Not everyone loves their chosen career, and many of us are pretty envious of those who do. For the most part, people work to survive, to earn a living. Waiting tables is not something that many people dream of doing, but it is an honest living and an important way of putting food on the table. This was certainly true for one such waiter, but a busy, late-night encounter with a customer would wind up changing his life forever.
Making an impression
Working as a waiter or waitress is hard. You are working long hours, for low pay, and you have to deal with the public, some of whom can be very rude and obnoxious.
One particular waiter was engrossed in the middle of a shift when he noticed a customer behaving in a peculiar way. The customer left a note on their table, before promptly leaving the restaurant. Curiosity got the better of the waiter, and, after reading what had been written, he dropped everything and raced out after the customer.
It was a Friday evening, the weather was fine, and the restaurant was heaving with hungry customers. The patio area of the restaurant was particularly popular on this day, and there was just one waiter to cover the entire area – David Fabila.
David was a dedicated and hardworking waiter, but he was finding himself pretty overwhelmed by the sheer number of people it’s pretty clear that David could have used a bit of help to be able to give customers the proper service, one customer certainly thought so.
The man in the middle
To fully grasp the importance of this story, we need to get to know a little more about David Fabila. This hardworking 31-year-old lives in Roseville, California, and is a father to three kids.
In addition to waiting tables at House of Oliver wine bar on Douglas Boulevard, he also had another job elsewhere in order to make ends meet and help look after his children effectively. This is something plenty of parents can relate to these days.
A change of scenery
In fact, perhaps the most remarkable thing about this story is that David isn’t even a natural waiter. His role at House of Oliver is very much that of a bartender, serving and mixing drinks for customers.
But, on this specific evening, he had been roped into working as a server, perhaps due to how busy it was. The place was short staffed, and there were a lot of customers who required attention and service. With countless people to serve, he was beginning to feel the strain.
Going it alone
Despite being skilled at his role, it was clear David was not going to be able to serve the entire patio area alone, he was going to need some help.
However, as the restaurant was short-staffed, he was forced to soldier on alone. In fact, the stress and fatigue were growing because David had come to the restaurant straight from his other job. In fact, he had confided in colleagues that he was having a bit of a bad night, and it seemed like things were going to get even more difficult.
David had no idea that his life was about to change on this very night, and that things would never be the same again for him. There was a customer sat at one of the tables who would wind up affecting David, and his life, in ways he could never have imagined.
This man’s name was Steffen Berr. David had barely noticed Steffen among the busy, bustling crowd, and the hard work he still needed to focus on.
Expect the unexpected
David had spent many years working in the services industry, and there were good days as well as bad. It may not have been what David wanted to do, but we are certain he gave his best at all times because he had to take care of his family.
Having dealt with customers of all kinds, David knew that this was the kind of industry in which you must expect the unexpected. Steffen would prove to be unlike any customer David had dealt with in the past.
Getting by on tips
In America, the tipping culture is so important for people working in the services industry. These are jobs that almost anyone can do and make a living, and the reason why is because of the tips.
This is something that is ingrained in the culture of the country, and many waiters, waitresses, and bartenders rely on these tips to survive. David was definitely one of those who needed his tips and relied on the goodwill of the customers to reward his hard work.
Busy, manic shifts are always those that can cause doubts and worries. And David began to question whether he had made the right choice, as well as worrying that he had been getting orders wrong, or if he was putting on a good enough impression for the customers.
It’s likely the vast majority of customers were simply getting on with their own lives, and focusing on their night. But, there was one customer in particular, who was watching David like a hawk, Steffen Berr.
Time for the bill
As the night wore on, customers began to leave, and things eased up a little. It was then that Berr decided to ask David for the check to settle up his bill.
David printed it and presented it to the customer, but he had to move on quickly to deal with other customers. Once he had a free couple of minutes, David returned to the table to collect the payment, but he discovered that Steffen Berr had gone.
No card machine
Though not always the case, it was common practice for David to take payments via credit card, and therefore the customer would need to ask for the card machine.
Some might even wait to collect their change if they were paying by cash, but neither of these seemed to apply to Steffen Berr. David noticed something unusual about Berr’s bill, and it sent shockwaves through the waiter! Grabbing the bill, he looked down and was shocked by what he saw.
The curious case of the bill in the nighttime
David saw that, over the course of the evening, Berr and his friends had been dining in style, and they had racked up a bill of close to $200.
In fact, the exact bill came to $191.39, and the friends had decided to pay by check. However, the strange thing about this check is that it was much larger than the actual cost of the bill. Double, in fact. David thought this must have been a mistake until he saw the handwritten note scribbled on the bill.
On the note, Steffen had written the message “We’re young, but we’re worth serving.” The mysterious customer had then filled in the tip section with the exact bill amount again, leaving David a tip that was the same amount as the bill had come to.
Needless to say, we reckon David was absolutely speechless at this revelation. It was the sort of money that would really help him out, but he needed to check that it had been meant for him, so he immediately went looking for his customer.
Tracking him down
As luck would have it, David was able to find Steffen before he had actually left the entire establishment. So, he finally had the opportunity to ask the young man about the tip in person.
Steffen revealed that there hadn’t been a mistake, and he had chosen to tip that much. 24-year-old Steffen was a student at Sacramento State, and he had an unpaid internship in his free time, which makes his generosity even more amazing.
Brothers in arms
The reasoning behind Steffen’s generous tip soon became clear, when it emerged that the young man had worked as a server in Texas. David revealed, in a CBS interview, that many people don’t appreciate the job servers have to do until they do it themselves.
Steffen clearly empathized with David, and recognized the stress of a busy shift, with no support. He must have known how it felt to be overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated, which led to him making this decision to help David.
Kindness of strangers
Steffen knew nothing of David or his circumstances at the time. He also confirmed that the decision had nothing to do with the ‘Tip the Bill Challenge’ that has become popular in recent times.
This was simply a man who had been pleased by the good work of his waiter and made the decision to reward him accordingly. It is rare that people who work in this sort of industry encounter such kindness, so we imagine David was quite taken aback by it.
The way societies work well is when those who have been fortunate or successful give back and share that with others. Steffen was out for dinner with friends celebrating as he had just completed his senior year at college.
He’d worked hard, and earned some money in the process, and he decided it was time to give back. He felt that David had earned his tip and the moment felt right to give some of the money he had earned to the hard working waiter.
The story hit local news stations, and David was interviewed about the experience. He used this platform as an opportunity to thank Steffen for this random act of kindness, and for really making him feel like his hard work had been worth it.
Although he didn’t know and had never met Steffen, David found himself in a position to be able to help him by giving him a large sum of money. This was money we’re sure was going to help David out a lot.
Tipping isn’t automatic
Sure, jobs in the services industry rely a lot on the customer tips, but tipping isn’t quite as common as you might imagine, even in the United States.
Many people don’t agree with tipping, and may not leave any money, never mind the sort of amount Steffen left! Around 15%-20% is considered to be the accepted amount to tip, but more than 40% of Americans don’t about this. It can be a problem, because these tips are essential for a lot of waiters and waitresses out there, like David.
What makes this even more of an issue is the fact that many who work in restaurants and bars are subject to what is known as ‘tipped minimum wage.’
This means that they only get a fraction of their wage because the government determines that the tips will make up the rest. This is fine if every customer tips, and tips well. But, when this doesn’t happen, there can be a lot of issues, and many people can struggle to get by financially.
A proper wage
In fact, this flawed system is what has led for many to call for the scrapping of tips, and for those in the services industry to be given a proper wage.
This provides a more secure and reliable employment structure and better financial security. However, we hope that if this happens, it won’t deter people from tipping now and again in the way that Steffen did. But, we will have to wait and see what happens regarding any possible changes.