N.C. restaurant gives a meal discount to praying diners

I’ve gotten a discount because I was a student, a new mother and now for being, well, older. But I’ve never gotten a discount for praying over my food.

But if I visited Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, N.C., that’s what I might get for being grateful for my meal and saying grace. The restaurant gives a 15 percent discount for diners who pray before eating, reported Jonathan Anker for HLN.

A diner, surprised at the discount, posted her receipt on Facebook, and as many such postings do these days, it spread on the Internet.

But no viral news goes uncriticized. Some people objected to praying people getting a financial break.

Posters have “questioned whether the restaurant would give the same discount to people who offered public prayers that weren’t of the Christian variety,” wrote Scott Neuman for NPR.

The restaurant posted a response on its Facebook page to the criticism of its praying-in-public discount: “There’s a lot of craziness going on in regard to the 15% discount. I will not respond to all the posts. I will say that it is not a ‘policy.’ It’s a gift we give at random to customers who take a moment before their meal. This could be prayer or just a moment to breathe & push the busyness of the world away. Who you talk to or meditate on etc. is your business. I have lived in a 3rd world country, there are people starving. We live in a country with an abundance of beautiful food. I NEVER take that for granted. It warms my heart to see people with an attitude of gratitude.”

Color of Money question of the week

Do you think it’s fair for people to get a discount for praying? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. In the subject line put “Praying in Public.” Please include your full name, city and state.

Major data breach

If you haven’t changed the password to your financial accounts, here’s a heads-up: Do it now.

Russian hackers stole 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and more than 500 million e-mail addresses, reported Nicole Perlroth and David Gelles for the New York Times.

This comes after the major data breach at retailer Target in which 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million addresses, phone numbers and other customer information were stolen.

“There is worry among some in the security community that keeping personal information out of the hands of thieves is increasingly a losing battle,” Perlroth and Gelles wrote.

And they warn: “While a credit card can be easily canceled, personal credentials like an email address, Social Security number or password can be used for identity theft. Because people tend to use the same passwords for different sites, criminals test stolen credentials on websites where valuable information can be gleaned, like those of banks and brokerage firms.”

Live online chat today

What’s your financial issue? Join me today at noon EST. I’ll be taking your personal finance questions. Here’s the link to join the conversation.

No more $40 cup of coffee

Many big banks have put in place a daily floor by which customers won’t be hit with overdraft fees, The Washington Post’s Danielle Douglas reported last week.

For last week’s Color of Money question, I asked you to tell me about your most outrageous overdraft fees.

Here’s a great story from one person that has a happy overdraft ending and a lesson.

“Back in 1996, while banking at Crestar (now SunTrust), I’d written five checks in anticipation of a Friday paycheck covering them,” wrote Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va. “The checks and my paycheck all hit the bank on a Friday morning. The bank, in its corporate greedy wisdom, processed all the checks first, which then threw me into an overdraft situation at $25 NSF charges each. Plus I was charged return check fees at $35 each, and then after all that, they credited my paycheck, which was then too little to cover my rent.

“I went in to see the branch manager, and there was absolutely nothing holy about the words that came out of my mouth. She got the point though and returned every penny to me after giving me a good lecture. Debiting the account before adding deposits was just criminal on their part. However, the financial lesson she taught me that day was: Never write checks PERIOD unless the money to cover them is already in the account.”

Okay, my mouth dropped open in disbelief when I read this overdraft story from Chuck Anderson of Chesapeake, Va.: “I was a student at the time and money was always budgeted to the thin point. My bank was robbed. They then ran every transaction through again for reasons that escape me to this day. So needless to say with a car payment and my rent payment going through twice, the check I wrote at the convenience store as well . . . all bounced and I was charged fees. I only got it reversed when my landlord, who was a top state official at the time, called.”

I have to end on this e-mail from a reader who saw the benefit in an overdraft fee.

“About 40 years ago, I simply forgot to pay my mortgage,” wrote Rina Lerner of Wayne, NJ. “When sent a notice I immediately went to the bank to pay it. Because I was known at the bank through my prominent father . . . they offered, without my asking, to remove the late fee. I said definitely, ‘No!’ I knew if I paid the fee I would never again forget to pay my mortgage or any other bill for that matter. I learned my lesson well.”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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