For every dishonest person willing to prey on others, there is an honest person out there wanting to make things right— that’s the lesson one Vernon man learned recently.
On a whim, Steven Schwebbach, 27, decided to stop at Taco Del Mar for lunch on his way to work one day in late November. He ordered a soft taco combo and chatted with the staff about his volunteer work at the Salvation Army before paying for his meal, unaware that instead of leaving a $4 tip on his $12 meal, he had accidentally left a $40 tip.
When the staff members who had served Steven that day discovered the “unusually large tip,” while doing their cash out, they contacted restaurant owner Byron Skelton and reported it. Skelton, having met Steven before, said he realized who had left the tip after reviewing the day’s camera footage and removed the $40 from the totals, setting it aside for Steven to retrieve.
“It’s the kind of thing that could happen to anyone,” his mother, Barbara said, referring to the accident.
The difference, she explained, is that, while she might have noticed the discrepancy right away, her son, who has been diagnosed with a “moderate developmental delay,” did not.
“Steven as independent as he can be, has difficulty with money, so we have to depend on people being honest.
“There have been times when Steven has gone places, and I think this happens a lot with people with disabilities, where we’ve had situations where he’s made a debit purchase or even paid in cash, and not been given the correct change.”
Barbara said she and her husband do have certain precautions in place to protect their son, but he, and other people she knows within the “community of people with disabilities,” can’t always be protected from those who wish to take advantage.
“People with disabilities don’t like being ripped off either,” she pointed out, before recalling an incident where Steven was shorted about $6.
“We went back to the store with the receipt and the change he was given and explained that he didn’t realize he hadn’t received the correct change, and asked for the change. We were basically told ‘too bad.’”
Steven says he won’t go back to that store because it makes him feel uncomfortable, and also carries a pen and paper to do calculations after he pays for a purchase, or brings a friend with him to keep a watchful eye.
Incidents like that, she said, often leave Steven feeling apprehensive about returning to those places. She noted stories like that, tend to reverberate throughout the “community of people with disabilities,” and word can spread quickly about which places are “safe” or “unsafe.”
When she spotted the suspiciously high charge from the 24th Street restaurant on Steven’s bank statement later that day, Barbara said she was fully prepared for a fight.
Armed with a printed copy of Steven’s bank statement showing the charge, Barbara’s husband went to the restaurant to confront the franchise’s owner, Skelton, about correcting the error.
But the fight the Schwebbachs emotionally prepared themselves for, never happened.
When her husband walked in the door of Taco Del Mar, Skelton already had $40 in an envelope.
Skelton said he even went to the Salvation Army one day hoping to find Steven, when he recalled the young man saying he worked there. He didn’t come across Steven, but held on to the money anyway, figuring he’d come back sooner or later.
Taking that extra step, Skelton noted is more than just “good business.” It’s just part of being a good person.
“When my husband texted me and told me Byron had Steven’s money, I couldn’t believe it. We didn’t think it would be that easy. We expected to be given a hard time,” Barbara said.
“It seemed like they went above and beyond to make sure. I mean, they could have tried and then just given up after a few days. To keep the money there for Steven in hopes that he would come back — I mean, I was amazed.”
Barbara said she was so impressed, she did what many people do when they want to share a story — positive or negative, she took it to Vernon Rant and Rave, a popular local social media forum.
“We all like to be told when we’re doing something right, because, particularly when you work in customer service, we often hear when we’re doing something wrong. I just thought it was really worthy of publicity.”
Barbara said as news of the the incident has spread, the restaurant has been promoted within the disability community in Vernon as a place that is safe for people to go, “where they’re not going to be ripped off.”
In an era when people with disabilities sometimes get taken advantage of more often than many of us realize, she added, a safe place is a “big deal.”
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