When you have children, even a few precious hours away can be just what you need to recharge. It seems like a simple enough request — dinner at a restaurant who will take care of you while you reconnect with your partner. After all, you’re paying for a service, and you expect everything to go smoothly.
But as Steven and Makenzie’s awful date night drew to a close, Makenzie decided to deal with their bad service a little… differently.
Makenzie and Steven are a hardworking couple with very little time for themselves. So, like many husbands and wives across America, they decided to take an evening off from their dull routine — And what could be better than a Friday evening date night to celebrate their 6-year anniversary?
With a sitter booked and a table reserved at a popular sushi restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they were all set for what was supposed to be an unforgettable evening. Little did they know, it would indeed be unforgettable — but for all the wrong reasons.
The couple entered the restaurant, where they were confronted with what should have been the first red flag — the place was packed to the rafters.
The roar of people talking over each other and the clinking of cutlery rose into the air, making Makenzie immediately feel slightly claustrophobic. “Good thing we made a reservation,” Steven said, unwaveringly. He still felt confident about their decision. After all, a full restaurant had to be a good sign… right?
Minutes ticked by after they were ushered to their table, but there was still no sign of their waiter for the evening. Steven, always the one to give the benefit of the doubt, waited for service calmly and with a smile.
They began the usual discussions: their day at work, the children. But Makenzie couldn’t help but feel as though there was a stain on what was supposed to be a perfect evening. Any minute now, she knew her time of relaxation would be shattered.
The Problems Begin
Finally, their waiter rushed over to the table, looking flustered and confused. He took their drinks order and promised to be right back, but of course, that never happened.
Steven, determined to make the most of what he could already see was going to become a problem later, looked pointedly at his wife and smiled. They had committed now. They had to ride it out. “What would you like for an appetizer?” he asked cheerily.
Makenzie looked at her watch, and then back at her husband, Steven, with a look that said it all. The server had taken their drink orders twenty minutes ago.
Looking around the restaurant, she could see other couples shaking their heads and muttering, too. “How long can it take to get a glass of water?” a woman said indignantly as she rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. The longer Makenzie sat there, the more she could feel her annoyance simmering.
About To Unleash Her Fury
It was the same story with the appetizers. And with the entrée. With every course, the service actually seemed to grow worse. After an hour of waiting for their mains, Makenzie had finally decided that she’d had enough.
Intent on unleashing her anger on someone, she began to look for the waiter, seething. Steven shot her a warning look, but she was having none of it. She was going full-psycho, and nobody could stop her now.
Not The Only One
Hungry and furious, she raised her hand in the air above the sea of diners, desperately trying to get the server’s attention. But after glancing around the restaurant for the final time, she realized that she wasn’t the only one.
She’d been so involved in her own experience that she couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on around her, but now it was too late.
Have you ever blown your top because of bad service? Perhaps you’ve had a bad day to begin with, and then an unhelpful attitude from someone in the service industry has nudged you right over the edge.
Of course, Makenzie felt like her anger was justified at the time, and pity to the poor server who was on the receiving end. With adrenaline running through her veins, she was ready for a fight. She wasn’t going to accept this — and it was date night!
Then, she saw it.
Horde Of Angry Customers
Makenzie saw that a large number of people, fed up with the long wait, were abandoning their tables. Even the diners who were too polite to get up and leave outright had faces like thunder. Arms were shooting up from every table as the tension grew.
The sight only fuelled her. There was a problem here, and she was going to be the one to address it.
One customer even thought he was doing his friend a service when he dashed to the entrance and told him not to come in — that he’d be better off eating somewhere else. The scene was chaos, and in the midst of it sat Steven and Makenzie.
And dancing around them was their server, trying to stem the tide. Makenzie could hold back no longer. She pulled out her phone to serve her judgment.
Venting On Facebook
The post that Makenzie wrote caused shockwaves on Facebook and had enormous consequences — both intended and unintended — for all involved. It was accompanied by a note she had written for their server, scathingly addressing his bad service.
It began: “So here’s the deal. Our service tonight sucked. Took 20 minutes to get water, 40 minutes for an appetizer and over an hour for our entree…”
A Scathing Review
“Yeah, it was pretty terrible,” Makenzie continued. “But, it was very obvious that the issue was being short-staffed, not the server. He was running around like crazy and never acted annoyed with any table.”
Then, she addressed the restaurant’s manager directly.
“At one point we counted he had 12 tables plus the bar. More than any one person could handle!”
A Raw Deal
When can all agree, although it may not have been one of our proudest moments, that we’ve all gotten annoyed with a server at one time or another. He or she is the one directly in the line of fire, even though the slow service may be due to other staff members higher in the chain. Still, it’s all too easy to lose patience.
This realization dawned on Makenzie as she saw their waiter, trying desperately to keep his composure while a torrent of complaints came at him from every side.
Makenzie watched in awe as the overwhelmed server turned and calmly apologized to each table before he took off running again, fetching food orders from the kitchen and scrambling to serve the new customers who had just been seated.
The scene would have been slightly comical if it wasn’t so tragic. That’s when Makenzie decided to show an amazing amount of empathy and patience.
“As I sat there and watched him run back & forth and apologize for the wait, I said to Steven… Wow, this used to be us. Waiting tables. I don’t miss it at all and I never loved that job. I did it for the tips,” Makenzie recalled. Then, she decided to do something about it.
“Steven and I agreed it would feel good to make this guys night when he would probably be getting minimal to no tips due to slow service.”
Paying It Forward
That’s why the couple decided to leave a note along with their bill. It read: “We’ve both been in your shoes. Paying it forward.”
But that wasn’t all they left. Their bill had come to $66.65 in total, and when their server saw the amount written in the ‘gratuity’ line, he was floored. He knew he had given the couple bad service, so he had never expected this!
Before You Judge…
Makenzie and Steven, after witnessing their poor waiter trying to keep up with twelve tables (as well as drink orders from the bar), decided to tip him $100 — 150% of the bill and about ten times what the average diner usually tips. But they didn’t expect any recognition for their good deed.
“We walked out before he saw this and I’m not posting this for a pat on the back. I’m just sharing this as a friendly reminder to think of the entire situation before you judge. And always always always remember where you came from,” Makenzie wrote.
Soon after, Makenzie’s Facebook post exploded. Her example of always showing compassion and understanding touched thousands of people, and the post received over 1.5 million likes and hundreds of thousands of shares! Naturally, the media quickly caught wind of the amazing story.
Unbeknown to the generous couple, the spirit of kindness and paying it forward was about to come back to them 100-fold.
Chicken of the Sea decided to honor the spirit of paying it forward, and Makenzie and Steven’s story had really caught their attention. They were running “gratitude awards” in a campaign where they planned to give away $1 million to deserving individuals.
“We definitely think we’ve found it in the Shultzes,” the company’s COO, David Roszmann, said in an interview.
Imagine Makenzie and Steven’s shock when Chicken of the Sea arrived at their door, bearing a $10,000 check as a reward for their kindness shown to the hard working waiter on that particularly tough evening.
But, even after their newfound fame, the Shultzes remain humble. “This definitely was not the largest tip there ever was,” Makenzie explains, brushing off the praise.
“We thought it could make his night a little bit easier,” she added. “This is more about being kind and being generous,” she said to TODAY.com. “We just wanted him to know that we’ve been in his shoes.”
And the server was certainly deserving. Since the post went viral, his employers have recognized that he is an exceptionally hard-working employee.
The Spirit Of Giving
Makenzie ends an interview with a few words of wisdom that everybody should strive to live by: “I hope people just show more compassion for everybody,” she said.
“If you can give little or give big, I think everybody’s world would be a little kinder, gentler and nicer.” And hopefully, more people have been inspired by her Facebook post to pay it forward, too.
One woman wasn’t as kind to her server as Makenzie had been…. and found herself getting a brutal dose of instant karma.
He went to collect the bill from the table and realized that the woman must have rushed out while he wasn’t looking. He hoped that she hadn’t dined and dashed as he opened the leather folder, and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the bill was paid in full – right down to the last cent.
But instead of a tip, the woman had left him an obnoxious note. Disappointed, he started to clear the plates away when he noticed the envelope. “Well, well…what’s this?” he thought to himself as he opened it. His eyes widened as he realized that what he held in his hand could only have been a dose of instant karma.
Life Of A Server
For 27-year-old Armando Markaj, the day had started as usual — serving tables at the busy Patsy’s Pizzeria in Harlem, New York City. He worked long hours to put himself through medical school and prided himself on providing the best service he could, and he did it all with a smile.
Little did he know, one woman on his lunchtime shift was about to test his patience to the absolute limit.
Saturdays are some of the busiest times at Patsy’s Pizzeria. Throngs of diners had gathered from all over the city to enjoy the restaurant’s iconic pizza, and Armando was quickly finding his hands full.
It was just his bad luck that, on top of the pizzeria being packed to the rafters, one ill-mannered woman and her daughter had arrived and were seated in his section.
Wall Of Memories
The pizzeria’s current owner, Frank Brinja, is extremely proud of the establishment’s heritage – Patsy’s Pizzeria opened its doors in 1933. The walls are decorated with photographs of numerous patrons’ famous faces and accolades, painstakingly collected over a span of 86 years.
Armando noticed that the two women had their eyes on the wall, scrutinizing every last detail as they waited to be served. The hardworking server, seeing their unhappy faces, knew right away that there was going to be a problem.
Taking Their Order
Armando quickly approached the women and greeted them with a warm smile, and they ordered two New York-style pizza slices. So far, so good.
Just as Armando was turning to walk away, the older woman stopped him and pointedly asked a question that he would never forget. Armando, unprepared for the confrontation, was left at a loss for words.
“Why are there so few pictures of women on the wall?” she asked, with venom dripping from every word. Armando opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Was she joking?
She waited expectantly, and then it dawned on him that this woman’s question had been completely facetious. And she expected an answer. Armando laughed nervously and foolishly tried to make a joke, but completely blew it.
“Maybe woman don’t eat a lot of pizza…?” he stammered, trying to laugh it off. The woman’s eyes narrowed and her mouth turned downward into a mean sneer. She had made up her mind, and now Armando was going to pay for answering her question so flippantly.
The flustered server retreated to place the pair’s order and tried not to dwell on the mean-spirited woman — after all, there were other tables that urgently needed his attention.
The Good And The Bad
As a server, Armando expected to have good customers and bad customers. And some were just downright rude. But even if he prepared for the worst, it didn’t completely take the sting out of being stiffed by rude patrons.
Nevertheless, he resolved to always try his best to give all his customers equally good service. His livelihood depended on tips – he just prayed that there wouldn’t be any more trouble today. But by the end of his shift, he would find himself presented with a golden opportunity to flip the situation on its head.
An Empty Table
After Armando had brought the two women’s steaming pizza slices to the table, he quickly moved on to the next customers who were demanding his attention. When they asked for the check, he was sure to deliver it promptly, but the restaurant was getting fuller by the minute.
Rushing back to collect the check after attending to another large table’s orders, he was surprised to find it empty. He only prayed that the women hadn’t left without paying. But when he looked inside, the note he found was far more hurtful.
An Obnoxious Message
“Maybe women don’t tip either,” was obnoxiously handwritten on the receipt. Armando could barely believe his eyes. With a heavy heart, he started to clear the plates when he noticed a white envelope underneath the napkins.
Curious, he opened it up and peeked inside. When he saw the ‘Citibank’ logo appear, he didn’t stop to think. He ran out the door to chase her down.
“I just pulled up the flap and I saw ‘Citibank’ and thought it was important, so I ran out to the street to look for her, but she was gone,” Armando recalled. With the woman nowhere in sight, he opened the envelope to investigate further.
Inside was a check for the largest amount Armando had ever laid eyes on.
The check that the rude woman had left behind on the table was for a staggering $424,000. Armando had a very big decision to make. If he wanted to, he could teach her 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. Or he could attempt to cash it, and his money troubles would be over. On the other hand, either decision would make him just as mean-spirited as the woman who had ruined his day. What would you do?
After thinking carefully about his moral dilemma, Armando did what most of us would have done.
He called Frank Brinja, owner of Patsy’s, and put the check’s fate in his hands. “He called me immediately and hands me this check and I was like, ‘Oh my…’ I didn’t want to put it in my pocket it was so much money,” Frank explains. “We thought for sure it was a billionaire or something who came in here, because who walks around with a check like that?”
Tracking Her Down
“Normally we just put things left behind in the lost and found box in the back, but I wasn’t going to do that with almost half a million dollars,” Armando explained.
Frank tried to track down the woman, whose name on the check was Karen Vincour, 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 of days to see if she would drop by or if we could find her ourselves,” he said.
Meanwhile, 79-year-old Karen Vincour was in a frenzy. Realizing that she’d lost her check, she frantically called her daughter, who proceeded to search through the household trash. Then, Karen began to retrace her steps.
First, she called the cafe across the street from Patsy’s where she had stopped for a coffee earlier that morning, then she decided to call the pizzeria, but was met with confusion. “She said she had called Patsy’s and nobody knew anything about a check,” Vinacour’s real estate broker said in an interview. “I didn’t stop to think that maybe she called the wrong one.”
It turned out that the check for $424,000 was Karen’s life’s savings. 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.
Her world felt like it was collapsing around her. And when she called the bank to cancel the check, she got some devastating news.
Out Of Their Hands
“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.
When Karen hadn’t shown up at Patsy’s to reclaim her check, Frank decided it was time to enlist professional help. He called a local newspaper, and they were able to track her down within minutes.
Just under half an hour later, Karen arrived at the pizzeria. And Armando was waiting to greet her at the door. But did she feel sorry that she had stiffed him so rudely?
“She was so happy and she was in tears,” says Frank. “But, the second she saw Armando, 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 apologized profusely for being so nasty. But Armando’s reaction surprised everyone.
Armando accepted Karen’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.” Karen and Armando made up over some hot pizza, and then Frank showed her the photograph wall to prove a point.
He took her over and pointed out all the women’s faces that she had missed that Saturday, including TV host Barbara Walters, First Lady Chirlane McCray and former City Council Speakers Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito. Then, to drive the point home, he 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 Karen will think twice about leaving a nasty note for her server in future?