[Photos: TipsForJesus / Instagram]
For the past three months, Banksy of Gratuity/Front of House Santa Claus/mystery tippers TipsForJesus have been dropping tips in the hundreds and thousands of dollars at bars and restaurants across the country. These bouts of seemingly random generosity have been documented on the Instagram account TipsForJesus, where photos of receipts proclaiming mammoth tips and the ecstatic service workers who have received them are posted. Yet the exact identity of the forces behind TipsForJesus remain something of a mystery.
Eater got the chance to interview TipsForJesus on the condition of maintaining their anonymity; as they put it, "the anonymity is kind of the point." The name of former Pay Pal VP Jack Selby has been floated as a possibility, and a server at Bo's Kitchen and Bar Room in New York even "confirmed" Selby's identity as the man behind his $1,000 TipsForJesus tip. However, Eater has seen the original photo of the Bo's receipt without the name scratched off and can confirm the tipper, at least at Bo's, was not Selby. (Obviously this does not rule out that Selby may have been there, but he wasn't the one paying for the tip.) Keep guessing, Internet super sleuths.
Below, an anonymous internet mystery group called TipsForJesus reveals why on earth someone would leaving gigantic tips for near-total strangers, the fact that they've been doing this for ten years now, and that they have no plans on stopping.
Why are you doing this? Is there an actual connection to Christianity?
Obviously, we embrace a Christian sense of giving back, but our message isn't meant to be limited to just one religion. The name encapsulated the spirit of giving. So we went with it. It could just as easily be something else, but the spirit is the same.
Where did the idea for TipsForJesus come from? Have you always been generous tippers? Did the gigantic tips start with TipsForJesus, or was that just when the documentation started?
We've often been sitting around and talking about some of our favorite experiences doing this, and everyone remembers different times, different people, different places… there are a lot of instances we've probably forgotten. Pretty universally, any time someone hears any of the stories they think it's pretty great. The tipsforjesus-sized tips have been going on for around ten years, but Instagram made it really easy to share without a lot of hassle. Back in September we were in a bar in Ann Arbor, someone said, "I wish someone had been writing all this down..." and it started out of that.
Do you leave a TipsForJesus-sized tip at every restaurant you go to? Is it a reward for good service, or pretty much random? How do you decide how much to leave?
We always tip pretty generously, but the tipsforjesus-sized tips are unscripted. There aren't any rules really.
What's the college football connection? Numerous outlets have noted you tend to hit up college sports bars. Are you USC fans? (That was my theory.)
We love college football, it's a great sport. Hard work, self improvement, working together, respecting your opponent. It's all great stuff at its heart. As for specific teams, well, loyalties are divided, but we root for each others teams.
Servers at Legends Sports Bar in South Bend, Indiana didn't get their $5,000 tip right away, leading some to believe that TipsForJesus was a scam. Did that all get sorted out?
We've never had a problem with AMEX in the past... so we don't know why the issue arose. The important thing is that a couple of phone calls sorted it out and the bartenders were paid. All's well that ends well.
How long do you expect to keep this up? What's the end game?
No end in sight!
Although this interview was done via email, Eater can confirm these are the people behind TipsForJesus. The respondents did not answer every question posed to them, preferring to "keep it about the message and not the messengers."