Good samaritan Eric Salzwedel raised the funds from 250 people across the country to support a server in the downtown Madison area in Wisconsin.
Trigger Warning: This story contains themes of homophobia
Working in the service industry is already a difficult job, but it can be even more so when one is openly queer. A gay server in Madison, Wisconsin, received a homophobic message in place of a tip on a $142 bill last week. The message scrawled across the receipt read, "Service was good but we don’t tip sinful homosexuals." Eric Salzwedel learned of the incident when his friend sent him a picture of the receipt. Salzwedel, the founder of the pay it forward style #VenmoChallenge, decided to take action. He shared the photo on Facebook, where he asked for donations to surprise the server. Internet users rallied to support him, raising a whopping $4,500, Channel 3000 reports.
"This really upset me that someone would do something like this," the good Samaritan said in an interview with the news outlet. "To go to the extent of saying it was good service, but because of their sexual orientation, they decided not to give them a tip." Because Salzwedel was so upset by the situation, he took to Facebook to prove to the server that there was still some good left in the world.
He stated, "Seeing this receipt, I immediately wanted to do another #VenmoChallenge, specifically for the reason to show there is more love than hate in this world and to lift their spirits. Within 36 hours I had received $4,500 from folks sending an extra tip for $5, $10, $20 from across the country." In total, about 250 people pitched in to support the unsuspecting server. Once Salzwedel had raised the amount, he surprised the server, who did not want to be identified. According to Salzwedel, the server was extremely grateful for the kindness that absolute strangers from the internet showed them.
"On Tuesday evening we were able to surprise the server with the tip and to let them know that people love them for who they are and to not listen to those who just want to spread hate onto others," he shared. "As you may expect they were surprised from the tip and extremely grateful." Thousands of folks were overjoyed that the server received the tip, and took to Facebook to express their happiness. One kind user commented, "Thank you so much for doing this. How satisfying to be part of this act of generosity and kindness." Another added, "[It] does not matter what the person is, does, or looks like. If service is good, they deserve to be tipped for it. I am glad you and others were able to show this waiter that a good job will be rewarded no matter what!"
Salzwedel is also the founder of the Facebook page Do Good Wisconsin, through which he shares acts of kindness performed all over the state. He launched the Venmo Challenge in the summer of 2020 when the pandemic was at one of its worst stages. Through the donations he receives as part of the challenge, he donates 100 percent of all funds sent to his allotted Venmo account to hard-working servers in restaurants throughout the Madison area.