The American practice of paying waitstaff with tips has lately come under criticism, with some complaining that too often waiters and waitresses are mistreated. Toni Christina Jenkins, a waitress at a Red Lobster in Tennessee, might well agree, as the 19-year-old claims that she received a racist message scrawled on the bill -- instead of a tip, and she uploaded a photo of as proof.
According to the receipt (she uploaded a photo of it to Facebook), one of the customers had written 'none' in the tip line, and the epithet "n-----" beneath it. Darden Restaurants, owner of Red Lobster, among other chains, is investigating. "This kind of language is completely disgusting and has no place in our restaurant," said Darden spokesperson Mike Bernstein, via email.
The receipt has since gone viral, having been picked up by sites like Gawker and Reddit. Of course, it helped that Jenkins added some commentary to her Facebook post. "God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee," she wrote.
For her part, Jenkins told the Daily Mail she wasn't all that concerned about getting stiffed because, "God is my provider."
Some online commenters have questioned whether Jenkins added the slur herself. She has since taken down her Facebook post, and is scheduled to continue working her shifts. She also was criticized for not having covered up the credit card info or the scrawled signature of the customer on the receipt, and some questioned whether she doctored the receipt. "Id [sic.] like to call into question the handwriting. totally different from signature," Reddit user ulejas wrote.
But in speaking to the Daily Mail, Jenkins maintained the slur was written by a couple in their twenties. She added the couple didn't respond when she had introduced herself to them and had prematurely asked for their food to go. "They were extremely rude... I offered them dessert but they told me abruptly that they just wanted the check."
Jenkins, who has been working part-time two and a half days a week while she studies nursing, added she was surprised by the attention she's gotten in the media. "When I posted it I thought it might get a few 'likes' from friends and family," she told the Daily Mail. "People praying for me, that kind of thing. I didn't think it would escalate this quickly."
The timing of the alleged incident couldn't have been more awkward. Barely two weeks have passed since the 50th Anniversary of the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his, "I Have a Dream" speech. And while such shameless bigotry as allegedly seen on the receipt is no longer the norm as it was in Jim Crow America, the last half-century is also noteworthy for how little has changed. As AOL Jobs reported to mark the anniversary, Blacks are still twice as likely to be unemployed as Whites.