Life as a waitress
If you’ve ever worked as a waitress or a waiter, you’ll know just how difficult it is some days to paste a smile on your face and serve customers who are downright rude to you. The service industry is sometimes not treated with the respect it deserves, which means that occasionally you get customers who have very high expectations, but don’t go about getting them in a polite way. Unfortunately, you have to look past their demeanour and simply do the work to keep your job, go home with a few tips under your belt, and to ensure that you are being the kind of human your children or your parents would be proud of. Yet, one waitress had no idea that this ability to look past rudeness would pay off in the end…
The woman in question
However, to truly understand this story of how a Luby’s Restaurant waitress gets a $50,000 tip, you need to learn a little more about the woman in question. So, say hello to Melina Salazar! Hailing from Brownsville in Texas, Melina lived an ordinary life and prided herself on her work. For much of her life, Melina had worked at the local Luby’s Restaurant as a waitress, and spent her days bussing tables and taking orders from hungry customers. Although she sometimes got frustrated with her customers, Melina also prided herself on her ability to serve every customer equally and with a smile on her face. She didn’t let anything get to her.
If you’ve ever been to Texas, you’ll know that the Luby’s brand is a major part of its culture. Although the company owns franchises across the country, the people of Texas see Luby’s as their staple eatery – and the restaurant is always bustling with people, meaning that Melina Salazar was always kept on her toes. Because Luby’s is a chain restaurant, the prices are not extravagant, and they will not break the bank, which means that the restaurant is always full of average Joes looking for a quick and cheap meal. This is what makes Melina’s $50,000 tip even more astounding…
One particular customer
During her Luby’s career, Melina interacted with thousands of customers from the surrounding area and had to deal with all kinds of characters – from friendly and welcoming visitors to thankless customers who are rude and condescending. However, there was one customer in particular who made a real impression on the Brownsville Luby’s Restaurant. As a former World War II veteran, Walter “Buck” Swords was an 89-year-old customer who would regularly visit the restaurant for a hearty meal. Unfortunately, he didn’t make a positive impression, as Walter was consistently rude and demanding when in the restaurant.
Leaving him alone
In fact, Walter was so mean to the staff of Luby’s Restaurant that most of the waitresses outright refused to serve him and left him alone while he was eating his food. Because they did not want to get moaned or whined at, the staff decided to leave the grumpy old man to his own devices. Many of the staff noted that there was an unspoken agreement between Walter and the Luby’s waiters and waitresses. It was clear that Walter didn’t like them, and it was clear that the staff didn’t like him in return. However, there was one waitress who looked past his exterior.
The only waitress
While Melina was aware of the fact that Walter was mean to everyone in the restaurant, she knew that she could not just ignore him. It was not in her nature. So, she became the only waitress in the restaurant that would serve the war veteran – and she did so for a whopping seven years. During their encounters, Melina would do anything she could to ensure that she was doing her job properly and giving Walter everything he needed. She even gave into his very specific demands about his food, despite the fact that he still complained every time she helped him.
Starting to worry
After serving Walter his food with a smile every day for seven years, Melina had got used to his offensive ways and the complaints that came her way – and soon found herself thrust herself into a routine where she would interact with Walter regularly. However, in 2007, Melina was astounded when Walter did not turn up for his daily meal. She had got so used to seeing him on his table that the room seemed empty without him. As the weeks passed and Walter’s table remained empty, Melina started to worry and wondered where he had gone.
A horrifying discovery
After waiting a few weeks, Melina started to really worry about Walter’s whereabouts. After all, she knew that he was no spring chicken and didn’t have any family around the area – and she wondered whether he had come to some harm. Eventually, she found her answer. While she was reading a local newspaper, Melina stumbled upon an obituary that confirmed Walter’s passing. In this newspaper obituary, it stated that Walter had sadly passed away in a hospice in the afternoon of July 15, 2007. Although he was always mean to Melina and the rest of the Luby’s staff, she couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness.
An unexpected visit
Despite the fact that she was sad to hear of his passing, Melina knew that she had to simply get on with her job and continue to serve her customers in the restaurant. After all, it was what she was getting paid to do, and she needed to pay her bills. So, Melina made her way to the restaurant and placed her staple smile on her face every day to ensure that she did exactly what was expected of her. She did this for many months before an unexpected visitor approached her during her shift. Melina had no idea that this visitor would change her life forever…
Melina soon discovered that the visitor who had come to see her in the restaurant was actually a lawyer. In fact, he was Walter’s lawyer. She immediately began to question what the lawyer would want with her. After all, she had barely known what the man was really like. All she did was serve his food when he came into the restaurant. However, the lawyer stated that Walter had written about her in his will, and noted that she was one of the only people in his life who was nice to him. He looked forward to every restaurant visit so that he could see Melina’s friendly face.
A shocking surprise
Melina could not believe what she was hearing and shook her head at the news. In her eyes, there was no way that Walter could have enjoyed his visits to the restaurant – because he complained about every single aspect of his food and his service. Yet, Walter had appreciated the fact that Melina had continued to serve him after all of the other waiters and waitresses refused to. Because of this, Walter wanted to leave her part of his inheritance to say thank you for her kind nature and her service over the years. He wanted her to see it as a tip.
As Walter’s lawyer said these words, Melina was in stunned silence. She couldn’t believe that a man who was so rude to her actually enjoyed his visits and appreciated her service. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! Nevertheless, things took a shocking turn once more when his lawyer recited what Walter left him. Rather than leaving behind a few dollars as a tip for everything she had done for him in the past, Walter wanted to leave her something a bit bigger. In fact, he had left her $50,000, alongside his precious car, a beautiful 2000 Buick.
Treat them with kindness
Walter’s lawyer made his shock announcement just a few weeks before Christmas, and Melina couldn’t believe that this Christmas miracle was really happening to her. She was overwhelmed, she was grateful, and she was overcome with emotion. Although the tip and the car was more than anything she could have possibly imagined, she was happy to know that Walter had appreciated her kindness during the last few years of his life. It made her feel like her job was worthwhile if she could make one seemingly grumpy old man happy.
It pays off in the end
Melina also noted that the whole experience made her think about kindness, and how a simple smile could really pay off in the end – and not always in a monetary sense. While the other workers at Luby’s Restaurant ignored the old man because he had been rude to them, Melina had made the decision to give him the benefit of the doubt, because she liked to treat everyone with kindness. What she later realized was that, although Walter was grumpy and demanding, he was also a man who simply needed love and attention during his older years. In her eyes, you never know how many Walters there are in the world.
Not the only one
However, Melina isn’t the only waitress who has been astounded by the generosity of one of her customers. In 2015, New Jersey firefighters Tim Young and Paul Barb took a trip to a local cafe after an exhausting 12-hour shift where they were dealing with an intense fire. After the fire was finally put out, the fireman needed a strong coffee to wake them up and let them wind down after a stressful shift. Once they got to the cafe, the pair were served by a cafe waitress by the name of Liz Woodward. Little did she know that her random act of kindness would be reciprocated.
While serving other customers near to the two firemen, Liz overheard Tim and Paul talking about their stressful shift and how they were thankful that it was over. Immediately, Liz knew exactly what she needed to do. As she handed the men their bill, they were astounded to see a note on their receipt, rather than a final price. On the note, Liz wrote a touching letter to the firemen that thanked them for their service, told them to get some well-deserved rest, and that their breakfast was on her! She signed the note with a smiley face and a drawing of a fireman’s helmet.
Lost for words
Tim and Paul had to look at their bill numerous times before the words on the paper truly sunk in. They were both lost for words and couldn’t believe what they were seeing and what Liz had done for them. In fact, the pair were so overwhelmed by what their waitress had done and what she had written that they both had to fight back the waterworks. Tim later posted the note on Facebook, and told his friends that it was a “selfless and kind act” and asked them all to visit the cafe to give Liz a huge tip if they saw her.
Wanted to help
As the fireman thought more and more about Liz’s selfless act, they realized that they wanted to reciprocate her kind generosity, and help her in return. As they learned more about Liz and her life, they discovered that her father had been paralyzed five years previously after suffering a brain aneurysm. Life as a quadriplegic was not easy for her father or the rest of the family, especially as they did not have the money to buy him a new wheelchair. Liz was even trying to raise donations online to help out her family and make her father’s life easier.
The firemen soon realized that the woman who had helped them out in the first place was someone who also needed help, and so they decided to ask for donations to buy Liz’s father the wheelchair he so needed. Before too long, the men had helped Liz, and her family raise more than $80,000 for her father, which was more than enough money for a specialized chair to help him go about his daily life. This time it was Liz who couldn’t believe the generosity of the human race. She was completely overwhelmed and couldn’t thank the men enough.
Something so small
From both of these stories, we have learned that something so small as a smile or gratitude can truly change someone’s life. Liz’s generosity helped her father obtain the wheelchair he needed, and Melina’s friendly smile won her a humongous tip and a new car. Of course, these women never helped out these men for their own gain. That was never their intention. Instead, it was their intention to treat others with the same respect and friendliness that they would expect from others, even if they didn’t necessarily get it in return…