I worked my way through college waiting tables at an Applebee’s in a mall just south of Indianapolis. The money wasn’t great, but it was enough and I needed a job with really flexible hours.
One evening, I’m given a five-top that’s a couple of parents and their three boys. I come by to introduce myself and the father introduces himself as a local minister there with his family. He mentions they’ve been given a $500 gift card from his congregation. I set about taking care of them and they go for a good sized meal; drinks, a few shared appetizers, main courses and even desserts.
All things considered, they aren’t a terrible table, but I did have to push two tables together which made my section smaller.
At the end the minister asks about using the gift card and I tell him it works just like a credit card. I run it through and return the slip. I hand it to him and he shakes my hand and tells me what an excellent job I did for him and his family and then they’re all out the door. I go back to help bus the table and pick up the credit card slip.
When I find it, I see it’s been signed with a big zero for the tip. I turn and watch them walk to their car out the window in total amazement. I got a hand shake for how well I’d done serving them their free meal and they didn’t give me a cent.
I know it’s not the worst burn — I’d seen people get worse — but it was the first time I was dumbstruck by getting stiffed.