interior of a restaurant
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
June 1, 2024 ·  5 min read

Restaurant To Sue Customer After He Leaves $3,000 Tip On $13 Meal

There was a time when leaving a tip was optional and signified an extra gratitude for a job well done. However, as servers are often underpaid, the matter of tipping has become a hugely debated topic. Regardless, times are hard, and a little kindness goes a long way. Sadly, a seemingly good deed has led to a restaurant suing a customer, who seemingly left behind a generous tip.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania a restaurant is taking a customer to court after he left a $3,000 tip that turned out to be fraudulent. The tip was left for a $13 bill. “It really meant a lot to me because everyone’s going through stuff. It really touched my heart.” Said Alfredo’s Pizza server, Mariana Lambert in response to the initial event. The restaurant attributed the act of kindness to an Instagram movement. However, a few months later, the restaurant discovered the gesture to have been a hoax.

A movement known as “Tips for Jesus” began in 2014 and has, since, continued to make rounds. Despite the name, there is apparently no religious affiliation, it is simply an act of kindness. The origins of this generous trend remain a mystery, but the general idea is that a table of diners leaves an incredibly generous tip for the wait staff. In some cases, several hundred percent over the typical 20% for excellent service. Meaning some servers have received several hundred to a few thousand dollars on a bill that may have been as low as $50.

The original generous soul has asked to remain anonymous but stated, “The movement we started is intended to be agnostic.” He went on to explain that although he doesn’t remember the exact start of the movement, it happened at a college football game in Michigan. He also shared that he’s “been fortunate” and has always been a generous tipper.

Many customers feel that restaurant owners should simply pay their workers livable wages. Although that is indisputable, the profit margin for many restaurants is astonishingly low and many owners are struggling themselves. Many European countries don’t tip their servers, and everyone seems to make livable wages. Perhaps we could learn a few things in the US. In the meantime, people like the anonymous kind-souled “agnostic”, have continued to spread cheer, taking part in the movement.

Sadly, but also unsurprisingly, some restaurant owners and servers like those at Alfredo’s Pizza, may find themselves victim to the cruel prank.

Beware of Fraud

Alfredo’s Vice President Leslie Minicozzi Galacci disclosed, “We received notice 45 days after he dined in our establishment.”

We had already paid Mari the $3,000 by a company check so currently we, as the owners, are hit with the loss.” It turns out that the customer had disputed the charge to his credit card company. Although they tried to reach out to Smith, the restaurant got no response. Ultimately, Alfredo’s Pizza opted to move forward with filing charges at Magistrate Joanne Price Corbett’s Office in Lackawanna County.

Zachary Jacobson is the manager of Alfredo’s pizza and spoke with the local news station. “We thought somebody was actually trying to do a good thing. And then now we are, what, three months later? Not even, and there’s nothing. There’s nothing to show for it at this point.” He explained.

Although this is a disheartening story there are many examples of kindness that have made their way around the internet as well. Celebrities like Johnny Depp and Paris Hilton have been known to leave thousands of dollars in one tip. Meanwhile, the popular Instagram trend has landed hundreds in the hands of servers throughout the US. For example, in Nebraska, a man left a $2,000 tip on a $5 bill at a bakery in 2021. Another waitress from Rhode Island was left an $810 tip on a $48 bill.

Kindness is Generosity Too

Many people wish they were able to repay the kindness they’ve been shown, to generously shower the people around them in substantial contributions. On the other hand, few can afford to leave thousands, or even hundreds, of dollars for their outstanding servers. Luckily, there are many other ways to show kindness and gratitude. Some examples include:

  • Holding the door open for someone.
  • Offer to help someone. For example, a neighbor who’s struggling to carry their packages up to their apartment.
  • Pay down some lunch debt from local schools.
  • Donate old towels, pillows, and blankets to local pet shelters.
  • Be Respectful of others and their time.
  • Use manners and common courtesy.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in the grocery line if you’re not in a hurry.
  • Pay for a meal or coffee for people in service. For example, veteran’s or Emergency responders.
  • Be encouraging and supportive to those around you. Give compliments.
  • Smile, make eye contact, and engage with servers and cashiers.

Acts of Kindness to do with Kids:

  • Make Holiday cards or seasonal crafts for local retirement homes.
  • Bake goods for the neighbors. Or treats for local animal shelters.
  • Donate toys to other kids.
  • Take Responsibility for making a mistake.

It’s unclear why Smith opted to leave the fake tip. Or if the restaurant has made any progress on their case. Perhaps Smith just wanted the picture for his Instagram account. Maybe he just couldn’t afford to be so generous. Either way, there are plenty of generous people out there, changing lives for the better. Hopefully, Alfredo’s Pizza is able to find some resolution.


  1. 60 Acts of Kindness for Kids to Do to Make the World a Better Place.Reader’s Digest. Charlotte Hilton Anderson April 12, 2023.
  2. Customer Who Tried to Take Back $3,000 Tip Sued by Restaurant.News Week. Shira Li Bartov. September 9, 2022.
  3. Read These Crazy True Stories of the Most Generous Tips Left for Servers.Food Beast. Elisabeth Brier. April 7, 2017.
  4. Troubled tip — Questions about $3,000 left for waitress.WNEP Courtney Harrison. September 13, 2022.
  5. How to Express Gratitude to Others: 19 Examples & Ideas.Positive Psychology. Elaine Houston. April 9, 2019.
  6. Who is behind generous ‘Tips for Jesus’?BBC. Alastair Leithead. February 21, 2014.