Several years ago my now husband and I moved from our relatively large home city to a small town in the Upper Midwest when he was offered an excellent job opportunity after college graduation. I had just finished an undergrad degree as well, but the town was based entirely around agriculture and petroleum and there were no jobs available in my field. His salary was enough for both of us (that’s what enticed us there), but I decided to take a restaurant job to meet people and make some extra cash for our vacation fund.
This was a small but affluent town thanks to the large firms in the area. I got a job at the nicest restaurant in town and was actually making some pretty solid money. It was a huge place, with multiple dining rooms and several party rooms where we put large groups. The food was nothing groundbreaking, but it was always well executed and the whole place was managed well. It was even one of the only places in town that served craft beer (that was only ever ordered by city folks there on business). Anyway, I actually enjoyed working there and liked the locals more than I had thought I would.
This story takes place a few days before Christmas, on my last shift before we flew home to spend the holiday with our families. This is a great time to be a server because people go out with family and friends to celebrate and tend to tip generously. I had a 6 top in the back dining room, which I loved working because it had a fireplace and an aristocratic European study vibe. The group consisted of one middle-aged local couple, another older couple, and a younger couple a few years older than me. The last two couples lived in the nearest sizable city and were in town for the holidays.
The dinner went well; they weren’t big drinkers but they all ordered steaks so the bill added up to over $150. The 2012 election had just taken place, and based on what I overheard, the local couple was not pleased with the result while the city dwellers were. The local man actually asked me who I had voted for, which of course I sidestepped with a little joke, but I winked at the younger couple across the table. They smiled, but I’m pretty sure the man hadn’t seen what I had done (this is the only thing that came to mind later when I was trying to figure out WTF had happened). Anyway, at the end of the meal everybody is happy and the local man picks up the check since he’s the host for the evening.
They leave and I wish them happy holidays as they walk down the hall towards the main dining room and exit. I start bussing the table and of course take a look at the credit slip. There is no tip, total, or signature anywhere, only the word “IDIOT” written in bold capital letters across the top. My face turns red and I’m dumbfounded; they were happy with everything and seemed to enjoy me as a server. It’s also worth noting that I’m well spoken and quite witty, far from an idiot.
Without any kind of plan, I start down the hall towards the front. I ask the hostess if the guy that just left from the back dining room had said anything negative to her, but apparently he had just said goodnight and walked out. I kind of sigh and turn back toward my section, ready to just accept this as a random act of an a**hole and write it off, when I notice the other two couples on the other side of the restaurant walking toward me and the exit, apparently having used the restroom before leaving. This is going to be fun.
With a big smile I tell them that I think their host accidentally took the signed slip, and do they think they could fetch it from him so that I could close it out properly? I think that at the very least this guy will now have to come back in and face me, or explain to his guests why he won’t. The older gentleman tells me that they drove separately so he has probably already left, but he’s his brother so he can just sign it and explain to his brother what happened. Even better. I thank him, and then without a word hand over the book with the credit slip in it. He opens it and his eyes go wide, and he silently shows the rest of his party. The young woman’s mouth actually dropped open.
I busy myself with rearranging to-go cups or something to give them a minute, and the guy hastily fills in the slip and gives it back to me. He never addressed what was written on the slip, but he also gave me his personal cell phone number and told me to call him if there were any problems with getting the payment closed. As they walked out the young guy said, “Sorry my uncle is a pr*ck,” and shook his head. I just smiled and said thank you. I open up the book and see that the a**hole’s brother filled in a 20% ($30) tip and left another $20 in cash. Thanks, friend!
I told my manager what happened (she thought the way it worked out was as hilarious as I did), and prepared her for the possibility of a disputed charge. That never happened, though, as I suspect the guy’s brother gave him a dressing down and let him know that we had his number to call if anything went wrong with the payment. I imagine it was an awkward holiday back at the a**hole’s house.
What bugs me about this to this day is how it seems like such a random act. His dining experience was great and he was nothing but nice and courteous to my face. I guess he just gets his jollies thinking that he hurt a 21 year old, 5’2″ blonde girl’s feelings.
We only stayed there for a year; we now live back in the city and I got a master’s degree and am finally finished with the service industry. Happy holidays to all those still in the trenches, and don’t let the bastards grind you down!