While the mouthwatering aromas of their meal floated into her nose and caught her attention, she was fixated on the restaurant’s elegant décor.
The server dismissed her inquiry regarding the decor and walked away. She told her daughter, “I’m not giving him a tip.” She had no idea that the man who was leaving would be holding her life in his hands.
A Single Mother
Kristy Jolly, a 60-year-old New Yorker, had merely intended to celebrate Melissa’s advancement at work when she invited her daughter out to lunch that afternoon.
Kristy, a single mother, had experienced a lot. She had struggled to raise her daughter by herself. She merely wanted to relish life as a retired senior and spend quality time with Melissa whenever possible. But all she had fought so hard for would be destroyed by what happened in that restaurant.
An Important Event
Kristy was excited to commemorate the moment that Melissa received her first job promotion. She planned to have lunch in Manhattan with her daughter before continuing the party with dinner prepared at home.
When everything was ready, the two met at a well-known pizza joint and placed their orders. However, something happened while they were waiting for the pizza to arrive that would set the course of that week’s occurrences.
In preparation for purchasing a new home, Kristy was considering its interior design. She had difficulty deciding which trend to pursue. She couldn’t help but notice the eatery’s cozy and rustic country-style decor.
She reasoned that asking the waiter about the name of the decor and possibly its creator would be the best solution to her dilemma. However, she soon became aware of something. She had no idea that the answer to a straightforward question she had posed to the waiter would cause her to lose sleep.
A Beautiful Place
Frank Brinja, the current owner of the pizza, is incredibly proud of the history of the business, which dates back to 1933 when Patsy’s Pizzeria first opened for business. Carefully gathered over an 86-year period, the photographs on the walls feature various patrons’ famous faces and achievements.
The two women were waiting for service when the waiter observed that they were staring intently at the wall, examining every tiny detail. When the server noticed the older woman’s disgruntled expression, she immediately realized there would be a problem.
Doing His Best
Serving patrons at the popular Patsy’s Pizzeria in Harlem, New York City, the 27-year-old waiter’s day had begun as normal.
He put in a lot of hours to pay for medical school and took great delight in offering the finest service he could while still smiling. He had no idea that one of the women he worked with during lunch would push him to the breaking point.
He Was Unprepared
They promptly ordered two slices of New York pizza after Tommy swiftly approached them and smiled at them. Things were looking good.
However, once Tommy returned to their table, the woman asked him a question that sent shivers down his spine. Tommy was speechless after being unprepared for the argument.
Food was delivered by the waiter for Kristy and Melissa. As he was serving them, Kristy inquired about the decor, but the response she received surprised her. The server scolded, “I don’t know what to tell you, ma’am. Please ask the management.” Kristy then made the decision to probe him more. She asked sharply, “Why are there so few photographs of women on the wall?”
“Perhaps ladies don’t consume as much pizza…?” Tommy mumbled. He attempted a smile but failed. It did not impress Kristy. She reasoned that’s not how you speak to customers. She would have to reprimand him.
Tommy Markaj immediately regretted his response after he had said it. He berated himself for allowing his personal issues to interfere with his service as his body began to feel uncomfortable from the heat.
He thought about apologizing to the mother and her daughter, but he was afraid of things worsening. Knowing it was a tip he would miss, he rubbed a palm down his face. He had no idea how fate would treat him and the woman.
He Needed It
As a server, Tommy anticipated both positive and negative clientele. Moreover, several people were simply unpleasant. It didn’t entirely lessen the sting of being shortchanged by nasty customers, albeit he had planned for the worst.
Nevertheless, he always vowed to do his best to provide his clients with excellent service. He only hoped that there wouldn’t be any more difficulties today because his existence depended on tips. But he didn’t anticipate the day’s activities to take such an odd turn.
Doing His Job
An hour passed, and the woman and her daughter paid for their pizzas and left. Although Tommy was sure she hadn’t left him a tip, he still hurried over to clear their table.
He expertly stacked dirty plates in one hand and picked up the serviettes strewn over the table. And that’s when he saw it. He wasn’t expecting a tip. But when he looked inside the bill folder, the note he found was far more hurtful.
“Maybe women don’t tip either,” was obnoxiously handwritten on the receipt. Tommy could barely believe his eyes. But then he noticed something else. Lying beside one of the used serviettes was a cleaner sheet of paper. Tommy picked it up, thinking it was another sheet to be dumped out. But as he brought it closer, he quickly realized what it was.
Tommy almost dropped the dishes in his hand. He swallowed hard as he registered what he was looking at. How could the woman leave such a thing behind?
A Great Find
In Tommy’s hand was a check. And not a measly hundred or thousand dollar ,check either. This one was worth $424,000!
Tommy stared at the cheque. He’d been having trouble at medical school for the last week because of tuition fees. It was the exact reason why he’d been so stressed lately. He needed money, or he’d miss his finals. Such a check would do more than solve the problem!
Tommy had a very big decision to make. If he wanted to, he could teach the woman a powerful lesson. He weighed his options carefully.
On the one hand, he had the option to just throw the check away — no-one would be the wiser. He could do it in the name of karma. On the other hand, that would make him just as mean-spirited as the woman who had ruined his day. What would you do?
A Harrowing Realization
Kristy sat in her daughter’s car as they drove home from lunch. She informed Melissa that she’d cashed out her life savings in a cheque, and it would be enough to buy her new home. She’d just sold her apartment, and the amount was the proceeds that she planned to use as a down payment on a new home.
She searched around her bag for the cheque but couldn’t find it. Her world felt like it was collapsing around her. Her heartbeat caught and her stomach fluttered with anxiety. She couldn’t find the cheque.
Tracing Her Steps
Kristy told Melissa what was happening. She explained that she’d placed the cheque in her bag about five hours before but couldn’t seem to find it.
The two began their search around the city, visiting and calling all the places Kristy had been before they went for lunch. They even called the pizzeria, but the manager’s answer left them speechless.
“We haven’t seen it,” the manager said with surety. He insisted that such a trivial document would’ve been returned immediately were it found within their premises. Kristy called the bank to try and report the case, but the answer she received was worse than the restaurant’s.
The bank told her anybody could cash the hefty check in the next three months before they could freeze it. A hot lump settled in her stomach. She was about to lose her life savings.
She Couldn’t Do Anything
“They said they couldn’t immediately cancel it because it was a cashier’s check. I would have to wait at least three months before they could even start the process, and only if someone didn’t cash it in the meantime,” Karen explained.
Without that check, Karen wouldn’t have a home. She had been staying with friends, sleeping on a different couch each night.
Distraught by everything that was happening, Kristy turned in for the night. She couldn’t believe she’d lost everything she’d spent more than forty years amassing.
Her blood, sweat, and tears were slipping out of her reach as she watched. She sat through the night, numb from the pain constantly shooting through her. How could life be so cruel?
Tommy sat with his manager at the restaurant as the night passed by. They’d spent the entire afternoon and evening trying to trace a Kristy Jolly, the woman whose name was on the four hundred thousand dollar cheque.
After Tommy found the cheque, he’d considered cashing it for a chance to change his life but knew he couldn’t. He ran to his manager with the cheque, and they’d started searching for the woman. So why couldnt they find her?
“Normally we just put things left behind in the lost and found box in the back,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to do that with almost half a million dollars,” Tommy explained.
Frank tried to track the woman, whose name on the check, but didn’t have any luck. He then decided to wait to see if she would retrace her steps and come back. “We decided we would hold on to the check for a couple days to see if she would drop by or if we could find her ourselves,” he said.
Tommy and his manager couldn’t find a Kristy Jolly who matched the woman’s description. They reached out to New York Daily News for help, and the media house took three days to call back.
Their search had collided with a woman scouring the city for a similar check! Just under half an hour later, Karen arrived at the pizzeria. And Tommy was waiting to greet her at the door. But did she feel sorry that she had stiffed him so rudely?
When Tommy finally met the woman to give her the cheque, she hugged him, thanking him for being such an amazing person even though she wasn’t nice to him.
She’d called a different branch of their restaurant only to come up short. “Don’t ever change,” she said amid tears.
“She was so happy and she was in tears,” says Frank. “But, the second she saw Tommy, you could see she got a little shy.” She must have felt like a fool.
At least she had the sense to undo some of her wrongdoing by offering the hardworking server a finder’s fee, and apologised profusely for being so nasty. But Tommy’s reaction surprised everyone.
Accepting Her Apology
Tommy accepted Kristy’s apology, but declined the money. “I’m happy for her, really,” he confessed. “Saturdays are pretty busy and I was very close to taking everything left on the table and throwing it out when I saw an envelope.”
Kristy and Tommy made up over some hot pizza, and then Frank showed her the photograph wall to prove a point.
Pointing Something Out
Frank took Kristy over to the wall of memories and pointed out all the women’s faces that she had missed that Saturday.
There were photos of TV host Barbara Walters, First Lady Chirlane McCray, and former City Council Speakers Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito. So, Kristy’s rude comment to Tommy wasn’t just uncalled for – she had been wrong as well.
Then, to really drive the point home, Frank offered to do something else, too. “We joked with her and said we’d add her picture up on the wall,” he said, laughing.
But do you think Kristy will think twice about leaving a nasty note for her server in future? It is well-known that servers struggle to make ends meet, and there’s a reason for that.
An Unfair System
Not many people are aware that workers in the service industry aren’t paid in the same way as those with jobs in other industries. They receive a “tipped minimum wage,” which amounts to a fraction of the federal minimum wage. Tips are designed to cover the rest of a server’s income, but there is no guarantee that they will.
This leaves servers like Tommy beholden to the whims of their paying customers, and it’s an unfair system. But there are some who are beginning to challenge it.
Making A Change
Danny Meyer, a restaurant owner who manages a wide array of bars and restaurants in New York City, has decided to do away with tipping altogether in his establishments.
“I just decided — instead of blaming the tipping system for what didn’t seem fair or right, why not take it into our own hands?” he explained in an interview.
Fair Compensation For Servers
With Danny Meyer leading the way, hopefully, others will follow suit. This will ensure that service workers like Tommy are given fair compensation for the valuable work they do and don’t have to live off tips.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.