A Slow Rainy Night At a Local Bar Ends With a ‘Ginormous’ Tip


Caitlin Cahill, recipient of a “Tip for Jesus”. Photo by Carol Tannenhauser.

By Carol Tannenhauser

When a tipsforjesus post appears on Instagram — there have been 135 so far — it means that some lucky server, in some random bar or restaurant, has come into some money.

Since 2013, a man has been turning up at establishments throughout the United States and Mexico, leaving tremendous tips. Forget doubling the tax, this guy adds thousands onto tabs a fraction of the amount. (He left $11,000 in an Italian restaurant in Phoenix!) He documents his generosity by posting pictures of the credit card receipts and servers on Instagram.

For years, the “god of gratuities,” as San Francisco Magazine called him, was quasi anonymous, strongly suspected to be Jack Selby, former vice president of PayPal. Selby’s identity was finally confirmed last Tuesday night at Guyer’s bar on Columbus Avenue, between 74th and 75th Streets. It was his first appearance in nearly a year and he may have been a little out of practice, as he commented, “…forgot to take a pic…’’ His 94,000 followers had to live with an uploaded clip from the New York Post.

Here’s a photo of the receipt, and the story of Upper West Sider Caitlin Cahill’s encounter with Jack Selby, in her own words:

“I normally don’t work Tuesday nights. I was just helping out. It was raining cats and dogs, so we were expecting little to no business. Towards the end of the evening, these two gentlemen came in. They were my only guests at the time. They sat at the bar and we chatted; really easy conversation about New York and LA, and what it’s like to work here, and what the neighborhood is like. I said I loved working here, which I do, and that it’s a great neighborhood, because it is. I live locally.

“We have some really nice craft beers here and they were both, kind of, testing them. They sat there for a couple of hours, then Jack mentioned Tips for Jesus and asked if I knew what it was. I said, ‘Yes,’ because it’s all over social media. He said, ‘Well, that’s me.’ I thought he was kidding around. Then, I saw the receipt: $5,000 and his bill was only $100! I said to him, “Are you sure?” He just nodded. I said, ‘Thank you,’ and before I knew it, he was gone.”

Selby’s name was clearly on the receipt. “After he left I texted one of my girlfriends right away and told her about the ginormous tip. She googled him and, sure enough, he was linked to the Tips for Jesus movement.”

Despite its name, Selby (pictured at right) insists Tips for Jesus is “agnostic.” He told San Francisco Magazine, “…the whole ‘movement’ was created as something of a guerrilla effort to encourage more people of means to give back—to foster a kind of ad hoc charity culture attractive to a generation that may be turned off by traditional philanthropy.” Selby now works at Thiel Capital and Clarium Capital Management.

It’s had that effect on Cahill, who said, “It does make me feel hopeful and inspired to be more altruistic in my own life. I’m going to use some of the money to help people who have less than I do, especially during the holidays. And, of course, I’m going to tip well when I go out. But, first, I’m going to do a little shopping.”

NEWS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Anne says:

      How about a check to a local underpaid teacher, who could use that money to buy much-needed supplies for their classroom? This was for ego, not philanthropy.

      • Chris says:

        Wow, way to rain on someone’s parade.

      • Geoffrey says:

        No good deed goes unpunished right? Why don’t YOU write a 5,000 check to the teacher’s fund, I am 100% certain the leftists will spend it in school supplies and not to add another position to the payroll or bump-up another useless “educator” ruining the system.

      • Wendy says:

        Phooey on you Anne. Why make her feel guilty about it? It’s not your place to tell anyone what to do with their hard earned tips. Most teachers are happy to have a job with benefits and tons of paid vacation, unlike bartenders (and the rest of us) who don’t get three months of paid time off annually. Now she can take care of customers for months without worrying about whether she’s going to make her tip part of her salary. Based on the article discussion ,she seems to have a good head on her shoulders with a sense of balance about her good fortune. I wish her well. It’s a great story.

      • Nick says:

        Anne – What a cynical response. You do not know his motives and, a word of advice, I suggest that as a rule you should try to assume the best with respect to a person’s intentions.

      • David Collins says:

        How about Deblasio use the millions (billions) in taxes he collects to buy those much-needed supplies for the classroom?

        I know, crazy idea. Much easier to just keep taking other people’s money.

        • Stacey says:

          DAVID, you hit the nail on the head there!!! Truth!!

          • David Collins says:

            Subway workers now make an average of $170,000 annually in salary, overtime and benefits, according to a Times analysis of data compiled by the federal Department of Transportation.

            • ws says:

              $100,000+ government workers is lunacy and explains why 50,000 people applied for 50 garbage man (!) jobs in NYC, and why there will be a terrible reckoning in this country as pensions stack on top of salaries. Math sucks.

      • John says:

        Oh please Ms Negative. Stop whining

      • Bruce Rutherford says:

        Kudos to you, Ann! Your comments expressed my sentiments exactly; moreover, you’re also correct in that this gratuity was a stroking of the giver’s ego — if not, he would’ve given it anonymously! This former public school teacher thanks you for your comments, Anne.

        Bruce Rutherford

      • dj says:

        Giving a $5,000 tip is extraordinarily generous (the bartender certainly appreciated it, even if Anne didn’t). Smug self-satisfied comments like Anne’s are cheap.

      • Andrew says:

        How about a check to a hard working person who waits tables for minimum wage plus tips?

    2. UWSResident says:

      I would be pissed I got only 5k knowing he left 11k tip in Phoenix LOL

    3. wombatNYC says:

      Love this . If I had I had the money I would do the same. Nice, Happy news to start the day !

    4. Rwc says:

      Cool. only if it really went though with the credit card company .

    5. Steven says:

      I had hoped the money was coming from John Beresford Tipton.

    6. Kathleen Treat says:

      What a surprising, delightful story. But being “turned off” by
      traditional philanthropy needs to be addressed. There is such a variety helping everyone from trachers to homeless people to children with ‘orphan’ diseases to veterans to animal shelters, historic preservation, etc. etc. Log on to Charity Navigator to be sure of a charity’s fiscal responsibility.

    7. Lisa B says:

      it doesn’t just have to be about money. You could volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank.

      • David Collins says:

        Don’t be naive – it’s always about money.

        Without money, there would be no soup kitchen, and no soup at the soup kitchen.

      • dj says:

        Maybe he wants to reward someone who is working, rather than someone looking for a handout.