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FRANKLIN, Tennessee (WSMV) – A Franklin, Tennessee waitress says what started as a normal shift at the Red Lobster ended with a customer writing a racial slur on a receipt.
Toni Jenkins wants to be a nurse because she says she loves to serve. And she took a job at Red Lobster earlier this year to save money for a new car. She loves the place, the food and her co-workers.
“I love being with people, period. So just the fact that the employees and the management embrace me, I love it. It’s great,” she said.
But this weekend, she says a run-in with some difficult customers shook her confidence.
“My only desire is just to stand up for what’s right,” Jenkins said.
A table of two, who racked up more than $40 over lunch, left a message on their bill. In the tip line, is the word “none,” and in the total, the N-word.
“It was like my heart kind of sank, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ I’m going through my mind. I’m like, ‘Was my service awful? Did I do something?’ I’ve never had to deal with that before,” Jenkins said.
She showed the slur to her manager, then showed a photo of the receipt to her parents later that night.
“I was just kind of like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” said her mother, Tina Jenkins-Wilson. “People need to know this is still happening. It’s ridiculous. It’s 2013. It’s unnecessary.”
Toni Jenkins took to Facebook, where the story quickly went viral.
Reaction ranges from support to suspicion, as some seem to wonder whether she faked it.
“I don’t know what I would gain from faking something like that. I mean, it hurt me, so why would I attempt to inflict pain on myself or put myself in this situation? I don’t like to be in confrontational situations at all,” Toni Jenkins said.
The Belmont University nursing student said she is speaking out now to raise awareness about racism – willing to forgive but not forget.
“My parents have always told me that hurting people want to hurt others,” she said. “I have no hatred towards them. I don’t want any disdain or anything to happen to them. I love them like I love anyone else.”
For the time being, Toni Jenkins remains off the job with pay.
A Red Lobster spokesman called it normal policy as the company investigates the situation and said the customer denies writing the slur on the ticket.
The Red Lobster representative added, in a statement: “We take this extremely seriously. This kind of language is completely disgusting and has no place in our restaurant or anywhere else, and we are committed to getting to the bottom of what happened as quickly as possible.”