Cheap Trick

An ongoing story in Yahoo News has captivated the curious who peruse the internet. It begins as follows:

A man claiming to be a pastor apparently tried to stiff a waiter on a tip, explaining that his work for God absolved him of having to leave one.

A photo of the receipt, posted to, shows a bill for $34.93 with an automatic 18 percent gratuity (or $6.29) added above a blank space for an additional tip.

“I give God 10%,” the diner wrote on the receipt, scratching out the automatic tip. “Why do you get 18?” He then wrote “Pastor” above his signature, and an emphatic “0” where the additional tip would be. (The automatic gratuity, however, had already been added to the total.)

Photo from Yahoo News

Photo from Yahoo News

In a follow-up story it turns out the waiter was in fact a waitress who took a photo of the bill and posted it on her Facebook page. It went, as they say, “viral” and came to the attention of the pastor who is  a woman named Alois Bell a  minister for the Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries Church (I am NOT making this up. I couldn’t possibly), who became furious and complained to the manager of the restaurant who subsequently fired the waitress.

Apparently, as the initial story goes on to relate, the waitress was serving a table of 20, which is why the gratuity was figured into the total bill. Customers were encouraged to leave more if they thought the waitress’ good work deserved it. Instead this customer decided to leave a nasty note. This raises a number of interesting points.

To begin with, the waitress clearly lost her cool in putting a photograph “out there” on the internet with enough of the signature showing that it became an invasion of privacy. But why did this customer have to be nasty to someone who works hard for a living? She could have simply kept her opinion to herself and left the table and complained to her companions after she left the restaurant. But that’s a small thing. The second thing is that waiters work for a meager wage and if they do a good job they should be rewarded. I used to carry groceries out to cars when I worked in a grocery store while in high school for 80 cents an hour and the tip of a dollar here and there positively made my day. I suspect that is the norm: the waiters work for low wages and when they do a good job they hope that their work will be rewarded with a nice tip — certainly not a snide remark.

But this raises the third point: Could a so-called “woman of God” who brags of her 10% gift to God be so uncharitable as to rub this waitress’ nose in the fact that in this customer’s mind she doesn’t deserve the “huge” tip that she felt she had earned? Why the snide remark and the huge “0” to turn the knife in the wound? It is hard to fathom, but those of us who are gradually giving up on so many of their fellow humans who are increasingly wrapped up in their own little world where they are king or queen and the rest of the world is expected to wait on them (for free) point to examples like this one to make a case for total cynicism.

I keep reminding myself that this sort of thing is the exception, not the rule. But as it becomes more common it is hard to resist the temptation to draw the opposite conclusion. I realize that the media fasten on stories like this one because they know such stories will bring readers or viewers to them, but that in itself is grounds for complaint. There are good people out there (I will hang on to that thought) and they are doing good things. Their stories aren’t that interesting, perhaps, so they don’t get told.

I recall reading somewhere that Dante sailed through the writing of the “Inferno,” which was the first part of his Divine Comedy. But when he came to writing about Paradise the writing became more labored. He found that it is easier to write about sin and wickedness, and harder to write about bliss and beauty.  And I dare say more people read the “Inferno” than the “Paradiso.”  So, I suppose, we will continue to hear stories about snotty customers who claim to be religious persons totally lacking in Christian charity. And we won’t hear a thing about those customers who told the waiter “good job” and left an additional 5%.