“You didn’t earn this”

Today was a really hectic day at work — it was pretty obvious we were struggling after one of our servers had to leave. I was the manager on duty, which means a lot of big decisions land on me. Do I call in another server? Do I put the restaurant on a wait? What can I do to help? Is this huge chaos my fault? Managing is all about making the tough decisions, and sometimes we make the wrong one.

Today’s missteps had me worried well before I clocked out. In the midst of the melee, I got every server’s favorite thing: a mean note on our receipt.

The table in question gave me an almost-20% tip, which was nice. Their note said, “You didn’t earn this, but we feel sorry for you. Try harder!”

The words honestly took my breath. I knew that this level of chaos in the restaurant was kind of unnerving, and I knew one table was already pretty unhappy. However, I had no idea this particular table was so upset. I had no indication. Sure, I was a little slow on refilling their drinks, but I was also battling a full restaurant, never mind a full section, and I was pretty upfront about the chaos we were facing. I thanked them repeatedly for being so patient today, and they always smiled back when I said it. If I’d known they were so unhappy, I’d have comped or discounted part of their meal, but they seemed fine overall.

I can’t stop thinking about how upset the girls had to be to write such a rude note. I can’t imagine being so upset at somebody that you’d take the time to write such a hateful note on a receipt, and I can’t imagine the kind of person you’d have to be to feel okay with that decision.

I am only human. Servers are only human. Retail workers are only human. We make mistakes, just like you do. I know that “hanger” is a real thing, but it’s no reason to suggest that I’m worthy of pity because the restaurant was busier than expected. Truthfully, I’d have been more okay with no tip than a pity tip accompanied by a mean note.

I want those girls to know how hard I’ve been struggling with work lately. How I sometimes question the decision to make me manager because, honestly, sometimes I don’t think I deserve it. How I’ve been pulling doubles at both jobs and left feeling empty with both jobs. How I try hard to please everyone and how much their unhappiness upset me. How I cried the second I got in the car this afternoon.

Not to get preachy, but I’m a happy person. I try my hardest every day and do it with a huge smile and a kind heart. I want everyone to be happy with the work I’m doing. I can live with myself being unhappy with my work, but I can’t live with other people being unhappy with my work. This has been a banner week for people being upset with me, and this note was just the cherry on top of this week of letting people down.

Ultimately, in a few months or even days, this mean note won’t even matter anymore. I’ll remember it vaguely, and one day I’ll stop feeling bad about it. But today, it hurts. Today I feel like I’m wasting my time and wasting other people’s time and doing a pretty bad job of everything I do. Thanks, Stacey.

Let’s all try to get out of the habit of leaving mean notes on receipts, or at all. Let’s try to have some more empathy for servers or retail workers who, by the way, are humans, just like us.

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