Ask The Salty Waitress: How Do Servers Actually Feel About Holiday Shifts?

Working on holidays: a lucrative way to skip holiday tedium, or a seasonal bummer?


Dear Salty,

With the holidays coming up, I'm seeing lots of articles to the tune of "Fast food chains open on Thanksgiving" or "Coffee shops open on New Year's Day." It's got me thinking about the staff working to keep those restaurants and coffee shops open on holidays. I always feel weird about hitting a Starbucks or a Denny's knowing the staff will be working a long shift while I go back home to nap in my Christmas pajamas. My question is: how do servers actually feel about working holiday shifts?


Remorseful Reveler

Dear Reveler,

Perfect timing, as I'm dusting off my holiday no-slip Danskos. They're like regular Danskos, but they've got a telltale red stain from a splotch of cranberry sauce I dropped seven years ago.

Listen, babe: Like any aspect of the service industry, holiday shifts can be polarizing. In my experience, industry folk typically feel one of two ways about working through the holidays.

One the one hand, not everybody loves celebrating the holidays. Working a holiday shift can be a good distraction with the bonus of holiday pay. I mean, listen, I've certainly used a Christmas Eve shift as an excuse to skip dinner at my great-aunt's apartment, which always smells like bone-dry goose and is hotter than wearing sheepskin in a sauna.

Working a holiday is also a good way to get in good with your coworkers. You take somebody's New Year's shift, who knows—they might be willing to cover for you on a snowy day when you'd rather stay home to apply Vick's VapoRub to the soles of your feet and watch Murder, She Wrote. I don't know.

On the other hand, not everyone is keen on volunteering for a holiday shift. In fact, a lot of service workers don't get the opportunity to volunteer at all—they're just expected to work on either Thanksgiving or Christmas. That's especially true this year with all these restaurant owners griping about not being able to find folks to work.

Also, holiday pay isn't always all it's cracked up to be. In fact, tips are famously terrible on holidays. In my experience, the day before a holiday offers more lucrative shifts since people are often out and about stocking up on last-minute boxes of Stove Top stuffing. Of course, those crowds can lead to long wait times, which means cranky customers. It's a lose-lose situation, much like the time I had to clean up after Dog the Bounty Hunter's posse at a diner in Duluth.

The way I see it, you never know who's dishing out your grits or pouring up your festive latte. There's a 50/50 chance that your server will be fond of holiday shifts or bummed out about them; either way, your best bet is to treat the day as a normal day—just maybe with larger tips, especially if you're a regular.

Finally, don't brag about how happy you are to be off work. We know. We can see that gleeful gleam in your eye. Oh, and please don't ask your server about their plans for the holiday. If we're serving you, our plan is to finish our shift without scalding our ta-tas on a bread pudding platter.

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