On a recent Saturday afternoon, two couples — one older, one younger — paid their tab in a Breckenridge bar.
As the foursome headed toward the door, their bartender, Sandra Malak, called to the group, “Thanks for coming!” No response.
At that same time, 1,700 miles east, senators were voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, although no one in the bar seemed to be talking about it. Certainly not Malak.
She cleared their table, and noticed the receipt. A $48 dollar bill, no tip. Instead, in the blank normally reserved for the tip amount, the man wrote: “Kavanaugh, get used to it.”
Malak has gotten stiffed on tips before — that kind of thing happens in the industry from time to time. This note on the receipt stunned and confused her.
“It didn’t make any sense at all,” Malak said.
Malak adheres to the philosophy of “never talk politics at the bar.” She had little interaction with the group, other than the standard pleasantries. No political debate, no heated argument.
She resumed making drinks, getting back to her job. But the receipt stayed in her hand.
“After I thought about it for a while, I actually got really upset,” she said. “At first I was like, ‘What just happened?’ but then it became more upsetting. This kind of hurts. Who would try and hurt another stranger for no reason?”
Malak took her outrage to social media, breaking her usual pattern of posting pictures of Breckenridge scenery, “pretty things” that dot the resort mountain town.
“I felt odd about it,” she said of posting the picture of the check on Instagram. “There’s so much negativity right now; I sense it a lot. And I don’t want to spread that around.
“Then I started thinking about, politics aside, being a bartender and server, I’ve witnessed people getting abusive to staff members, yelling or stiffing them … the feeling is that they can’t say anything — the customer is always right.
“I disagree with that. If someone says something disrespectful, that’s not right,” she said. “That was the thought process of why I wanted to share it.”