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Blogging barmaid booted by Belgians

I can't imagine how I missed this story at the time: several weeks ago, Nathalie Lubbe Bakker, a Dutchwoman working in a Belgian bar in New York, wrote a blog entry about the atrocious behaviour of the Belgian defence minister who dropped in one evening after a particularly pointless taxpayer-funded transatlantic flight. Nathalie then mysteriously got sacked a few days later, after a mysterious phone call from the Belgian defence ministry to the bar owner, once the story had hit the Belgian press.

On the one hand, if you are working in any industry and write blog entries about your dealings with your customers, identifying them by name, it is a clear violation of professional confidence, and you can expect to lose your job. (Had she just been a fellow customer, that would be a completely different matter, of course.)

On the other hand, if you are the Belgian defence minister and you turn up stinking drunk in a New York bar and start singing bawdy Flemish folk songs, you can expect that the story will get back home. There is some justice in the fact that De Crem lost his job, along with the entire government, last week; with any luck, he will be among the ministers who don't return once the new government is formed, whenever that is.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
rigel_kent
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in New York is fair game....as the man says "If it ain't true it oughta be."
strange_complex
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, I suppose there's some small consolation for the barmaid - as you say, there's every chance he has lost his job for good, but there is no particular reason why she should have much difficulty finding a new one.

[Disclaimer: I can't read her blog as I don't speak Dutch, so there may be subtleties to her story which I have missed].
pnh
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
Wait, when did bartenders and restaurant staff get promoted to being "professionals" with an ethical obligation to preserve the "confidences" of customers who behave badly? This seems like a lot to load onto people who are mostly paid little more than minimum wage.

Speaking as a New Yorker I can say with quite a bit of confidence--the other kind--that it would never occur to me in a million years to expect a bartender to keep anyone's atrocious public behavior a secret. It would also never occur to me to be remotely surprised to discover that any given New York bar or restaurant worker had a blog.

Not that this means I'm surprised that she lost her job. But to impute that she violated something called "professional confidence" is ridiculous.
nwhyte
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
I'm looking at it from the bar owner's point of view: do I want my staff to name and shame misbehaving customers on their blogs? What does that do for my bar's reputation?

And what implications does that have for sensible behaviour on the part of the bartending blogger who wants to remain a bartender?

Having said which, I suspect that the blogger in this case has not done too badly out of it.
pnh
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC)
"I'm looking at it from the bar owner's point of view: do I want my staff to name and shame misbehaving customers on their blogs?"

Sure, I buy that. I don't necessarily think it's perfectly just, but as a realist, I agree that the bar owner is likely to feel this way, and that doing what she did is likely to get her fired.

That doesn't, however, address my point, which is that hourly-wage restaurant employees are in no way "professionals" subject to some code of "professional confidence" like lawyers, doctors, et cet. At minimum, we ought to pay people like her "professional" amounts of money before we start imagining "professional" obligations for them.

She got fired because she embarrassed her boss, not because she violated some nonexistent ethical requirement of the nonexistent professional bartenders' guild.
nwhyte
Dec. 26th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
For me the adjective "professional" in this context means little more than behaving in a way that won't get you fired at the workplace. I think once you have accepted employment anywhere, you have certain obligations about what you say about your employer and their clients in public, whatever the pay rate.
sierra_le_oli
Dec. 27th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
At minimum, we ought to pay people like her "professional" amounts of money before we start imagining "professional" obligations for them.

Hadn't thought of that and I think you have a point. Not only that, but people like her should be able to expect a reasonable standard of behaviour from their customers as well -- it goes both ways.

I wasn't sure at first about Lubbe Bakker writing about the minister's drunken antics. But, thing is, De Crem was not there in an entirely private capacity, he was there with an American delegation. Even more worthy of note, which the Telegraph didn't quite mention, he'd come for UN meetings knowing they would be cancelled because the rest of the UN was in Geneva.
pnh
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
As for "what implications does that have for sensible behaviour on the part of the bartending blogger who wants to remain a bartender?", I think the implication for the bartender and the defense secretary is pretty much the same: don't assume that what you do is invisible.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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