Iowan Andrew Redlawsk didn’t think twice about picking up some shifts at Trump SoHo when a catering company he worked for was contracted to do a few random jobs at the hotel back in 2011.
“At the time, the Trump SoHo was the venue,” Redlawsk recalled of the New York City gig. “Donald Trump’s just like this funny dude on TV who says ridiculous things. He’s just a TV personality. There’s nothing more to that in your brain.”
He didn’t know in a few years Trump would be president of the United States.
Nor did he know the future president had scammed him out of money he earned in tips.
In New York, there is a law on the books that says if clients are charged a service fee for an event, that service fee should go back to the staff unless there’s a clear addendum on the bottom of the bill making clear the service fee isn’t intended for staff.
There was no such addendum provided to clients of Trump SoHo, but Redlawsk and his colleagues never received their tip money. A class action lawsuit filed by the catering service has now worked its way through the courts.
Redlawsk, who’s now 33, said he had no idea he was being scammed at the time.
“I don’t think most of the people involved knew about it, in the sense that when you’re doing that kind of work you show up and you do the job and then it shows up in your bank account,” Redlawsk said. “Sometimes there are tips and sometimes there aren’t, so you don’t really come to expect them all of the time. So, the fact there weren’t tips coming from those events wasn’t particularly surprising in the moment.”
Redlawsk didn’t recall how many hours he worked at Trump SoHo, but ultimately received $944 from the class action lawsuit. His payout was based on hours worked at Trump properties through the catering company.
When Redlawsk was first contacted about the lawsuit, he was skeptical because a seemingly random law firm asked for personal information.
He contacted the law office that sent him the requests and figured out it wasn’t a scam.
“When I first got it … it’s like that thing where it doesn’t surprise you, but you don’t ever expect to be directly involved in something like that,” Redlawsk said. “Where on one hand, I think … you open it up and it says ‘plaintiff’ and then ‘defendant’ and it literally has the president of the United States listed in this class action settlement.”
“It was bizarre,” he continued. “I mean, when you live in New York like I was — and like a lot of people, and especially anybody in the industry — you are basically living paycheck to paycheck and you’re struggling because it’s the most expensive city in America to live in. And to think not just — at the time it was billionaires skimming tips off working people and people trying to make ends meet — but fast forward to now and it’s even crazier because it’s the president and his companies that are doing that.”
Redlawsk said he could have used the money back in 2011; his pet cat had a freak accident and needed a $2,000 surgery.
“I couldn’t afford a $2,000 surgery on my pet, but I also wasn’t just going to let it die,” Redlawsk said. “So I did it, right? I put a couple grand on my credit card.”
Even though it was a fairly small amount of money, Redlawsk said it took him years to dig out from under the credit card debt.
“That’s frustrating about that whole thing,” Redlawsk said. “You’ve got someone who doesn’t need that extra money stealing it from people who really do. And I don’t know how anybody could avoid being involved in that situation to begin with, because you just don’t know that that’s going on.”
By Paige Godden