By Marie Beachdale
Sunday, August 12, 2012, Surfside Beach - In the summertime, Myrtle Beach’s service industry workers enjoy staying busy, serving throngs of tourists and locals alike, but what do servers do in the off-season?
It’s August, which means school will soon start, tourists will head back north, and the traffic light at the Back Gate won’t be backed up all day long. The off-season is a time for Myrtle Beach’s locals to take deep breaths and mark another successful summer off the calendar.
But what do servers do now?
If I had a dollar for every time an out of town customer asked me “What do you do in the winter?!?” I’d be rich. I’m starting to realize that customers who don’t live here think I must beg, borrow and steal to get by in the off-season.
While it’s true there is a drastic decrease in business in the winter, Myrtle Beach’s service industry workers are still able to get by.
First and foremost, saving money in the summer is imperative. During the summer, most servers make much more than they need to pay the bills, and as long as they stay away from the party and bar scene (or, in my case the Coach Outlet), putting money aside for expenses in the winter months is possible. It’s also essential.
I learned the hard way how important it is to set your summer earnings aside for the winter. The first year I lived here, I quickly blew through the thousands of dollars I made in the summer, not knowing just how slow the winter was. That was a mistake for which I paid greatly.
Second, partial unemployment is a lifesaver. I know quite a few people who turn their noses up at unemployment in the winter, thinking it’s a lazy way to get by, but many service industry workers depend upon it.
Although the weekly amount that I receive in a partial unemployment check is never anywhere near what I was bringing home serving tables during the summer, it is still a huge help, and something to depend on during the always unpredictable off-season.
As for me personally, I like to use the off-season as a time to try new things and catch up on life outside of the restaurant. For example, one winter I earned my substitute teaching certificate. Last year, I took a winter time job in a field I knew nothing about, just to try something new.
I always have to laugh when my out-of-town diners give me the “you poor thing” look when I talk about how slow the winters in Myrtle Beach can be. Sometimes having only two tables per shift in the wintertime are a much-welcomed break from summer days when you’re so busy you can hardly think.
Winter is also a great time to get to know your locals, and pull in a group of regulars! For the next few months servers won’t be crazy-busy, and we can take more time to talk to our customers, and get to know everyone on a more personal level.
So, although the off-season can be dreaded for some service industry workers, I embrace it. If this is your first off-season serving in Myrtle Beach, know your options. If you are taking the partial unemployment route, file early, and look for a part-time gig in the meantime.
The summer of 2012 was a definite success. Take deep breaths, kick back and relax a little, servers… next summer will be here before you know it.
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