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Mysterious 'Tips for Jesus' leaves behind enormous tips

Wait staffs across US delighted by 4-figure tips on an AmEx card

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A secret Santa is crisscrossing the United States, bearing a credit card and an extraordinary spirit of generosity, leaving enormous tips to waiters and waitresses before ducking out of restaurants from California to Chicago.

We're talking a $5,000 tip on a bill for $84.05. That's 5,984 percent of the tab. And a $10,000 tip on a $2.979.42 bill (335 percent). And a $1,000 tip on a bill for $152.76 (654 percent). And $500 on a $24 bill (2,083 percent). And a $3,000 tip on a bill for $373.36 (797 percent).

As of the latest reports, Mr. Big Spender has dropped more than $54,000 in tips on 18 fortunate servers during the past three months, accelerating his ultra-gratuity campaign as Christmas approaches. Reports of his extreme generosity have arrived from South Bend, Ind., Ann Arbor, Mich., Chicago, San Francisco, Southern California and Ogden, Utah, -- golf caddies benefited from that one.

'Tips for Jesus' drops a $5,000 tip
An Indiana restaurant wait staff was delighted to find a $5,000 tip on Oct. 19

The waitress of an Indiana gathering place was delighted to find a $5,000 tip Oct. 19.

He signs the credit card slips with the words "Tips for Jesus" and sometimes with a smiley face. With rare exceptions, American Express processes and accepts the charges without emitting a single objecting electron. "Tipsforjesus pays its tabs," the benefactor wrote in response to a question about the veracity of a charge slip.

'A wonderful surprise'
Hard to believe? Maybe, but believe it.

"Oh, it happened -- it definitely happened," said Dan Schack, a manager at The Boundary in Chicago, which specializes in moderately priced burgers, tacos and sandwiches. It was here on one evening when a young woman who served six people at table 32 came back to pick up the credit card slip and found a $3,000 tip on a $373.36 bill.

"It's absolutely legit," Schack said. "We were skeptical when we saw it on the charge slip, but it went right through.

"Our servers work hard, this is a tough business, and to see something like that and someone rewarded like that ... it was a complete surprise, a wonderful surprise," Schack said. "It gives you a really nice feeling to know that someone would do something like that."

Tipper leaves few clues
So who is this mysterious Big Spender? A sports star? An Internet billionaire? A really hungry fellow who's taking the Secret Santa thing to the max? The clues are few, but here they are:

Mr. Spender is said to be a young man, possibly in his 30s. He's often accompanied by two or more friends or associates. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they live in California. He carries that American Express card, apparently an exclusive black Amex "Centurion" card, which is issued only to high rollers and must be getting pretty well worn by now.

He and his friends appear to be sports fans, as some of his gratuity-related binges seem to occur in association with sporting events. On Oct. 19, at a restaurant in South Bend, Ind., home of the University of Notre Dame's Fighting Irish, he wrote "Fight On!" on a credit card slip that turned golden, with a $5,000 tip on an $84.05 bar tab. That day, the University of Southern California Trojans, who use the motto "Fight On," played a football game at Notre Dame.

His tastes are eclectic, ranging from burgers to "Patron Bourdou Gimlet" cocktails at $102.50 each and shots of Macallan 30 Scotch whisky at $100.50 each.

Aside from occasionally running up enormous tabs, including one food and drink bill for $2,979.42 (before tip) and another for $6,818,63 (including the restaurant's standard 20 percent gratuity, which our generous tipper augmented with an additional $5,000), Mr. Spender and his associates never attract special attention to themselves -- until they leave. They generally slip out of the restaurants before they can be thanked by their reliably astonished servers.

It was three guys, but they seemed just like any three guys. We never really took a good look at them, and they left before Roxanne picked up the slip.

-- Becky Graziano
Hungry Cat, Hollywood, Calif.

Mr. Spender signs the credit card slips as "Tips for Jesus," often including the word "Instagram" and sometimes a smiley face. In recent weeks, a rubber stamp has been used to endorse the credit card slips with "Tips for Jesus," perhaps in an attempt to cloak the benefactor's handwriting. Nothing else seems overtly religious about him or his activities.

Yes, it's on Instagram
Interestingly, this being the age of social media and despite his general anonymity, he and those he rewards have been posting the credit card slips, joyful photos of enriched servers and general comments on an Instagram page set up to chronicle the tremendous tips.

One comment on the page: "Truly amazing what you are doing dude! God really does pay you back when you do things like this. So cool!"

Another: "You should go to the Monterrey Cafe in Downtown Spokane, WA and ask for Jennifer who is a single mom."

And a third: "shoooott need a hair cut?! Hair stylist love tips too haha. Very generous of you!"

Often, Mr. Spender's generosity ends up touching a restaurant's entire staff of servers. That's what happened on Nov. 20 at The Hungry Cat in Hollywood, Calif., an upscale seafood place where a whole lobster goes for $50 and an ounce of golden trout roe will set you back about $40.

There, Mr. Spender and two friends sat at table 60 and were served by a young woman named Roxanne. Their bill came to $265.96, including tax. The tip: $1,000 (376 percent).

"I've worked in South Beach in Miami and I've seen some people leave large tips, but never anything like that," said manager Becky Graziano, who was on duty that night. "It was three guys, but they seemed just like any three guys. We never really took a good look at them, and they left before Roxanne picked up the slip.

"She was surprised, that's for sure, but we're a 'pooled house,' so the servers share their tips with the house," Graziano said. "It was a really good night for everyone."

We bet. Anything else you'd like to say about this, Ms. Graziano?

"You know, with Christmas coming," she said, "this tells me that people have good hearts. They're not all Scrooges out there."

Published: December 3, 2013


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Updated: 12-03-2016


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