An Angry Woman Refused To Tip Her Waiter, But Left Behind Something Much More Valuable

By: Past Chronicles Staff Last updated: Nov 15, 2023

Anyone who has worked in customer service will tell you, being a waiter is no easy job. You have to deal with lots of different kinds of people, and unfortunately, not all of them are kind.

The 27-year-old Armando Markaj had a very strange experience while he was waiting tables that would forever change his life. What one lady left for him instead of a tip will shock you.

Patsy's Pizzeria Est. 1933

In 1933, Pasquale (known as Patsy) Lanceri opened Patsy’s Pizzeria in New York City. The restaurant was just a modest shop in East Harlem when it opened but it has since grown to be one of the most popular and iconic pizzerias in the area.

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Source: Wikipedia

Armando Markaj is a 27-year-old medical student who found himself working at the pizza shop. The young waiter took great pride in his work ethic, but he was put to the test one day in May 2019.

The Customers That Would Change Armando's Life

On May 4th, 2019 was a Saturday and as such it was one of the busier days at the pizzeria. Armando and the rest of his coworkers were swamped and attending to customers all over the restaurant. Among these customers was a mother and daughter pair who Armando greeted and led to their table.

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Source: the pizza snob

The women noticed the walls of the restaurant were lined with images of famous figures who had visited the pizza place. People often ask the waiters questions about these portraits, but the reactions from these women were surprising to Armando.

The Question That Took Him Aback

Armando took their orders and was chatting with them when one f the women asked a question that surprised him: “Why weren’t there more portraits of women on the walls?”

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Source: ABC7 New York

He was a little taken aback by the question because there were photos of women on the walls, just not where these particular ladies were seated. And to be fair, it wasn’t as if he was the one who hung the photos. Many of them had been there for nearly a century!

A Bad Joke and Immediate Regret

The women were not impressed with Armando’s answer so they prodded him with more questions. The mother looked around and stated there were “not as much as there should be”. Armando didn’t quite know how to respond to that.

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Source: Youtube

Armando was getting slightly annoyed with the line of questions for which he didn’t really have answers. And eh had other customers waiting to be served! He told the women that summer was coming and maybe women didn’t like eating pizza as much. He quickly realized he had made a huge mistake as soon as the words left his mouth.

Offending the Customers

The women were clearly offended by Armando’s comment. He knew that he had made his life a lot more difficult by saying this thing about the summer. However, he didn’t think about it too hard because he had other tables to serve.

Source: Youtube

The women asked for the bill almost immediately after their food was brought out. Armando had worked at Patsy’s for 9 years at that point and he didn’t’ think any customer could surprise him, but these women sure did.

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A Note, But No Tip

Armando returned to the table to find both women gone. He glanced at the check to see they had left him no tip! Instead, there was a little note written on a small piece of paper.

Source: eater

They left a remark that women do, in fact, eat pizza. They also stated, “By the way, ave you heard that women don’t leave tips?” He regretted what he had said to the women but couldn’t do anything other than continue working.

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They Left Something Else Behind Instead

As he cleared the table he found something else they had left behind: a white envelope. He figured it belonged to the pair of women he had just offended, but he decided to take a look inside.

Source: Did You Know/ Youtube

The first thing he saw was a “Citibank” logo. He realized right away that there was a check inside the envelope. Perhaps the women had left it behind on accident since they were in such a rush to leave the Pizzeria.

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Armando’s Dilemma

Despite how busy the pizzeria was that day, Armando paused for a moment and thought about what had just happened. He wondered how those women could carry this check around and not even spare a tip for their waiter.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Armando was now faced with a dilemma: should he return the check to the ungrateful customers, or should he just keep it for himself as an overdue tip? Many people probably would have kept the money without hesitation. However, Armando wasn’t selfish.

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Returning the Check

Considering how rude the women were towards him, Armando could have kept the check for himself. However, he chose not to. He quickly ran out of the restaurant to look for the two women and return the check.

Facts Daily/YouTube

By the time Armando made it onto the street, the two women were nowhere to be found. He did not know their names and had no way to get in touch with them. As he had few other options, he made his way back to the pizzeria. 

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The Check’s Amount

While this may be seen as an invasion of privacy, Armando decided to open the envelope and take a look at the check. Checks usually include the owner’s name, and this could potentially help him in his quest to return the check to its rightful owner.

NBC New York/YouTube

When Armando looked at the check, he was completely taken aback. The check’s amount was a whopping $424,000! He couldn’t believe it – what person would walk into a restaurant with this much money?

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What To Do?

Armando immediately went over to his boss, Patsy’s owner Frank Brija, and told him about the check. Upon seeing it, his first reaction was, “Oh my.” The two men spent the next several minutes debating about what they should do next.

NBC New York/YouTube

Armando later shared in an interview that Patsy’s employees would usually just put stuff left behind in the lost-and-found box. However, Armando wasn’t going to do that with nearly half a million dollars. While he still didn’t know what to do with the check, one thing’s for sure: he wasn’t keeping it.

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Was The Check’s Owner A Billionaire?

The name written on the check was “Karen Vinacour.” Armando and Frank agreed that the best thing to do would be to look this person up online. Both men were under the impression that she was a billionaire – after all, who else would be walking around with a $424,000 check?

NBC New York/YouTube

Frank enlisted the help of his 30-year-old son, Adem, to Google some information about Karen Vinacour. If Karen was a billionaire, then it shouldn’t be that difficult to find some information online.

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Googling Didn't Pay Off

Unfortunately, looking Karen Vinacour up online turned out to be a lot harder than they thought it would be. Nothing useful came up when they Googled the name. They found many Karen Vinacours online, but none of them looked like the women who entered the restaurant that day.

NBC New York/YouTube

Armando and Frank had also hoped that the women would return to the restaurant. Frank later said in an interview that he thought that it wouldn’t be long before they returned, as even billionaires would notice that they were missing $424,000.

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Karen Vinacour Was Not a Billionaire

As it turns out, Karen Vinacour was not a billionaire. In reality, the 79-year-old woman was a retired social worker who devoted much of her time in the last several years volunteering at various charities, particularly those that support underprivileged women and children. 

Facts Daily/YouTube

Before going to Patsy’s, Karen had spent the day looking for a new place to live. She had just sold her old house and was planning to use the $424,000 check for the downpayment of her new home and other expenses.

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Karen Would Be Homeless Without The Check

Aside from her retirement funds, Karen only had that $424,000 check. It was all the money she had left. Since she had just sold her house, she needed that check to pay for a new home.

Trending Stories/YouTube

Without that check, Karen would become homeless. She had been living with her daughter and other relatives at the time. However, she couldn’t stay with them very long. She was under a lot of stress, which could explain her behavior at Patsy’s that day.

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An Unfortunate Decision

Karen and her daughter had spent the entire day looking at houses, budgeting, and speaking with her real estate broker. By the time they arrived at Patsy’s, they were exhausted. Thus, when their waiter answered their question about the portraits in a joking manner, they were offended.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Karen later explained that her daughter was “kind of feisty,” and she didn’t appreciate the way Armando answered their question. Hence, they both agreed not to tip him. Little did they know that their decision would come back to haunt them later on.

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Why Not Simply Cancel The Check?

Karen did not realize that the check had been missing until the following day. She only noticed that it was gone when she checked her purse’s inner compartment. Even then, Karen remained calm. She simply closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and thought of a solution.

Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

Karen figured that all she needed to do was to go to the bank and ask them to cancel the check. Early the next day, she headed over to the Citibank branch at Union Square. Unfortunately, the bank’s employees had some bad news for her.

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The Bad News

The Citibank employee who Karen spoke to told her that the check couldn’t be canceled as it was a cashier’s check. They would have to wait at least three months to discontinue the check, but only if somebody else didn’t cash it.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Karen couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had made most of that money by selling her house. She couldn’t possibly stay with her family and friends forever. If she can’t get that check back, she’d be homeless.

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Losing Hope

Feeling restless, Karen ran over to the coffee shop that she and her daughter visited two days earlier. However, the check was nowhere to be found. She then tried calling her real estate broker, but he wouldn’t answer her call.

NBC New York/YouTube

Karen then called her daughter and asked her to see if she had the check. Her daughter looked in her purse, searched the entire house, and dug through her trash, but she couldn’t find it. By that point, Karen was beginning to lose hope.

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The Wrong Patsy’s

Karen then decided to check Patsy’s, but instead of visiting the pizzeria herself, she gave them a call. However, Karen called the wrong Patsy’s. When the staff at the incorrect Patsy’s told Karen that they didn’t have the check, Karen was devastated.

Yumi Mau/Pinterest

Karen’s real estate broker eventually returned her call and he was just as confused as she was. In an interview, he recalled how Karen told him that she had called Patsy’s. However, it never occurred to him that she may have contacted the wrong one.

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Armando’s Plan

Over at the other Patsy’s, meanwhile, Armando and Frank were still figuring out how to return the check to Karen. Since they had no way to get in touch with her, they decided to ask the New York Daily News for help.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Journalists know how to look through archives to find specific individuals, so Armando and Frank figured that they needed their help. After learning about the missing check, the staff at the New York Daily News immediately set to work.

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Finding Karen Vinacour

The newspaper staff managed to track Karen down in a matter of minutes. They called her from Patsy’s and asked whether she had lost something valuable recently. Karen was so shocked by what she had just heard that she could barely speak.

@antiguabarbuda/Twitter

An ecstatic Karen thanked the newspaper staff and told them how relieved she was. She then proceeded to tell them that she would be heading over to Patsy’s right away. As soon as she ended the call, she hopped in a cab and made her way to Patsy’s.

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Karen Reunites With Armando

When Karen walked through the door at Patsy’s, she immediately saw Armando with her check. Armando smiled, handed the check over to Karen, and told her how happy he was that she finally got it back.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Armando later told ABC 7 in an interview that Karen broke into tears as soon as he handed her the check. Though other people might have kept the check for themselves, Armando chose to do the right thing and returned it to its rightful owner.

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An Amazing Young Man

Karen was grateful that Armando chose to return the check, calling him an “amazing young man.” Karen told NBC 4 that Armando could have chosen to throw it in the garbage, especially since she and her daughter weren’t very kind to him.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Karen never imagined that she would come face-to-face with the waiter at Patsy’s again. While their last encounter was a rather unpleasant one, it’s safe to say that this incident certainly changed Karen’s opinions about him for the better.

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Frank Gives Karen a Tour

Frank then toured Karen around the pizzeria and offered her a pizza. While they were eating, Frank showed her the portraits of the famous women on Patsy’s walls and explained why they were selected to be there.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Some of the famous women on Patsy’s wall include writer, editor, activist, and former New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, journalist Barbara Walters, and former New York City Council Speakers Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito. Karen and her daughter didn’t notice these women’s portraits on their previous visit.

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Karen Receives Another Surprise

Aside from returning Karen’s missing check and giving her a complimentary pizza, Frank had another surprise in store for her: he wanted to hang Karen’s portrait on Patsy’s wall! Karen thought he was kidding at first, but as it turned out, he was dead serious!

Facts Daily/YouTube

Frank told Karen that he wanted to take a photo with her so he could put that on the wall too. Karen was honored that Frank wanted her portrait on the wall along with generations of Patsy’s most loyal and famous customers.

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Karen Apologizes

Karen also apologized to Frank for not tipping Armando. She explained that the passive-aggressive note that she left at the table a few days earlier “wasn’t her best moment.” She then tried to give Armando his overdue tip.

Facts Daily/YouTube

To Karen’s surprise, Armando rejected her offer. He explained that giving her her life savings back was enough of a gift not just for him, but for everyone who worked at Patsy’s. Karen was touched by the young man’s kindness and generosity.

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A Token of Appreciation

Though Armando did not accept the tip, Karen still planned on giving him a gift certificate so he could buy school supplies. She was well aware of high education costs were, and she wanted to help Armando in any way she can.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Karen told ABC 7 that she was grateful that her passive-aggressive note did not prevent Armando from doing the right thing. Had he not gone the extra mile to return the check, she would have been homeless by now.

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Was It Karma?

Interestingly enough, the events in this story took place just a few days before Mother’s Day. Now that Karen got her missing check back, she could enjoy the special occasion without worry. For Armando, this was both heartwarming and ironic.

Facts Daily/YouTube

Armando told the Los Angeles Times that he believed that this whole incident was karma for Karen and her daughter. In response, Karen laughed and said that she believed in karma too, telling Armando that she thinks that it was karma that helped her get back to him.

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