Before marketing and fundraising, I worked in service.
After spending a summer waiting tables at Texas Roadhouse in Ft. Myers, Florida, I came back north for my sophomore year of college, and picked up a waitressing gig at Ruby Tuesday in Trumbull, Connecticut.
One week, I picked up as many extra shifts as my class schedule would allow. My car had shit the bed, and I put it in the shop knowing full well I didn’t yet have the cash to cover the repairs.
I closed out a week of busting my hump with a double – working opening to close on a Sunday.
My first table of the day was a fairly young couple with a newborn, out just for the sake of getting out. They ordered water with lemon and soup and salad. The bill came to something like $23.
They paid with a credit card, I ran it, and when I picked up the signed receipt I noticed they wrote down the total of their bill on the tip line – with the grand total then doubling their bill.
I immediately went back to them:
“I think you’ve made a mistake,” I said. “You didn’t mean to tip the whole bill, see…”
“It’s not a mistake,” the new Dad said. “You did a great job, and we’ve both worked our fair share of chain gigs.”
“You earned it,” the new Mom added.
I remember crying a little and telling them about my car, and about how much the tip meant. They were genuinely happy to give it.
Today, I found myself out at lunch with a dear friend.
It’s always a gift to be her presence, and I was thrilled to be able to gift us a great lunch out, due to the fact that another person who means a great deal to me, had gifted me a $75 gift card to a great restaurant.
When our bill came, and it turned out that we’d only spent about half of the gift card, I was instantly transported to that Sunday at Ruby Tuesday, and knew exactly what to do with remaining $30.
Our kind and excellent server came back twice to say thank you, and his sincere gratitude was a whole other gift entirely.
Turns out, when it comes to the big tip, being on either side of the table feels pretty damn good.