She blinked and glanced from the group of men to the unpaid bill again, not quite understanding what they were asking her. But again, they motioned to the back room. Her eyes swept through the crowded bar, searching for help. The warning bells in her mind were almost as loud as the human din and clinking glasses around her.
She readied herself for the trouble she knew was coming.
A Server’s Work Is Never Done
Ashley Latella was working the night shift at the Seagrape Café in Fairfield, Connecticut when she noticed the group of men saunter in. The December holiday season was in full swing and she was struggling to keep up.
The tables quickly filled up for dinner service, the overflow of diners bustling into the bar area as she rushed from table to table taking orders.
Run Off Her Feet
Another wave of students swept into the bar, jeering and whooping before they ordered their first rounds and hammered them down.
Out of the corner of her eye, Ashley noticed three men take their seats in the corner. Carlos Carmo, her manager, noticed them too. He knew they didn’t belong. He had meant to keep an eye on them but was soon carried away on other business.
Ashley took the men’s orders and bustled to make them comfortable. But as experienced as she was at her job, she couldn’t help but feel taken aback by their behavior.
The men ordered round after round, and every time Ashley walked away from the table she could feel their eyes burning into her back. And every time she approached with their orders, they would fall completely silent. But it was only when she brought them their bill that she would understand their true motivations.
Ashley knew from experience that it was usually the quieter patrons who gave the most trouble. There was always one table that was holding a wildcard. Usually, if she felt uncomfortable she would swap tables with one of her male staff members, just to be safe.
But there was no chance of that happening tonight – everyone had their hands full. Unfortunately, the men waited until the last possible minute to show their true colors.
The more Ashley thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. The Seagrape Café was a well-known student bar. Why were these older gentlemen here? They were definitely the oldest people in the room.
Call it a woman’s intuition or experience, Ashley just knew there would be trouble. And she was right.
As a server, Ashley expected to have good customers and bad customers. And some were just downright rude.
Nevertheless, she resolved to always try her best to give all her customers equally good service. But nothing could have prepared her for the men’s refusal to settle their bill.
Just The Beginning
When it was finally time to bring the men their check, Ashley breathed a sigh of relief. It was drawing near to the end of her shift and she was looking forward to going home to recoup before it all began again tomorrow. But she wasn’t out of the woods just yet.
When she returned to collect their payment, she wasn’t ready for what they wanted from her.
What Were They Playing At?
One of the men had the folder with the bill inside pinned under his elbows, close to his chest. But when Ashley moved to retrieve it he refused to move back. He slowly and deliberately looked her up and down — she could feel his eyes on her as they traveled up to her startled face.
Then, he scooped it up and deliberately held it out of her reach, as if taunting her.
Without breaking contact with Ashley’s eyes, he pushed his chair back and the other two men followed suit — as if this was a signal from their ringleader.
They all rose to stand, and the man who was holding the bill ransom swung his neck over his shoulder and looked pointedly at the door behind him. At first, Ashley was confused. Then, he motioned for her to follow him.
At first, Ashley couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. She raised her hands in the universal gesture of confusion. But the man was adamant. He leaned closer and she struggled to hear him over the loud music. He repeated his request.
When it dawned on her that they wanted to settle their bill in private, she felt so unsettled that she felt herself freeze on the spot as a primal fear took hold of her.
Ashley’s thoughts began to race as she scanned the crowd for her manager.
Why would these men want to settle their bill somewhere more private? If they had any grievances, why couldn’t they tell her right here in the safety of the bar? On the other hand, there could be a perfectly reasonable explanation.
Ashley was used to patrons coming onto her — after all, she was young and attractive and she worked hard to keep herself in shape. And it wasn’t lost on her that the man who refused to give her the bill was rather good-looking himself. It was strange, but behind the instinctual fear, she was feeling a small flutter of excitement.
But she couldn’t even entertain that thought. All she knew was that there was no way she was going into the back room with these strange men.
Thankfully, Ashley caught Carlos’ attention as he rushed by. The fearful look in her eyes said it all. He stopped in his tracks and Ashley felt relief wash over her. Carlos had known something would happen tonight, but even he balked when she explained what had happened.
He’d handle it from here. They would all go into the back room together.
Carlos’ first thought was that perhaps the men were dissatisfied with their service. He only hoped things wouldn’t get out of hand. The tension seemed to rise off the worried manager as he walked stiffly into the back, with Ashley and the men in tow.
Ashley and Carlos were exactly where the men wanted them. They were in for a surprise.
In the quieter setting of the private room, the men confirmed Ashley’s suspicions. They revealed that they had been watching her closely all night. They observed all four bartenders being run off their feet, and they were impressed.
Carlos immediately relaxed and let his guard down, and the men handed him the bill. When he saw the figure written in the gratuity line he almost passed out.
Carlos saw a five and two zeros and couldn’t believe it – a tip of $500 was unheard of for a bill of $112. He couldn’t believe these men wanted to tip the staff that much! He voiced his gratitude, but the men told him to look again.
He thought they had tipped $500, but he was wrong.
Looking closer, Carlos’ first reaction gave way to sheer confusion. “I saw another zero,” he explained in an interview. His face turned as white as a sheet, and Ashley immediately burst into tears.
After a few minutes, she regained her composure and rushed to give the men a big hug. It wasn’t a $500 tip, it was a $5,000 tip! But why?
Tips For Jesus
So, who were these mysterious men who seemed to have a lot of cash to spend on exorbitant tips? And why had they chosen the staff at the Seagrape Café?
The men explained that they were part of a group called “Tips for Jesus,” and their mission was to do “The Lord’s work, one tip at a time.”
The group had been traveling across America, tipping huge amounts to hardworking servers in restaurants. They had already tipped a total of $11,500 in Manhattan alone. Soon, news of the group spread on social media. People all over America were coming forward to share their stories. One bartender got a staggering tip of $1,000 for a bill of just $85.
Ashley knew exactly what she was going to do with her portion of the tip.
Paying It Forward
Ashley knew she had to pay it forward, so she bought as many toys as she could at her local toy store and donated them all to a toy drive called Al’s Angels! She was so grateful she didn’t even want to keep any of the money herself.
But this wasn’t the only time Ashley had given to those in need.
Kindness Goes Around
In fact, Ashley had been planning to buy toys to donate to the toy drive for some time. “I’ve been trying to gather toys at my office. Toys, blankets,” she explained.
So the tip from “Tips for Jesus” couldn’t have come at a better time! The men couldn’t have known that Ashley was such a generous person herself. It just goes to show that kindness begets kindness.
There are some pretty silly things that go viral on social media and some trends that are less than good for your health, cue the ‘tide pod challenge’.
People enjoy following and performing these challenges, especially if they can get a good post out of it. Luckily, the latest trend is a super feel good one that everyone will enjoy.
Making Ends Meet
For most servers, their job is a way to make ends meet and definitely not a way to get rich quick until now that is.
The latest #challenge is called ‘tip the bill’ or ‘tip the bill challenge’ is a way for anyone to participate in the fun, spread the love, and feel great at the same time.
The challenge involves ordering anything you like from the menu and when the bill arrives leaving 100% gratuity, but some people have taken it further… A lot further.
And it couldn’t come at a better time either. People are in a tipping slump, some studies showing that almost 50% of all diners have no idea how much they should be tipping, so what is the right amount?
More Than You Think
If you didn’t already know it, between 15% and 20% is the recommended amount you should budget for when dining out.
But people participating in this challenge are upping the ante, like this regular at Blue 4 a restaurant in upper Northwest Washington.
Christofer Nardelli, owner of the four-year-old restaurant said the customer lives in the area and frequents the bar a few times a month.
His favorite item on the menu is most definitely the gumbo, which features a chicken and andouille sausage base with a dark roux, paired with an Old Chub Scotch Ale.
Occasionally, Christofer, and the chef, James Turner, e-mailed over food pairings and beer selections to keep the customers informed of new happenings at the restaurant.
Recently James even went so far as to email the patron personally, asking him for advance notice on the next time he would be in the restaurant so he could make the gumbo he liked.
A While Later
They finished their food and drinks, got the bill, paid and left, but it wasn’t until later that anyone noticed something unusual.
Well after the guests had left, Laura Dally, the bartender, noticed the bill on the table. He is known as a regular who favors the gumbo and is a good, generous tipper, but this was beyond that.
The three staff were stunned that anyone could leave such a gigantic tip on a $93 bill.
Laura had picked up the bill as everyone else was cleaning up and getting ready to close, but when she peeked inside she immediately went to go get Chris.
But the owner, bartender, and chef at the restaurant on Connecticut Avenue said they were shocked when the patron left a really, really big tip — $2,000 on a $93 bill.
“I was in an utter daze,” she said. “I was completely speechless. I had to do a double take.” Laura went to her boss and said, “We need to talk.”
Is It Real?
The two went back to his office, and she showed him the receipt. “I didn’t know what to say,” Chris recalled. “This is the kind of stuff you see in the restaurant business that happens to some guy in the Midwest or the West Coast,” He said.
“You think, who are these people who give these extraordinarily generous tips that just made a server or bartender’s day? And then, sure enough, it happened to us.”
Along with the credit card slip showing the $2,000 tip was a note including details of how it should be divided among the three — $1,000 for chef James and $500 each for Laura and Chris.
But just what was the reason for someone to leave such an incredibly large tip?
The next day, Chris sent a “thank you” e-mail to the man and got the explanation for the crazy tip, “He said he’s very happy with what we’ve built and that he’s proud to be a customer,” Chris said.
The patron also said in the e-mail, “I’m very happy to express my gratitude in that way.”
A Helping Hand
Each person is using their sudden windfall wisely too, Chris said he plans to use his money to help offset his toddler’s monthly day-care bill and believes that James will spend his money on his family as well, while Laura, a 29-year-old Silver Spring resident, said she plans to use her $500 to pay for a summer class at Montgomery College.
She is working to become an occupational therapist.
“It’s flattering,” he said. “It’s nice to see somebody appreciate what we do and they’re willing to leave something like that for us. It’s hard to believe anyone deserves a tip like that.” Chris said, followed by Laura who said in her 10 years of working off and on as a hostess, server or bartender she has, “Never! Never have I gotten a tip this big. Never.”
And a note on the back of the bill— “Thank you for the Gumbo!”