Emily Bauer was working a particularly busy Sunday shift at the Red Hook Seafood and Bar in San Antonio, Texas that saw her waiting on multiple tables after about two weeks on the job.
One couple from her section stood out in particular, a man and woman, who were sympathetic to her situation. In an interview with local news station KENS-5, Emily says that she "kept apologizing."
"I’m sorry. I’m being slow. He was just like, I understand. He also, mentioned he owned restaurants. So he knew how hard it was to be a server. He actually didn’t want the rest of his order. He was like just cancel everything. Cancel everything and give me the ticket. So, I said okay. I gave him the ticket," she said.
After the couple left, Emily went to their table to pick up the receipt and she didn't even look at it until she was behind the restaurant's drink station.
Written in the tip section was a $2,000 gratuity with a message that read, "Merry Christmas! Keep working hard!"
"I was like wait. I just opened it and started crying. I was like oh my god! My kids! I’m going to spend it all on my kids. I was like oh my god. I’ve never had a Christmas where I’ve been able to like splurge on them," said the mother of two boys: a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old.
However there was a problem with the restaurant's payment processing system according to Red Hook management: it cannot process tips larger than $500.
Other servers asked the establishment's management if Emily could just receive four separate payments of $500 each, but were told that wasn't possible either.
Emily hasn't seen any money from the good samaritan's generous tip: "I don’t think it’s our responsibility as a server to say: oh you can’t tip me that much I’m sorry. Oh no, there’s a limit I’m sorry."
"If that’s the case, there should be signs posted on the restaurants or the receipt to say there’s a limit of $500. Everybody I’ve talked to has been like I’ve never heard of that before. If it’s left to you and signed by that person, then you should be able to get it."
Emily said she was informed from the restaurant's manager that the customer had called and expressed his disappointment that she couldn't accept the tip.
Emily posted the ticket to her Facebook page in order to thank the man for his offer, "Even though I can’t receive it, thank you. Thank you for having such a big heart. This world is filled of messed up people. It’s like, how did he know I needed that?" the server said.
Once news of the gratuity snub began making the rounds on social media, people expressed their disbelief and began rallying behind Emily, hoping that something could be done where she'd be able to get the holiday gift from the customer.
While there are POS restaurant payment systems that indicate maximum pre-set gratuity percentages and options to allow permissions for adjusting gratuities and item charges, we haven't been able to locate an example of a "maximum charge amount" for either items or tips. However, many POS systems are customizable and provide a wide range of adjustable variables, so having a pre-set tip amount of $500 is entirely possible.
Several folks have taken to the Red Hook's Yelp page to review bomb the establishment, giving the restaurant 1-star marks for the tip snub. Some have even accused the establishment for keeping the gratuity for itself, while others pointed out that if a customer had racked up a $2,000 bill, the restaurant would have no problem processing that.