut it down. I want him to listen to his female friends and be an ally. I want him to empower his younger sister and support her when she (eventually) has to deal with this too.

              1. Lizzo*

                The path to improving society is not just raising better daughters, it is raising better sons.

                You’re doing a great job. xo

          2. Lecturer*

            In the area I grew up men would slow down whilst driving to leer at you and shout at you. It was a weekly thing (it didn’t matter I was clearly in a school uniform).

            One guy caused a crash and I had to hang around 1 street away from my home. The police were disgusted but said ‘you won’t believe how often this happens’ and I thought actually I will.

            Another guy pulled up at a bus stop. He could clearly see I was in school uniform so underaged. He told me to jump in and he would give me a lift. I said no. Then in a whiny voice ‘oh come on’. So I said actually I do need a lift. Guy gets excited ‘where to babe?’. My response ‘the police station to report you as a paedophile’. He raced off after that!

            Countless more stories than that…..

            1. allathian*

              Smart comeback! I’m sorry you had to go through that.

              The worst things that ever happened to me at work was when I worked retail as a teenager and young college student, mostly involving leery comments by drunks and getting called names for refusing to sell alcohol to guys who were visibly intoxicated. Luckily I never had to work alone in a store, and while my first manager was a bad boss in many other ways, she had a zero tolerance policy for drunks harassing her staff. This was in the late 80s and early 90s.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I had a similar discussion with my husband, who understood on an intellectual level that women get harassed or subjected to sexist treatment sometimes, but didn’t *really* understand how pervasive it was until I started telling him my own “minor” stories.

        3. Elbe*

          I had a very similar experience. When talking about #metoo with some of my guy friends, I shared some stories of my own and they were shocked! I considered the ones I told to be pretty tame (I have much worse!) and it was surprising to me how surprised they were to hear it.

          And the thing is that I don’t necessarily think that they’re not around when this stuff happens. I think that a lot of it is a matter of framing. When they’re in a group of guys and someone makes a “joke”, it’s easy for them to take the perspective of the harasser and take it as something all in good fun. But when they hear a woman frame the same incident from her perspective (“I was just walking by, minding my own business, and someone I’m forced to work with made a lewd comment about my body, and all of my other coworkers just laughed along. It was humiliating.”) it hits differently.

          They know it happens, but they just don’t empathize with the woman’s perspective unless prompted to.

      3. JJ*

        YEP. I had ONE boyfriend ONE time see me get catcalled, and he was floored, like “omg I can’t believe he just said that to you!”. I was like bro, that was MILD. I wish they could all see.

      4. Observer*

        he male colleague really won’t ever be able to truly empathize or understand unless he experiences it first hand.

        True. But not really relevant. Of course, it would be better if guys DID **really, really** understand. But as long as they understand ENOUGH – enough to have your back, enough to empower you to refuse service, enough to make is safe to report that behavior and take reasonable action – it makes a WORLD of a difference.

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          Right, which is why training is so important. Male colleague doesn’t get a free pass, but let’s give the dude some tools so he can recognize and understand enough to be an ally.

    3. LurkNoMore*

      You’re assuming that they work for the same winery; maybe he could be at another winery. Or in a completely separate section of the winery (bottling, etc).

    4. Elbe*

      I find that people who think that dealing with sexual harassment is “just part” of a service job for women also generally think that putting up with harassment is just a woman’s job… in life… as a whole.

      If the LW has any power over this colleague, it would be worth setting him straight. Even if it doesn’t educate him in a general sense, it would set boundaries about how he’s expected to behave at work. And if he can’t make those adjustments, then he should be fired.

      1. Japinicat*

        We had a client about whom female staff regularly complained. What changed? Well, we got a male colleague whose first name is generally a female name in the UK. Client hadn’t met or spoken to him and sent him an email laced with innuendo. Male colleague hit the roof, female colleagues said ‘told you so’. Client sacked. Male colleague says this isn’t the first time this has happened.

  9. LifeBeforeCorona*

    If you discipline your women employees for refusing to accept sexual harassment from a customer you are going to lose good employees and gain a reputation as a toxic workplace. Respect works both ways. Customers and staff should both be treated with respect. It’s not good that you immediately took Bartholomew’s version of events without speaking to your staff. They need to know that they are supported in situations like this. If you talk to them further you may find one or two other Barts.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Especially in an industry that the LW has already acknowledged can get out of hand due to alcohol consumption. Creeps don’t get less creepy when they’re buzzed.

    1. Annette*

      I agree. It’s very disappointing that the letter writer went right to trying to get Bartholomew to reinstate his membership without conferring with their staff about his complaints. It was such an error to take the claim that their very good staff yelled at this customer at face value .

      The letter writer has a huge opportunity here to improve their workplace by improving communication, providing training, and establishing expectations of respectful customer behavior.

        1. A Person*

          Is the LW female? The letter doesn’t say. I don’t like how oblivious the LW is about the fact that this crap happens, and I assumed that “she” hadn’t waited tables in “her” 20’s and so hadn’t experienced this stuff personally. But now I’ve realized that the LW could well be male.

  10. Weekend Please*

    You probably also want to put some system in place so that you will be informed about inappropriate behavior by members. The fact that everyone but you knew about this made it harder for you to deal with the situation. It’s not that you will necessarily always act on it, but if you aren’t told you can’t recognize when there is a pattern of bad behavior.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Several people above have mentioned it – I want to echo it. Set up an innocuous sounding staff code word that can be used to call for help if the staff get stuck with a creep. It will show them that they can call for support when they need it. But the important part – supporting and coming over as quickly as possible if the code gets deployed.

    2. Observer*

      I also want to echo this.

      PLEASE figure out why no one came to you till that point.

    3. Lizzo*

      Yes, something along the lines of a Code of Conduct for staff and employees, and a method for reporting violations of that Code of Conduct. All very clear, all very publicly displayed.

  11. KHB*

    He’s creeping not just on your staff, but on other customers – which means it’s entirely possible that he’s costing you more business than he’s bringing you. It sounds like it’s time to play the “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” card.

    1. Anonym*

      This should be persuasive to the owner (I hope), if he’s not moved by employees being harassed.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That is a very good angle to use (and goddess it annoys me the amount of times I’ve had to use it when a simple ‘it’s creeping out my staff!’ didn’t work)

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      You don’t necessarily need to fire him – he already quit – just don’t take him back.

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      I want to add to this—he’s not just sexually harassing the staff. He called the OP and TRIED TO GET THE STAFF INTO TROUBLE FOR NOT BEING NICE ABOUT BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED. Sorry for all of the shouting, but really? Really? The only reason you know this is a problem is that he called you to complain! About the people he’s abusing! Because they’re not being pleasant to him while he creeps on them!

      1. Queer Earthling*

        Sorry for all of the shouting

        No, no, you’re right and you should shout.

      2. Amaranth*

        I wonder if it might have been preemptive, like Barty went too far and/or the employee finally called him on it and said they wouldn’t serve him, so he wanted to get his story there first. There is something wrong there, though, that the staff casually comments that he’s creepy and inappropriate as though its common knowledge, yet they’ve never made an official complaint. For some reason they think that OP already knows and doesn’t care or can’t/won’t do anything.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          It could very well be that their previous experiences of reporting this kind of thing have been met with “deal with it” or “well, you must have done something to make him say that to you” so they didn’t see the point. That is not the employees’ problem though, that’s OP’s problem — OP needs to take a long look at how things are done at this winery and the culture that’s been created (whether intentionally or not) and figure out how to work towards finding out earlier next time it happens.

  12. The Green Lawintern*

    I would bet five bucks that the “shouting” from the employee was actually just a firm reminder given in a level tone of voice.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        In my experience, there are some customers who will claim that someone was “rude” because they were told a policy they didn’t like, etc. If your employee is generally polite & friendly, the story told by the customer is most likely skewed somehow.

        1. PT*

          I had a job where I had to enforce facility rules and the number of customers who would go ballistic that they were getting “bad customer service!” because they were told no.

          “I got bad customer service your llama trainer was rude to my child!”
          What did the llama trainer say?
          “They said my child couldn’t kick the llama in the balls!”
          Well your child should not be kicking the llama in its groin, no. That is cruel to the llama and it also makes it likely the llama will kick your child in the head, which is unsafe for your child. If your child continues to break the rules we will have to ask you to leave.
          “This is terrible customer service I am reporting both of you to your bosses and writing a bad Yelp review!”

          1. Tabby*

            Reminds me of a ridiculous article I read where a woman was telling people that if a parent brought their child over to an unchilded person’s house, the unchilded person should be ok with children pulling the tails of their pets, because “tails are for pulling!” Ma’am, that dog’s tail is literally a part of their SPINE, it hurts if you pull it, and their teeth are for biting. Unless the dog in question is SUPER tolerant, they will whip around and bite that child in the face for pulling their tail, or at the very least snap in that general direction, and it will be entirely the child’s fault for yanking on the dog’s tail. She was SHOCKED when every single dog owner or handler yelled at her for such a silly suggestion. Nope, your child should be corrected for this kind of behavior, because it can be a life-threatening mistake — animals don’t typically excuse getting injured by children ‘because they’re children and don’t understand!’ They correct the behavior, sometimes fatally for the offender.

            1. allathian*

              Yup, this.

              Some dogs, though, seem to understand the difference between a child who’s bullying them on purpose and a child who’s a bit careless. A friend of mine breeds Old English sheepdogs and all four of her kids learned to walk by holding on to a dog’s fur. Sometimes when they were just starting to walk, they’d fall over and pull the dog’s hair. The dog would just look at the kid in a completely non-threatening way and just walk away for a bit.

              But those dogs always knew their place at the bottom of the pack, and their parents were always very careful about teaching them how to behave with dogs, and to leave them alone when they were eating or sleeping, or when they went to their special corner where they were left in peace.

              1. Dream Jobbed*

                Their kids, their dog. Big difference versus a strange child who is hurting a dog.

                Stupid kids and stupid parents should not be around dogs. Because the one that ends up dying for their idiocy is the dog.

    1. Kitano*

      Came here to say exactly this. I’ve seen this happen even in my own, generally supportive and politically ‘woke’ workplace – a male VP said that a female coworker ‘raked him over the coals’ for not finishing a document on time, and her email literally read “VP, I need this document from you today to avoid missing the funder’s deadline. They’re already unhappy with us for missing the last one, so please prioritize this.”

      I can’t help but wonder why he described it so viscerally when it was a 100% factual statement…other than the fact that it came from a generally quiet female coworker.

      1. Beth*

        Yep. One of my acquaintances will regularly talk about how someone “yelled” at her (translation: they said something she didn’t like), how service providers “messed up” or “screwed up” (translation: they did not give her exactly what she wanted), how something brand new is “defective” or “junk” (translation: she doesn’t know how to use it, or didn’t read the manual). And so on. I have to discount most of what she says.

        1. A Person*

          We had a friend once who told me that he and my wife had been playing a board game, and when they disagreed about something, she had screamed at him. That is the specific word he used, but it was so out of character for her! When I pushed back on that gently, he said, Well, it had the emotional impact of screaming. Hmm. I then re-thought all the times he told us about his husband screaming at him. (He’d been visiting a lot because his marriage was rocky just then, and that was legit, but all the stories had to go thru some recalibration in my head.)

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      Or if it was a less than ideal tone, it was because she’d had to remind him several times in quick succession.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Or had to remind several others already that day. But yes, I did wonder whether it was necessarily shouting rather than a firm tone of voice!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Given other things that came out about Bartholomew, I’m inclined to agree that it was probably just a firm tone of voice, raised high enough to be heard over background noise.

        2. Sopranohannah*

          I had a deeply misogynistic male client loudly demand that I get him something he was not allowed by policy to have or he was going to punch a wall. I am extremely soft spoken and raised my voice slightly and told him he was going to step away from my station now and I was calling security. His lip quivered and he got tears in his eyes and said “Stop yelling at me.”

      2. Momma Bear*

        I was also thinking this. He’s doing something she needed to remind him about. I’d be very curious about her POV given his behavior toward women.

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        Or because she’s sick of being harassed by him every time he shows up, and the mask policy is the only part of his behavior she felt empowered to speak up about.

    3. many bells down*

      Oh man THIS. I get this a lot, always from men. I make a perfectly neutral, entirely factual statement and get “whoa calm down why are you so angry!” Even when I’m just typing it, so it’s not my “tone”.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Or the dreaded “smile, you’ll look ______” that women get all the time.

        (Fill in the blank to suit your experience – or alter the statement to the variant you know/hear.)

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I got “smile, it really can’t be that bad” when I was at the grocery store 2 hours after learning my husband’s grandmother had died — I was literally picking up food to take to my MIL (her mother had died). I glared at him and said “considering I’ve just had a death in the family, I don’t particularly feel like smiling.” His face went white and he apologized…I told him he should be sorry.

          That fucking guy. Three years ago and it still makes my blood boil.

          1. UKDancer*

            I got that on the train up to my grandfather’s funeral. I was sat in my seat on the train at Euston waiting for us to leave and trying not to cry and some tosser came past and said “cheer up, it might never happen.” I looked at him very cold and said “it’s too late, which is why I’m wearing my funeral suit this morning” He looked mortified and I hoped he would get the damned message and stop trying to get women to perform cheerfulness.

            About the only benefit with masks is that nobody can comment on whether I’m smiling adequately.

            1. I take tea*

              I’m a generally cheerful person, but very happy to live in a country where smiling at strangers is not expected (and usually even looked upon with a little suspicion).

          2. Salymander*

            One of many times this happened to me, but this time was particularly memorable:

            I was in high school and had a job at a restaurant. I had to deal with a lot of unwelcome attention from men who thought all the high school girls working there were like a buffet of desserts for them to choose from. Management was no help, because we should be flattered by the attention and behave as professionals. So Much Wrong here.

            I was on my break, eating and studying for history class. We were talking about the Holocaust and I was doing research for a paper. I had a stack of books in front of me about this subject, all very grim to read. So of course one of our regular creeper customers sits down with me and tells me to smile so that I will look pretty. I said that holding a fixed smile on my face while I read is pretty weird and an unreasonable expectation. He said he was, “just trying to help, because looking pretty and welcoming is important for girls.” So I held up the book so he could see the cover and asked him why he thought that telling me that smiling about systematic genocide was a helpful suggestion. Because that would be completely ghoulish. For goodness sake!

            I was reprimanded by the restaurant owner (a family friend, so double the betrayal). FFS. The sad thing though is all the hundreds of other times this stuff happened, starting when I was way too young to understand, and I forgot all about it because it was just another typical event in my life and the lives of every other girl and woman I knew.

            So glad this stuff is changing. Wish it was changing faster.

      2. Properlike*

        Oh yes. This is bringing back conversations with a contractor (he worked for ME) when I’d ask questions about the work he was doing on MY house, and he’d start with “Okay, calm down.”

        I finally had to ask him why he kept saying that. “What makes me think I’m not calm? Why do my questions read like I’m upset? I’m literally asking what the difference is between two sinks.” Shouldn’t have been surprised when that whole relationship went off the rails by the end. Some men interpret female voices as “upset” and “abrasive” unless you’re telling them how wonderful they are.

      3. Niffler*

        My (male) boss loves to tell me how I’m feeling any time that I disagree with him. I’m very practiced in keeping an even, professional tone and yet I still get, “Well CLEARLY you’re upset/frustrated/unhappy about this!” No, I am not. My not agreeing with you does not mean that I’m in any kind of feelings.

      4. JustaTech*

        “whoa calm down why are you so angry!”

        If I wasn’t angry before I am now! Ooh I hate that so much.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          When in the history of ever has telling someone to “calm down” actually made them calm down?

    4. Campfire Raccoon*

      Oh yes. Any woman who pushes back on inappropriate behavior would immediately be perceived as shouting.

      I just went through this with some jerk at the gym. He approached me and my 15 yo son while we were swimming laps and asked, “Are you the ones being weird about reserving the lanes?” Because he couldn’t be bothered to reserve the lane ahead of time, he wanted us to scootch over and share so he could have his own lane. He pushed the issue and continued to argue. I told him we would not be sharing lanes, so he looked at my son and asked if he could share with him. I calmly told him, “I am not sure what you aren’t understanding. I just told you no, and I find it strange you are continuing to press the issue.”

      Ya’ll. YA’LL: then he held up The Hand and said, “I wasn’t talking to you. I don’t know why you are yelling.”

      As you can guess, I was not yelling. I let him know I had not yelled yet, then instructed him to step away from my underage, clearly uncomfortable child. He made some backpedaling choking sounds and skittered away to the empty lane, but tried to talk to my son at every opportunity. The whole, “Your mom is overreacting” bit. He spent two weeks looking at the swim schedule and showing up when we were there. He’d do the overly-friendly act to anyone that wandered into the pool area and then say something to the effect of, “See? I don’t know why you can’t just be nice.”

      1. Lecturer*

        That would have seriously creeped me out. I would have gone to management saying ‘this creepy man won’t leave my underaged child alone, even though I’ve told him multiple times to leave my UNDERAGE child alone’.

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          I did. I spoke to the people on staff at the time and I came back later when I didn’t look like a drowned rat. The manager there is female and pretty grounded. It’s a weird balance: expressing how concerning I found the incident(s) without downplaying them, but avoiding the full Karen so they don’t ignore my complaints.

          1. Lecturer*

            Oh yes, the weird balance. We need to try to present a case like we are lawyers! Just track the bloke and watch him next time he is in!

            1. Salymander*

              That balance is just exhausting. I have trained myself (in the mirror) to speak with zero emotion in my voice and a completely deadpan expression because I got tired of being accused of yelling at men. I have a fairly deep voice for a woman, and I am rather tall. This seems to come across as threatening, but only to men who have Done Something They Shouldn’t. The men who are more reasonable tend to not have a problem with my speaking voice. But you know what? Even with an expressionless face and quiet, calm voice I am still accused of yelling every now and then by particularly unreasonable people.

          2. Aurora*

            And this is the issue with the idea of “Karen”. It is a sexist way to stop women from standing up for themselves. Yes, are there people that are racist, unreasonable etc, yes, we talk about them all the time on here and on “the customer is always right”, but the Karen thing is sexist.

    5. BRR*

      I’m surprised I had to scroll this far down before this comment showed up. 0% chance he was shouted at. 100% chance the employees are treating him appropriately based on his actions. “Why won’t the employees of the business I spend money at be nice to me while I’m harassing them?”

      And as to what to do:
      -Ban him (or if the owner won’t let you, the owner needs to be doing this jerk’s tastings from now on).
      -Do not discipline your staff.
      -Apologize to your staff for not having a procedure set up to handle situations like this.
      -Have a very direct conversation with male staff member.

    6. EventPlannerGal*

      Right! I’m quite surprised that the OP went straight to “they shouldn’t have shouted at you” and trying to win him back without first looking into the matter further, especially if it didn’t align with what she knows of her staff. It is so, so common for customers to interpret anything they don’t like or want to hear as shouting/rudeness/bad customer service! This happens *all the time*, and even the most reasonable-sounding customer complaint can be a total distortion of reality. I assume that the current difficult climate in hospitality is putting a lot of pressure on the OP to retain customers, but there’s a limit.

    7. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

      100%!

      I was once told by a male liquor store employee to “calm down” when all I had done was simply stopped smiling.

      1. Tabby*

        Lol. Yeah… I practically never smile (a combination of having missing teeth, and a general desire to NOT be approached by strange men who take my fairly youthful appearance as an invitation, since, even at 45, I read as between 25 and 30 AT THE OLDEST to many), and am constantly being told to smile. Guess what they get? A glare and a “Shut up and go away (in very rude language).”

        Because I am so, SO over that “Smile!” crap, I can’t even bother to not be rude about it. If I want to smile, I’ll smile. And typically, I only smile at women, children, and cute furry animals, because they never ask me to smile.

        1. allathian*

          How about a ferocious, toothless grin or grimace next time?

          I guess I’m glad that I live in a country where smiling at strangers is not really expected. I honestly can’t remember ever being told to smile here, or at least it hasn’t happened in the last 20 years or so. I’m glad I’ve escaped the worst of that.

  13. Jill*

    I think you should also consider why your female employees were taking such lengths (a fake ring for one customer?) without letting you know there was a problem! Maybe it’s just the level of customer he was or something like what your male colleague thought, but if they didn’t feel like you would do anything if they came to you for help I’d want to reflect on that! You seem like you really want to support your staff.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      This was disturbing to me as well. It sounds like the OP wants to protect the staff, but the staff doesn’t trust the OP. Has the OP been focusing so hard on making sales that the staff feels that anything that gets in the way of selling will be dismissed? Have there been lots of talks about being “friendly” and “accommodating” to customers, and those discussions weren’t received as intended? Or did someone say something about Mr. Creep before and they were ignored.
      Either way, this is the opportunity to reflect on the real work environment, and make changes.

    2. KHB*

      This is a really good point. It sounds like OP’s heart’s in the right place…but the fact that she’s even still thinking about “disciplining” the employees, given everything she now knows, says a lot about why they didn’t loop her in in the first place.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      +1, to me this is the biggest red flag. OP, you’ve got to keep a better ear to the ground to be aware of these customers! You have to protect your employees!

    4. Campfire Raccoon*

      This. You can’t just clean up after the fact. You need to be proactive. Create policies, communicate those policies, and enforce those policies. Ask for feedback and tell your staff that if they’re feeling uncomfortable, they can come to you in the moment. Not after (months?) of harassment.

    5. Lilo*

      Strong agreement. OP needs to have a meeting where they make clear customer harassment needs to be reported and OP has their backs.

    6. Observer*

      I think you should also consider why your female employees were taking such lengths (a fake ring for one customer?) without letting you know there was a problem!

      I know that others have mentioned this already. But I REALLY want to highlight it, because it is soooo important.

      This guy is a threat to your business, and well as a total moral hazard. I mean, he started taking his shirt off with another customer! How in heavens name did you not hear about that?!

      I’m not sure exactly what it says about your company, but it definitely tells me that your staff is NOT communicating IMPORTANT information. Why?

    7. Simone*

      I also question why the letter writer felt the need to describe the employees as “cute” or “attractive” when reporting their complaints. How someone looks has no bearing on whether they’ve been harassed–and it’s still harrassment if this person isnt conventionally attractive!–and that made me think the writer may have some unexamined biases that the employees are picking up on in deciding whether or not to come forward.

    8. 1.0*

      For what it’s worth, I think it’s not uncommon for customer facing staff to get used to a certain amount of sucking it up and dealing with pushy, handsy, creepy customers – putting on a ring to ward off creeps is the sort of thing I would not have thought to bring to a manager, back in my time in the trenches.

      That being said, yeah, don’t discipline your staff, OP.

  14. Lecturer*

    Protect your staff and tell him he is no longer welcome at your place of business. If you don’t care enough about it think about being sued for sexual harassment (which will most likely soon progress to touching). He is one customer. If I was your staff I would refuse to be around him and if anyone said anything suing time.

  15. Almost Empty Nester*

    Call Bartholomew back and tell him that, upon investigation, it would appear that he acted inappropriately and that you will not reinstate his membership. Maybe call the other winery that your new employee mentioned and confirm her story and the consequences he faced there, but for sure I’d cut him off.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      If there’s any paperwork with the membership agreement, I think OP should consider adding a Code of Conduct.

      1. KHB*

        I’m admittedly not an expert in these things, but I’d worry that creeps like Bartholomew would just see a code of conduct as a challenge: How close can they get to the line without going over it? (And to the 99% of people who don’t need to be explicitly instructed not to sexually harass the waitstaff, it would just seem really weird – like, what kind of customers is this place attracting if they need to be told these things?)

        1. Properlike*

          Nope. It gives you standing not to put up with their shenanigans, and anyone who’s put off by it quite probably has reason to know to toe the line. These are SOP at conferences now due to all the sexual harrassment that’s been happening for years, and perpetrators who skated by because staffs didn’t feel empowered to investigate/remove/ban and victims without a mechanism to report (also, reasonably fearful they’d run into someone like LW’s Male Colleague.) It means anyone walking in trying to challenge “letter of the law” is a sociopath and won’t be tolerated at all — because the codes of conduct for a private business are pretty much, “What we say, goes. Don’t like it? Don’t come here.”

          1. KHB*

            I think we actually agree more than we disagree. In lieu of a “code of conduct,” I think they should say something as close to “We reserve the right to terminate this membership at any time, at our sole discretion” as they’re legally allowed to.

            Conferences, I think, are a bit of a different animal from a private winery. For all sorts of reasons, it does make sense to spell out the rules for what can get you kicked out of a professional conference (as well as what courses of action are available to you if you’re on the receiving end of kickout-worthy behavior). But that level of detail would seem weird to me if I saw it in an ordinary private business.

        2. Autistic AF*

          The Code of Conduct isn’t just for him, though. It also lets the people he’s already crossing the line against know what they don’t need to put up with and how to deal with those issues.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I don’t know how a creep would see it, but as a woman who likes to go to wineries, I’d be impressed to see something like this.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          I think your second point kind of edges on dodgy territory, though – like, “we can’t have rules against sexual harassment because then customers might think we have a sexual harassment problem!” They DO have a sexual harassment problem, and they ARE attracting customers who apparently need to be told not to harass the staff. There are different ways they could go about implementing this but the safety/wellbeing of the staff should be the priority, not whether hypothetical future customers might think their anti-harassment policy is weird.

  16. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’ve worked off and on in the wine industry since I was giving tours on the family winery at the age of 14. Sometimes you have to fire customers.

    Ask yourself if this guy is bringing any value to the business. If he’s actively turning away other customers, it doesn’t matter how much money he spends. If he’s making your staff uncomfortable, they are going to be giving poorer service to everyone, and good workers are more likely to leave. Not to mention the sheer moral and legal issues of allowing him to harass your staff.

    I know we talk about it as being in the “hospitality business”, but you have to be ruthless with people like this.

    1. Sharrbe*

      You really do have to be ruthless and keep boundaries. I used to work at tiny coastal resort and we had this guest who would come and stay for 2 weeks year after year. He was an alcoholic, and it showed. The waitstaff (all female then) hated to deal with him, but since he wasn’t doing anything overtly, nothing was done. Then one night he put his hands around a waitress’s neck. He was finally told to leave and never come back. But why did it take years to get him banned even though he was making staff and other guests uncomfortable? Better to just to do it early before it becomes more problematic.

    2. Collarbone High*

      All of this, plus, they’re rewarding undesirable behavior.

      Ideally, he would be banned. As it currently stands, they’re teaching him that if he complains about being forced to reckon with the consequences of being a creep, he’ll get a private tasting and management ordering the staff to accept his harassment with a smile.

  17. AnonEMoose*

    So here’s a sad reality. Creeps like Bartholomew will frequently weaponize their power as customers in order to enable their creeping on female employees. But now you know the kinds of things to watch for when you’re having one of these conversations with a customer, and maybe you can be apologetic about their “poor experience,” but non-committal until you’ve had a chance to talk to your employees? I’m not saying you did anything wrong (you didn’t), only that maybe there’s an opportunity for next time that this happens (and I would bet that it will).

    And maybe you could also work with your boss to figure out a policy for handling creepy/inappropriate customers in the future, so that the employees know you care about their comfort and safety.

    As for your colleague, maybe look at him with raised eyebrows and say in a shocked voice something like: “Are you seriously saying that women should have to endure being sexually harassed in the workplace?” Use those words. Don’t let him minimize it. Make it uncomfortable. Because he needs to reconsider his assumptions.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Even worse, now that Bartholomew has made a connection with management, he will likely increase the severity of his bad behaviour.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes – he’s now got even more ammunition because he’s going to feel like he can do whatever he wants and if the staff try to ask him to behave himself he’ll just say ‘Hey, I’ve complained about you once and I had assurances that I’d be treated better – don’t think I won’t complain again and have you fired’. Ugh.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        Definitely! Please, OP, let the employees know that putting up with this behavior isn’t part of their job, and encourage them to report this to you in future, most particularly if it’s Bartholomew!

      3. Shan*

        Yes! And even if he doesn’t act “worse,” he’ll still lord it over them and keep them on eggshells.

        Back when I was a teenager and working at a cinema, I had an older guy (the husband of a support worker at my school!) absolutely go off on me because he thought I was being snarky about his request for more butter. I wasn’t – he just saw me crack the new bag open and somehow misinterpreted that as me flinging his original bag (which in reality I’d set off to the side) to the floor. When I turned back from preparing his new bag, he leaned over the counter, called me a little bitch, and threatened to “rake me over the coals if I ever so much as looked at him them wrong way again.” Another customer went and complained to the assistant manager who was on shift, and he called the cops, who came and escorted this dude out the auditorium he was in. Yay for that assistant manager!

        Well, when this dickbag called and spoke to our manager the next day, he absolutely grovelled at the guy’s feet and apologised for how the assistant manager had overstepped. So for the next two years, I had to deal with this garbage human being coming to my line anytime I was working concession, and acting saccharine sweet to me in a way that was absolutely a power play, because he knew he’d gotten away with it. And it was clear he wanted me to always remember that.

    2. Beth*

      Yes, the “poor me, I hate to do this, but I felt so ignored and unwanted” shtick is unfortunately a go-to for this kind of creep. It’s understandable for someone without the background to fall for it and want to make things right! But creeps definitely weaponize unwitting authority figures to gain space to keep doing their shit when a community starts to turn against them. (It’s not even specific to work situations—I see this kind of thing happen a lot at social gatherings, where the host of a recurring event is unwittingly recruited to stand up for a creep who female attendees have started to avoid. If you hear that multiple women are avoiding a guy, that’s a red flag that the situation needs more investigation before you start defending or helping him, regardless of what the scenario is.)

  18. Phony Genius*

    I think we know why Bartholomew reconsidered (and it makes me want to barth.)

    Regarding the mask thing, maybe your employees can develop a code to speak to each other when a correction is needed in front of a customer. Disney World employees have a (not so) secret signal that they give each other if a customer-facing employee is breaking a minor rule. This allows them to quietly correct each other before a customer complains or a manager intervenes.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        A lot of codes are based on character names. Don’t know this one.

        Shoplifters are “customers” rather than “guests.” Males are “Walt” & females are “Lily.” This might have changed since I worked for The Mouse.

        1. Lilo*

          I worked for the mouse about ten years ago and if we had codes, I don’t remember them. Honestly at Disney the most common shoplifters are toddlers.

      2. Phony Genius*

        One example is a hand and face signal to remind you to stay “cheerful” if you’re looking grumpy. Kind of like pulling your head up by an imaginary string and smiling.

        1. Clorinda*

          This sounds suspiciously similar to the “I’m about to hang myself” gesture that people make sometimes.

  19. Orange You Glad*

    If you’re not able to do anything now at least you know if your staff continue to treat him coldly/rudely he will eventually cancel his membership. He cancelled once for being ignored. Ignore him next time he comes in and maybe the problem will solve itself.

    Still do the training/education of your staff to handle both him and future creeps.

    1. Lecturer*

      He cancelled for 2 reasons:

      Attention. He knew the OP would come running if he cancelled
      Testing how far he can go: OP begged him to come back, which means they will let him sexually harass anyone. This now means he will most likely escalate

        1. Lecturer*

          Not only does he have the luxury of sexually harassing female staff, someone comes running to kiss his ass when the women refuse to put up with it. Bart is living the dream.

    2. Amaranth*

      That sounds like the training is ‘sorry, you just need to be professional and put up with them because we can’t impose consequences.’ I’d tell the owner you can’t force anyone to serve him and that if other customers see him being ignored they’ll get a poor impression of the service there.

  20. This was me*

    I’ve been this exact woman in this exact winery situation. At all the places I’ve worked before (high-end napa valley wineries), depending on how bad he is, the “creep” gets served by men only, gets a frank talk from the tasting room manager or someone higher up, or gets banned. Usually it’s a progression. But it’s something that tasting rooms come to expect. I’m glad I pivoted my career to a different facet of the industry and am no longer in the hospitality side.

    Men: the OG Karens.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      It does seem that this behaviour would be a big problem in this type of setting, which is why I’m surprised that OP’s winery didn’t already have a policy in place to address it. Good to know that some wineries do, at least. And some …. well, for that, see the current scandal with Windsor (Sonoma)’s recently-resigned mayor.

    2. Anon for this one*

      We had a creep client at the law firm I work at. He was told in explicit terms by the managing partner that he was to have NO contact w/ any of the support staff (he was trying to friend them on FB) and that he was only to interact with said male managing partner or one other female partner. If there were any further complaints he would be dropped as a client.

      I didn’t think it would work, but it did!

      1. Anon for this one*

        Oh and the support staff were all told about this conversation and told to please report any infractions.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, it’s vital that staff know what the boundaries are in cases like this, and that they feel comfortable reporting anything which is inappropriate. Your firm handled this well.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Yup. We call abusive female customers “Karen,” but all too often, we call the male ones “VIP.”

    3. Astor*

      I hate the term Karen since it’s a name, but I think it’s really important to remember that the point of it is to label the kind of behaviour that white women do to exert power over people of colour and/or people doing jobs commonly held by people of colour.

      Turning the complaints back on men washes our hands of the responsibility that we absolutely need to take and the awareness that it’s a problem. Men didn’t originate it: the patterns of behavior are different! If your customer-facing people are mostly women, like in a bar or winery, you’re likely dealing with creepy men more often. But if your customer-facing people are mostly people of colour, like in a fast-food restaurant, you’re likely dealing with “Karens” more often. There’s still overlap, but there’s a noticeable difference and as a white woman I think it’s really important for me to be aware of it.

      1. Tara*

        I think the reason there’s a term for this kind of behaviour in white women, and not white men, is that in white men it’s so much the norm it can’t be differentiated with a different name.

  21. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    Get rid of Bartholmew, and be clear with your staff about the fact that you’re doing it – it is hugely vindicating for the staff who have been creeped on if you make a public announcement to everyone that “Bartholomew is no longer a welcome guest at this establishment, and has been placed on a no trespass list. If he arrives on his own or as a guest of another member, he is to be denied entry.”

    And as others pointed out, you will probably discover that there are a few other creeps like him among your attendees after you do that – because you will have shown your staff that they can count on you to act.

  22. Beth*

    I’d like a word with your male colleague.

    Definitely step 1 is to see if you can get the authority to ban the creep, as well as other creeps that might pop up in the future. It really is a good business decision to do that. Making creeps comfortable is like that old story about punk bars and neonazis—if you don’t kick them out the first time they show up, they’ll keep showing up, and eventually they’ll bring friends, and suddenly your friendly neighborhood punk bar becomes a nazi bar. If you don’t handle the creeps, then the creeps will keep on creeping, their friends will start coming with them, other potential creeps who’d been too shy to act on it will be empowered, and one day you’ll find that you have a winery where low-key sexual harassment is just part of the local culture and any woman there—especially staff, but having that as a culture will impact female customers too—has to deal with it.

    But also, regardless of what your boss permits you to do to the creep directly, talk to your staff. Make sure it’s very clear that you want to know if anything like this ever happens, and that you’re going to do whatever is in your personal power to fix it. Set up procedures and policies that explicitly empower them to never be alone with someone, to refuse to serve a creep, to pull in you or another manager if they’re uncomfortable, etc. Customer service jobs so often come with a side of “you have to be polite and deferent and welcoming no matter what abuse someone is throwing at you” that you really have to be explicit and proactive about this, or at least people will assume that’s part of the job.

  23. Lecturer*

    Women have to deal with perverts all the time. I have no idea why you said she ‘shouldn’t have shouted at him’ now that you aware of what is going on! You’re not coming across well here. If this escalates and he sexually assaults someone (incredibly high risk as he has not faced any consequences) your business will be in real trouble. People might not be in it for the money but if you lost a legal case you better have money!

  24. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Back in the days when I was a young techie (and dinosaurs programmed VAX machines etc) I got a job teaching adult members of staff how to use new computer hardware and software.

    There was one guy who kept coming to the sessions who seriously creeped me the heck out. Personal questions, staring openly at my chest, commenting on my figure, hanging around after work(!) to ask me for a drink. I complained to my boss and he said that this guy was ‘just friendly and a bit clueless’ and I shouldn’t complain again unless the guy actually tried physical assault.

    I can’t put into words how horrible I felt to be told that I HAD to put up with this behaviour because the guy was a client and I was making a big deal out of nothing. I never respected my boss again. I certainly never went above and beyond in that job ever again.

    If your staff didn’t feel comfortable approaching management about this issue, it’s definitely worth looking into why. That male coworker who’s opinion is ‘suck it up’ may have a lot to do with it – women are too used to having our concerns dismissed as nothing serious when we see others around us just shrug it off.

    That customer should be told to not come back, and I’d suggest a meeting with all the women who’ve made comments about this creepy dude to tell them that you’ve heard their complaints, they are valid, and something has/is being done.

    Keeping your staff’s trust is important- you have to deal with them every day. Keeping a single customer’s trust who you see intermittently – not as important.

    1. Magc*

      +1000.

      (From another woman in tech whose first job was working on PDP-11/70 minicomputers. Wow — I feel old just writing “minicomputer”…)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I have a PDP-10 in the garage. Somewhere…

        Even today, women working in male dominated environments like IT are told very much to ‘suck it up’ or ‘unless you can provide cold hard proof of harassment we can’t do anything’ and yeah, I kinda hoped over the decades this would have improved.

        Not retiring my battleaxe anytime soon it seems!

      2. Magc*

        When I was in college studying computer science, about 20-25% of the students in my classes were women. That was below the average then, but apparently that average has fallen substantially. I’ve worked almost exclusively in healthcare IT, so I’ve been spared a lot of the problems that most women face in technical careers. The first time I faced serious sexism / misogyny was working for a software vendor, although in that case it was an issue throughout the whole company.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh lady of tech, the time I worked for a software firm? Sooooo much sexism.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      “Friendly and just a bit clueless” – I wish people would quit making this excuse for creeps. If a creep can avoid creeping on some people, but not on others, he (or she or they, but most often he) isn’t clueless. He’s smart enough to figure out who he can get away with creeping on (and who will call him on his nonsense), and hide behind his supposed “cluelessness” while he’s creeping.

      OP, if Bart is able to avoid creeping on you, he’s got the ability to avoid creeping on your staff. Don’t waste your time trying to make him behave properly – kick him out and invest your time in making your workplace safer for your employees.

      1. KHB*

        Exactly this. It’s funny how these guys are never “a bit clueless” with other men, or with women they’re not interested in sexually. It’s not that they don’t understand what makes other people feel uncomfortable – it’s that they think their pantsfeelings get to override other people’s comfort.

        1. Lecturer*

          The irony is if a man sexually harassed them they would lose it! ‘I’m not ducking gay’.

          1. KHB*

            I’m convinced that this is where much, if not most, homophobia comes from: Men having a visceral reaction to being thought of in the very same dehumanizing terms that they themselves use to think about women.

            1. Lecturer*

              I once engaged with a dick online who claimed women who wear certain types of clothing are asking for it. So I said, what about men? Some wear tight jeans showing a bulge and some pull their jeans down so half their underwear shows (it’s a big thing in England). So I was like they are asking for it and want a dick in their ass. He completely lost it ‘how dare you call me (insert gay slurs here)’.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I posted up above – so many of these “males” have a type – and it frequently in my experience revolves around age. The fact that they can reign it in at all just shows they are doing it deliberately, and that they aren’t just “clueless and awkward.”

          1. Lecturer*

            Of course they know what they are doing. If they didn’t they would try it on with a CEO or an MP (enjoy jail in the second example).

          2. The Prettiest Curse*

            And many older, creepy men specifically do this stuff with younger women because they know that younger women are less likely to have the confidence to stand up for themselves, or the experience of doing so. I didn’t know how to handle those creeps 25 years ago, but I certainly do now.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        (Love your username)

        I’ve got a reputation for having absolutely zero cool with the ‘he’s just clueless/friendly/has *insert autism spectrum diagnosis*/just his way’ excuses that I hear at work. I’m not taking it any more. I’ve banned people from ever contacting the IT department again because they were creepy af to either a female member of staff or to ME. They get a technical issue? Someone else has to call for them and talk to us.

        Frankly I’m getting too old to be anything other than a right battleaxe.

        1. Observer*

          Frankly I’m getting too old to be anything other than a right battleaxe.

          Thank you for being a battleaxe in defense of your staff.

      3. Lecturer*

        OP think of it this way: this guy is so far gone that when women tried to establish boundaries he cancelled his membership so you could call him and convince him to come back. That is a pretty extreme. The next issue will be sexual assault. Let him kn0w that you know he is a pervert, that you’ve been informed about his activities and his membership will not be renewed.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Right. So clueless that he thought to call management to manipulate the situation. Sure.

      5. Nea*

        There’s a guy who haunts one of the convention circuits I’m on who’s been working the “I’m just a friendly clueless old duffer who doesn’t know where the lines are, also I’ve been in therapy for my issues” as an excuse to creep for decades. Funny how the men never notice and women who don’t fit a specific demographic just say “but he’s never done it to me, so I don’t understand the problem.”

        He particularly loves to get young women to apologize to him for having drawn a boundary that he just didn’t grasp, the poor fuzzy dear…

        Friendly and clueless is like an angler fish’s light. It’s a method a predator uses to attract prey.

        1. Lecturer*

          My ex friend turned into a creep. I found out very quickly it had happened to other women he worked with. I ditched him. He tried the whole bullshit of ‘I’m just intense because I listen so intently’. My response was once you make a woman feel uncomfortable it is over and there is no going back. No way I’m putting up with this BS anymore.

      6. Reba*

        There is a classic essay about this by Lili Loofbourow called “The Myth of the Male Bumbler.”

      7. JJ*

        ““Friendly and just a bit clueless” – I wish people would quit making this excuse for creeps.”

        Yes yes yes yes SO many missing stair men are in this category. THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          The “Paging Dr. Nerdlove” blog has some great stuff about not being a creeper and why “socially awkward” is not an excuse. The always wonderful “Captain Awkward” does, too.

      8. tinybutfierce*

        THIS. I don’t care whether or not someone intended to be creepy; intent does not trump impact, act like a creep and you can deal with the consequences of your gross actions.

      9. JustaTech*

        Having known people who were genuinely clueless, it’s easy to tell: they’re like that with everyone, men, women and non-binary, young and old, senior and junior. Also, the genuinely clueless are open to learning how to behave with people. And they’re pretty rare.

        When you clearly state a boundary with a clueless person they go “oh my goodness, I’m sorry!” and they respect it.

        When you clearly state a boundary with a creep pretending to be clueless they complain, belittle and push at the edges of your boundary constantly.

  25. KC*

    I’m not sure I agree. It doesn’t sound like he’s done anything overt/specific. I’ve been in retail and food service and, unfortunately dealing with people who give off creepy vibes isn’t uncommon. He won’t be the only one. Take precautions, make sure no one is ever alone with the guy. Have employees report/share information, especially about repeat customers. Discuss a plan with your staff to deal with such people. Allow them more leeway in your expectations of “being hospitable”.

    Have a conversation with the guy and be frank about the lack of “friendliness” is due to his overfamiliarity making the staff uncomfortable.

    Banning him? Do you have that authority? Unless you can point to something he DID that’s actionable, choices are limited.

    I’m not saying the guy should get a pass. But there are grey areas that people approach all the time when behavior is bothersome, but it’s not a crime or could be argued as misinterpreted. (I’m not saying your employees are wrong; just that it may not be “provable”.)

    Regardless, I’m really glad you have your employees’ best interests at heart and aren’t going with “the customer is always right”.

    1. Colette*

      This isn’t a court of law; the OP (and her employees) don’t have to prove it. As long as they’re not illegally discriminating, they can fire him as a customer.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. There are pretty specific complaints about precisely how he’s been acting like a creep, though – it’s clearly not just that people think he has bad vibes. Employees have observed that conversation with him always involves “tones of sexual overtures,” and have seen him taking off his shirt to show women customers his body.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Past the age of 4, lifting your shirt to show your midriff is… Just not acceptable in the vast majority of social situations.

    2. Beth*

      The thing is, people don’t have to commit a crime to be no longer welcomed in a given private space. A private establishment can absolutely ban someone for broadly making others uncomfortable. Often enough, doing so is actually a good move. Someone who’s made half your staff uncomfortable has probably made at least one other customer uncomfortable, either by direct interaction or by being forced to watch them harass your employees; it’s better to kick out the creeps than risk having customers who are uncomfortable around creeps choose not to return to your establishment.

      You’re right that a lot of service and retail workers have to deal with this nonsense, and that very often employers won’t act when it’s ‘just’ constant creepy vibes. But that’s not a good thing. That’s a symptom of sexual harassment still being relatively normalized in our culture. There’s no rule that says a private business can’t kick someone out for consistently creepy vibes, but there is a social norm that it’s not fair for men to experience consequences for consistently making women uncomfortable. I personally think upending that norm is a good thing.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. This sort of response is why women often feel like they’re shouting into the void – you can have multiple women all reporting that yes, they’ve had to put up with creepy behaviour, yes, they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable, yes, they’ve been harassed…and it’s still ‘Yeah but the guy didn’t DO anything, maybe he’s just awkward, maybe he’s just trying to be friendly…’. It’s so tiring.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. Why does it take something like an assault for these women to be taken seriously? Emotional abuse is still abuse. Harassment is still wrong.

          1. Beth*

            Right?? They’re not universally awkward and creepy; they save it specifically for women. A lot of men will make all the excuses in the world for their buddies, but the fact that this kind of guy HAS male buddies the best evidence in the world that his behavior isn’t accidental or unwitting; he knows what he’s doing and how to pick his targets.

      2. allathian*

        When my sister celebrated her 30th birthday, we went to a fairly posh but not outrageously expensive sit-down restaurant as a party of 10. The food was really excellent, but there was a stag party or something a few tables over, and it was really uncomfortable to witness all those 40-something men commenting on the looks of the waitress, who was fairly young and conventionally attractive. Every woman at our table cringed when one of them felt the waitress up every time she had to move past him, he was lucky not to get a hot plate of food dropped on him. When she brought our entrees, my sister’s SO who was the host asked her to get the manager and described what he’d seen. He also said that we’d pay for the entrees but would cancel the rest of our order and leave unless the manager did something about it. He assigned a waiter to that table. We stayed and had a nice enough time, especially after the stag party paid and left. Ours is not a tipping culture, but when we paid all of us contributed to a big tip for the unfortunate waitress. Even though the situation was resolved, I haven’t been to that restaurant since that day. In fact, I’m not sure it’s still operating…

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      He took his shirt half-off in a winery, which doesn’t exactly class up the place. At minimum the no shirt/shoes/mask/service thing should apply there. Even if being creepy to women is an acceptable thing at this winery, I’d think that wouldn’t be.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I mentioned above why telling women that they have to have ‘hard proof’ of harassment before anything can be done is exceptionally problematic- I’ve lived through it and you never trust an employer who says stuff like that.

      This guy has creeped out multiple women at multiple locations. That’s frankly a lot of women who are reporting that this guy is not safe. He knows what he’s doing (he doesn’t do it around blokes) and frankly that’s all the evidence needed t get him barred.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      H*ll, no: A whole raft of female employees have been pestered by this guy. He doesn’t get a pass because he wasn’t gross enough.

      And the facts that you had to put up with creeps and there will be others are both irrelevant: This is the creep and hand and there is no reason his being not-offensive-enough-yet should outweigh the experiences of so many women.

      1. Nea*

        “He doesn’t get a pass because he wasn’t gross enough.”

        I want to carve these words in 12-foot letters of fire into the wall of every office where harassment training takes place.

    6. RussianInTexas*

      Banning a customer does not require actual criminal behavior or a due process. You can ban a customer because he makes the staff uncomfortable.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        A bar owner in my hometown once kicked a customer out for making his DOG uncomfortable.

        The guy ended up commiting armed robbery in the business next door. (The dog was female, & it was actually the owner’s daughter who kicked the guy out. So, definitely trust female creep radar.)

    7. M*

      I had a male professor who never did anything “actionable” to anyone, but all the female students knew they should avoid being alone with him because he said and did things that made us uncomfortable (comments about our costumes for shows, “accidentally walking into the women’s dressing room when he allegedly thought no one was in there, standing too close during conversation). A friend told one of our other professors, and he sighed and asked how many people had had those experiences. No one had ever spoken up, because we didn’t think anything would be done. Myself, my friend, and a handful of other students gave statements and he was banned from campus. Just because it’s not a crime doesn’t mean that action cannot or should not be taken to protect people, especially young women, from creeps. Grey areas are where these guys live, and we as a society have to make that grey area as unwelcoming and small as possible.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I didn’t remember until you made that comment but I absolutely knew one professor that none of the female students/post grads/doctoral students/lab staff would ever be alone with and we’d all been told it ‘wasn’t worth complaining about’ because nothing would be done. I think there may have been a teacher at secondary school that none of us girls were comfortable around too.

        1. Blackcat*

          When I was in middle school, we got a new PE teacher who gave girls the creeps. A few spoke to their parents, who spoke to the school. Dude was GONE within a week. As a young girl, it was a valuable lesson in teaching me to trust my gut and speak up.

        2. Lilo*

          Same, there was a male professor at my school that was popular for some events he put on that were known even outside of the major (people even made shirts with his face on them), but you never wanted to be in the lab alone with him. Ugh.

        3. Distracted Librarian*

          Had a high school history teacher like that. The girls knew, and stories had been passed down about him for years. I let my guard down once, and he touched me inappropriately. I didn’t bother reporting it (due to previous experience reporting sh*tty male behavior). Found out decades later he’d done the same thing to a girl the previous year. She did report it, her parents got involved–and the guy was not only still teaching a year later, but still behaving the same way. So yeah, at least back then, it usually wasn’t worth complaining, because nothing would be done.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        We had a guy who dated a new freshman girl every year. Always a freshman, before they learned of his reputation, of course, and of the string of other “extra special” girls who had preceded them.

    8. BlueBelle*

      Why are people always making excuses for men being creeps, and that women “just have to take it”? No, we don’t just have to take it. Stop excusing their bad behavior and hold them accountable and maybe we can change the experience for women going forward.
      My entire career I have heard “boys will be boys” you just have to deal with it. BS. I don’t and I won’t. THEY are the ones who are wrong, not me and not all the other women who have put up with this since we were 11 or 12.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        The problem is that you have to get higher ups on board for anything to happen, and some people/places just won’t do it. Same if you report bullying. “Ugh, that would require like, effort, and like, banning. Why can’t you just suck it up?”

      2. Lecturer*

        Definitely don’t take it. I ditched a ‘close’ friend after he turned into a creep. No way am I putting up with this BS at this stage of my life.

    9. Jill*

      One employee refuses to be alone with him and a second bought a fake engagement to ward off his specific advances, especially if the ring worked that’s 100% indicative that he means more with it than friendly conversation.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        And the BRAND NEW EMPLOYEE already knows about his creepitude going on at another job. That’s strike three!

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. There are many levels of concern here, including that the employees do not feel safe with this customer and do not feel safe bringing concerns to their management. If more creeps got called on their behavior perhaps they would be less bold in their actions.

    10. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I believe the concept involved here is called “right to refuse service”. IIRC (IANAL), it means that a private business has the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. This is why casinos can kick you out for counting cards, even though courts have ruled that card counting (at least in some forms) is legal.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Card counting is only cheating because the House always wins. Anyone who plays certain card games regularly probably counts cards naturally. (I mean, there are only 52 in a deck. Not that hard when playing rummy.)

    11. pugsnbourbon*

      Nah. “Don’t let anyone be alone with him?” Come on now, how are you saying that’s a “gray area?”

      Creepy people continue to be creepy because they don’t face consequences. Ban Bartholomew.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, that line blows my mind. I mean, @KC is ADMITTING that the OP has enough information to decide it’s not safe to leave anyone alone with him, but we STILL have to serve him, because that’s not “enough”. What WILL be enough?

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Probably very little short of a body in a dumpster, a la Clerk’s story below.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          That line is horrific, and reminds me too much of when I tried to report my stalker to the police.

          (‘You never dated? Never encouraged him to date you? Oh he’s harmless then, just has a crush. Make sure you’re not alone in public if you’re scared”
          Pretty much they won’t do anything until I get physically assaulted. Luckily the stalker no longer knows where I live)

          1. Jlynn*

            Wow that is almost exactly what is happening to my 26 yo niece. Some random neighbor asked if he could mow her yard for $$. She said No, I’ll do it myself. He proceeded to mow while she was at work the next day. Now comes over often to ask for money and says “It’ll cost more if you don’t pay me!” (with a vibe that it will cost more than cash) He comes to her BACK door which is a patio door to her bedroom late at night and knocks. She is scared to death as she lives alone and owns a large dog. She’s called the cops and they ask “do you have a relationship with him?” “did you date him?” “have you done anything to make him think you are flirting with him?” She’s like “NO” he comes to my bedroom window/door at 10:00 a night! I’ve told him to leave, told him not to come to my yard/house. One Friday Night she left and came to my place to sleep because she was so scared and cops did NOTHING.

    12. Mental Lentil*

      Stop. This kind of attitude is why sexual harassment continues to be a problem.

      There is plenty of evidence in the letter that this guy is a creep. The winery is private property, he can be banned from it without any legal consequences for the winery.

      Take your employees at their word. That’s how you support them and build a great staff.

    13. Zephy*

      Nope. The employees feel sexually harassed by this man, therefore he has in fact sexually harassed them.

    14. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      I am really curious as to whether you are a dude. Like, really, deeply curious.

    15. Tech Work*

      These types of men live in this gray area on purpose. Any objection to how they make women feel is met with it’s just a joke/lighten up/nothing happened/I’m just being friendly/etc. The women who experience this are not misinterpreting what he’s doing, and it’s not behavior that should be accomodated or excused.

    16. Dr. Rebecca*

      *I* feel creeped out by this guy, and I’m only going off what the OP wrote. No, women shouldn’t have to just take it.

    17. jenny*

      KC, if employees are refusing to be alone with him and wearing fake wedding rings, I’m willing to bet that he’s done some things that are “overt/specific” that the OP felt was sufficient to summarize instead of list exhaustively. Also, is taking off his shirt at another winery guest overt/specific enough? “Unfortunately not uncommon” would be a weaselly stance for any manager to take against harassment.

    18. D3*

      Oh god, you and all the people like you are the problem. No, women do NOT have to put up with creepiness that isn’t overt assault. ESPECIALLY not at work. ESPECIALLY not repeatedly.
      Please stop behaving like this. (I’m betting that you do enjoy “flirting” with women in the service industry. I assure you it isn’t fun for the women you’re creeping on.)

    19. nonbinary writer*

      Yeah, better to wait until he sexually assaults someone, who then gets to live with that trauma for the rest of their life /s

    20. tinybutfierce*

      It doesn’t matter how common this behavior is and that is ABOLUTELY no reason to tolerate it. It is “provable” that this guy has made every single female employee he’s interacted with uncomfortable, to the point of lying about their marital status as a defense. Employees at another business are aware of his gross behavior. He took his shirt off to show his body to another woman, a customer, who was a complete stranger. This is not a grey area; the guy is a creep who deserves to be banned and not doing so is giving him a pass he absolutely doesn’t deserve.

    21. Observer*

      It doesn’t sound like he’s done anything overt/specific.

      When every woman in the place is telling you that he’s being a creep – to the point that someone put one a FAKE WEDDING RING to keep him at bay! you do NOT need a bunch of “overt and specific things” happening to take this a a serious problems. When it turns out that there is a known history, you really, really cannot dismiss that!

      Besides, the guy TOOK HIS SHIRT OFF. What does he have to do to make it “overt/specific” enough? Does the OP need to wait till he grabs someone before dealing with it?

      . But there are grey areas that people approach all the time when behavior is bothersome, but it’s not a crime or could be argued as misinterpreted. (I’m not saying your employees are wrong; just that it may not be “provable”.)

      Whether it’s a crime or “provable” in a court is really not relevant here. But, there is no way to credibly argue that what this guy is doing was just “misinterpreted”. And even if it were, that is STILL on him. When people REPEATEDLY “misinterpret” someones behavior in the same negative way, the problem is THAT PERSON.

      The OP doesn’t need a police case to ban the buy.

    22. GraceRN*

      “Make sure no one is ever alone with the guy”
      This right here alone is a good business reason to refuse service to him – if staff need to resort to a “buddy system” to protect themselves, then it’s clear that his behavior is disruptive to the normal operations of the business.

    23. Dark Macadamia*

      “It doesn’t sound like he’s done anything overt/specific” because this is an anonymous letter written to a workplace advice column. We’re supposed to take LWs at their word about the problems they describe, with the understanding that we don’t have every detail.

      But even then, we know from the letter that he has taken his mask off at the counter, exposed his torso in public, said things with sexual overtones, and at least 4 or 5 employees are uncomfortable around him. The brand new employee walked into a conversation with no context and was immediately like “oh, Bartholomew?” Presumably they have reasons for their concerns beyond what the LW included and probably beyond what they told the LW as well. There’s nothing to be gained by a bunch of internet strangers giving him the benefit of the doubt without knowing the whole situation, and a lot of harm in requiring “proof” before allowing people to set reasonable boundaries.

  26. boop the first*

    Your upper colleagues are male, but the underpaid employees (who apparently require education and zest) are all female? And you sell high-value luxury products/services? Sounds uh, fun.

    1. Beth*

      I noticed this too. OP, do you have any say at all in hiring? It sounds like you’re overdue for a more diverse staff group, at the customer-facing level. (I don’t just mean men, though it sounds like having a more evenly distributed gender ratio would be a boon here; hire older women, women who look and act like they’ll take no nonsense, butch women, nonbinary folks, basically anyone who falls outside the model of “conventionally attractive young woman with zest.” Way too many businesses, especially in the service industry, profit on the implication that patronage comes with the cheerful and unquestioning attention of a pretty young woman.)

  27. RussianInTexas*

    Yikes
    I only have one creepy sleazy customer, and at least he is over the phone and e-mail, I never have to see him.
    I enjoy telling him no on his requests.

  28. Jam Today*

    The casualness with which women are sacrificed on the altar of money and male egos shouldn’t continue to shock me at my age, but it really does.

  29. JillianNicola*

    Echoing the point made already here, that if your employee mentioned that they had problems with him at her old winery, that this dude is a PROBLEM that won’t change no matter how nicely you ask him. One problem dude’s money/attendance is NOT worth your staff losing their feeling of safety, or losing their trust in their management to protect them. Dear god please show this asshole the door. There will always be more customers.

    1. JillianNicola*

      Also, look into investing in some sexual harassment training for your staff if it’s not already part of your onboarding. Particularly for your male colleague but all your employees should go through it and sign off on it.

      1. AnonForThis*

        The Brewers Association is currently even offering discounts on their sexual harassment training courses due to the current complaints about sexism; maybe the wine industry has similar courses.

  30. mreasy*

    This is why it’s best to talk to the employees being accused of rudeness before making a decision – especially when it’s women employees and a male complainer. Too many examples like this!

  31. AnonForThis*

    If your boss balks, point out the moment that craft beer is having right now with sexism in the brewing industry, against female brewers/staff/customers. Ask if he wants your winery’s name in the next round of name-and-shame that goes out.

    A local brewery which I normally love has a creepy older customer who tried to get way too friendly with me immediately and wouldn’t take any hints about how maybe I don’t want to discuss all kinds of personal stuff, so I iced him out. I still hate it when I go and he’s there, as he hang-doggedly will try to make nice on occasion.

    Turns out ownership probably wouldn’t have done a thing about him before, because one of the owners was just ousted over repeated sexual harassment issues. That owner had been friendly with me but crossed into the ‘huh, maybe I need to watch him’ category when (pre-pandemic) he’d given me a hug (not uncommon) but in the process, pressed his cheek against my bare neck. I did all the typical mental math/geometry trying to figure out if it was an accident/my fault/etc.

    1. pancakes*

      The problems the wine industry is having are pretty high-profile, too! There was a big article in the NYT last year, “The Court of Master Sommeliers Has a Sexual Harassment Problem,” and several others in industry mags & websites.

      1. AnonForThis*

        Yeah, I live in Chicagoland and a local who is the first American woman/first woman of color to reach Master Sommelier, Alpana Singh, resigned over the revelations of what had been happening to her fellow woman somms.

    2. Jaid*

      It made the papers when brewers in the Philadelphia area had to own up to sexual harassment…

  32. Anon for this*

    There’s a couple of things in here that bother me just as much as Creepy Guy:

    “Given all this information from the staff, I now see why he didn’t feel welcomed when he visited, so I’m not sure how to discipline”

    Um… OP is seriously considering disciplining staff because a sexual harasser complained about them?

    And this is big time problematic too: “We do not have any male employees who I could otherwise assign to the customer.” Well why not? Front of house staff in a wine tasting room is not a job function that falls under the BFOQ exception. Hiring a bunch of “young cute” female front of house staff and considering discipling them based on the complaints of a sexual harasser is not a good look.

    1. D3*

      YES! This stuck out to me so, so much, too.
      The fact that OP never even considered for a moment that the customer may have been the problem if the problem was the entire staff is pretty telling.
      The fact that OP *still thinks he needs to discipline* after knowing Barty is a creep is damning.
      I’m not at all surprised his staff isn’t more open with him.
      (And I have no doubt OP is a man, either.)

      1. jenny*

        > (And I have no doubt OP is a man, either.)

        Unneeded speculation. Women can enable sexual harassment too. Similar, in my mind, to how some people think ‘well, *I* had to pump in a bathroom stall with unpaid breaks so why are you complaining that you have to do the same?’ – you can get socialized into the mindset that it’s OK.

      2. Observer*

        (And I have no doubt OP is a man, either.)

        I wonder about that – It sounds like the OP has had to deal with this kind of behavior before. They explicitly note that they know how to shut it down.

    2. Elbe*

      I think that this depends on how much power the LW has in this situation.

      If the LW has the ability to “fire” the client and take a hard line against harassment, then considering disciplining the employees for not accommodating this guy is a very, very bad look.

      If the LW is considering how to move forward when it’s ultimately the owner who decides who is allowed in the establishment and how they’re treated, it’s a different vibe altogether. It comes off as, “If I’m forced to ‘discipline’ them, what do I do?”

      The LW made it clear that they don’t think that they can ask the employees to accept harassment and that they lost respect for a male coworker who suggested that they should. To me, the LW’s personal stance is pretty clear. But they might need advice if the business isn’t letting them handle it how they would choose to.

  33. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

    Seconding telling staff how you’d like them to handle it. Authorizing more forceful language, using more distance when serving, reporting to you or lead- also allowing them to dial back from “friendly” to “polite” as needed (sometimes the creepiness is a feeling that’s hard to quantify) but definitely have a reporting system in place as well as discussion/training on handling it.

  34. WiJ*

    I know this is very common in the service industry, but I had a similar experience with a client many years ago (I’m a consultant in a male-dominated field). The client and my project manager insisted on doing preparation for an audit over a weekend, for no good reason, and I suppose I wasn’t adequately enthusiastic about being there. The client (older gentleman), in an effort to cheer me up (???) insisted “C’mon, give me a hug” – I told him, sorry, no hugs today (it wasn’t the first time he had tried hugging me). Project manager saw the whole thing.

    When I got to the office Monday, my direct supervisor called me into his office. Apparently client had complained to the project manager that I hadn’t been friendly enough, and project manager complained to my boss. When my boss expressed his disapproval to me about the client feedback, I asked him the last time a client had insisted on hugging him. He just said “really?” and let the complaint drop – but no one spoke to the client, my time on the project was pulled back, and I think from the outside, it didn’t do my reputation for client relationships any favors.

    No one said anything to the client, who of course we kept working for. When I did encounter him going forward, I took steps to stay out of hug range, not always successfully. I certainly took away the message that my own comfort and boundaries were irrelevant to the project manager and my boss, and I’d never report this kind of thing to them again (not that I even complained the first time!)

    20 years later, as the boss myself, I make clear to the juniors working for me that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, even from a client, and that they don’t have to tolerate it. It makes me very angry…

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      Damn I gotta stop reading these comments because my heart rate is already elevated today. I am so sorry that happened to you.

    2. Elbe*

      “…I asked him the last time a client had insisted on hugging him.”

      I loved this response! And, furthermore, it was “called your boss and actively tried to get you in trouble because he wanted you to be punished for not hugging him.” This guy thinks that you’re obligated to hug him and he was trying to get your boss to force you to do so.

      If your framing didn’t highlight the situation for your boss, nothing would have. I’m so happy that you’re the boss now and can provide a better environment for your employees.

      1. WiJ*

        That was the worst part! His overture was bad enough, but to feel so entitled as to complain that it was somehow unacceptable for me to turn him down actually shocked me then. Unfortunately, it surprises me less now…

  35. Clerk*

    We had a patron like that at my old job. We ALL complained, some of us told him off, some of us just went out of our way not to serve him, but nothing ever happened. A few months after I left, he killed a woman and dumped her body in a ditch. I was only mildly surprised.

  36. Corporate Lawyer*

    I’ve seen similar signs in the women’s restroom of a local Boston restaurant/bar I frequent (or did, pre-pandemic). It made me feel a little safer to know the establishment was thinking about and trying to address the issue.

    1. Corporate Lawyer*

      AAAH, nesting fail! This was supposed to be a reply to New Here’s comment about signs in the women’s restroom of a bar where they worked to order an ‘angel shot’ if the patron wanted one of our bouncers or male bartenders to help them escape a creep.

  37. xak*

    I feel a little weird–the letter writer has NO male employees that serve customers? So corporately you’ve decided only young women can serve customers? Maybe that attitude is where to “suck it up” comment from your male colleague came from.

  38. RubyJackson*

    Why don’t they have any male servers? Seems like sexism is baked into the business model.

    1. Lecturer*

      It’s obvious they are picking young women for 1 purpose: eye candy for customers. Then we wonder how sexual harassment happens.

      1. Wow*

        Because these women couldn’t possibly be good at their jobs?

        Speaking of sexism….. oO

        1. Lecturer*

          Of course they are great at the job, the OP says so. That is the worst thing:

          Massively underpaid
          Great at the job in spite of earning peanuts
          No protection from sexual harassment – the OP is actually talking about discipling his amazing staff.

          To ignore the fact that jobs like this hire young attractive women is simply missing the bigger picture.

      2. jenny*

        What an odd thing to say. No one wonders how sexual harassment happens – it happens because of Bartholomews. Discriminatory hiring practices don’t create sexual harassment. They are both bad but it’s not as if one causes the other

        1. Lecturer*

          Of course discriminatory hiring practices create sexual harassment. If your policy is to only hire young attractive females then you (irrespective of whether you are willing to admit it or not) are lining up staff to be sexually harassed. Hire more men. Hire older people. All the businesses that hire hot young women know exactly what they are doing. I would have thought that was obvious….

          1. jenny*

            Enable, not create. Of course hire men, hire older people, higher people who don’t align with conventional western beauty standards. Of course business that only hire young attractive women are doing it on purpose, and that’s sleazy. But nobody is COMPELLED to become a harasser by the presence of only young women. One does not CAUSE the other.

        2. Beth*

          Of course the blame for sexual harassment is ultimately on the sexual harassers. But plenty of service industry norms create scenarios that enable and support it, to a degree that can’t possibly be accidental. A business that only hires attractive young women for customer-facing service roles, and doesn’t have extremely explicit and strong policies protecting their employees from sexual harassment, is actively enabling the Bartholomews of the world. Their business model targets the Bartholomews as their customer base and sets up a ‘safe’ space for them to harass women that they have situational power over. It’s absolutely legit to call them on that; we’re far too late in history to pretend employers don’t know what they’re doing on this front!

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            Yes. Businesses who do this are presenting their young, female staff as part of their brand. That encourages the idea that the staff are part of the “product,” so to speak. That doesn’t for an instant excuse harassment or harassers, but it does create (intentionally IMHO) a quasi-sexualized environment that makes harassment more likely.

    2. wine dude*

      Men don’t seem to apply for wine service jobs. I’d love to have a more diverse staff but it just doesn’t happen. (I’m not the OP).

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Why are servers in restaurants predominantly female? Probably the same reason.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I mean . . . underpaid service job where you get harassed all the time? Classic pink-collar.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        And if he gets banned from OP’s winery, he’ll start testing the boundaries at the next winery down the road. *sigh*

        1. irene adler*

          Yep.
          Which is why these wineries should form a guild or other such professional group to discuss/inform about local industry issues. Here in San Diego, there’s an employer’s group where the HR reps all get together regularly. And they do talk -informally- about some of the more notorious hires they’ve encountered.

          No doubt the group discussion would soon turn to creepy customers each establishment has dealt with. Result: everyone would know about Bart and know how to deal with him effectively. Like toss him out on the first transgression. Not wait for an entire staff to relate what a boor he is.

  39. Archaeopteryx*

    Stand up to a creep, lose creep’s business.

    Decline to protect your staff from creeps, and you’ll lose a) the business of other customers who see that you allow this sort of thing, b) your best employees [anyone with options], c) a ton of business after a newspaper exposé reveals that you’re complicit in your staff’s harassment, and your winery’s reputation which will take years to rebuild. Oh, and I forgot options d) All of the above as well as e) your integrity.

    There is no neutral option.

  40. Finland*

    It seems like a vast number of women employees had something to say about Bartholomew’s creepiness. I’m wondering why you didn’t know anything about it until he threatened to cancel his membership. Are you observing your employees’ interactions with customers (and each other) during your shifts?
    Even worse, they might have already gone to your male colleague looking for a solution and were told to just deal with it. By the way, it’s pretty sickening that your male colleague told you, the Director, that women should just deal with it. That comment alone could cause his firing. I’m also curious as to his behavior with your employees and whether it has been appropriate and professional.
    You need to be implementing procedures to guard against sexual-harassment/assault BEFORE something happens, and instill the type of management style that would encourage your employees come to you with this immediately once a customer, etc., behaves inappropriately.
    Additionally, the Bartholomews of the world are not going to care about being “talked to“. They will just become sneakier with how they do things.
    Have a conversation with your employees immediately and let them know that any customer (or fellow employee) that behaves inappropriately will be dealt with and that they need to come to you right away and not wait.
    Lastly, have you thought about installing cameras in your business and on the grounds? Sadly, this may not be the last time your employees are subject to potential harassment and possible assault by a customer.

    1. B*

      Yes to all above and where was the cellar tour guide during this scar reveal? If present why was nothing done? Empty commercial wine cellars are huge and filled with areas where bad behavior can escalate unseen.

      1. B*

        Oops reread comment and this happened in the Tasting Room? My eyeballs just left my skull.

  41. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    He cancelled his membership as a tactic, too bad you didn’t have the knowledge to accept his cancellation.
    In future you need to know about this kind of thing as its happens and not after it blows up.

    You could always double down, ignore him worse till he “cancels” again.

  42. nnn*

    I feel like the “deal with it” guy should be assigned to handle this client, and others like him.

  43. wine dude*

    Winery owner here. Step one is always always to check with your staff and get their side of the story. I would have thanked old Bart for letting me know what happened and that I would be looking into it right away. Upon finding out Bart’s true nature that would be it, he’s gone.
    It sounds like staff isn’t telling you about creepers like Bart and it makes me wonder what else they aren’t telling you. It’s important (especially in alcohol service) that your crew knows you have their backs and you take their feedback seriously – and that they have the backing to take a stand with a problem customer, whether they are creepy or just overserved. Talking about problem customers and how to deal with them should be a regular part of staff meetings.
    Also – with Covid a lot of wineries have been required to go to some form of reservation system. This has turned out to be a godsend for us because we can manage the flow better and we don’t have a “witching hour” like we used to. Per ticket $$ has gone up too because service is more focussed. We won’t be going back to the old way. There are several good systems out there, you should look into it.

    1. Batty Old Teacher*

      You sound like a great guy. My favorite winery (of which I’m a long time member) has banned bachelor/bachelorhette parties on the weekends now. It is a blessing.

      1. Ingalls*

        Kudos, Wine Guy.
        And as a frequent winery visitor (and a member of some as wll), I am so glad to hear that you’ve decided to keep the reservation system. I like it so much better.

      2. wine dude*

        Long time members like you are a blessing! :) Why would any reasonable winery risk that relationship by allowing a bad actor like Bart to go unchecked? (PS when we get a request for a large bachelorette party we turn it into an event, put them in a separate space, bring in catering, and make more money off of them by showing them a great time. But not all wineries have the space for that.)

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          It’s refreshing and appreciated to hear from people who know the kind of business at hand!

  44. Here we go again*

    You need to let your employees know you have their back when it comes to creepers. They need to have a script to say to the guest then report bad behavior too you especially where alcohol is involved. The the script can be a simple as “I have to go right now, someone in the back needs my help.”
    When I was assistant to a store manager who was younger than me. She got a creepy call from a foot fetish guy asking her a question about the store, (like what shoe sizes do you carry?) then asking a personal question (what color are your toenails painted?) I told her to just say we’re getting busy and hang up. Nobody should have to put up with that.
    I personally found the best conversation ender for my personal time when conversations get uncomfortable. “I have to go, my ice cream is melting.”

    1. D3*

      And, or course *actually* have their back. Not just SAY it.
      Far too many employers talk the talk but then don’t actually have employee’s back.

  45. RagingADHD*

    Don’t forget, the guy is stripping off and sticking his bare chest in the face of *other guests.* Even if you had a harassment-proof staff, this guy is behaving inappropriately with customers, too. People are going to stop coming if they have to put up with that crap and the staff obviously can’t intervene or do anything about it.

    Why is one guy’s business more valuable than all the other customers he’s driving off?

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Yep.

        Obnoxious “regulars” are the worst thing that can happen to a bar.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      From the description given in the letter, we don’t know that the other guest didn’t actually ask to see the scar. Even creeps get lucky once in a while, after all.

      But that isn’t the way I’d bet.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Even if she did (which I wouldn’t bet either), the rest of the people present didn’t come for the show.

    2. Observer*

      Why is one guy’s business more valuable than all the other customers he’s driving off?

      I’m afraid that that is going to be the one argument that your boss will have to listen to.

      In any case, even if I’m wrong and your boss is decent, this is important information, because it shows how bad his behavior is.

  46. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Ryan Dowd has training for how to manage “creepy guys.” He does not call it that but that’s how I think of it. I will try to link in a reply.

    1. Lecturer*

      If it were men who were suffering on a mass scale things would change faster than you could shout harassment.

  47. Jess*

    Okay, this is not funny and sexual harassment is not funny but a brand new hire walking in, immediately picking up on the situation, and saying “oh, are you talking about Creepy Bartholomew?” is very, very funny.

    1. Observer*

      Funny? In a dark humor way, maybe. In Yiddish there is a saying “a bittere gelechter” (a bitter laugh). It’s that kind of “funny”.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Funny ironic, in that the LW apparently didn’t have a clue. As someone upthread mentioned, it’s a big red flag that none of the staff thought they had the option to mention this to management, or it was mentioned and quashed.

      1. Jess*

        Yes, the comic timing is almost impeccable. Long conversation with the creep asking him to reverse course on the cancellation, slow reveal of just what a creep he is from various employees, and then the new one just chirping in (in my head with a total Kenneth-from-30-rock voice) “oh, are you talking about creepy Bartholomew?” after a 10 second read of the room.

  48. Batty Old Teacher*

    I literally just sat in an interview where a (male, younger than me) principal did not want to hire the most qualified candidate because she was visibly pregnant and thus would require a long term sub for the first part of next year. I told him that I’m so glad he expressed such things to me because I would like to let HR know about his sexism and illegal mouth.

  49. Ellena*

    I hope I’m not the only one bothered by the “cute” and “attractive” objectifications. Sorry but wtf?! How is this relevant and objective?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think they’re useful in context, to make it clear that Bartholomew is targeting a specific type.

      Whether we like it or not, there are certain “looks” that, yes, can be generalized as cute and attractive and sometimes that does matter in a situation.

    2. Observer*

      In most context, it’s not relevant. Here? Totally relevant, because it speaks to exactly what he is doing and what is attitude is.

      1. old biddy*

        I disagree. I know that only targeting the attractive women makes some creepers easy to spot, but flip the situation. What if Bartholomew were doing this only to the less conventionally attractive women? Would it make it any less harrassy? If the servers who weren’t attractive also reported that Bartholomew was a creep, would people be just as likely to believe them?

        1. allathian*

          Unfortunately probably not.

          That said, fairly young, conventionally attractive women are statistically even more likely to be harassed in a sexual way. Less attractive ones get plenty of the kind of misogynistic treatment where they’re accused of shouting when they’re only stating something firmly or just saying something that the complainer doesn’t want to hear, not being taken seriously in a professional role. Every female-passing person has probably been harassed at some point in their life, whether they see their treatment as actual harassment or just something that goes with the territory of being seen as female.

          I guess I’m glad that I’m pushing on 50, obese, and no longer have any F’s to give. At least I can use public transit without some creep trying to talk to me on a daily basis. I absolutely relish being invisible.

      2. pancakes*

        His attitude towards women is quite clear. It wouldn’t be less clear if he only tended to harass women who aren’t conventionally attractive, or a mix of women who are and aren’t conventionally attractive, or any and all women he encounters. It’s not the women that are the problem here, it’s his behavior.

        1. Observer*

          Of course his behavior is the problem!

          Understanding who he targets is not the same as claiming that his targets are “the problem”. I really do not understand why you would draw that conclusion.

          Obviously the best thing is to ban Bartholomew. But if Big Boss (BB) does not allow this, the OP needs to figure out how to best protect the staff. Understanding the creep’s MO is helpful to doing that. Although, my first step would be to insist that BB be the one serving this guy each time he comes in. Make it his problem, and maybe then he’ll do something.

    3. MissCoco*

      Agreed, I don’t think it should matter if someone is cute/attractive/plain etc, people can (and unfortunately will) be creeped on or get inappropriate familiarity from customers. Though it might occur more frequently to some people, I don’t think it’s a relevant part of who is reporting the behaviors, and made me curious if that type of perception was related to the lack of reporting to LW.

      I say that because I’ve had managers where I’m pretty sure they think I’m cute, and other managers where I’m pretty sure they think I’m unattractive, and in both cases, it made me really wary of bringing sexist behavior to their attention, because I don’t really think I should even be able to tell if you like or dislike my physical appearance.

  50. basically gods*

    I want to reinforce the point some folks have made, which is that if your coworkers won’t care about the damage being done to the employees (which…ugh), they really ought to care about the impacts on other customers. How many people has this guy driven away by being creepy? Letting creeps hang around allows them to set the tone of the entire venue– and people who aren’t required to be there for their jobs will happily take their business elsewhere.

  51. DKMA*

    I feel like what to do about Creepy Bart is secondary to the fact that apparently you don’t have any protocols to deal with this sort of thing already. No way you should hear about this sort of problem only after the customer calls to complain.

    Ideally, you’d have “fired” this guy a while ago, contemporaneously with his bad behavior because you had processes in place for your staff to escalate issues. Since you don’t, get those in place, and I’d probably ban the guy, or at least treat him as on the last step of whatever protocol you put in place (e.g. verbal warning, must leave that day, permanently banned). If he’s allowed back he needs to know he already has 2 strikes.

    1. irene adler*

      Ban the guy. No additional chances. He’s had plenty of them.

      He’s made things uncomfortable for the female employees. Which means, there’s already an apprehension there, that won’t be salved by any promises on his part to reform. He just might slip-up; no one wants to be the person on the receiving end of that.

  52. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    OP please make sure your staff know that you want a heads up on difficult customers and will take this seriously. And please ban the creeper and let him know why. I worked a 2nd job at a grocery store chain. A lot of teens at the end of the day. Older gentleman was famous for standing to close, accidently brushing his hand across T & A. Multiple cashiers and baggers knew of him. Management did nothing. One night he targeted a teen worker. Kept harassing her. Management was alerted and watching him. He walked past 3 other employees to grab at her. Witnessed by myself, management and security. Teen girl started running toward break room, collasped into tears in my arms on the way there. I told an older bag boy to stay in the break room with her until creeper left the property. Creeper was escorted off property by the shift manager and the security guard. Teen Girl calls parents who arrived later and were beyond PO that police hadn’t been called. Police get called. Report gets taken. Big manager tells staff the next day (despite knowing all the above) that creeper can still shop there. Multiple teen girls start finding new jobs. Creeper comes into self checkout on my shift a months later and repeatedly brushes my behind while I help him. Took everything I had not to beat this person. I spoke to mid management the next shift. Said that since Big manager told us he was allowed to shop there I felt like I had to allow the sexual harassment and how did they want to prevent it in the future so THEY DONT GET SUED?! Mid management came back and said “While not to set the customer up for failure…if creeper did it again we were to tell him to desist and then have security walk him out if he continues.” For a person who already has a police report filed against him and was already kicked out by the competition across the street from our store. I left employment there shortly afterwards. Word got around to all the suburban moms that their daughters were not safe and the got less teenage applicants. And then an Aldi open right around the corner from them and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

  53. Ingalls*

    I don’t know why, but I am more incensed by the words of the male coworker than the actions of the creepy customer.

    1. Alice*

      If I may hazard a guess — harassers are sadly a common occurrence, but they’re still in the minority. You can fire them, ban them from the premises, or otherwise find ways to get rid of them.

      However, people who are dismissive about harassers are everywhere and it gets so tiresome to deal with them all the time. And obviously actual harassment is way more serious, but people like OP’s male coworker are the reason why the Bartholomews of the world are still going around making female employees uncomfortable. Just think if the employees had been reporting to that guy, and if he had been the one to take Bartholomew’s calls… yikes…

      1. Another health care worker*

        +1. EVERYWHERE. No conversation about harassment ever happens without someone chiming in to essentially say it didn’t happen or doesn’t matter.

    2. Temperance*

      Because he’s yet another dude likely in power over women who isn’t using his relative privilege to make things better.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Because creepers can’t become chronic/serial creepers without enablers who let them get away with it.

  54. Anon for this*

    I’m concerned about this line:

    We do not have any male employees who I could otherwise assign to the customer.

    Why not? Is the business model to only have women serve the customers? This is part of what you need to fix. If you can’t ban Bartholomew, you need to make sure you have male servers, and that he is always assigned to one.

    1. Properlike*

      Actually, I think the business model should be not to have a situation where you have to entertain creepers by making sure at least one male server is working at all times. Better to ban the creepers.

    2. wine dude*

      I promise it’s not a business model. Less than 20% of applicants for our wine associate positions are male. It may be a regional thing. (I’m not the OP.)

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Agreed – we have one moment in time where the staff happen to be all female. There’s no indication that this is deliberate, long-standing, or due to anything other than the available hiring pool at the time, which wine dude notes skews heavily female to begin with.

        And it’s irrelevant. OP now knows that Creepy Bart is an issue and should take care of that by banning him in order to protect the staff and the customers. Assigning a theoretical male server to Creepy Bart only pushes the problem around – Bart will just figure out when the male server is off and come in that day instead, and meanwhile keep creeping on the female customers.

  55. Not Taking It Anymore*

    Alison is right. Kick him out and tell him why. I saw an instance like this. I was in the waiting room at a service provider when the previous customer came out and started talking to the receptionist. He said something outrageous, gross, and with sexual overtones to her. She looked very uncomfortable. I was shocked and wanted to jump up and tell him off, but also wasn’t sure I had heard right or that she would want me to intervene. After he left I went over and asked her about it. After she confirmed what he had said, I urged her to tell her boss to fire this guy as a client. She was reluctant at first but the next time I saw her, she said she had talked to her boss and her boss had called the guy and told him never to come back, even though it cost him regular income from a regular customer. I hope the guy got the message not to treat women this way.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      However much you lose from getting rid of a bad customer, it’s less than you gain, and any business owner that doesn’t understand that their employees are more important (to them, as the owner) than their customer is doing it wrong.

      As the old saying in retail goes, “80% of your problems are caused by 20% of your customers, and if you get rid of that 20%, you’ll double your profits.”

      Some people’s money just isn’t green enough.

  56. raincoaster*

    If the letter writer knows how to shut this behaviour down, maybe they should hold a training for their customer service reps. But ALSO I agree with Alison, that this customer’s business should be refused, because he’s clearly not there for the wine. And when he bitches to other people about it (which he will) they will think more of the winery. I know a creepy winery-goer who bitches loudly about the places he’s banned, and women listening take note and prefer those places. And studies show it’s usually the women who choose the destination for a trip like that. Shutting down creepers is good business.

  57. Reader*

    I read about about a system at a restaurant awhile ago, and can’t find the article now. It was something like this.

    If customer is offensive, server goes to manager and says “table 5, yellow flag” or “red flag”. They server does not need to describe the behavior or justify their assessment.

    If it’s a yellow flag, the manager takes over serving that table. The customer who was creeping on a woman server no longer can.

    If it’s a red flag, the manager asks them to leave. The customer who did something like grope a server is gone.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      If the customer *gropes* the server, the police should be involved. The current victim doesn’t know how many times they’ve been reported in the past, and eventually, it will catch up to them if they don’t stop.

  58. DivineMissL*

    My office was having some work done in our back parking lot; and when I went to my car to go to lunch, one of the male workers out there shouted “compliments” at me. Nothing obscene or foul, but unwelcome and creepy, while the other workers laughed. (Note: I am in my 50s and grew up in a “spring break” beach town where being harassed on the street was a daily occurrence for females aged 8-80). I went back inside and told my male boss (CEO); he immediately stormed outside and laid into the supervisor for allowing his workers to harass the staff. He told them that if they couldn’t work professionally and respectfully, they could leave right then and we’d find another company to do the work. I was proud of him for stepping up for me and the rest of the female staff, although in retrospect I wished I had confronted the catcaller myself. And I was very disappointed when one of the female managers (about my age, 50s) said, “I don’t know why you’re complaining! I’d be happy if someone complimented me like that!” Ugh.

    1. Observer*

      although in retrospect I wished I had confronted the catcaller myself.

      Why? What you did was much more effective. That’s unfortunate, but true. If nothing else, even if you personally were successful in getting these jerk to stop harassing YOU, they would still harass every other woman in the place. Like this, they know that can’t do that. And MAYBE it will make them realize that this is not so acceptable by all of their customers.

  59. LadyAmalthea*

    I worked in retail from customer service to management for 15 years and whenever a customer said “I will never come here again!” we felt a bit of relief and also knew the customer would, indeed come here again.

    It is crucial that the safety and dignity of your employees be respected more than the disgruntlement of one customer who is known by many of your employees as a problem. It is disgracefully rare that workplaces prioritize their employees over their customers. (We frequently watched the owner of the company dedicate massive amounts of time, energy, and money to a customer who should have been given up on.)

    Do not reprimand your employees for trying to be safe. Do retrain or gently reprimand the male coworker who said this man’s behavior was no big deal.

  60. Bar Director*

    Hello OP –
    For background, I have 2o years of experience in hospitality, a degree in Enology/Wine Marketing and prior to COVID, I was the director for a large, famous restaurant group where I oversaw ~150ppl. I dealt with a lot of HR issues and am well versed in sexual harassment law, I took the pandemic to return to school for my Law degree. I am also a conventionally attractive woman in my 30s, so unfortunately I have faced this exact harassment for a long, long time. You absolutely need to fire this customer, not just removing his membership, you need to ban him from the property. You also need to have a serious, documented disciplinary conversation with your colleague – his response is absolutely inappropriate and deeply worrying. Not only because these are the right things to do but because you open yourself to law suits that your winery would loose as well as a huge amount of social media backlash. If you need any ammo for a reluctant owner, I recommend you show them the huge changes being made in the beer industry because of claims exposed by the IG acct @ratmagnet, the huge changes in the Chicago restaurant scene including multiple closures from the largest restaurant group and the recent huge upheaval in the Court of Master Somms. Do it and do it now, your staff deserve an apology.

  61. Pearls and Tech*

    I cannot count the number of times I have felt unsafe as a young woman in a service role to older men. It is awful. I have definitely worn a fake engagement ring to avoid being hit on by men 40+ years older than me.

    I would really push to have the customer banned! Alison is so right that you’re risking your reputation either way, because if he’s making staff feel that uncomfortable, other customers are definitely seeing it and are likely even uncomfortable themselves.

    1. 3DogNight*

      I am almost 50, and I still have my fake engagement ring! It’s on the larger, ostentatious side, and I still use it in some situations. People suck.

  62. DameB*

    As others have pointed out, this dude goes to more than winery and creeps on the women staff members there. In my dream world, ALL the wineries get together and declare “you’re banned, my dude.”

  63. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    “Just deal with it.”

    Oh, you will. In court.
    Or, the male colleague can be the only one designated to serve Bartholomew (if this can be arranged).

    It so reminds me of the colleague we had at one company that continually said, “Gee I never saw a problem,” with a two-departments-over coworker who was tossed out and ultimately sued for harassment. Said colleague was righteously educated about appropriate workplace behavior many times afterward.

    Somehow I think the “I was yelled at because my mask slipped,” and the “your customer service is lacking,” comes from appropriate rejection of a customer who maybe should stop hitting up the wineries as what he sees as a potential dating site (yeah thanks for showing your scar no one cared about) and find a hobby.

    Tell him his membership was terminated and your computers locked up afterward and you can’t reinstate it.

  64. Daisy-dog*

    What may have already been mentioned (because there were 481 comments already) is the men with the opposite reaction to sexual harassment at work: “Well, you should quit that job.” As if jobs just fall from the sky when you need it. And as if there are no qualities of the job that are worthwhile (working with a product that you love with likeminded coworkers) that would make the job worth keeping without the sexual harassment.

    1. Another health care worker*

      And as if a woman somehow knows that her next job won’t also include sexual harassment? I’ve had to deal with something inappropriate, at least verbally, in every job I have ever held. From retail to t