The only thing harder than approaching a beautiful woman in a bar is convincing the 7-foot-tall stack of muscles at the door to let you past.
At countless bars and nightclubs around the world, burly bouncers are the gatekeepers to the world within, letting the right folks in and kicking the riff raff to the other side of the velvet rope. However, while it may seem like standing and judging are the two main features of being a bouncer, there’s a lot more involved in the job than you might expect.
From breaking up fights to disposing of drugs, these bouncer secrets are not for the faint of heart. And when you want to find out what goes on once you’ve gotten in the door, discover the 15 Secrets Your Bartender Won’t Tell You!
Yes, They Know When Your ID is Fake
If you look like a 17-year-old high school student, but your license says you’re a middle-aged doctor, don’t be surprised if your ID gets confiscated. Most bouncers know a fake ID when they see one, and there are tons of tells, even if you think your card holds up.
“One of the primary tips [for identifying a fake] is cupping the ID in the palm of your hand, so it forms a C shape. Then take a finger and rub it over the surface. Fake IDs more often than not will ‘bubble,’” says one bouncer. “In other words the laminate cracks and forms air pockets.” Want to find out more behind-the-scenes info on your favorite club? The 20 Secrets Your Coat Check Person Won’t Tell You are seriously scandalous.
And Sometimes, You’ll Have to Pay to Get it Back
While many bouncers will simply tell you to hit the road if they realize your ID is fake, others will take things on a case-by-case basis. And sometimes, if you’re acting particularly entitled, they’ll ask for cash. “If you were a jerk but there wasn’t a line, we sold IDs back for $60, to be split among all the bouncers working that night,” says one bouncer.
There’s Plenty of Workplace Drama
Despite working outside the club, many bouncers find themselves caught up in all kinds of bizarre drama with their co-workers.
“[A] dancer’s ex came in and they ended up [sleeping together] in the mop closet… Meanwhile, her then-boyfriend shows up and orders a drink looking for her. As he’s walking to the bathroom they come out of the mop closet…[A] fight breaks out and the ex’s friends jump in. We get it under control and we’re getting them out. One of the other bouncers then takes a 750ml bottle to the back of the head. Knock out,” says one bouncer. If you want your own relationship to remain drama-free and stand the test of time, the 40 Secrets of Couples Who’ve Been Married 40 Years will help you reach those goals.
They Deal With Some Seriously Disturbed People
People on drugs often provide bouncers with some of the strangest and scariest nights of their career. “We had a guy on angel dust steal the valet tray of toiletries, and lock himself in the handicapped stall at our club,” reveals one bouncer. “It took about ten minutes [to get him under control]. With 14 huge dudes.”
They Catch People Doing Drugs Constantly
If you’re a bouncer, odds are you not only see people on drugs, you see people doing them, too.“I’ve personally kicked out people I’ve seen licking tabs of acid,” says one nightclub employee.
They Really Can’t Let You In if You’re Drunk
If a bouncer isn’t letting you in because you’re drunk, don’t take it personally. Clubs don’t want to be held liable for anything you do while inebriated, so bouncers tend to err on the side of caution. “If they fall down, hit their head, get alcohol poisoning, it’s on us for admitting them,” explains one bouncer.
The Job Can Be Dangerous
While bouncers are generally the biggest guy in any given room, that doesn’t keep people from swinging at them on a regular basis. “A group of 7 guys, all taller than the tallest guy on the team, start stuff with security. [We] diffused the situation successfully. Or so we thought. One started to get physical out of nowhere,” says one bouncer. “Picture pro wrestling.”
Sometimes, It’s Even Potentially Deadly
Sadly, threats and dealing with armed patrons are often part of the job, as well.
“I used to run the door (nightclub, not a strip club) and I can’t even tell you how many times people said they were going to shoot us or what have you. Luckily nobody ever did in the years I was there,” says one bouncer. Unfortunately, many others admit that they or their co-workers have been stabbed, hit with bottles, and even shot.
Dealing With Violent Female Customers is Often More Difficult
While violent male customers are more common, some bouncers say that dealing with violent women is actually a more difficult predicament. “Violent girls are the worst because if they swing at you, you have to be very careful how you respond,” admits one bouncer. “If a guy swings on us, we’re allowed to fight back until they hit the ground, and then we have to back off. If a girl does that, you have to try to grab her wrists and restrain her without hurting her. Anytime things get violent, people will whip out their phones and take a video. The last thing you want is a video on the internet featuring you manhandling a drunk girl.”
They Don’t Want to Be Your Friend
If you want to get on a bouncer’s good side, be polite and walk away. There’s virtually nothing worse than a customer who won’t leave the bouncer alone. “Be personable, make some small talk but nothing to overbearing. My pet peeve is that drunk guy (not saying you! :P) who wants to hug me and touch me like we go way back when I have known him for all of three seconds,” says one bouncer.
Most Bars Require Strict Background Checks
Want to get a job as a bouncer? Your criminal record might make that difficult, if not impossible. “All security guards here, including bouncers, are required to be fully licensed and undergo a background check. Many of the guys who used to do this are now finding that they can’t because of a criminal record,” says one bouncer. If you want to make yourself stand out in the sea of job-seekers, the 15 Best Tips from Hiring Managers will help you land the perfect role.
Bribes Are Often Part of the Job
While bouncers have to abide by their venue’s capacity limits, many people try to slip them extra cash to get in. One bouncer admits being offered $500 for admission to a club. “They entered through a side door, we had the line down the avenue and wrapping onto the street above us. As an aside, we did have a patron offer $3,000 for a night with the woman who also works the line with me.”
Most Get Discounted Drinks
While bouncers aren’t always the most well-compensated employees, many say that one of the perks of their work is getting either free or discounted drinks on their nights off. Of course, this means hanging out at work, even when you’re not on call.
But They Can’t Drink on the Job
If you see a cute bouncer, don’t try to butter him or her up by bringing over a drink. “There’s a really strict no drinking on the job policy,” says one bouncer.
They See Some Seriously Sad People
Bartenders may deal with a lot of drunks, but bouncers are often the ones left to deal with the after-effects of drinking and rejection. “Someone ripped out a nearby stop sign and beat up his on car with it, when a girl turned him down,” says one bouncer of a particularly harrowing experience.
It’s a Virtually All-Male Field
If you’ve never seen a female bouncer, that’s no surprise. Many bouncers say they work among almost exclusively men, with few women making it into the field. Furthermore, a woman would likely have to have some impressive strength or size to land the job.
“As far as girls go, we don’t have any female bouncers. I think size would certainly be a deciding factor for a girl to get hired,” says one bouncer.
They Aren’t Making as Much as You Think
While there are certainly perks to being a bouncer, they’re hardly pulling the kind of cash dancers and bartenders get. “Most bouncers make $11-12/hour; I make $13, but the bulk of my pay often comes from tips,” says one bouncer. Another bouncer says that the hourly base pay at the strip club where he worked was just $6.
They Encounter Pimps Pretty Frequently
The world’s oldest profession gets conducted in some surprising places. Many bouncers admit to seeing pimps and prostitutes at strip clubs, nightclubs, and even local college bars. However, in virtually all cases, it’s policy to escort (no pun intended) the offending parties out.
Your Military ID Might Let You Skip the Line
Want to skip the line at your favorite club? Inquire about the club’s military policy. “We have a really good relationship with the local PD, and we let military cut the line. Fleet Week was cool; it was nice being able to let those gentlemen enjoy some civilian life,” says one bouncer.
Being a Bouncer is Often a Club’s Worst Job
Hanging out at a club and making money seems pretty sweet. However, bouncers generally have to deal with a lot more than employees inside the club—and for a lot less money.
“A lot of people think being a bouncer is like being a customer, only the bar pays you instead of the other way around. It’s not. Being a bouncer is the lowest job in the club. You will be hit. You will be spat on. You will get far more puke and blood and urine on you than you thought possible outside of a career in hospice care,” explains one bouncer. Luckily, if you want to ditch that gross or unfulfilling job, the 40 Best Ways to Jumpstart Your Career will get you on the right track.
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