Short-Term Karma

The man on table 23 raises his hand and performs the scribble signal for the check. I nod in acknowledgment and head to the POS computer to print it up.

All in all 23 wasn’t a bad table – man, wife, mother-in-law – the usual kind of late Sunday afternoon customers. The elderly woman took forever to order. The husband never said please. But to be fair, he seemed on edge when he walked in the door. Probably because he’s with his mother-in-law.

The thermal printer silently spits out the $100 check. I slip the bill into a plastic folder, walk back to the table, and place it next to the husband’s left elbow.

“Thank you very much,” I say with manufactured sincerity. I’m tired.

The man doesn’t look at me. He doesn’t speak. He pulls the bill folder in front of him and examines the check. The man grimaces. I can tell he wasn’t expecting to spend a hundred bucks. Oh well. The prices are posted in the window. I fade away from the table.

The man shows the bill to his wife. They look at each other and say something I can’t hear. The man opens his wallet and stuffs some cash into the check holder.

I wait thirty seconds and then walk over to the table. I place my hand on the check holder.

“I need some change,” the husband says.

“Right away sir,” I reply.

I open the checkbook. Inside are two crisp one hundred dollar bills. I walk over to the register and hand the check to Georgie, our Sunday hostess.

“I need some change,” I say.

“How much is the check?” she asks.

“A hundred bucks,” I reply. “But I need to break this other hundred for my tip.”

“No problem.”

I put the hundred that covers the bill in my pocket. Georgie makes change and gives me back a fifty, a twenty, a ten, two fives, and ten ones. I arrange the notes in descending order of value, stick them into the check holder, and return to the table.

“Thank you again sir,” I say, placing the man’s change in front of him.

“You’re welcome,” the husband replies without looking up.

After a few minutes the trio gets up and leaves. The busgirls swoop in to reset the table. I walk over, pick up the check holder, and examine its contents.

Inside are two singles and a fifty dollar bill. My face breaks out in a smile. I’m mildly amazed. Why would this guy tip me fifty-two bucks on a hundred dollar check? Man, maybe I really am that good.

Or maybe the guy really meant to tip me twenty-two dollars.

My smile disappears. The man made a mistake. Goddammit.

“Did you see which way my three top that just left went?” I ask Georgie.

“They went around the corner,” she replies. “What’s wrong?”

“The guy over tipped me.”

“How much did he give you?”

“Fifty-two bucks on a hundred.”


“I know.”

“If you hurry you might catch them.”

I walk out the door and round the corner. I see the trio moving slowly up the avenue. The mother-in-law is slowing them down. I break into a trot and catch up with them.

“Sir,” I call out. “Sir?”

The husband turns around. He gives me a wary look. I can understand his trepidation. No one wants a waiter chasing them down in the street.

“What do you want?” the husband asks.

“I appreciate your generosity sir,” I reply. “But you over tipped me.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You gave me a fifty-two dollar tip on a hundred dollar check.”

“I did?”

I hold up the fifty dollar bill. “I think you meant this to be a twenty,” I say.

The man blushes. “Thank you waiter. That’s very honest of you.”

“I’d hate to lose fifty bucks,” I reply. “I work for my money.”

“So do I,” the man says, taking the fifty out of my hand. He takes out his wallet and hands me thirty bucks.

“Thank you again,” the man says with some embarrassment. “It’s better you came to me than me coming to you.”

I start to wonder what the man means but decide to let it slide.

“Have a nice evening sir,” I say.

“Good night.”

I slowly walk back to the Bistro. Walking towards me is a young well dressed woman. She looks amused.

“So,” she asks. “Did you get him?”

“I got him,” I say, flashing her a smile.

“Because if they skip you pay the bill, right?” the woman asks.

“You must’ve waited tables once upon a time,” I reply.

“In college,” the woman says, brushing a lock of blonde hair out of her eyes.

This woman’s got an amazing pair of baby blues. Our eyes lock. Something arcs between us.

“So you want a job here?” I say, jerking my thumb towards the Bistro.

“I’m good thanks,” the woman says laughing.

“Well,” I say, “Be sure to come in and have a drink sometime.”

“Will you be my waiter?” the woman asks.

“Even if I have to come in on my day off.”

The woman gives me a subtle once over. “Maybe one day,’ she says.

“I’ll look forward to it,” I reply.

“Bye, the woman says.

“Good night.”

Flirtation over, I head back inside the restaurant.

“Did you get him?” Georgie asks.

“I got him.”

“What happened?”

I explain everything. I leave out the part about Blue Eyes.

“Well aren’t you Honest Abe,” Georgie says.

“Actually it has more to do with customer retention than honesty,” I say.

“I guess that’s true.”

“I’d rather have a customer come back and tip me hundreds of dollars over the course of the years than just making a fifty dollar score.”

“Not all waiters think like that,” Georgie says.

“You’re right, I reply. “A crackhead waiter would’ve kept it. And if the man came back he’d deny getting over tipped.”

“Plenty of crackhead waiters around,” Georgie says.

“You ain’t kidding.”

The rest of the night labors on. My little bit of honesty does nothing for my short-term Karma. An elderly customer walks out with both credit card slips so I lose the tip, another couple leaves 5%, and I splash balsamic vinegar on my brand new tie. And blue eyes? I never saw her again. But hope springs eternal.

6 thoughts on “Short-Term Karma”

  1. barb says:

    What an awesome post. You deserved a great tip, I love your attitude about retaining customers as being better than a one time score. If that customer were me I would so remember you for doing that.

  2. SFBartender says:

    Awww, you deserved BabyBlues! I wish she came back 🙂 That would have been proper karma.

  3. Azza says:

    Good for you, Once when working in So Cal I had a lovely couple of elderly ladies dine in my section. When they left I found two fifties stuck together in the book. I figured they made a mistake and found them outside waiting for Valet. The Payer exclaimed her joy and appreciation for my honesty and took the fifty, leaving me with the original 15%. Oh well, I figure Karma’s on my side. I always try to be honest and treat all diners with top notch service, everyone is a VIP.

  4. ugh-server says:

    Thats very honest of you. I wouldn’t have chased customers down because they over tipped me, however if they are still sitting there i will inform them. I once had a party of 8 people and to be honest they looked like white trash. Well, the gratuity was 20 dollars and he leaves me 30 dollars on top of gratuity. I go up and i tell him, he asks to see the bill, looks at it a few moments and goes, “keep it.” I was flabbergasted but very appreciative. Sometimes people surprise you.

  5. alex says:

    i feel awful. i had this customer today. nice guy, pays a 25 dollar check with 2 twenties. i give him his change, it’s over. he comes back like 20 min later saying he actually gave me 60 dollars, because he went to the bank that morning, got 100 out and now he was missing a 20. i’m like, “right buddy”. count my money, try to do the math and it didn’t seem like i was 20 dollars over. so i say “i’m sorry but i don’t think i have it”. he leaves with a look on his face that tells me he thinks i’m lying. my manager comes back and i ask him to take a look at my closed checks. turns out he was the only customer that paid cash and i had 3 twenties with me at the end. i wish i had at least written down his info. hope he comes back and i recognize him. 🙁

  6. A bitch name Karma!!! says:

    Everybody has done something in the past or present that wasn’t right and you knew it wasn’t. This blog site is for those who met karma and you knew it was her when you met her. What goes around comes around.

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