Another day, another story about customers who decided to be rude to the staff at a Seacoast entertainment venue or restaurant.

This time it was at the Bowl-O-Rama Family Fun Center in Portsmouth where a group of 12 adults reportedly decided they didn't like the bill for their evening of bowling.

"They used three lanes, they bowled for two hours, they all had dinner, they all had cocktails," General Manager Andrew Maderios told Seacoast Current. "So our staff, according to their training, tried to walk them through it, and they still weren't satisfied; so they came and got me."

Maderios said they retroactively wanted a package deal that didn't apply to the items they had ordered and wanted to pay $200 less than what they were being charged.

One member of the party started throwing flyers at Maderios, who said if a customer asks about a package deal after the fact in a respectful way he'll try to work something out.

"The guy got very irritated, told me I was retarded, crumpled up the bill, and tossed it in my direction," Maderios said.

Maderios said they paid the full bill but screamed and hollered out the door.

License To Be Mean

As restaurants and amusement businesses struggle with staffing shortages and rising costs where does Maderios think customers get the idea it's OK to treat people badly? He blames some of it on "COVID fatigue" but thinks it was a problem brewing before the pandemic.

"I think that somewhere along the way people started looking down at members of the service industry. I don't know why that is, but it's a common occurrence. I'm hearing from other business owners that they're seeing the same thing," Maderios said.

Things were better in 2020 when businesses were able to open up because people were happy to get out and appreciative. The honeymoon without bad behavior lasted six months, according to Maderios.

"It was like someone flipped a switch and people turned nasty again. I think our society is divided. There's a lot of divisive commentary on hot button issues like masks and vaccinations," Maderios said. "For some reason, people think that no matter their opinion they're right and nobody else's say-so matters."

No Reason for Rude

Mike Somers, president of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, thinks rude behavior is unconscionable considering that most of a restaurant's staff is under the age of 25.

"You're taking issue with pricing, maybe the service is a little slow, and frankly it's a little worrisome because, at the end of the day, the reason the service is slow is because we don't have enough staff," Somers said. "We're doing the best we can with what we have available to us, and we'd really appreciate it if customers had a little bit of patience and a little bit of understanding."

Somers cited polls of hospitality industry workers who will not return because of customer behavior and having to manage mask mandates.

Concern About the Delta Variant

Heading into the fall as the number of COVID-19 cases rises again, Somers is worried about mandates municipalities could put in place about masks and capacity and about customer confidence as outdoor dining is no longer a comfortable dining option.

"Once we go back exclusively to indoor for the fall and winter season to what degree are consumers going to come out and support our businesses? I think there's a lot more questions than answers, to be honest," Somers said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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