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Respecting the Help

Note: Please understand that, with regards to finance, this is in reference to the United States. Other countries have different standards and practices. Learn those and apply with need. The rest holds true world wide.

I've read tons of BDSM blogs and papers. They range from the very basics of consent to traditions in the community to spirituality and BDSM. While many topics are covered more than others, one that I never see discussed pertains to munches. That's not to say that munches aren't discussed. They are, heavily. I've written about them a good bit, and not even grazed what others have. Still, there is one aspect that never gets the attention it deserves. That, is the wait staff. If you attend a munch, the wait staff is critical and they need a special attention that goes way beyond anything that we deal with in our unique interactions. So, lets address that, for real.

First, let's discuss waiting tables. Whether you believe it or not, it is hard. Like, real hard. Harder than you think. The heavy lifting can be equal to that of working as a mason. The temperatures range from hot as a roofers job to spending long terms in a deep freeze. And the fast pace makes Wall Street look like a pleasant getaway vacation. Then, there are the difficult customers, many with unreasonable demands. Servers can't really debate them and still have to remain as pleasant as possible. They have to do that, and still get orders correct and fast, otherwise they don't get tipped. And if a server doesn't get tipped...they may not eat that week. That's the worst. They may work long, hard, physically demanding hours, without a break or even food of their own (even with it all around them. Yeah. Most restaurants still charge their staff and few give discounts these days). But, that doesn't compare to the uncertainty of their paycheck.

I did it for a short time, a year and a half. I learned quickly that I wasn't cut out for it and still kept trying. Most people don't last two weeks, even the people who go on to work hard, manual labor or negotiate tough financial deals. Waiting tables is the very definition of a test and the people who do it are the ones who make our munch experiences what they are.

My editor does it for a living. It's his day job. He's been doing it for over twenty years. He does it, in part, because it allows him freedom to write and help people like me. And he has helped me understand just how bad it can be. My mentor also did it for a while, as did his former sub. For that reason, both these men—and this woman—have pressed into me that the munch server should be lifted into reverence above everyone, even above the most respected of the community leaders, no matter what. Here's why:

They work for tips: I don't mean, they have a job and are hoping to get a little extra scratch pouring your beverages and cleaning your mess. I mean, their tips are their wage. Server wage in the United States (different from minimum wage) is $2.13 an hour. You read that right. They make $2.13 an hour. Granted, some places offer more, but rarely. Many servers even get negative amounts on their paychecks due to taxes. So they depend on their tips to live. As my editor said, “Imagine asking a plumber over to fix your toilet. After he does, you just say, 'Thanks. Have a good day,' and refuse to pay him. Stiffing your server is no different. They've had their hands in your filth and helped you out. Now you won't pay them. The only difference is a plumber gets to complain or sue. Servers just have to chalk it up to a loss.” So tip. And just in case you're not clear, 15% of your total bill means you think they did an adequate job, like they were, “reasonably okay.” At a munch, where they are waiting on twenty plus people, anything close to good means they did amazing and deserves way beyond that. Think 35 to 50%. No kidding. And remember, if you can't afford to tip, then you can't afford to eat out. Get water and leave a dollar if you really just want to hang. ...And it's okay, even good, to point out to them that you did. Because once you just get water, they'll see you as a lost cause. Even if they don't refill it without you asking, leave a buck or two, make sure they know you did, and next time your glass will never be empty. They'll know you respect them and their job.

Be patient: Most successful munches are at least fifteen people or more. That's a lot for one table. It's hard to keep track of. Plus, you're all there to socialize, and probably on separate checks, so take that into account. Don't flood your server with orders or confuse them. The best way is to let them know, as far in advance as possible, what's in store for them, and then follow their lead. It's okay to order as you come in, over the course of an hour or so. But work with your server as much as possible when they take and bring your order. In fact, when they bring your order, be sure to shut up and listen. They'll most likely start calling out dishes and if you're too busy blabbing about your most recent play party to your neighbor to pay attention, you may not get your food in a timely fashion. Best action, when the server comes by, everyone shut their mouths and give them your undivided attention. This gets you your food, accurately, on time and prevents the server from over hearing anything weird.

Mind your mess: Please don't trash the place. It's understandable that, when you eat, you make a mess. But don't over-do it. Don't shove your napkin into your mashed potatoes. Don't leave straw papers, soaked in soda in the center piece and don't throw food. Whatever you leave, they have to clean up. And, believe it or not, don't try to bus or organize your own dirty dishes. You may think you're helping by stacking your plates with the leftovers still on them together, but you may just be giving them a balancing act to try to perform. Let your server pick things up, their way. Most do know some balancing acts, but it's something you'd never figure out. Leave it there when you're done and let them collect it. Who knows? You may get a show.

And if you make a big spill, just go ahead and clean it as best you can until they get back. When they do come around to clean it, get out of the way. They are professionals and your help may just impede. Think of it like someone needing CPR. You do the best you can until the EMTs show up. Then you clear a path and let them take over.

Be nice as hell: This person already thinks you're a chore. Prove to them that you're not and you may make a friend. Establish that you're not in a hurry, understand that there are a lot of you, and that mistakes made by them will be over looked (within reason). Be nice, be accommodating, stay out of the way and tip well at the end. Serving is a gamble. If you prove to them that you're a winning hand, they'll treat you like beloved family members and then praise you like celebrities. Your service will improve the next time, too. You may even develop the kind of relationship where you can shoot them looks that let them know, “Now, is a great time to help or check on us” and “now we need some space.” They may even protect you from their coworkers when you need that. As I said, it'll be tough your first couple of visits. But, if no one sets the place on fire and everyone tips well, that server will soon become your friend and, ironically, glad servant.

Other things to remember: The server is not the restaurant. The restaurant or bar may have its own rules or concerns. If the server delivers bad policy news, don't shoot the messenger. Don't complain about things beyond anyone's control. Don't start a fight with the manager. Don't put the server in a bad place or make them seem like they are more on your side than the restaurant's. Don't annoy other customers. DON'T GET DRUNK! Don't talk too loud and expose to the staff or patrons why you're there. And, most importantly, never get on the bad side of anyone who handles your food! That's just asking for trouble.

In the end, the take away is that you are trying to find a home where they love you, but don't know that you're secretly the Justice League. Be extra, super nice to them, while remembering that you have secrets to keep, and they'll usually treat you like heroes.


Addition...When to know that the sever or restaurant is a bad one: If the server or restaurant literally don't care: i.e.- they never check on you, roll their eyes every time, listen in, make snotty comments, make promises they don't keep, try and learn your names even when you all want to use pseudonyms, eavesdrop or are just plain mean, don't make a scene! Just chalk it up to a loss and find a new venue. Remember, you have more to loose than they do.

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