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Random Acts Of Tipping


Making a living serving food in a restaurant can be a tough business. With most of your income coming from tips, customer service is of paramount importance. If you treat the customers particularly well, you might get a generous tip. But at most restaurants that is not likely to get anywhere near the $500 mark. But for one frequent diner, a $500 tip is now the norm. Seth Collins is travelling around the country giving $500 to restaurant servers in every state - and he's carrying out these seemingly random acts of generosity as a tribute to his brother who died a year ago today. Seth Collins joins us from his home in Kentucky. Seth, thanks for being here.

SETH COLLINS: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So, why is this the way that you've chosen to honor your brother?

COLLINS: Well, when we found his will, the last thing in it was that we go out to dinner and leave an awesome tip. And he said I'm not talking about 25 percent. I mean, $500 for pizza. So, we did that. And raised the money from friends and family just to make it happen. And then I thought I would just share the video with friends and family. The first video went viral and people ended up donating up to now over $60,000. It only seemed fair once I started thinking about that to try to give back to as many places as I could.

MARTIN: I wonder was your brother in the food service industry? I mean, what was his connection to this idea?

COLLINS: He had always been a generous tipper. It's actually funny. My mom had just told me a story that even when he was young, when he just had an allowance and no job, is he saw that they didn't leave what he considered a generous tip. He would take a couple dollars of his own money and toss that on the table to help bolster the amount of the tip.

MARTIN: And what is the reaction from the waiter or the waitress in the moment?

COLLINS: Different people, I think, react to it in their own way. Some people, when they shocked, sort of shut down. It's just they're trying to bottle in that emotion so that they don't start crying or something. And they let that out later.

MARTIN: And what do you do when it's all over?

COLLINS: I'm really not sure what I'll do. I'm sure I'll keep giving whatever money we have. A lot of people have asked will I take it international? And I really want all the money to be given to the waiters and waitresses rather than spending it on traveling to Ireland so that I can leave a 500 euro tip there.

MARTIN: Seth Collins. He is traveling around the country giving out $500 tips in honor of his brother, Aaron. He joined us from his home in Kentucky, with his cat in the background. Thanks so much, Seth.

COLLINS: Thank you.

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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