A waiter at a New York City pizzeria was stiffed on a tip by two women because the women were unhappy that the restaurant did not have enough pictures of women on their wall. Then he discovered a $424,000 cashier's check left behind by two women.
A few days later, he returned the check to the elderly woman who left it behind thanks to some help from the New York Daily News, and refused the tip they belatedly tried to give him.
Armando Markaj found an envelope on the table Saturday shortly after the women left the Patsy's Pizzeria in East Harlem.
"I just pulled up the flap and I saw 'Citibank' and thought it was important, so I ran out to the street to look for her, but she was gone," according to Markaj, a 27-year-old medical student.
Karen Vinacour, 79, a retired social worker, and her daughter had been out condo shopping when they stopped in for lunch at Patsy's Pizzeria and accidentally left the envelope containing the cashier's check.
"We thought for sure it was a billionaire or something who came in here, because who walks around with a check like that?" restaurant owner Frank Brija, 63, told the newspaper.
The check, which was mostly proceeds from the recent sale of her apartment, was supposed to provide the down payment for her new home.
But it wasn't until Sunday evening that Vinacour realized the check was missing.
On Monday morning, she went to the bank to cancel the check.
"They said they couldn't immediately cancel it because it was a cashier's check. I would have to wait at least three months before they could even start the process," she said.
"My world just collapsed."
Vinacour called her daughter who started searching through the trash. Then she contacted her real estate broker to enlist her help in the search.
Next, the woman headed to a café that she and her daughter had visited before lunch on Saturday.
Just as Vinacour was planning to go to the pizzeria to look for the check, her real estate broker called and said Patsy's had not found the missing check.
"She said she had called Patsy's and nobody knew anything about a check," Vinacour told the NY Daily News. "I didn't stop to think that maybe she called the wrong one."
Finally, Brija called the NY Daily News since no one had claimed the check and internet searches failed to lead them to the owner.
On Wednesday morning, the newspaper quickly located Vinacour and called her from the restaurant to ask if she had recently lost something of great value.
"I can't believe it, I'm so relieved. You have no idea," Vinacour said. "I'm jumping in a cab, I'll be there right away."
When she arrived at Patsy's, she immediately apologized for not tipping Markaj and offered a belated tip but it was refused.
Why didn't they tip the waiter?
Vinacour said that she and her daughter weren't happy with Markaj's response when they asked why there were only a few photos of women on the restaurant's walls.
She recalled that Markaj told them, "Maybe women don't eat a lot of pizza?"
"Well, my daughter's kind of feisty and she didn't like that," Vinacour said. "So we didn't tip him."