Risking Your Job to Do the Right Thing

January 30th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

This waiter is being hailed as a hero.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

For those of us that have ever worked in a service industry, we know one thing: Sometimes, the customer is just wrong.

But in an industry where servers work primarily for tips, well, it’s awfully risky to do anything but lower your head and cater even to the most offensive diners. So, it’s no surprise that a story about a waiter risking his very job to do the right thing made him a hero to many people.

ABC local affiliate KRTK in Houston reported the story of Michael Garcia, a server at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib in Houston, who overheard a customer insult a 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome. The boy, Milo Castillo, had been dining with his family and talking about his birthday the week earlier, much to the delight of other staff members who knew the family as regular customers. But Garcia heard something else from a different table. “’Special needs children need to be special somewhere else,’” he told NBC affiliate KPRC-TV. After hearing the disparaging remark, Garcia flat-out refused to serve the customer.

“’How could you say that?’” Garcia asked the man as he left the restaurant. “How could you say that about a beautiful 5-year-old angel?’”

Castillo was particularly grateful to Garcia for sticking up for her son when she found that the other family was also a table of regulars. In a blog entry, she thanked the servers: “Yay for people like Michael, Candace and Eric and Laurenzo’s (also waiters who everyone should go tip heavily) who not only love (my son) Milo for who he is – a customer and little boy with Down syndrome, but stand up for him no matter what.”

Since then, others have come to sing Garcia’s praises. The popular restaurant blog Grub Street covered the incident and wrote, “Someone give this man a raise.” Well, his responsible act might not change the fact that most restaurant servers collect very little base pay, but I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage restaurant patrons to show their appreciation for this responsible act by adding a bit to the tip.

If you were in Garcia’s position, would you have done the same thing?