A New Jersey student waiting tables over the summer to put herself through college got an unwelcome surprise while serving a large group last week.
On Aug. 17, Jess Jones waited on a table eight diners at D’Jais Bar & Grill, a restaurant and dance venue in Belmar. Though Jones says she told the large party the kitchen was running slower than usual, at the end of the meal she received a surprising note on the receipt, reports USA Today.
Instead of leaving any tip on the $112.03 bill, the party left the commonly used acronym “LOL”—short for “laughing out loud”—and added “1 hour for food.” Jones took to Facebook the next day, posting a picture of the receipt while explaining that the “joke” isn’t funny to servers who rely on tips.
"Last night, I was stunned by this receipt that was left for me by a party of eight people," Jones wrote online. "I would have preferred a '$0' tip than a 'LOL' tip, but as a waitress, bad tips and harsh notes are all part of the job. Even though they did wait an hour to eat, they remained satisfied with filled drinks and proper notice that the kitchen was a bit busier than normal. I've worked in the service industry for five years and I take pride in providing great service to my customers."
Jones wrote that, as a server in New Jersey, she earns $2.50 an hour—according to Department of Labor statistics, the minimum wages for tipped employees can legally be as low at $2.13 an hour. Non-tipped workers must earn at least $8.38 an hour.
Jones continued, "Most of my paychecks are less than pocket change because I have to pay taxes on the tips I make. I need tips to pay my bills. All waiters do. We spend an hour or more of our time befriending you, making you laugh, getting to know you, and making your dining experience the best it can be. We work hard, and we really do care."
Over the weekend, the post went viral. Some sided with Jones, others acknowledged that tips are not mandatory-- but many argued for higher hourly wages for all workers.
On Friday, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty acknowledged the issue, posting his own response on his Facebook page:
"If you visit Belmar please treat the hardworking men and women in our service industry with the same respect you would expect at your job. This is ridiculous," Doherty wrote.
Jones called the experience “cruel and unnecessary,” although acknowledged such guest behavior is “not uncommon.”
“Please be good to your waiters. I know it's annoying when things aren't right. I know how aggravating it is to receive a hefty bill when all night you've been wondering why the table that came in after you was served before you. But waiters are mere messengers most of the time, and it's wrong to shoot them, however bad the news."