Waiting tables is one of the most thankless jobs that exist. When you don’t have a steady income, your livelihood depends on the kindness of strangers. Sometimes, you receive a bad tip for things that are out of your control, like the food or restaurant prices. So it’s understandable for waiters to get frustrated if they get paltry tips after doing their best. One server felt his blood boil when he picked up a measly $3 tip – only to be blindsided by an incredible gesture.
A Reddit user named Seminole has been a waiter for a long time and knows all the ups and downs of the business. His experience mostly mirrors that of the majority of servers in the industry – long hours, low wages, little appreciation from customers. Even though he had been struggling financially, he always wore a smile. But just as things were looking up, he found a strange-looking note left on his table. Was it a complaint? Instead, what he found was something that had him scrambling for his phone.
Seminole lives in Miami, Florida, with his girlfriend. They had recently adopted a dog which, at the time, seemed completely legal. Seminole couldn’t get enough of the pup’s wide-mouthed grin, so he understandably began snapping selfies with the happy dog. But for some reason, just one of these pictures had prompted someone to call the cops on the smiling duo. Just a few days after posting the picture, the cops were banging on his door. The dog would have to be returned to the pound, or else.
Having seen the photo, the officers informed Seminole that he had violated the city’s ban on owning pit bulls. According to the city, both pit bulls and pit bull mixes are considered to be “dangerous dogs.” Possessing one was a punishable crime. Seminole had little choice – unless he wanted to end up in jail, he had to pay a $500 ticket and give up his dog. Heartbroken and now missing both a new friend and $500, Seminole still managed to put on a brave face – until one group of customers nearly made him quit.
Seminole arrived at work that fateful day completely wrecked. On top of losing his dog and $500, the previous evening he had to serve a large group of office workers who got a little rowdy. They drank a lot, were loud and stayed way past closing time. The tip was the suggested minimum, which was better than no tip at all, but not enough for all the work he’d put into it. He hoped the next day would be smooth sailing – but instead got something that would send him overboard.
The day was pretty uneventful, until that evening when he was assigned to serve a group of four 13-year-olds. They were celebrating their homecoming, so they were quite excited. Usually, Seminole is wary of serving teenagers, but these kids were all kind and polite. He was pleasantly surprised, so he did his best to be helpful. Especially after what they told him.
The teenagers told Seminole it was the first time they were eating out alone, with no adults. It was a little amusing to watch them try to figure out the dining etiquette, but he never made fun of them. He treated them with respect as he did any other customer. But he did have to put in a little extra work when it came to their food.
One of the teenagers told him she had many food allergies. Seminole went through the menu with her, helping her figure out which dishes would be safe for her to order. She expressed her sincere gratitude and was happy with the food choices. When they had finished eating, they paid their bill in cash and left, thanking Seminole for his service. When he collected the bill from the table, he was shocked.
The teens had only left $3.28 as a tip when the bill total had been more than $100. Seminole’s mood instantly turned sour. He had done a great job serving them, and they seemed genuinely pleased with his service as they were leaving. Deflated and disappointed, he went home and forgot about the whole experience – until more than a week later.
A few days after the incident, Seminole got to work to find something waiting for him at the front desk. It was a 2-page letter, handwritten in bright blue ink. Enclosed in it was $18 and some change. Intrigued, he started reading. It didn’t take long for him to realize it was from the teenagers he had served more than a week earlier.
“Dear Mr. Waiter,” began the letter, before identifying the senders as the homecoming-celebrating teens from a few days before. “…You were the best waiter we could ask for. You were kind, helpful, accommodating, didn’t treat us like babies,” it said. Seminole was flattered by the compliments and kept reading.
“So I wanted to say thank you for making our ‘grown up’ experience so amazing and fun. I would also like to say sorry on behalf of my group,” continued the letter. It went on to explain that, being their first time eating out by themselves, they didn’t realize they had to pay a tip. “So we emptied our pockets and all our money added up to 3.28.” That’s when everything clicked for Seminole.
Seminole understood that the teens hadn’t left the 3.28 tip out of lack of appreciation for his efforts. They simply hadn’t realized how much the whole meal was going to cost, including the tip. We can all remember making mistakes like that during our teenage years. But few teens take the time to make things right like these did, and Seminole recognized that.
“I’ve been serving a long time, and nothing like this has ever happened to me, or anyone. I don’t know how you learned or educated yourself on tipping, but I really appreciate the effort and kindness,” wrote Dan on his social media, sharing the letter from the teenagers. The post got positive responses from other users.
“Someone’s parents are doing a good job,” wrote one commenter on Dan’s post. “That’s a beautifully composed letter for a 13-year-old,” said another. They all seemed to agree on one thing: the teens’ rectification of their mistake is something you don’t see every day, and definitely to be applauded. But perhaps such things wouldn’t be necessary if waiters were paid decent wages.
Waiters in the United States usually earn less than minimum wage, and the rest is supposed to be made up for with tips. While servers at high-end restaurants in big cities can make good money, it isn’t the case for everyone. There are campaigns out there advocating the end of tipping, to instead pay waiters a living wage. We couldn’t agree more.