Stranger than Fiction

The story in the “Bill Gates at a restaurant” meme never happened

There’s this “Bill Gates at a restaurant” meme that’s been making the rounds again among acquaintances of mine who are a little too deep into “hustle culture,” and I’m here to tell you that the story it tells is 100% fake.

The story changes slightly with each retelling, but it generally goes like this:

BILL GATES in a restaurant.

After eating, he gave $5 to the waiter as a tip. The waiter had a strange look on his face after the tip, Gates realized, and asked the waiter what had happened.

The waiter replied, “I’m just amazed because on the same table your son gave a tip of $500, but you, his father, the richest man in the world, only gave me $5.”

Gates smiled and replied with meaningful words: “He is Son of the world’s richest man, but I am the son of a wood cutter…”

(Never Forget Your Past. It’s Your Best Teacher)

The problem with this story is that Bill Gates’ tale isn’t one of rags to riches, but of riches to even more riches. After all, Bill’s foray into tech was greatly assisted by the fact that in 1968, he was at an expensive prep school — one of the few that had a computer:

A young Paul Allen (another Microsoft cofounder) and Bill Gates
at Lakeside Prep School.

As for Bill’s dad, William Henry Gates II, he was not a wood cutter, but a founding partner of the law firm Shidler McBroom & Gates, which would grow to become K&L Gates, which boasts over 1,000 employees. It’s no Microsoft, but neither is it small potatoes.

I suspect that the meme’s popularity with my “hustle bro” acquaintances is that it justifies their tendency to underpay people to fatten their own wallets, a fact that many of them often boast about (along with other shady behavior). That’s one of the reasons they’re acquaintances, not friends.

One reply on “The story in the “Bill Gates at a restaurant” meme never happened”

Also, before Microsoft got the contract to bundle MSDOS with the IBM PC, Gates’ mother served on the board of the American Red Cross… with the CEO of IBM

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