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Texas Server Gets $2k Tip From Patron Only To Have It Be Invalid—But Restaurant Owner Saves The Day

KENS 5/YouTube

2020 has been a rough year for all of us. But one industry that has been particularly hard hit has been the service industry.

With limited capacity at many restaurants, or takeout only, servers that rely on tips for their living have increasingly seen their take home pay dwindle with no help from the federal government.

This is why it was all the more beautiful when a server named Emily Bauer received a gargantuan $2,000 tip from a customer at Red Hook Seafood and Bar in San Antonio, Texas.

The one problem?

The restaurant couldn’t give her a single cent of it. But whether or not the restaurant or the customer is to blame seemed to be the subject of ongoing debate.

San Antonio’s local ABC affiliate, KENS5, picked up the story and seemed to place blame on the restaurant.

She told the local news, KVUE:

“I was like, ‘wait.’ I just opened it and started crying.”

“I was like, ‘oh my God! My kids! I’m going to spend it all on my kids’.”

Bauer’s boys are 2 years old and 5 months old.

“I was like, ‘oh my God.’ I’ve never had a Christmas where I’ve been able to like splurge on them.”

But she was crestfallen when…

“[my manager] came over and was like, ‘Rule No. 1. Never accept a tip like that because you’re never going to get it’.”

According to the news report, the manager explained they cannot process any tips larger than $500. Bauer wondered if it would be possible to get the tip in four installments rather than one lump sum of $2,000, but her manager declined.

Meanwhile, Bauer explained the customer himself called the restaurant. He spoke to the manager to double check Bauer received the tip.

When the manager informed him it could not be processed, he expressed his disappointment.

When Bauer asked if she could at least call him back to express her gratitude regardless of whether or not she’d see a penny of the money, her manager told her the man’s contact information had not been taken down.

After seeing news reports, many were upset on Bauer’s behalf and directed their anger at the restaurant.

But there was more to the story.

After the story aired on local news, the management of Red Hook Seafood and Bar took to Facebook to say:


The management started by asserting Bauer didn’t tell the full story.

“The tip was tried multiple times by management, by Emily, by the owner and would not post… it was INVALID.”

“The gentleman called and was told the tip would not take we asked him to come back to the restaurant to pay Emily in cash or check he said ‘ok’ and hung up but he did mention that he had a lot of money & owned 3 restaurants in San Antonio.”

They went on to claim:

“Unfortunately he has not come by the restaurant. We told Emily to contact the news but she left out details.”

“We encouraged her to drawn [sic] out the man who tipped her to come & pay her. By now the gentleman has seen his bank statement from red hook without a $2000 tip applied.”

“So where is this Gentleman?”

Finally, they closed by saying:

“An NO [KENS5 news] never questioned us instead [they] ran a FALSE news report about our business. Please stop harassing us.”

“We don’t have the $2000 tip nor was it ever posted because it was INVALID!”

Emily Bauer herself responded.


She started by affirming that yes, the restaurant told her to go to the news.

“I wasn’t going to address this because I did not contact the news to harass my place of work, I contacted the news because you told me to.”

“I did not lie about anything, and I didn’t not leave out anything.”

“I told the truth and the whole story they only chose to add what [they] wanted and edited out some of it, that’s what the news does.”

She went on to explain:

“Our interview was 15-20 minutes long, I told them everything from start to end. I did exactly what I said I was going to do, I’m trying to draw attention to the man that left it am I not?”

“In the video I DID say ‘it said invalid, invalid, invalid’.”

Bauer then explained the restaurant had a chance to speak with the news as well, and did not take the opportunity.

“And the reporter I was in contact with said she notified the other manager that she was going to be running the story and he said he wasn’t comfortable talking to her so instead he gave her your number and you never reached out.”

Finally, she defended herself from accusations of not telling the full story.

“I did exactly what you told me to do because it is my right to try like you said, I am not leaving nothing out and everything I have said is 100% THE TRUTH.”

But there was one more plot twist left in the case of the $2,000 tip.

After the story was picked up by more news outlets, and after the accusations between Bauer and the management, the owner of Red Hook Seafood and Bar stepped in.

One might think after a very public fight he might be inclined to punish one side or another. But no, according to KENS5, the restaurant’s owner, David Cheng, decided to cut Bauer a check for $2,000, plus the cost of the customer’s meal, himself.

After explaining they did in fact try multiple times to process the bill including the $2,000 tip, he decided to make it right, saying:

“It’s Christmas time, and everybody is struggling. I’m ready to give it to her as a Christmas gift.”

Bauer for her part responded.

“The fact that the owner of my job is willing to give it to me, even though it wasn’t his mess-up, I can’t thank him enough for that.”

Many were glad the restaurant owner, Mr. Cheng, stepped up and made things right.

Well, it seems all’s well that ends well in the strange case of the $2,000 tip.

Dana Levinson

Written by Dana Levinson

Dana Aliya Levinson is an actress, writer, and trans activist. She graduated with honors from the New School where she wrote extensively about political and ethnic identity in the middle-east. She was a 2014-2015 Dramatists Guild Fellow, and has written about politics and trans issues for The Huffington Post, Women's Health, Nylon, and The Notice Blog.