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Darden: Olive Garden receipt is real and was posted by the guests

A representative from Darden just told me in an email exchange that the story linked below is real.

In the post that went viral on Reddit, the image is of an Olive Garden receipt with the caption:

My brother, wife, 3 year-old daughter and I went to Olive Garden after a recent house fire at my parents. When the manager asked how everything was my daughter said "Grandpa's house burned down". Here's how we received the check:

Some Reddit users questioned whether it was authentic since the receipt was a duplicate:

Another user claimed it was fake and a social media stunt that "is done all the time:"

I reached out to Darden's Olive Garden media rep Tara Gray and asked if she could use the information on the receipt to verify the incident. She said she had just heard about it and would get back to me.

It turns out that the incident happened last weekend in Vernon Hills, Ill. I suspect that the diners may have folded the receipt and then decided to post it and asked for a fresh copy.

Here's Tara's response:

The receipt is real and was posted by the guests, not by anyone at Olive Garden or Darden.  We are always looking for ways to surprise and delight our guests, and this was one of the ways the Olive Garden team in Vernon Hills, Ill., did that last weekend.

Here’s another recent example from the Olive Garden in Lubbock, Texas, involving a soldier who was being deployed that was picked up organically by local media: Lubbock Restaurant in the Middle of Social Media Frenzy for Good Deed:

What a great ending to this story and kudos to an Olive Garden manager touched by an upset 3-year-old!

Dan McDermott

Warren County Report
Frederick County Report

+Sreek Menon +Linda Lawrey +Sarah Hill
Sreek Menon's profile photoMichael Ellis's profile photoTodd Wasserman's profile photoDan McDermott's profile photo
PHil G
I wouldn't necessarily associate this good deed with Olive garden, would rather think there's a good person who just happens to work in the food industry.
This shows the importance of empowering your staff.  Provide context and incentives, hire and train the right people, and you get this.  Social media gives everyone a voice.  And folks trust activist consumers and employees a great deal (more data on this at
+PHil G The good news is that these types of "good deeds" are good for business :)
I have posted this back on reddit.
Here's the Admin's message... looks like the journo jumped the gun:
[–]bitcrunch [A] 432 points 1 hour ago* (494|62)

We're pretty well aware of how agencies work and that brands want to be on reddit. For instance, I know of an instance we've been looking at for about a month with one agency and a brand you name above.

However, I've looked into the entire situation with the Olive Garden receipt and I'm pretty upset because from every indication (and remember, I can see more on the backend than you can), this is an honest person, who is who they say they are, who is about to have the entire internet stalking them, calling family members, calling employers, and running them off of reddit and the internet. And that won't be the first time it's happened to someone who happened to post something related to a brand or was incorrectly suspected of being a shill.

Agencies just aren't that slick - even when they think they are. We can usually catch them a mile away, and I don't care that they use proxies or make accounts and bide time, their tactics generally don't make it past our vote cheating and spam programs. 

I'm aware that we've had communication with two different agencies in the last few months, due to stuff we've caught going on. One worked (temporarily) but we caught it due to reports from redditors and banned it - and one never worked at all (which was hilarious to watch as they couldn't get a submission live and their cheated votes didn't count).

If you're pretty sure that a brand or agency has manipulated reddit, or has a currently active campaign on reddit of an unofficial viral nature, please modmail /r/ with whatever information you have. 

While I'm really upset that today some poor person is going to get home from work and find the entire internet has decided to burn him at the stake, there is seriously nothing I love more than catching a spammer or ad agency or someone trying to manipulate reddit. Your anger about fake stuff is shared by many of us who work at reddit, but please do not do this to the redditor in the title of your submission who doesn't deserve this.

Additionally, I've been informed recently that there are new FCC regulations that could be construed to make dishonest viral campaigns illegal - something about having to clearly mark advertising as to the source. Do you know anything about that and has it come up when you talk to advertisers?

Edit: anyone who harassed or downvoted this guy, please go give him an upvote and apologize:

If you've written an irresponsible and sensationalistic comment or blog or news article, please be kind and remove it or correct it <3
Dan, just so you know, I'm sitting in Vernon Hills IL right at this very minute.   
You should have Italian tonight and thank them!  ;-)
I can't get to the Olive Garden by bicycle, so I probably won't be eating there today.   There roads there would be treacherous on a bike.   Oh well, I spread the word to others here.
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