Date night can be a sacred time for parents to have a few moments of peace away from the young ones. But when married couple Steven and Makenzie Shultz booked a sitter and went out for sushi one evening, the service they received threatened to ruin their night. As a result, the pair left a note for the waiter – and its contents shocked the internet when it was posted on social media.
“So here’s the deal,” wrote Makenzie in a Facebook post about the couple’s experiences at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, restaurant. “Our service tonight sucked.” According to Makenzie, they waited for a long time before anything reached their table. “[It] took 20 minutes to get water, 30 minutes for an appetizer and over an hour for our entrée,” she recounted.
Moreover, Steven and Mackenzie apparently weren’t the only customers who were having problems with the poor service. “People all around us were making fun of the restaurant and how bad the service was,” explained Makenzie. Nevertheless, she also admitted that their experience was “pretty terrible.”
Furthermore, it wasn’t just any date night for Makenzie and Steven. They’d made plans for dinner that weekend to mark six years of marriage. So when the couple received service that in Mackenzie’s words “sucked,” they duly decided to say something about it.
The restaurant was quite busy that night, and Makenzie noticed that the waiter was “running around like crazy” between multiple tables. The wait for food was so long, Makenzie informed CNNMoney, that some people abandoned the restaurant altogether. Meanwhile, another customer dashed to the entrance and discouraged a pal from coming in.
However, Makenzie noted that the overworked waiter wasn’t becoming frustrated with any of the customers. He remained perfectly polite, despite the diners’ obvious impatience with the slow service. Then she had a realization: “As I sat there and watched him run back and forth and apologize for the wait, I said to Steven… Wow, this used to be us.”
Indeed, Makenzie and Steven had both been servers at one point in their lives. In fact, the couple first encountered each other thanks to the profession, having worked together in a restaurant almost a decade earlier. That had been at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Minnesota’s Mall of America. And both of them had experienced busy nights like this one.
Makenzie and Steven quickly ascertained that the problem was not with their waiter. “It was very obvious that the issue was being short-staffed, not the server,” she wrote. “At one point we counted he had 12 tables plus the bar.” The amount of work that this lone waiter was juggling was “more than any one person could handle,” Makenzie acknowledged.
“Throughout the dinner we were like, ‘We’ve been in his position,’” Makenzie said to TODAY.com. “No matter how much you apologize to tables, there are going to be people rolling their eyes.” The Schultzes knew what it felt like to be a waiter in such difficult circumstances. So they decided to do something to acknowledge the man’s hard work and politeness.
“Steven and I agreed it would feel good to make this guy’s night when he would probably be getting minimal to no tips,” Makenzie wrote. So the couple gave the waiter a very good tip to make up for it: $100, to be exact. And along with that gesture, they left a few kind words.
On the receipt for their bill, Makenzie and Steven wrote, “We’ve both been in your shoes. Paying it forward.” The $100 tip came out at 150 percent of the bill, around ten times the usual amount left by most Americans, according to CNNMoney. And those tips matter more than some might think.
The United States is one of the few places in the world where restaurants do not have to cover the full wage of their employees. In fact, employers are legally obliged to pay waiters just $2.13 an hour. That’s as long as those employees make the remainder of what’s needed to meet the federal minimum wage through their gratuity earnings.
So while a waiter might make a killing one night in tips, they could still receive little to nothing on another. Indeed, when describing her memories of waiting tables, Makenzie wrote, “I did it for the tips.” She also admitted, “I don’t miss it at all, and I never loved that job.”
Makenzie subsequently shared the couple’s experiences to Facebook, along with an image of the receipt and the message. However, she noted that she and Steven had left the sushi restaurant before the waiter saw the tip. And she added, “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,” Makenzie continued. “And always, always, always remember where you came from.” This nudge to think about others reached much further than Makenzie ever could have anticipated.
Although Makenzie had expected that it would only be seen by friends and family, her call for compassion quickly went viral. “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.”
Makenzie’s Facebook post proved popular and has received over 1.5 million likes. The story was shared hundreds of thousands of times and even caught the attention of media outlets. Furthermore, Chicken of the Sea recognized the Schultzes’ generosity and patience. It has a campaign to give away $1 million in “gratitude awards” to worthy individuals.
Chicken of the Sea surprised Steven and Makenzie by presenting them with a whopping $10,000. This offering was designed to carry on the “pay it forward” spirit that the firm has been recognizing. “We definitely think we’ve found it in the Shultzes,” the seafood company’s COO David Roszmann said, according to Business Wire.
Still, the Shultzes maintain that there was nothing especially heroic about what they did. “This definitely was not the largest tip there ever was,” Makenzie told TODAY.com. “We thought it could make his night a little bit easier.” The couple likely did improve the shift for the waiter no end, though. And the busy server was certainly a deserving individual; the manager of the restaurant described him to BuzzFeed as a hard-working employee.
As for the takeaway, Makenzie told CNNMoney, “I hope people just show more compassion for everybody.” The viral status of her post has likely already inspired others to pay it forward. “If you can give little or give big, I think everybody’s world would be a little kinder, gentler and nicer,” she concluded.