Jake O'Kane: The twin perils of customer reviews about tea bags and gaslighting by the DUP over Brexit

Drawing on his experience as a barman, Jake O'Kane says the customer isn't always right, while he suspects the DUP and Boris Johnson are gaslighting us over Brexit...

US President Joe Biden, pictured arriving in Cornwall for the G7 summit, has deep concerns over Brexit. Picture by Phil Noble/PA Wire
Jake O'Kane

ANYONE who says the customer is always right has never worked in a north Belfast bar - I know, as I worked in one for many years. Admittedly, today's disputes are somewhat more refined.

In my day they invariably involved brawls ending with wee me dragging drunken punters out of the bar by their coat collars. And no, that not an exaggeration.

A friend told me he was out for a pint one night when I happened to come on television. A man in the same bar pointed at the screen with incredulity shouting, "Here, he threw me out of the 'Hole In The Wall' one night."

My job description in those days would have been barman, toilet cleaner, bouncer and counsellor, with most of my time spent talking guys down who'd consumed more alcohol than their heads could hold.

Yet, for all the madness, the violence and the mayhem I'm glad I'm not working in bars today.

At least in the old days we didn't have to worry about online reviews and punters whose sense of entitlement knows no bounds.

This week saw a prime example of such arrogance when a lady gave a one-star review to Ben Madigans Bar in north Belfast because... wait for it, they wouldn't give her a cup, hot water and sugar so she could use the teabag she had brought with her to make a cup of tea.

The lady was not amused explaining online she had been "coming from an important meeting" adding "as a local woman I find it utterly disgraceful that they would begrudge a 2p teabag because it might as well be alcohol".

The owner of the bar, Kelvin Collins, answered with a degree of civility I found astonishing.

He explained to the lady that she hadn't factored in that she would be consuming his electric to heat the water, his staff to serve, his dishwasher to wash the cup, his cleaners, his rent and the myriad of other expenses such as rates and tax pubs face paying before a penny of profit.

If the lady hoped her 'review' would deter others from visiting the pub that ambition most definitely backfired.

Dozens of rational people took to social media to voice their support for Kelvin whilst mocking the pomposity of Ms Tea Bag. One woman pointed out if she was, as she had stated, "local" then surely she could have gone home to make her tea.

Coming from another era, the Ms Tea bag is fortunate she hadn't tried something similar in my bar back in the day, as what I would have said to her cannot be printed here.

What Kelvin didn't mention is that during the 13 months his business was closed due to Covid he didn't sit at home but opened his kitchen to make hot meals for local people in need.

Even though I'm not a drinker I will definitely be visiting his establishment in the near future as I'm told the food is exceptional.

And Kelvin can relax, my expectations are modest, no tea bag for me. All I'll expect is he walk my dog, wash my car and maybe come round and cut my grass.


'GASLIGHTING' is a newish term to me. I wasn't sure I knew the meaning, so I looked it up. "Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories," was one definition.

With that in mind I'd argue the DUP and Boris Johnson have been 'gaslighting' us with regard to Brexit and the NI Protocol.

For it wasn't the Irish government nor the EU who instigated Brexit - that was the work of successive Tory leaders, aided and abetted by the DUP.

Nor did the EU push for a hard Brexit. That was the work of Boris Johnson after conning a gullible Arlene Foster into believing there would never be a border between NI and Britain.

Therefore, the ludicrous attempts of both DUP and PM to push a revisionist version of our present reality simply won't stand.

En route to this week's G7 summit in Cornwall there was a pre-emptive intervention by President Biden, his advisor Jake Sullivan announcing Biden had "deep concerns" the impasse between the UK and EU could imperil peace in NI.

The inflammatory rhetoric from the NI Assembly and Westminster must be wound down.

The truth is there is no present danger to the Union apart from damage which may be inflicted on it by unionists reacting violently to a non-existent threat.

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