Redditor Tanek42 posted a photo of his receipt from the Olive Garden Wednesday, explaining that his family visited the Italian-style chain restaurant after his parents' house burned down.
"When the manager asked how everything was my daughter said, 'Grandpa's house burned down,'" Tanek explained, prompting the restaurant to comp the entire meal.
"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," an Olive Garden rep told the Huffington Post.
The post went viral, but Reddit users wondered whether the story had been faked as part of an Olive Garden marketing scheme.
"That Olive Garden receipt is fake; it's free advertising. I know because I work in advertising and have spoken to the people who plan these campaigns," user iworkinadvertising claimed.
"Honestly, I'm sick and tired of this sh** on Reddit and the fact that users are getting defrauded by cheap advertisers looking to lift their engagement with some free advertising."
The post gained traction among other users who felt the Olive Garden logo in the image looked photoshopped.
But Erik Martin, Reddit's general manager, doesn't think Olive Garden marketers are "smart" enough to come up with a fake receipt story and would want to avoid the anger they would incur if outed.
"I know for a fact that 'this is fake because I've seen something similar' is not proof," Martin told Mashable. "Brands aren't that smart. I just find it hard to believe that a brand like Olive Garden can fabricate a fake receipt and story like this. The backlash potential if they get caught is too high."
Another Reddit administrator backed up Tanek42's claims.
"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."
Reddit administrators ultimately deleted iworkinadvertising's original text calling the Olive Garden story a fake.
Tanek42 hit back at the accusations on his original post saying, "Holy cow! I went to bed last night and was not really expecting this big of a response."
"There's a lot of hatred out there, I can't even believe some of the messages I received," he added.