(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
What would you do if a customer left one of your employees a $4,561.61 tip? That’s the quandary that Han Kim faced.
Kim is the manager of a Denny’s restaurant near Memphis, Tennessee, and a few weeks ago a customer left the enormous tip for one of his servers. But was it for real, or was it just a mistake? Before passing the money over, Kim wanted to just make sure. And so did the corporate office. So they decided to hold on to the cash and investigate. The employee wasn’t pleased.
“I’m just hurt that they would tell me something like this as a business and as being the owner to tell me that this is the only resolution as to look at if I’m wrong to ask for something I know I deserve,” Shikira Edwards told a local news station. “She [the customer] appreciated my smile. That’s one thing that she did tell me and from there I don’t know.”
Edwards did not to pull any punches in her fight for what she considers to be money owed to her. Since the issue became public, she has claimed that the restaurant has been “short-staffed, low on supplies and employees don’t want to be there because of other problems” including a recent health inspection. “I wouldn’t be surprised if because of what they’re going through already, that they need it more than I do,” she said.
You can understand her frustration. And, unfortunately, it looks like Edwards is going to lose this battle. The tip amount appears to have indeed been left in error after the company looked deeper into the incident.
“Denny’s has conducted a thorough investigation into this matter and has discovered the tip in question was made in error,” the company said in a statement last week. “This investigation involved the franchise, its manager and staff, the guest and his bank. The investigation required coordination and communication between all parties, which resulted in a longer process than initially anticipated. It was ultimately determined that the guest, who is elderly and unfamiliar with the debit system used at this location, entered a tip amount of $4,451.61 when he intended to leave a $4 tip on his bill.”
Despite Edwards’ comments to the media, the restaurant took the high road, calling her a “good employee” and that it understands “the disappointment our server must feel in receiving this news”.
So what would you do if a customer left an excessive tip for an employee? You certainly can’t blame the employee for trying to get what’s hers (although her disparaging comments made in the media certainly doesn’t help her case.) And although you can argue that employees in many service industries are underpaid, it’s still your responsibility as an owner or manager to investigate anything that seems unusual.
Why? Because even though employees are extremely important, so are the interests of your customers. Besides, every business owner knows that things aren’t always as good as they seem, even if you want them to be.