An Illinois waitress says she is humbled by the groundswell of support she has received after a customer left her an anti-gay note instead of a tip last week.
Twenty-year-old Samantha Heaton was waiting tables at Buffalo Wild Wings in Rockford, Illinois, August 5, when a customer wrote on their credit card receipt, “Can’t tip someone who doesn’t love Jesus! Bad tatoo [sic].”
That was it. A “0” was her tip and the customers, two adults and three children, were gone.
Heaton, who is gay, said her rainbow equality tattoo was in plain sight during the interaction and that the couple appeared to have noticed it. But she was unaware they were offended until the end of the meal. A co-worker snapped a picture of the tattoo and the note and Heaton’s story has now gone viral.
She now finds herself in contact with supporters from all over the world. Some have commended her for standing up to discrimination. Others have proffered cash, amounts greater than what she should have customarily received on the $60.55 tab.
Heaton has been busier at B-Dubs, too. Supporters have reached out in person with similar offers. But, she’s not looking for compensation. She said her goal since her co-worker took a snapshot of the note is to raise awareness.
“The response is amazing,” she said.
“People are amazing. People are coming into my work and requesting me just to talk and see me. Anyone that I haven’t replied to, I’m so sorry. I have hundreds of messages and I’m trying to read them all.”
Some of the messages Heaton has received center on what has bothered her the most, and that is the inference that her tattoo defines her spiritual life. She’s a Christian and said she would have shared her faith as openly as her sexuality given the opportunity. Yet neither was a topic of conversation as she served the eventual non-tippers. She was left only with a skewed religious connotation supporters have done well to correct.
“People keep leaving me notes that Jesus does love me and that they love me,” she said.
“It feels great. It gives me a chance to make a difference. Someone messaged me the other day telling me they saw my story and I saved her life. She told me it was about time someone stuck up and made an impact in close-minded people’s lives.”
With the wave of support, Heaton has seen a small percentage of negative feedback; some have accused her of staging the incident for attention, something she denies but understands. It comes with the territory. Servers have faked similar incidents in the past.
“Sadly, this story is very real,” Heaton said.
Last Saturday’s incident is not the first time a Buffalo Wild Wings server was targeted because of their sexuality. In January 2017, a customer left a note containing an anti-gay slur instead of tipping Kyle Griffith during a shift at a Louisville, Kentucky location. Like in Heaton’s case, the customer played the religion card, ending the rant with “#UNeedJesus.”
Co-worker Joelle Maish snapped the Illinois photo and has been flooded with praise for supporting her friend.
“I honestly had no idea it was going to get this viral,” Maish said.
“I love how much love and support people from literally all over the place are giving. I have people from Britain messaging me spreading love. I have gay families messaging me saying they loved the fact that I’m spreading awareness. It’s honestly so amazing how many people have reached out to me just to say how much (this has) made an impact on them.”
Corporate Buffalo Wild Wings spokesmen have not commented in detail about the incident. The company did address media via email, saying it strives to “create a respectful restaurant environment that our guests and team members expect and deserve.”
Management from the franchisee-owned Rockford B-Dubs has also not released details. Heaton, however, said her supervisor has been a strong source of support.
[Featured Image by junce/Thinkstock]