It wasn’t at all how she expected her shift to end. When the three men said the words “private” and “backroom”, she felt nervous chills run down her spine.
When they asked for her manager, she felt the blood rush to her cheeks. All she wanted was to get out of the situation. But when one of them finally signed his name, she felt the world spin and had to sit down before she fell down.
It was while she was working the night shift at the Seagrape Café in Fairfield, Connecticut when waitress Ashley Latella saw a group of men walk into the bar. It was a busy and hectic night as was to be accepted during the holiday season in December and it was difficult for her to stay on top of everything. She was running from table to table taking orders.
The main dining area had filled up and customers were filing into the bar area.
This was a time of year that Ashley knew only too well. The festive season always led to emotions running high.
Not unusually, the Seagrape Café was overflowing with rowdy year-end parties, customers who had received Christmas bonuses, and, of course, students who were looking for a good time. You could practically taste the excitement and energy in the air. This was the kind of night where anything might happen.
More students descended on the bar. They were laughing and shouting as they ordered drinks and knocked them back.
The crowd was whipped into a frenzy by the DJ’s beats and heavy bass. It was starting to make Ashley’s head spin as she worked, pushing through the crowds with her trays filled with drinks and food. In passing, she saw three men, all well-dressed, sit down at a table in the corner. The manager, Carlos Carmo, couldn’t help but notice them too.
He couldn’t help noticing that they were older, probably in their forties. They sat quietly, surrounded by loud and noisy students.
They clearly seemed out of place. Carlos also knew the faces of all their regulars and these faces were not familiar to him. He tried to keep an eye on them and on Ashley but, as it was a busy night, he got distracted by other matters.
Ashley went about her job, taking their orders and making sure they had everything they needed.
Ashley was an experienced waitress and was used to all kinds of customers but something about these men unsettled her. They weren’t unruly. But there was still something about them that worried her.
The strange men kept ordering drinks and staring intently at her every time she left their table.
To make things worse, every time she came to the table they would all stop talking. When she delivered their bill, however, everything started to become clear.
From experience, Ashley was aware that often it was the quiet customers who caused the most trouble. One table would always have something up their sleeves.
Under normal circumstances, Ashley would just switch tables with one of the male waiters. On a night like tonight that was not an option, however. The bar was just too full and everyone was swamped. It was only at the last minute that the men decided to reveal their true intentions.
What bothered Ashley most, however, was that the Seagrape Café was known for being a student bar. So why were these much older men in the bar.
Out of everyone in the room these men were definitely the oldest. Whether it was just experience or a woman’s intuition, Ashley was certain that they would be trouble. Unfortunately, she wasn’t wrong.
As an experienced waitress, Ashley was used to both good and bad customers.
Of course, some customers were simply rude. Even so, Ashley always did her best to treat all her customers well and give them all good service. Nevertheless, there was little that could have prepared Ashley for when the men refused to pay their bill.
Finally, the men asked her to bring them their bill and Ashley felt relieved.
The end of her shift was drawing close and she looked forward to getting some rest at home before the next day’s work. However, the night wasn’t over yet. When she came back to collect their bill, however, she wasn’t prepared for what they wanted from her.
When Ashley tried to pick up the bill folder, one of the men kept it pinned to the table with his elbows and wouldn’t let her take it.
As if taunting her, he picked up the bill held it where she couldn’t reach it. It was at that moment that all three men stood up. The men refused to hand over the bill and instead made it clear that they wanted her to go into a back room with them.
Ashley didn’t understand what was going on. The man with the bill folder leaned in whispered to her.
At first, it was difficult to hear what he wanted over the noise. Then she finally heard his unsettling request — to settle the bill in private — and her blood ran cold. Ashley looked around wildly, her only thought was to find her manager.
Ashley started to suspect the worst. What reason did these men have to want to settle their bill somewhere else.
If there were any complaints, surely they could tell her right there in the bar? Admittedly there could be a simple explanation, but that didn’t matter to her. The only thing on her mind was that she was definitely not going into a back room with them.
Luckily, Carlos noticed as Ashley went past. He saw her expression and he knew something was wrong.
Ashley sighed in relief when he stopped them. Even though he had expected some trouble, he was just as surprised when Ashley explained the situation to him. He immediately took control and insisted that all five of them would go to the back room together.
Naturally, Carlos’ first instinct was that they had some complaints about the service. He just hoped that nothing would get out of control.
Things became even tenser as he walked into the back room followed by the three men and Ashley. Finally, the men had Ashley and Carlos where they wanted them. The pair were in for quite a surprise.
Once they were all alone the men admitted what Ashley had suspected all night. They had indeed been watching her and the other bartenders the whole night.
They had seen the bartenders being run ragged and couldn’t help but be impressed. This made Carlos relax as the men handed him the bill. However, when he saw what was written at the bottom of the bill he nearly fainted.
Carlos couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw $500 at the bottom of the bill. Never before had he heard of a $500 tip on a $112 bill.
He was amazed that these men were tipping the staff so generously but then they just told him to take a closer look. Carlos had made a mistake. The tip wasn’t $500.
When he looked again, Carlos went from amazed to utterly confused. The color drained from his face and Ashley started to cry.
As he explained in an interview, “I saw another zero.” Ashley hugged the man once she pulled herself together. It was a $5000 tip and not a $500 tip as they thought. The question, however, remained why?
Everyone wondered who these men that spent so much money and gave such huge tips were.
What had made them choose the staff of the Seagrape Café? The explanation that the men gave was that they were members of the “Tips for Jesus” group. Doing “the Lord’s work, one tip at a time,” was their mission.
The group of men had been traveling all over America, giving large tips to the hardworking wait staff in restaurants and bars. In Manhattan alone they’d tipped $11,500 already.
Naturally, news of this story spread quickly on social media. From all over America, people started to come forward to share their own experiences. One bartender shared that he had received a whopping $1,000 tip on an $85 bill. It didn’t take long for Ashley to decide what to do with her portion of the generous tip.
Ashley knew what she wanted to do. She needed to pay it forward somehow. She decided to buy as many toys as possible from a local toy store.
She then went and donated all the toys to the Al’s Angels toy drive. As grateful as she was, she didn’t keep any of the money for herself. This wasn’t the only time Ashley had given to those in need, however.
Ashley had planned to do exactly that for a while. She explained, “I’ve been trying to gather toys at my office.
Toys, blankets.” The generosity of the “Tips for Jesus” group came at the perfect time. The men had no idea that Ashley was just as generous herself. Proof that what goes around, comes around.
Strange things go viral on social media.
Some, such as the ‘Tide Pod challenge’ are even dangerous. These challenges spread quickly and people enjoy both watching and doing them. Fortunately, one of the latest trends to sweep through social media is a ‘feel-good’ trend for all to enjoy.
Being a server has always been just a way to make ends meet.
It has never been considered a “get rich quick” method though — that might be changing. The ‘tip the bill’ challenge spreads kindness, joy, and makes everyone feel good all at once. Best of all, anyone can take part in this challenge.
How the ‘tip the bill’ challenge is quite simple. You order whatever it is you want from the menu and when you pay the bill, you tip 100% of the bill.
Of course, some people have decided to take that much further. The timing of this challenge is also perfect since recent studies have indicated that close to 50% of people don’t know what the right amount to tip is. This has led to a tipping ‘slump’ of sorts. But what is the proper amount to tip?
For those who don’t know, the recommended amount to budget for a tip when eating at a restaurant is between 15% and 20% of the bill.
I As mentioned previously, some people, such as this regular at the Blue 4 restaurant in upper Northwest Washington, are taking it a step further.
According to the four-year-old restaurant’s owner, Christofer Nardelli, the customer in question lives locally and comes to the bar several times a month. The customer’s favorite menu item is the gumbo.
This gumbo consists of a chicken and andouille sausage base with a dark roux and it is paired with an Old Chub Scotch Ale.
On occasion, Christofer and James Turner, the chef, will email food pairings and the beer selection.
This is in an attempt to keep customers up to date on what’s new and happening at the restaurant. Since the generous tip, James has mailed the customer personally to thank them and to ask him to let them know the next time he would come to the restaurant. This is so that James can make sure he’s made the gumbo the customer likes.
Once the customers had finished eating, they paid their bill and left.
It was only sometime later that anyone realized something was out f the ordinary. Laura Dally, the bartender, saw the bill on the table and went over to pick it up. The gumbo-loving regular is known to be a good tipper, but this was beyond what anyone had expected.
The restaurant staff couldn’t believe that someone would leave such a generous tip on a bill of $93. They were getting ready to close and while everyone cleaned, Laura picked up the bill, looked inside, and immediately ran to Chris.
The owner, bartender, and chef of the Connecticut Avenue restaurant could not believe their eyes when they saw that the customer had left a $2,000 tip on a $93 bill. As Laura put it, “I was in an utter daze.
I was completely speechless. I had to do a double-take.” She ran to Chris and said, “We need to talk.”.
Back in Chris’ office, Laura showed him the bill. “I didn’t know what to say,” Chris admits.
“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 joked. “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.”.
On the slip showing the $2000 was a set of instructions.
They detailed how the tip should be split. Laura and Chris were each to get $500 and chef James was to get the remaining $1000. The question remained, why would someone leave a huge tip like that?
When Chris emailed the customer the next day to say thank you, he also received an explanation for the incredible tip.
“He said he’s very happy with what we’ve built and that he’s proud to be a customer,” Chris explained. In the e-mail, the customer also said, “I’m very happy to express my gratitude in that way.”.
The three recipients of the tip are also choosing wise ways to use their unexpected windfalls.
Chris believes that James will be spending the money on his family, while Chris himself plans to offset his child’s monthly day-care fees with the money. 29-year-old Laura, who is a Silver Spring resident, plans use her money to attend Montgomery College to do a summer class Her dream is to become an occupational therapist.
“It’s flattering,” Chris 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.” Laura remarked that in her 10 years working on and off in the hospitality industry, “Never.
Never have I gotten a tip this big. Never.” There was also one more note on the back of the bill. It simply read “Thank you for the Gumbo!”.