I appreciate Baby Dolls.
I appreciate Baby Doll's business, as, last time I checked, it was an advertiser on this here blog.
What I don't appreciate is Baby Doll's, um, "customer relations".
Consider this not a blanket condemnation of the joint on Shady Trail, but merely a review of my visit last Sunday. I've called Burch Management president Steve Craft twice this week (Monday and Thursday) to allow for his club's side of the story, but so far no return call.
In what has been an annual tradition over the last, oh, 10 years, my buddy and I get hall passes from our wives and meet for lunch somewhere to watch the NFL Conference Championship Games and, inevitably, unwind at a gentlemen's establishment.
Last Sunday it was Humperdink's, then Baby Dolls. Lots of TVs. Lots of cold refreshments. Lots of scenery. Lots of - uh-oh - trouble.
I open a tab with our waitress downstairs with my driver's license and credit card. After a few drinks we are "persuaded" to mosey upstairs. Tab closed, paid in cash. Appropriate tip. The Cardinals are winning, the employees are charming, everything's cool.
Until, that is, I go to open a tab at the upstairs bar and discover I received my license back from the downstairs waitress, but not my credit card. No problem, right?
During the shift change, it seems, said waitress skeedaddled. The bartender is mystified. I - right hand on The Bible - remain very calm, cool and collected. At this point it is a casual hiccup. The bartender starts rummaging. A manager goes running. A card, finally, is found.
But I'm told my tab is still "open," that there's no record I've paid anything. After 15 minutes of head-scratching, I go upstairs to ask my buddy if he has the receipt for the downstairs bill. He does. He also senses my building frustration and agrees to tag-in to see what he can make of the situation.
Next thing I know, here comes the downstairs bartender, handing me my credit card and offering an apology. Cool, except right behind her is my buddy, being escorted up the stairs by a bouncer/manager named Todd Sipes.
"You can stay," Sipes says to me. "But he has to go. If you're his ride, you have to go as well."
To reiterate, we'd eaten lunch. Followed by four drinks, spaced between a couple glasses of water. We weren't intoxicated. Or belligerent. Or anything but frustrated. Swear.
"I've had complaints from two employees that he was rude to them and they'd feel safer if he left," Sipes claims. "And if he doesn't leave, right now, I'll call security and the police."
"But I didn't do anything!" my buddy says, his voice admittedly encroaching toward a yell. "I told the bartender this credit card thing needed to get sorted out. I didn't cuss. I didn't yell. Tell me what I did?!"
Counters Sipes, "The decision has been made. Let's go!"
"Look," I say, my voice now also inching up an octave or three, "this whole thing was y'all's mistake. You fixed it, and apologized. Great. Now, if we offended someone somehow, let us apologize and we'll continue having a fun night."
At which point Sipes pulls out his radio and calls for assistance.
"You gotta be kidding?!" I say. He wasn't.
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"We've been doing it this way for 20 years," Sipes maintains.
"Really?" I retort. "Then you've been doing it wrong for 20 years."
And so we leave. Miffed and mad, but orderly. On the way out I get Sipes' name and the number to the club's corporate office.
Then we drive away. Never to return.