How A Generous Gesture Changed This Waitress's Life


| LAST UPDATE 03/03/2022

By Bernadette Forster

A waitress at a Denny's in Memphis, Tennessee worked hard to make money for her son and education. And a special gesture from one kind customer made her day...until it all eventually went downhill.

Shikira Edwards

Our story took place in Memphis, Tennessee, where a young woman named Shikira Edwards lived and worked. She knew success wasn't something that would be handed to her, and worked hard to achieve it.

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Fox 13

And the strive toward making it in life meant she had to put in the effort to make a living and take care of herself, and every day, she got up and did just that. She had goals and dreams to achieve, and dedicated every day to working hard to turn them into reality.

Student Life

Shikira Edwards was a dental student who had been working hard to save up money to pay off her student loans. Besides paying for college, she also had to pay for rent. And although it wasn't easy, Edwards put in all of her energy, working very hard to make her money.

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JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado / Contributor via Getty Images

For three years, the young woman worked a part-time job at a Denny's so she could pay off her student loans. Balancing between work, classes, and studying - not to mention taking the time to rest - it wasn't easy, but she was determined to make it work.

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Mom Life

In addition to working shifts at the restaurant a few days a week, and attending classes to become a dental assistant, Shikira Edwards was also a mother. Her only son was part of the reason she was so driven to succeed in school and make enough money to pay off her loans.

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Fox 13

Every day, Shikira would work and study hard, and make sure to find the time to care for her boy and spend time with him. And although juggling all these duties definitely wasn't simple, being a mother gave her the motivation she needed to give it her all each and every day.

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Working Hard to Save Money

A few times a week, Edwards would head to work, knowing that, in due time, she would be able to make her dreams come true. She was confident that every table she cleaned and every less-than-satisfied customer she dealt with, would all be worth it in the end.

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Justin Sullivan / Staff via Getty Images

Even though working at Denny's wasn't always a picnic, Edwards needed the money to support herself and her plans for future success. It wasn't the fastest way to earn money, but for the struggling student who desperately needed every penny, it appeared to be the only way forward.

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Job at Denny's

Since college courses can be pretty exhausting for the mind, the simple tasks she had to do for her job at Denny's were a great way to earn money while she was a student. With some time off in between campus days, she had time to work shifts at the diner.

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Steve Snowden / Contributor via Getty Images

The restaurant also wasn't too far away, and its convenient location made it easy for her to manage her time going to and from work, while also making it on time to classes. Most importantly, at the end of every day, she was confident that she was working towards a better future for herself.

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What the Job Was Like

Like we mentioned, the struggling college student thought the job wouldn't be too taxing. The tasks she generally had to do required little mental effort, which provided a great relief from concentrating on her studies during the week, and exerting a lot of her energy during classes.

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Justin Sullivan / Staff via Getty Images

Although much of it consisted of simple tasks like cleaning tables and putting in orders, a more exhausting part of the job was dealing with rude customers. But luckily enough, she had a goal to achieve and a purpose that kept her going, and she just knew her time working at Denny's would eventually pay off.

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The Diner's Customers

Being in the service industry, she gradually became less and less surprised every time she was faced with the tiring challenge of dealing with complaining customers at work. She usually hoped that dealing with these people would eventually be worth it in the end.

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Justin Sullivan / Staff via Getty Images

With time, the waitress became an expert at reading the expressions of the customers who walked into the restaurant, and more or less predicted how her interaction with them would go. And when an elderly couple walked into the diner one day, something seemed a bit different than usual.

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An Older Couple

As we mentioned, three years in the service industry gave Edwards a feeling of which customers could be problematic to serve. But to the young college student, this older couple had kindness written all over their faces, and something told her she should serve their table.

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Jeff Greenberg / Contributor via Getty Images

With a warm smile, she made her way over to the now-seated elderly lady and her husband, whom she was happy to help. They didn't appear to be the type to complain too much, or to cause any trouble for the young woman who worked hard to keep customers satisfied.

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Unusually Kind

But there was more to these two people than just the pleasant feeling Edwards had toward them. The couple charmingly went out of their way to tell Edwards that she had a very cheerful attitude, and was a breath of fresh air that they greatly appreciated.

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Fox 13

The pleasant approach of these customers wasn't something Edwards was too used to, and the compliment significantly brightened her day. Being in a happy mood because of the elderly couple, Edwards had a good feeling about that day at the restaurant.

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Same Same, Different Day

Working a part-time job to put herself through dental school while also caring for her son seemed almost impossible at times. But all Edwards could do was find the strength to move forward each day, and hope for some kind of change that would bring her some relief.

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Michael Loccisano / Staff via Getty Images

And it was days like these that Edwards felt a little hopeful about her future. Although it wasn't immediately apparent to Edwards, the change she had been hoping for was in the air the day the day the elderly couple decided to have breakfast at Denny's.

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Feeling Uplifted

The elderly customers who she'd just served had put Edwards in a great mood. They thanked her for her service on their way out, and in turn, she wished them a wonderful day. As she watched them leave, she couldn't help but wish all the restaurant's customers were more like them.

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Fox 13

Feeling her spirits running high, the waitress happily grabbed the cleaning spray and paper towels to clear the table of the dishes left behind after the couple's meal. When she was finished wiping the table clean, she continued her day as usual, still in the same great mood.

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Called by the Manager

Later that day, as she was going about her duties, Edwards received a call from Denny's manager, who sat in an office at the restaurant where she worked. He asked the waitress to come into his office to talk about something, but was rather vague about the topic he wanted to discuss.

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Fox 13

She thought it a bit strange that her boss would call her to his office, since it wasn't every day she got a call like that. Shikira dropped what she was doing and headed toward the manager's office, deciding she would probably only find out what was going on when she got there.

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Feeling Worried

After receiving the call, Shikira Edwards probably couldn't help feeling a bit worried about the strange and obscure phone call. She had worked at the restaurant for three years, and probably wasn't sure what to think when her boss asked to speak to her.

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Fox 13

What could the manager of the restaurant possibly want to talk to her about? Was there something wrong? Did she make a mistake at work? Making her way to the office where the manager sat, she would soon find out what the call was about.

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Heading to the Office

With several thoughts going through her head, the way to the office seemed even longer than usual. The cheery sense she had about the day was put on hold, as she wondered what was going on. The cheerful mood she had been in was replaced by confusion and worry.

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Fox 13

On her way to the office, she thought of the stress of working a part-time job, raising a son, and going to school all at the same time. All of her efforts had been going towards building a future for herself and her boy - any bad news was the last thing she needed at the moment.

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The Life-Changing Tip

When Edwards reached the office, she waited for her boss to tell her to come in. Looking around, she couldn't see anything that immediately pointed to the reason he had called her in. But then he showed her a piece of paper with a number written on it, and she couldn't believe her eyes.

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Fox 13

Her boss explained that the elderly couple she had served that day had left her an unusually large tip after she had finished serving them that day. Normally, the tips Edwards received were about 10% of the sum the customers paid. But this one was definitely unlike any other tip she had ever received working at Denny's. In fact, it was super unusual.

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An Unusual Amount

Edwards was speechless as she held the check in her trembling hands and stared at the sum printed on it. There was no mistaking the number the couple had written - it clearly read $4,451.61! There were so many thoughts Shikira felt racing through her head.

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Fox 13

As she stared at the check, completely dumbfounded, Edwards slowly began to realize the number she was reading was real. She couldn't believe it - this was the moment she had been waiting for. All the energy and hard work had finally come back around with a life-changing miracle.

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How It Would Change Her Life

There was no question that, no matter how hard Edwards worked, her student loan debt wouldn't disappear in one day. But when Edwards saw the four-digit number on the check, she knew it would significantly help relieve her from a large amount of what she owed.

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Fox 13

She thought of her education, her son, and her life overall, and felt extremely grateful for the generous couple, who she knew had just changed her life substantially. She was sure it would give her life a boost, and she could focus on her studies better and worry a bit less about earning money to keep herself and son going.

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Beyond Ecstatic

Her three years of hard work were certainly beginning to pay off. Shikira thought of every moment things felt too stressful, and was glad she always had the motivation to keep going, in spite of the many challenges she faced. She shared her reaction to receiving the check with local station FOX 13.

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Fox 13

“It’s just such a blessing to have good people like that that are still here and that God did answer my prayers, because he knows what I go through. For someone to look at me and bless me in that way, in that way shape or form, there’s no blessing too high or too low for God, and I appreciate her so much," the waitress said. But things wouldn't end just like that.

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Not Just for Her Debt

Shikira Edwards, over the moon with the miracle that had made its way into her hands, decided she wouldn't only use it to pay off her student loan debt. She also wanted to use it to do something else - something quite selfless for a woman in her situation.

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OLIVIER DOULIERY / Contributor via Getty Images

Among the things she felt she wanted to do with the money that the generous elderly couple had left her was help others in need. She decided she wanted to donate a fraction of the money to a non-profit organization that helps adolescents who are struggling with depression.

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The Manager Had Other Plans

Seeing the unbelievably large sum printed on the check, Edwards' face lit up with joy. She was totally speechless, and the manager could probably see how shocked but thrilled she was that the customers had appreciated her service so much. She couldn't be more grateful when she went home that day.

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Fox 13

Unfortunately, she soon realized her manager hadn't called her in to just hand her the money that the customers had left. And Shikira realized that her vision and dreams of receiving the more than four thousand dollars would be short-lived, when her boss brought them to a very abrupt halt.

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Her Manager Took the Money

The young waitress' manager did not appear to share her feelings of joy at the generosity of the elderly couple. Instead, he seemed more concerned than he did happy. And Edwards' hopes and dreams all came crashing down when she saw what he did next.

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Fox 13

After calling his employee back in to discuss the matter for a few minutes, the manager said what Edwards hadn't seen coming. He withheld the customer's check from the waitress, telling her it would stay with him until she was able to accomplish one single task.

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Shikira Was Devastated

When she saw her manager put the check back in his pocket, Shikira felt an overwhelming feeling of devastation take over her. She couldn't understand why her manager would do such a thing, knowing the struggles she faced as a mother of one, who was also a dental student with a part-time job.

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Fox 13

Her initial feelings of shock and heartbreak then turned into feelings of anger. She couldn't believe what she was seeing or hearing from her manager. It was outrageous, she thought - what right did he have to snatch her hard-earned money right out of her hands?

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Manager’s Task

The manager, keeping the $4,451.61 check in his possession, gave the mother-of-one the arduous task of tracking down the elderly couple who had dined at the restaurant and left the large tip. He explained that the reason for this is to make sure the couple meant to leave such a generous tip.

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Boston Globe / Contributor via Getty Images

Shikira quite disagreed with his reasoning, as there was no way the couple could have left such an amount of money by accident. Moreover, they had left the tip for the waitress without saying a word and left the restaurant. However, the manager insisted Shikira find them before she could take the money.

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Shikira's Reaction

With her future sitting in her manager's pocket, Shikira realized she wasn't just going to let the matter go without doing everything in her power to get back her hard-earned work. Determined to take back what was rightfully hers, she went online and began doing some research.

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Fox 13

“You’re going to tell me that it’s my fault that I didn’t get the information on a customer when they left and tipped me," Edwards later shared. “I’m just hurt that they would tell me something like …  this is the only resolution to look as if I’m wrong to ask for something I know I deserve."

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Deciding What to Do

Since the average amount in tips waitresses in the United States earn per week is between $298 and $500, a nearly $4500 tip was something that could potentially change their life. A lot depended on the tip in her manager's pocket, but Shikira wasn't sure if she would succeed in tracking down the customers who left it.

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Fox 13

Looking at photos from her high school graduation, she thought of her ambitions and of her son. She thought of how much she desperately wanted and needed to make it through school and become a dental assistant. And that's when she knew what she had to do.

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Contacting Local News

In hopes of somehow reaching the anonymous customer, Edwards decided the best thing to do was to spread the story to as many people as possible. And the fastest way to do that was to contact the local news station and inform them of what had happened. She also mentioned the task she was given of locating the customer.

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Fox 13

“You’re going to tell me that it’s my fault that I didn’t get the information on a customer when they left and tipped me,” Edwards said. “I don’t know who tipped me.” The waitress also added that it would come as no surprise to her if someone at the restaurant tried to keep the money for themselves.

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Denny’s Response

But unfortunately for Shikra, the manager at the Denny's in Memphis saw the broadcast and wasn't happy about it. After Edwards' story aired on the local news station FOX 13, the manager of the Denny's where the waitress works reached out to the station to tell them Edwards' story is false.

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Fox 13

A spokesperson for the restaurant said, "Denny’s is working diligently with our Banking/Credit Card Department to locate the guest and verify the large tip amount." The restaurant's manager insisted that they couldn't let their employee have the money without contacting the customer first.

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An Investigation

A thorough investigation was conducted on the matter, with Shikira waiting anxiously to find out what the verdict would be. Unfortunately, in the end, Denny’s confirmed that the customer didn't mean to leave such a large tip, and that they were forced to temporarily cancel the check.

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Fox 13

A statement read, “This investigation involved the franchise, its manager and staff, the guest and his bank. We understand the disappointment our server must feel.” They explained that the reason the customer left such a large tip was that they weren't familiar with the billing system at the restaurant.

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A Lawsuit

Enraged at the results of the investigation, Shikira didn't accept that the amount of money left to her by the customer was a mistake. According to Atlanta Black Star, the restaurant did not provide the employee with proof that they had actually met with the customer who left the tip.

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Fox 13

After emphasizing that she had been a loyal employee at Denny's for about three years, Edwards claimed that she had rightfully earned the tip through her hard work. She also added that she was planning on suing the restaurant if she didn't get her money back.

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Was the Owner Right?

After hearing the final decision on the issue, Shikira was enraged. “Whatever is done in the dark I just pray that it just comes to the light,” she said. “I pray that whatever God has in store for me will reveal," she shared, devastated at the news.

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Fox 13

Several waitresses have unfortunately been in Shikira's position. While some have had happy endings to their stories, others never saw the money they worked so hard to earn. The question that remains is: Did the owner of the Denny's where Edwards worked do the right thing?

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