Sky Solomon, 18, was president of her high school class in Wheaton, Md. She had solid grades and her pick of colleges, with plans to study public health and business. She just needed to pay for it.
In March, she got a job as a server at Buffalo Wild Wings, hoping to save enough to cover textbooks and dorm room essentials before heading to the University of Miami. The pay was $4 an hour, plus tips. On a good day, when sports fans crowded the bar and ordered beer by the pitcher, she could go home with $300 in cash. But sometimes it was as little as $8.
The restaurant was chronically understaffed, Solomon said, and usually operated with fewer than half the servers it needed. Soon she was working six days a week while trying to finish high school.
Still, the tips were hard to pass up, much more money than she had expected. In the first three weeks, she made $2,000. “When you’re the only server in the restaurant, and people tip you out of pity, you can make a lot of money,” she said.
At home, her parents worried she had “disappeared.” Yet nearly every day after school, she was back at the restaurant. The staffing problems persisted. She worked double shifts — eight hours each — on her scheduled days off. Her body was sore. Her grades slipped.
“Every single person in my life told me to quit,” she said.
But her boss begged her to stay. When she asked for three weeks off to focus on school, she was assured the restaurant would be fully staffed by the time she returned. Instead, she said, her schedule became even more hectic.
She gave notice in June in a text message to her manager, narrating the exchange in a TikTok posting.
“Dear Management,” Solomon began. “I’m not a slave. I quit.”
She backtracked on that approach in case she needed to use Buffalo Wild Wings as a reference for a future job. “Dear Management,” she wrote instead, “Due to a lack of scheduling flexibility caused by a staffing shortage, I unfortunately have to resign.”
Her video has been viewed nearly 15,000 times.
“My thought process was, if I am risking my mental health for a job that’s going to pay for my college, if I’m in a depressive state, you’re not even going to be able to do the work in college, anyway,” she said in an interview.
In the end, she decided that “there will be other jobs.”
The online attention was nerve-racking. She woke up the morning after sharing the video with dozens of comments on her post and direct messages from other users. The video, she said, was intended for friends who had been telling her to quit for weeks, not to publicly shame her employer. She worried her TikTok would land her in hot water during her final shifts, but none of her supervisors mentioned it.
She wanted to give classmates a play-by-play of how she left her job, to share exactly how she told off her boss. Her friends, she said, were angry at Buffalo Wild Wings because the job made Solomon so unhappy. She wanted to share that anger, too, and to tell her friends that after all this time, they were right.
Some TikTokers said Solomon’s video was the encouragement they needed to quit their own jobs, or at least start looking for a better one.
Representatives from Buffalo Wild Wings and its parent company, Inspire Brands, did not respond to requests for comment.
Solomon started looking for a new job a few months later, still worried about what new dysfunction she might find but needing to pay for school. She spent the summer applying for grants and scholarships.
In September, while taking college classes online, a local spa owner who had seen her quit on TikTok hired her to post reviews of the spa’s products. In October, she started working at another Washington-area sports bar. Now her TikToks — sent to more than 60,000 followers — are about college, music, makeup and politics. She’ll start in-person classes at Miami in January.
In one video from October, she compares her mental health from six months earlier, when she had just left her job at Buffalo Wild Wings, with present day. In the first frames, her hair is messy; she has bags beneath her eyes. She stares and preens sarcastically into the camera. In the final frames, she’s polished and put together.
“I was really going through it,” she wrote in the post’s caption. “Mental health is so important guys!”