It's our way to say 'thanks'

If, in the current economy, keeping your job depended on offering to work free of charge one day a week, would you do it? That wasn't quite the situation for Mary VanDam and her fellow employees at Mr. B's Pancake House in Muskegon, Mich., but it came close.

It's no secret that the Wolverine State is mired more deeply in recession than most. The unemployment rate there when 2008 ended was 10.6 percent, and one prominent forecaster says he expects it to reach 12 percent by July. Perhaps not surprisingly, the fallout has reached Mr. B's. The cash register isn't ringing as merrily these days as in happier times, and more than once lately owner Dave Barham has met the payroll by dipping into his own pocket.

So Mary decided it was time to "lighten the load a little." She asked her 30 co-workers if each would be willing to take no pay for a day. Answer: "Everyone's hand went up." In the end, it was decided that the effort would be limited to one shift, the 17 people – hostess, cooks, servers, busboys, dishwashers, and cashier – assigned to work Sunday morning, Jan. 18.

The gesture saved Barham about $700. "We wish" it could have been $5,000, she told the Muskegon Chronicle, because "this is a wonderful business; we want to see it succeed. We don't want to waste even one napkin if we can help it." Barham was moved. "Isn't that something?" he said, adding, "This proves there still are good things that happen."

In the end, the employees didn't go home empty-handed after all. The diners found out what they were doing and tipped so generously that when the money was divided each received $51.

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