$5K tip for real, Port Orchard bar owner verifies

MoonDogs Too server Amanda Retrum pours coffee for customers Paul Cusick (left) and Clifford Head on Tuesday. Retrum will get $500 as her share of a $5,000 tip left Friday night by a customer, who later posted a picture from the restaurant on Instagram under the name Tips for Jesus.
(Chris Henry / Kitsap Sun)

MoonDogs Too server Amanda Retrum pours coffee for customers Paul Cusick (left) and Clifford Head on Tuesday. Retrum will get $500 as her share of a $5,000 tip left Friday night by a customer, who later posted a picture from the restaurant on Instagram under the name Tips for Jesus. (Chris Henry / Kitsap Sun)

Darryl Baldwin

Darryl Baldwin

PORT ORCHARD — Christmas got a whole lot jollier for Amanda Retrum, 22, a waitress/bartender and single mother of two little girls.

Retrum and 10 other employees who worked the late shift Friday at MoonDogs, Too will share a $5,000 tip left that night by an anonymous customer.

The transaction from the man’s American Express account was credited to MoonDogs on Tuesday, owner Darryl Baldwin verified Wednesday morning. Baldwin and bar manager Tracy Nickerson were waiting to distribute the windfall until the credit was substantiated.

The customer — under the handle @tipsforjesus — has been dropping similar outrageous gratuities over the past couple of months from Chicago to Los Angeles. He’s been posting Instagram pictures of the receipts from sports clubs, fancy eateries and one exotic dance club. At least one simultaneous tip in two distant cities suggests T4J might be a group of like-minded big-spenders.

The trail of photos shows T4J shuttling between the Midwest and the West Coast in a large looping pilgrimage of generosity ... and some pretty conspicuous consumption.

The tab at MoonDogs totaled $576.50.

“We see a few tabs that big,” Baldwin said. “We probably see three or four a year.”

The stranger’s drink of choice was Maker’s Mark bourbon, and he ordered a round of Fireball (a cinnamon-flavored whiskey) for everyone in the place. Nickerson scrambled to find enough shot glasses for the crowd of 100 or so.

Nothing about the man or his half-dozen friends suggested they were people of exceptional means. Nickerson and the man “talked smack’ about the 49ers and Seahawks.

“He was a very nice person, and the people he was with were also really amazing,” Nickerson said. “They were all polite; they were all having a good time, totally enjoying themselves.”

They were, said Nickerson, the kind of group servers love to see walk through the door, and yet he grew nervous as the bar tab mounted.

Retrum was busy with the crowd at her end of the bar, so she only got a glimpse of the man.

“I remember he had a scarf. He was tall,” Retrum said. “I remember he had a comb-over, nice hairdo.”

Yet nothing about the stranger made him stick out among the MoonDogs crowd.

“This is kind of a funny place. We have guys in jeans and piercings hanging out with guys in suit jackets,” Baldwin said. “MoonDogs is this kind of unique place where everybody seems to get along.”

Baldwin has owned the business for seven years and recently bought the building. The former president of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association, Baldwin has done much to promote business in Port Orchard’s struggling downtown. MoonDogs is known for its own brand of generosity, hosting annual holiday dinners and fundraisers for various causes.

“I think it’s good energy coming out of here,” Baldwin said. “People feel comfortable here. The staff has really taken that in and made it part of themselves as well.”

Meanwhile, back at the bar, Nickerson closed out the stranger’s tab. When he saw the $5,000 tip, he did a double take ... and a reality check.

“Tracy in due diligence verified that the guy really wanted to do that,” Baldwin said.

He did. And the charge went through that night, meaning American Express verified there was money in the man’s account to cover it. But typically, especially after a weekend, there’s a lag between verification and when MoonDogs’ account is credited. There also are tax implications for the servers, so Baldwin and Nickerson decided Saturday to wait until the money was in hand before confirming the gift with staff members.

The $5,000 was “fairly distributed” among staff members in amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000, Baldwin said. The bonus will appear on their next paycheck.

Retrum’s share will be $500, money she was “very surprised” to receive.

“It’s definitely appreciated,” she said. “especially with bills and it being winter.”

Daughters Leilani, 5, and Melani, 4, have been asking for a new play kitchen and bikes, so that’s where some of the money will go.

Retrum is one of five single moms on Baldwin’s staff of 18. She makes between $25,000 and $26,000 a year, and her income fluctuates with how busy MoonDogs is on any given day.

“It makes me feel good,” Baldwin said of the gift (in which he himself will not partake). “Most of these girls work really hard trying to raise their kids the best they can. Most of them make minimum wage. A windfall like this just before the holiday, you know it’s going to be used for the kids.”

A $10,000 tip also was approved at a bar in Indiana (which Baldwin on Monday mistakenly said was in Idaho).

Although curiosity about Tips for Jesus is raging on social media and news outlets, the stranger’s secret is safe with MoonDogs.

“The gentleman gave (Nickerson) a business card on a venture type business he owns, but he asked to remain anonymous,” Baldwin said. “We want him to continue doing this. This is such a great deed for some of the bartenders and servers that don’t make a lot of money. We don’t want to jinx this system is how I look at it.”

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Comments » 3

roger2012 writes:

Well deserved! Darryl and the crew always do a great job and have given much to the community. It is nice to see something like this happen for Christmas. Now to continue the giving attitude throughout the year would be even more fantastic.

Roger Gay
South Kitsap

Paysmetro writes:

Great Story and it goes to show that individuals can spread the wealth much more effectively than the government.

justincase writes:

Wonderful blessings....so happy he chose our neck of the woods to share his good will. Let's all do one random act of kindness this month...it makes the world a brighter place!

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