Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Swagger's Gone




Every beer bar has its bad day once in a while. Even at some of my favorite places around town, I've had the occasional less-than-pleasant experience, but they are typically few and far between, and nothing significant enough to affect my future business. However, one place in town has now presented me with a consistent series of disappointing experiences, and after trying to unsuccessfully address it with them, I've reached my breaking point.



I've given Swagger's Waldo location a lot of passes over time. Surly, uninformed waitresses? Okay, whatever, it's just part of their whole 'dive bar' scheme. Erratic, nonsensical pricing? It's alright, lots of beer bars have the occasional beer price that makes you scratch your head. I've ignored the rumors I heard about them having some sketchy financial issues, and when I saw one of their staff skip out on their bar tab at Martin City Brewing Company, I chalked it up to one individual's questionable action. But in the end, all these things added up with my most recent experience equal one thing: people that simply just don't care.

I went in for lunch yesterday, and was greeted with ten, yes TEN Crown Royal bags covering tap handles of kegs that were empty. There were also a group of 5 or 6 empty kegs just sitting out on the floor in the dining area. Coincidentally, I had been in the week before with some co-workers and these kegs had not moved during that period of time. To top it all off, when I got my burger (which somehow took 25 minutes to get out, even though we were literally the only two customers in the place at noon on a Tuesday), it was cold.

If this had been an isolated incident, maybe it wouldn't have bugged me so much. But this trip was just the icing on a cake of increasingly disappointing visits to Swagger that indicate nothing more than a bar that now couldn't care less about customer service, quality or product offerings.

I get it, Swagger is a trendy "dive bar but not really a dive bar" that got an endorsement from Guy Fieri. I don't care. The absolute last thing that matters to me in a bar or restaurant is the Triple D stamp of approval. The fact is, if you're going to try to pass yourself off as a beer bar, have beer available that you say is available. I've never seen any other beer bar in this town have such a consistent, noticeable issue with product availability. Also, have your staff be at least slightly informed about the beer. And if you're going to charge 13 goddam dollars for a burger, it better come out warm, especially if you're going to make me wait forever.

So after this visit, I went to Swagger's Facebook page to air my concerns. In my opinion, my post was not aggressive or attacking at all. I tried to be very honest but eloquent in the problems I've seen. I even specifically said that my intention wasn't to bash them, but instead to make suggestions as a longtime customer who wanted to keep giving them business. I know a few readers saw the post, so maybe they can vouch. I'd love to post a screenshot of my comment, but here's the thing: they deleted it.

Now, it doesn't take a professional social media guru/wizard/ninja/rockstar to know that one of the number one rules for a company using social media is DON'T DELETE YOUR CUSTOMER'S COMMENTS AND POSTS. Has this EVER gone well for a company? I don't care how big or small you are, it's the online equivalent of hanging up on somebody on the phone or slamming a door in their face when they're trying to talk to you. I was initially just disappointed when I posted the comment on their page. Since they've deleted it, I'm just pissed off.

I know Swagger put a lot of money into opening up their shiny new location out in Martin City, and day by day it's becoming more obvious that it was a bad decision. The new location is doing nothing more than vulturing resources, product and attention away from the Waldo location, which was already offering a middling experience to customers. And quite frankly, if I'm out in Martin City, I'd still rather go to Martin City Brewing Company, which offers way better service and puts a lot more effort into their beer selection despite a smaller number of taps. So why shouldn't I point out the obvious? It's pretty plain to see that the Waldo location is essentially rotting away in terms of quality and experience, and from discussions I've
had with others, I know I'm not the only one that thinks so.

So here I am, using a forum in which I know can't be "Crown Royal bagged" by Swagger. It takes a lot for me to call out a company like this, but I'm irritated, and rightfully so. If anyone from Swagger reads this, you can go ahead and mark me off as a customer lost for good. Of course, chances are, you don't care, just like everything else related to your business. I'll be taking my Waldo money down to places like Waldo Pizza, who provides consistently great beer options and service. I would much rather endure the occasional group of loud kids there than your irritable waitresses who act like they would rather be anywhere else than serving you. Hell, I'll go enjoy a beer on the roof of The Well, or go catch the next firkin at Lew's before I step foot into your bar.

Regardless of their solid, on point celebrity endorsement or calling themselves a 'dive bar' so they can feel entitled to lackadaisical, unimpressive service and atmosphere, it all boils down to this: if Swagger doesn't care about their customers, why the hell should we care about giving them business?

29 comments:

  1. You ever put a Crown Royal bag on your penis? Yeah, me neither.

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  2. Swagger also puts a Crown Royal bag over employee paychecks, which come back NSF (the beauty of knowing people that have worked for Derek). I know many more reasons for not going to Swagger, but you've done a terrific job of summarizing the important issues.

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  3. @Anonymous - I'm sorry to hear that, maybe that explains why the staff seems so irritated all the time, they don't even know if they're getting their next paycheck. I'd be pissed off too.

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  4. We popped into Swagger South a few weeks ago to grab a quick one before meeting friends at Martin City Brewing Company for happy hour. (We want to spread our SKC money around, since we don't have a lot of choices out here.) The bar, the actual bar, was completely full - the restaurant was completely empty. Since we weren't regulars, no one seemed to care that we were tabbing out after one round at 5 o'clock on a Friday. We jetted over to MCBC where we were just lucky enough to grab seat at the bar because the place was completely full! We spent the rest of the evening there, eating & drinking. AND we've never given a second thought to returning to Swagger South . . . which is too bad because that building sat empty forever!

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  5. That's it Pat. I'm calling Gordon Ramsey. But honestly, I sadly agree. Good read.

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  6. Sounds like the first half of Bar Rescue, maybe someone should call Jon Taffer instead

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  7. Calling Gordan Ramsey would, sadly, only bring more attention to them. That's how they've stuck around as long as they have, thanks to DD&D. And it's more than just the occasional bounced payroll check, it's every check. You know it's bad when payday is Monday, and the owner hands out checks telling you when you can cash it. Or you just never actually get paid.

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  8. I've got to give this credit for saying what had to be said. I usually go to Swagger with my GF because we like beer, and we like a few of the bartenders who have a good sense of humor and do what they can with what they've got.

    But you're dead on right about the beer selection. We've been lucky to find a few taps we like each time, but often disappointed in the number of options that are no more. We chalked it up to poor inventory control, which we figured isn't an issue unique to Swagger. We've been at other places downtown, including the bar formerly known as Thirsty's, only to see them fresh out of half their taps -- and that was right before Thanksgiving weekend!

    What is so surprising is that, aside from Waldo Pizza, and perhaps Hoopers, we've yet to find other places that do beer quality and quantity well in that area. You're also dead on right about Waldo. If you can tolerate the kids lingering in the place late on certain nights, you can get some decent tap selections and lots of beers that are hard to find that far South.

    We want Swagger to succeed. If they just kept up with their primary selling taps and realized the importance of that to some of the customers who otherwise can tolerate the other valid issues you've raised, it would be far more than one of the better kept secrets around.

    Sorry you had to cut them off, but I can understand why you'd do so. We've been close to that point before too.

    (We also miss Hannibal's Waldo! And to Hell with The Well!)

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  9. My friends and I made swagger into a verb. Anytime we are out and they don't have a beer we order, we simply say 'we are getting swaggered' or ' I got swaggered'.
    I've also been there an ordered a beer which they say they don't have and then ,when a regular comes in, or one. Of Derek's friends they suddenly have it.
    I have eventually stopped going, there are much better places to go in south kc/waldo with decent beer selections that I know will deliver.

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  10. Good post and long over due, this lack of service, bizzare pricing and overall carelessness for their operation and customer retention has needed to be addressed for some time. The unfortunate part is that sadly it will be falling on deaf ears.

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  11. I'm sorry to hear all this about Swagger because I've had a few good times there, notably Belgian Independence Day when all Belgian beers were half price woohoo! Yes, I've noticed too many Crown Royal bags which hags and an old out-of-date beer menu, which irritated me, and a certain waitress who didn't seem to care (but she did warm up to me after several of the aforementioned Belgian beers), but I wasn't aware of the other problems. I hope they read this and start to improve because I like to go there once in a while.

    The characters you entered didn't match the word verification. Please try again. Grrrr

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  12. This is why businesses should customer service seriously; you never know how treating a customer poorly can snowball. I had not yet been to Swagger, and since I live in Waldo, I thought it would be a great place to check out. Now, because I trust the reviews I have seen on this site so far, I am not even going to try it and waste my money.

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  13. Completely agree. Last time I went to the Martin City location we sat in the dining room (could not see the taps) and the first 5 beers I ordered were out. Of course the waitress had to go check each time so it took 15-20 minutes before I got my first beer. Food was still ok though.

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  14. Agreed. When they first opened I went there several times and they had a great beer selection. I decided to revisit a couple of months ago and my first 6 beer selections were out. I final just asked the waitress "What do you have in stock?"....

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  15. I like Swaggers. I like the food; and have been pretty lucky with my beer choices. I took my wife for breakfast about 3 months ago. Never had the breakfast before. It was pretty good except for the cockroach that crawled on the wall. My wife just stood up and walked out. Have not been back since. We now go to Waldo Pizza, Lews, and the Gaf.

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  16. and I thought these instances were irregular....For the past 2-3 times we've been to the Waldo Swagger, they are ALWAYS out of a beer of choice. Such a letdown. Plus, with all the other Waldo establishments with good, ROTATING, beer selection, there are definitely other places worth going to.

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  17. Just piling on at this point, but I've been to the South location twice and all of the above complaints apply there as well.

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  18. The accuracy of this is disappointing. All too true. It was no secret that they were never too happy with the Waldo location, and envisioned the South location as what they were all about, their baby. The Waldo decline was incredibly apparent as South got up and running, and it has continued rapidly. What concerns me just as much, is hearing similar experiences with the South location...

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  19. Like any reality-tv-watching middle American, I love a good call out, and this one seems rather On Point©. If they're smart, they're reading, despite deleting your post on their wall. At the end of the day, the choice is rather simple: keep happy the people that give you money, or keep handing out paychecks with a "do not cash until next week" warning.

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  20. I went to the Martin City location a few months ago and had similar experiences to what's been reported here. I tried to order about five different beers and was told each time they didn't have it. So finally I just settled with water. The waitress didn't seem at all interested in trying to upsell me on a different beer. Wouldn't have been too difficult to say, "Well, we don't have that right now but if you were asking for that beer, you might enjoy this beer and I know we can pour you one."

    Oh well. I probably would have ordered two beers for about $10 total but I just got water for free. I suspect either the waitress had no beer knowledge (not a good thing if you're working at a place that holds itself out as having a good beer selection) or just wasn't interested in working there. Probably a combination of the two.

    I will say my burger was pretty good, although it took about 45 minutes to come out of the kitchen on a day where the dining room was almost empty and was barely warm.

    I'll almost always give a place a second chance. I've run into issues at Martin City Brewery before but have gone back because the staff there seems to give a shit and wants to do good by its customers. But I don't think I'll be returning to either Swagger location.

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  21. This post and all comments are sponsored by Martin City Brewing Company.

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  22. Not directly, but I'm sure most here would donate to an MCBC SuperPAC.

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  23. I had an even worse experience the one time we tried the place. Basically, all of the things that you mentioned plus completely fucking up our order by giving us the wrong food, wrong temps, and then trying to keep my change! It was dirty, the "waitress" (she doesn't deserve to be called a server) totally fucking sucked, she brought my dad the special beer of the day and couldn't even tell him what it was! Shitty food. Shitty atmosphere. Close to the worst service ever. Shitty experience. This place sucks and I will drink to their demise.

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  24. +1000

    Swagger sucks. Same experience there at the Waldo location. Crappy service, lackluster beer selection, food that was so-so. I went once and vowed never to return.

    Why would you even bother when you have Waldo Pizza right there? Even 75th St. is superior.

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  25. One thing I forgot to say regarding the food: order the special of the day, they seem to have that ready pretty quickly and it's good and cheap (the Monday and Tuesday specials at least) Haha, with all this bashing, I had to give them credit for Something!

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  26. I agree with all the comments. Similar experience with my visits. Such potential under new management. Sad.

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  27. I've heard from a couple/three individuals that resources are beyond 'stretched': that what we're talking about is unpaid vendors et alis...

    Sad, but it's not unheard of in the eatery/drinkery bz: classic overreach combined with under funding.

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  28. classic reach-around combined with under fucking

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  29. I hate to say I completely agree, because I have recommended this bar to so many people, but the service and the availability of beers on the menu is atrocious. I've been told more than once that they are out of TANK 7! I ordered a KBS and the waitress took forever to figure out if they had it. Despite the fact that it was featured on their chalkboard and they were charging 14 bucks a bottle. Right on, KC Beer Blog.

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