A waitress at a seafood restaurant was surprised by a US $2000 ($2800) tip from a generous customer, only to be further shocked to hear that – due to a technicality - she wouldn't receive a dollar of it.
Waitress Emily Bauer was having a busy shift on Sunday at the Red Hook Seafood in San Antonio and orders were getting behind. Apologising to one of the customers for the delay, the man cancelled the rest of his order and asked for the bill.
"He was just like, 'I understand.' He also mentioned he owned restaurants, so he knew how hard it was to be a server,"Bauer told local TV station, KVUE.
However it was only at the end of her shift that Bauer noticed anything unusual about the bill for this table. The tip amount had a sum of $2000 and a message saying "Merry Christmas! Keep working hard!"
"I was like, wait. I just opened it and started crying. I was like, 'Oh my God! My kids! I'm going to spend it all on my kids," Bauer told the news station. Bauer said she was already spending the money in her mind on Christmas presents for her two sons, aged 5 and 2.
However, the waitress soon had her hopes dashed by the restaurant which told Bauer they couldn't process tips higher than $500.
"I've never heard of that before.' If it's left to you and signed by that person, then you should be able to get it," said Bauer who suggested the restaurant tell customers on the bill if there was a limit on gratuities.
The mystery tipper who had intended the gesture as a festive gift, but the present caused a point of contention for the restaurant as the dispute was reported in local and national news outlets.
The restaurant manager said that it was not only serving staff who were surprised by the amount. The customer's bank declined to process the tip, suspecting it was fraudulent.
Bauer told another ABC news station KENS 5, the customer who left the tip had since been in touch with the restaurant to say he was disappointed by what happened. Manager, John Cheng confirmed speaking with the customer, saying "we asked him to come back to the restaurant and pay Emily in cash," however the mystery restaurateur has yet to return.
Since the story the restaurant's social media has been inundated by angry comments telling the bar to pay Bauer the money. Diners accused the restaurant of "ruining a server's Christmas", doxing the business over the missing money.
Eventually the restaurant's manager cut Bauer a cheque for the full amount, including the tab.
"It's Christmas time, and everybody is struggling," Cheng told KVUE, "I'm ready to give it to her as a Christmas gift."
As of Friday the customer has not yet returned to the restaurant where he left the supposedly generous tip, which had meant as a festive gesture.
Earlier this year a social media craze called the "2020 tipping challenge" grabbed attention after musician Donnie Wahlberg left a US$2020 ($2855) tip on a meal. The craze gained viral attention, and many imitators, after the musician's wife shared the bill online with the crass hashtag "#2020tipchallenge".
The celebrities' largess have been described as "random acts of kindness", however in this case the Red Hook restaurant the fallout from a $2000 tip was anything but kind.