Every time she gets a signed receipt from a departing customer, waitress Amy Decker, eagerly scans each check for one thing: a rude, handwritten comment in place of a tip. After working at the same bar and grill for nearly three years, she is sad to admit she has not received a single one.
“Tips pay my rent, sure, but I’m looking for something deeper—an ignorant note from some cheap whackjob,” says Decker, smoking a cigarette on her break. “When all I get are 20 percent tips and up, what I am supposed to post about on Facebook and Twitter?”
Decker continues, “It’s important to me that I provide good service and a friendly smile to our customers, but it’s even more important that someone declines to reward those qualities for religious, political, or assholish reasons.”
“People don’t understand how hard it is to not get not-tipped,” says Decker, softly. “I’ve been a server for three whole years and Gawker doesn’t even know who I am.”
Unbelievable things have been written on checks across the country and gaining internet attention since 2013. Things like “I only tithe to the church” or “We don’t support your (gay) lifestyle” or “NO TIP FOR YOU, BITCH” have been scrawled by douchebags and zealots all over the U.S. Now called “the golden ticket” for restaurant servers, having just one customer write something inconceivable can skyrocket them to instant internet fame.
But now, each time Decker checks the gratuity amount on the check, it seems less and less likely that a stranger will have written a supportive trending statement or topical words of encouragement that she can share on social media.
Her coworker, Mark Smith, is equally enchanted by the idea of a gregarious, poetically minded customer.
“Everybody should have to work in the food service industry at least once in their life, so they understand how hard it is to go viral on the internet,” he says. “I’ve been doing it for years and still all my Instagram followers are people I personally know.”
The outpouring of community support for the servers who do go viral is impressive. Decker says, “I’ve known servers whose ‘can you believe this’ checks went viral. They’ve had Kickstarters set up by people who want to send them on vacation. I even heard that once a waitress got a phone call from a producer to be on the Ellen show. I don’t think I ever saw the episode, but it was probably amazing!”
For now, Decker plans to stick it out until her inevitable 15 minutes of fame.
“I could switch to another job, I suppose; maybe go back to temp work,” she says. “But to be honest, I’m just not ready to give up on my dream.”