A dying brother’s last wish, to leave a $500 tip for an unsuspecting server (video)

Chris sent me this video, and follow-up story from NPR, about a 30-year-old Kentucky man, Aaron Collins, who died a year ago, and whose dying wish was for his family to go out to dinner and leave a $500 tip for an unsuspecting waiter or waitress.  So they did.


But then things got a little crazy.  They decided to see if they could raise money to do this at more restaurants, and they raised more than $60,000.  So now they’re going to travel the country, and in every state surprise one waiter or waitress, or more, with a massive tip.  While capturing the entire thing on camera.


I’ve culled through the ton of videos they have online, and found a few that I like. It’s really cute because most of the ones I’ve seen have been waitresses, who then ask for a hug. Adorable. And it’s funny because all the servers seem to think they’re about to hear a complaint. From the videos I’ve seen, the guys are much less emotive than the women, but that’s probably typical.

You can donate, or read more about the project, here.

This first video makes me tear up every time I watch it. It’s Jamie the waitress at Wick’s Pizza in Louisville, Kentucky:

And this is Beth at Thr3e Wise Men in Lexington, Kentucky:

This is a neat one too. It’s about Nikoli, who’s a young waiter from Russia working at the Cosmic Diner in NYC.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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27 Responses to “A dying brother’s last wish, to leave a $500 tip for an unsuspecting server (video)”

  1. RyansTake says:

    I always try to tip well, or at least 20%. It is an incredibly difficult job and their “minimum wage” is something like $2 an hour.

    All that said, I really wish we could ensure every waiter and waitress were given minimum wage and we could move away from the American system of tipping.

    It’s incredibly unfair and studies have shown that it consistently rewards beauty, youth and things like writing smiley faces on the bill over being good at their job. Every waiter or waitress should get the full minimum wage, or more, and tips should be basically a bonus.

  2. SkippyFlipjack says:

    These are really nice.. I bet the woman in the first one was thinking “Now I’m really sorry for all those nasty things I said in the back about them all wanting separate checks.”

  3. ComradeRutherford says:

    Another line I like to use (not from Gandhi): Dear Jesus, spare me from your followers!

  4. Zorba says:

    I love that Gandhi quote- one of my favorites.
    Another favorite is what he said when someone asked him what he thought of Western Civilization. Gandhi answered: “I think it would be a very good idea.”
    Both quotes are still apropos. ;-)

  5. ComradeRutherford says:

    Ooh, good one. Reminds me of Gandhi’s line about Jesus, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  6. Tom Mingmitmee says:

    Truly. Awesome.

  7. zorbear says:

    since most places claim that your “projected” tips can be considered part of your wage, you were lucky they even paid minimum! Well, maybe “lucky” isn’t the right word…

  8. zorbear says:

    I think Linus Van Pelt put it best: “I like humanity, it’s people I can’t stand…”

  9. emjayay says:

    This is moving because, well obviously the servers are really sweet, but in the bigger picture our economic system more and more as you all know totally screws the lower end employees while shoveling tons and tons of money – the value created by the our resources and investments and labor – to the upper end. It’s a huge horrible injustice made a real tragedy because we could do a lot to address it – and when income taxes were way more progressive and unions were encouraged instead of vilified and public universities were virtually free etc., we did.

    Oh and that Russian guy is just adorable and unfortunately perhaps not at all like a lot of Russians in the US. More like the opposite.

  10. emjayay says:

    I’m sure if that’s the deal, they would all split the tip. Not only is it the right thing to do, but just in case they would be tempted to keep it all they know it’s on video and likely to show up on Facebook or YouTube.

  11. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Both of our children waited tables to help pay for college expenses. They said that if they saw patrons saying grace, they new their tip would be pitiful, or they were going to be stiffed.

  12. 2patricius2 says:

    I do too. I also make sure to thank and compliment servers who are friendly and do a good job.

  13. BeccaM says:

    It varies between establishments.

  14. karmanot says:

    And the occasional accidental spill of a pitcher. :-)

  15. karmanot says:

    YEP, Cheap, cheap, cheap

  16. Monoceros Forth says:

    I don’t doubt it though, thank the stars, I haven’t had to deal with it myself. I bet my partner has though; I’ll have to ask him. Whether faith in Jesus should lead necessarily to being socially unpleasant is as yet unknown to me.

  17. Naja pallida says:

    I like to think I have a pretty thick skin, I just really, really hate people. :)

  18. BeccaM says:

    It does require a thick skin sometimes.

  19. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Does wait staff generally pool tips?

  20. Naja pallida says:

    I have been fortunate enough to have never worked fast food or service, but I’ve been in enough restaurants, around enough terrible patrons, to know that I’d probably have a break down within a few shifts.

  21. BeccaM says:

    I hated waiting tables at Friendly’s on Sunday mornings. Those shifts were the WORST.

    Eventually, I asked to be put on the grill or doing dishes, since that paid the normal min wage-plus rate (I think I was getting 50 cents an hour higher than minimum by time I left that job for college) rather than the grossly inadequate server hourly.

  22. Naja pallida says:

    Nothing quite like hangin’ out at the IHOP for a lunch service on a Sunday.

  23. tomtallis says:

    I’m waiting for the first server to have received one of these tips to be fired for not splitting it with his/her fellow servers. You know it’s going to happen eventually.

  24. BeccaM says:

    That’s a beautiful gesture, and given how hard I know it is to do a server’s job (especially for the crap wages they almost always get), I have no doubt those windfalls are incredibly welcome.

    For what it’s worth, my wife and I always over-tip. Sometimes ridiculously so, if we have enough money and the mood strikes. (Having worked as a waitress long ago, I still have the eye to tell when a server just isn’t doing his or her job and when it’s clearly not their fault — as in, ‘too many tables’ or ‘it’s the kitchen’s fault’.) It’s funny sometimes how on return visits, we see the servers wrangling to try to get us seated at their tables.

  25. ComradeRutherford says:

    Every server will tell you, the more pious the religionist, the more awful they are.

  26. lynchie says:

    With all the selfishness and meanness from the pseudochristo’s and repubs this act of kindness which is only $500.00 shows how you can actually touch someone. Our congress should see how one person can make a difference and hopefully the recipients will pass it forward. Thanks John for posting this.

  27. Leota2 says:

    These destroyed me. I’m a puddle. Lovely . . . .

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