When 37-year-old Chrisi Kemp walked into work at the One Whirled Cafe in Wake Forest, North Carolina on Sept. 11 she was having a bad day. She was struggling to deal with stacks of medical bills for her 5-year-old daughter, who had been sick for several months with an unusual allergy. To top it all off, her washing machine had broken down earlier that day, resulting in Kemp having “a total breakdown ” before coming to work. She and her husband had enough money to pay the bills but nothing left over. Then a mystery customer left the North Carolina bartender a $1,000 tip on a $14 tab.
The man called it good Karma, and said it was Kemp’s turn to receive some. The generous tipper, who wished to remain anonymous, assured Kemp that he indeed wanted to leave the tip when she questioned whether he had meant to do it. Kemp immediately went back and got the restaurant owners, because she did not know what to do. They also checked with the man before he left the restaurant, and were assured that he knew what he was doing. “He was serious about it and dead set on it,” said Chris Ortlepp, chef owner.
Ortlepp said that it was the customer’s first time in the North Carolina restaurant, which has been open for only a little more than three months. She served the man a few drinks and then he settled his bill with a credit card. When she saw the tip, she told him “You don’t have to do that,” and the man responded “Do you need it? Well, then keep it.” Kemp said she did not know “whether to cry or what.”
Kemp waited several days before cashing in the tip, and even called the man right before she did so to make sure he had not changed his mind. The IRS took 43 percent out of the tip, and Kemp shared some with her colleagues since it was a slow night, but she was still left with a large and unexpected chunk of change. Ortlepp said they were thrilled for Kemp. He said that obviously there was a little disbelief, but they were happy it happened.
Kemp’s situation was different from what happened in a Raleigh, North Carolina Waffle House restaurant a few months earlier when Shaina Brown, working the late shift, received a $1,500 tip. Waffle House policy prohibited Brown from keeping the money. The generous tipper asked her to share $500 with a down-and-out looking woman sitting at a nearby table before he vanished into a cab, telling Brown, “You have a good spirit.”
Waffle House spokeswoman Kelly Thrasher said that it is regular procedure to refund large tips to the patron. Generous tippers are asked to tip by cash or check in case they decide to dispute the amount later or ask for a refund. When the local news contacted the tipper, a local businessman, he wrote Brown a personal check for the tip.
Kemp says she is still speechless and really cannot believe that she received a $1,000 tip. She is thankful because she needed the money. She said she does what she can because she is a very giving person herself, but the North Carolina bartender cannot believe that this time Karma actually happened to her.
By Beth A. Balen