It’s hard work being a server. People are mean, kids can’t be controlled, you’re on your feet up to 12 hours at a time, and then, as your manager chews you out for some perceived slight, the demanding group of people who you’ve been racing around to please gather up their jackets and quietly disappear into the dark, almost like they’d never been there at all.
And yet, once in a while, you hear a really great story, once that makes the whole job seem almost worthwhile (even though a recent study suggests that serving is literally the worst job on earth). Today’s reminder that the world isn’t all bad? Kayla Chandara, a Waikiki server who got a $400 tip. And that’s just the beginning.
According to KHON2, Chandara was just doing her job last week when she struck up a conversation with two of her diners, a couple from Australia. After telling them that she’d moved to Honolulu to go to school but ended up in so much debt that she couldn’t return due to the cost of living, she expected nothing but the usual 20 percent that customers (hopefully) leave after getting good service. But she got much more:
The visitors rang up a $200 bill, paid their tab and left.
Chandara says she was shocked to see the tip was double the bill at $400.
“I just thought it was so generous of them. I never get tipped that big. I had to say thank you,” she said. “During dinner, they told me where they were staying, so I ran there after work to see if they’d still be there.”
That sounds like it could have been potentially dangerous — how often have you seen a horror movie that was predicated on the notion that nice people are actually terrible monsters? — but not only were the couple excited to see Chandara and happy to accept the card and flowers she brought them, but they were so touched that they decided to go even further:
The next day, they gave her even more. The couple returned to the restaurant and offered to help pay off her student loans and debt, which totaled more than $10,000.
“I was like, ‘No way, you don’t have to do that for me. I just wanted to say thank you,’” Chandara said. “I still don’t feel like it’s real. I want to run around in the streets.”
But it is real! And the most spectacular thing about this entire story — no, it’s not the money — is the fact that the only thing the couple wanted was for Chandara to be “her best possible self” as she moves forward through life, debt-free for the present moment.
There are two take-aways from this story: The first is that it’s wonderful and heartwarming and right now we all wish we could be Kayla Chandara who really lucked out. The other is this: As long as we continue having stories like this, tipping is going nowhere.
Don’t get it twisted, no one’s saying that anything this couple did is wrong, but the point is that restaurants should be paying their workers a living wage (and they don’t in many states). When everyone in the restaurant is depending on tips, servers sometimes lose money when they have to tip out at the end of the night. But alas, if cutting tips would mean that staff couldn’t have a shot at big moments like this, many waiters wouldn’t go for it.
The chance for the lucky break is part of the appeal. Congrats to Chandara for getting hers!